How to Choose Your Best Sierra Designs Sleep System: Sleeping Bags and Quilts


No matter your camping and sleeping style, chances are Sierra Designs makes a bag (or quilt) to meet your needs.

Staying warm and comfortable is key to a good night’s sleep outdoors. And restful sleep is essential when taking on the next day’s adventures. Knowing which sleeping bags can deliver restful nights comes down to things like your personal thermostat, your destination’s climate, and the fit of your sleep system.

Sierra Designs makes a range of bags to meet the needs (and budgets) of casual campers and experienced thru-hikers. Below, we go over different factors you should consider when shopping for a sleeping bag — and then present the brand’s different designs.

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2022 sierra designs sleeping bags
(Photo/Sierra Designs, Emily Sierra)

Weight vs. Packability: Backpacking & Car Camping

One common trade-off when choosing a sleeping bag is weight versus packability. Typically, a bag with a lower temperature rating uses more insulation, and thus weighs more and is harder to compress.

Consider whether you’ll be car camping or backpacking. If you’re car camping, weight and packability aren’t top priority, and you may as well get the warmest bag or quilt with comfort-minded touches.

The lightest bag on the market isn’t necessarily the best backpacking option. You can save a few ounces elsewhere and still wake up rested and ready to take on the next day’s goals.

In the summer, experienced hikers in more predictable climates will pack a sleeping bag with a higher temperature rating to save a few ounces in weight and then sleep in their clothes — even a puffy jacket.

Others enjoy the peace of mind from packing a bag rated at a temperature below those they plan to experience.

Synthetic vs. Down: Wet & Dry Climates

There’s plenty of online debate about the advantages of synthetic or down insulation. It’s probably better to let the climate and the type of camping determine which is best for you.

In general, down weighs less, packs down smaller, and lasts longer. Its Achilles heel is that it can absorb moisture. If down gets wet, it loses its loft and ability to provide insulation. Thus, this is the preferred choice for many in dry climates.

Synthetic insulation is a popular choice for wet climates because it retains warmth even if it gets wet. It’s also easier to clean and a more budget-friendly material. Its downside is that it usually weighs a few ounces more and can lose its loft over time faster than down.

Oh, but that’s not all. Insulation technologies have come a long way in recent years to improve the performance of these fills.

DriDown is feather down that’s been treated with a hydrophobic finish to repel water, dry faster, and stay lofty better than untreated down. You still don’t want to get your bag wet because you’ll need to find or create a space for it to dry out. But DriDown should help it overcome moisture in the air.

Sierra Designs uses its own synthetic down technology, SierraLoft Eco Synthetic, which it says has a higher loft and faster rebound from compression than traditional synthetics. It also has a higher warmth-to-weight ratio, closing the performance gap from down fills.

sierra designs sleep system
(Photo/Sierra Designs, Emily Sierra)

Sleeping Bag Shape

Remember, your body provides the heat, and the bag’s job is to retain it. A sleeping bag that fits closest to your body is better at trapping its heat. That’s why the majority of sleeping bags with a temperature rating below 35 degrees Fahrenheit are mummy-shaped.

Mummies are also more restrictive, so car campers and summer backpackers may prefer a more traditional rectangular or semi-rectangular bag. In warmer conditions, a quilt may be enough to provide warmth for calm sleepers, hammock sleepers, and anyone in warm, dry climates. They’re likely most similar to the way you sleep at home.

There are even double bags for couples. More than just sleeping next to each other, one bag usually weighs less than two separate bags.

And Sierra Designs makes its women’s-specific bags with a unique silhouette and puts more insulation in targeted areas.

Zipperless vs. Zippered

Zippers have been a part of sleeping bags for decades. In 2014, Sierra Designs changed that with its zipperless mummy sleeping bags.

For campers who wake up tangled in their bags, this design offers some relief. Zipperless bags have a wider top that tucks into itself, much like a traditional mummy. However, this design can un-tuck when turning over or be opened up much like a quilt to allow a less restrictive feel around the arms and shoulders.

The design also removes the frustration of zipper snags. (Although the brand does have its own “anti-snag” zippers to combat this.)

For stomach and side sleepers prone to tossing and turning, check out the brand’s video on the benefits of zipperless sleeping bags.

To help keep in warmth, some zipperless bags have hand pockets high up on the integrated comforter. That way you can put your hand in the pocket to arrange and secure the comforter around you.

Temperature Rating

You probably know whether you sleep warm or cold, and that’s something to consider when looking at temperature ratings.

Temperature ratings are guesstimates of the lowest temperature you can comfortably sleep in a given bag. Temperature ratings used to vary by brand, but sleeping bag-makers can use third-party testers to verify the rating against the International Organization for Standards (ISO). Many campers like to give themselves a buffer with a bag of roughly 10 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the temps they expect to sleep in.

Data shows that most women sleep colder than men, which is why women’s sleeping bags test for a woman’s “comfort limit.” It’s the temperature an adult woman would need in order to comfortably sleep, while the “lower limit” is the lowest temperature an adult man could sleep comfortably.

Sierra Designs Sleeping Bags & Quilts

Other features you’ll see throughout the line of Sierra Designs sleep systems include a patented foot vent. It’s an overlapping closure at the foot of the bag that enables you to stick your feet out if you get too hot.

Several of the bags come with a sleeping pad sleeve to secure your pad to the back of the bag. This can help keep you from sliding off the pad and cut down on twisting the bag — at least for calm sleepers.

Sierra Designs also uses environmentally friendly materials like DriDown and its SierraLoft Eco Synthetic, which incorporate recycled materials.

Cloud Zipperless DriDown Sleeping Bag

Sierra Designs Cloud 20

The Cloud is the brand’s top backpacking mummy bag, which is zipperless and uses the oversized comforter closure for more freedom of movement. It has a sleeping pad sleeve and ditches unnecessary bottom insulation for weight (and cost) savings.

The Cloud 20 is packed with 800-fill DriDown, treated with a water-repellent coating, includes a self-sealing foot vent and shoulder pockets to help keep the comforter flap in place, and is available in 20-degree, 35-degree, and a Women’s 20-degree rating.

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Night Cap Zipperless Synthetic Sleeping Bag

Sierra Designs Night Cap

The Night Cap is a synthetic version of the Cloud, using 100% recycled insulation sourced from water bottles. This style can offer similar performance and packability for backpacking in wet climates. It has the same zipperless designs with shoulder pockets, a foot vent, a pad sleeve, and a hood cinch.

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Nitro Zippered DriDown Sleeping Bag

Sierra Deigns Nitro 0

The Nitro zero-degree sleeping bag is a classic mummy bag insulated with 800-fill, hydrophobic DriDown. To lock in warmth, the bag has draft collar seals and sidewall baffles to prevent the down from clumping and causing cold spots. It also has a foot vent and the brand’s “anti-snag” zipper.

This bag is available in 0-degree, 20-degree, 35-degree, and a Women’s 20-degree rating.

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Mobile Mummy Zippered DriDown Sleeping Bag

Sierra Designs Mobile Mummy

Sierra Designs calls this a Mobile Mummy because you can wear it around camp and then crawl into your tent ready for sleep.

To walk around camp, you unzip the footbox and attach it to the toggles on its side. There are zipperless arm ports that let you use your arms around camp or reach out and adjust your bag without unzipping it. The hood, zipper, and arms have reinforced draft tubes to keep out cold air.

To help it withstand that kind of wear, it’s made with abrasion-resistant 20-denier nylon ripstop and treated with a DWR (durable water-repellent) coating.

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Synthesis Zippered Synthetic Sleeping Bag

Sierra Designs Synthesis

This bag is positioned as a “do-it-all sleeping bag” filled with SierraLoft synthetic insulation with DWR-treated, 20-denier nylon fabric on the outside.

The dual zippers are snag-free, and the bag includes heat-regulating features like a foot vent and hood cinch.

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Nitro Quilt Zippered DriDown

Sierra Designs Nitro Quilt

Shaped like a flying squirrel, the Nitro Quilt aims for a quilt-like upper for sleepers who move around a lot, yet it preserves the closer fit of a mummy bag in its foot. It has a dual-zipper system, foot vents, a draft collar, and a hideaway hood.

It holds 800-fill-power, fluorocarbon-free DriDown behind 15-denier nylon ripstop fabric. We also may have heard from the brand that it’s launching a synthetic quilt in 2023.

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Sierra Designs Innovations

Born in California and bred on the trail, Sierra Designs has been committed to supporting people’s love of the outdoors since 1965.

  • 1968: Launched its double sleeping bag
  • 1979: Cirrus Series Down Bag — first bag in the United States filled with 700-fill goose down to come with an attached contoured hood
  • 1995: Introduced women’s sleeping bags
  • 2014: Introduced zipperless sleeping bags

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This article is sponsored by Sierra Designs. Find out more about the brand’s sleep systems online.

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