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.
How many of us are 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.
How can side sleepers get comfortable outdoors?
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.
- Designed specifically for side sleepers
- An investment for the casual camper
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.
The Sidewinder also comes in a synthetic version.
Temperature Rating: 35°F, 20°F
Weight: 2 lbs (35°F)
Fill: 650-fill DownTek and FireLine ECO Synthetic
- Easy to turn over
- Only comes in a left zip option
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.
Weight: 1 lb 15 oz (30°F)
Fill: 650-fill-power PFC-free down
- Easy to pack
- Fits only up to 5'11" camper
While the Kompact isn't a mummy shape, it does offer compact storage thanks to a compressible stuff sack — and for campers that are looking for a deal, as well as more room than a mummy can provide, this is the bag to grab. Synthetic insulation means you won't have to worry as much about moisture, and the 40-degree rating makes the Kompact a three-season, take-anywhere bag.
For extra warmth in the fall, consider a silk liner.
Temperature Rating: 40°F
Weight: 4 lb 8.7 oz
Fill: Coletherm Max (synthetic)
- Innovative design
- Doesn't come with mattress, pillow or dry sack
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
- No zipper means easy in and out
- Active sleepers may crave a little more structure
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.
Weight: 2 lbs 3.7 oz (35°F)
Fill: SierraLoft Eco Synthetic
- Can be expanded
- Priciest bag on the list
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