A first-time visit to the sleeping bag rack at any outdoor gear store can be enough to induce claustrophobia. The widespread norm in outdoor bedding is the mummy bag — a hooded sleeping bag that tapers from the shoulders to the feet that indeed resembles a sarcophagus. Such a design keeps the weight of a sleeping bag down, makes it easier to pack and more efficient at maintaining warmth but does little to bolster comfort, particularly for side sleepers.
According to a 2017 study on sleeping positions, that's most of us. And while camping and backpacking are often exercises in forgoing the comforts of home, our nocturnal movements are often out of our control. Getting tangled inside a sleeping bag and waking up tent mates with constant shuffling are real concerns, not to mention having to hike miles the next day on a poor night's sleep.
Luckily these issues are also avoidable, thanks to a handful of gear makers that have revisited the notion of what a sleeping bag should look like. Side sleepers and night shifters now have a growing selection of sleeping bags to choose from. With unusual shapes and zipper-free designs, this new breed of sleeping bag allows comfort-first campers to relegate mummy bags — and nights spent tossing and turning in a tent — to the ancient past.
More than any other sleeping bag available, the Sidewinder is made for side sleepers. Big Agnes designed it like a typical mummy bag, but its opening faces to the side. It's also a slightly wonky (ergonomic) shape that allows side sleepers to bend their knees inside of it and adjust their foot position for comfort — there are even special zones of synthetic insulation in these areas to allow for that too. Another feature is a hood pocket that holds a pillow in place but allows it to move from one side to another in case you roll around at night.
Temperature Rating: 35°F, 20°F
Weight: 2 lbs (35°F)
Fill: 650-fill DownTek and FireLine ECO Synthetic
Best Temperature Control
Nemo's Disco includes thermo-regulating "gills" that give it a wide range of comfortable sleeping temperatures, but it also has a unique shape the company likens to a spoon. Whether the comparison is accurate or not, the form allows for more space at the knees, making side sleeping and moving around at night easier.
Best Modular Option
Zenbivy's approach to comfortable nights under the stars is a modular, hybrid one. The Zenbivy Bed comprises a two-piece design — a bottom "sheet" with an attached hood hugs onto a sleeping pad and zips onto a trail quilt. Campers can mimic a mummy bag by cinching the quilt's bottom and zipping it up or letting it fly free like the duvet at home. Even the middle ground between those options allows for any sleep position, including on one's side.
Temperature Rating: 29°F, 23°F, 10°F
Weight: 2 lb 14 oz (29°F)
Fill: 700-fill HyperDry down or XD Synthetic
Best Zipper-Free Sleeping Bag
The first thing to note on the Night Cap is its lack of a zipper. Instead, it features a sweeping opening and an interior fold that you can choose to tuck in or throw aside. It also has a self-sealing escape hatch for your feet, allowing you near-total freedom from the confinement that ordinary sleeping bags entail. Sierra Designs also included a sleeping pad attachment system so you can shift from side to side without falling off your mattress.
Best for Multiple Sleep Positions
In contrast to the other sleeping bags on this list, the Big Agnes Torchlight gets its flexibly spacious design from zippers. Each size of the bag includes zippered expanders that can add an extra five inches of width each. What's more, you can adjust these zippers to separately target the lower or upper portions of the body, or both at the same time. The system gets side sleepers the benefit of extra space without leaving the mummy design behind altogether.
Temperature Rating: 30°F, 20°F
Weight: 2 lb 4 oz (30°F)
Fill: 600-fill DownTek, water-resistant