A common question I get is whether or not you need sleeping bags for hot weather camping. The concern is obvious, sleeping bags can spike your body temperature, leading to sweaty nights. And no one wants to set up camp only to spend the entire night tossing and turning because they’re too hot. Thankfully, there are some excellent hot weather options out there.
Hot-weather sleeping bags and quilts are built to handle summer camping. They’re made with light materials and extra ventilation features to prevent hot air build up. Quilts are essentially light blankets that can vent air out of the whole bottom. Between both, you’ll get rest without sacrificing comfort. You can find the perfect summer sleeping bag on my shortlist below.
My Review Process
I’ve been camping and backpacking for nearly thirty years. I love the outdoors and am always looking for the next great way to appreciate them. That appreciation is a bit harder to find when it’s hot and stale under a suffocating sleeping bag, and you can’t sleep. So, I decided to find the perfect warm-weather sleeping bag, and I’m here to share my findings with you.
Summer demands a lot, especially from your sleepwear. You ideally want something that will give you the security of a blanket without increasing sweat and discomfort. When hot weather rolls in, that’s a tough needle to thread. However, between breathable summer sleeping bags and quilts, you can find what you're looking for without sacrificing a restful night's sleep.
My favorite sleeping bag for hot weather is the NEMO Men’s Forte 35. This excellent option comes with a cool temperature control feature called Thermogills. The gills are two diagonal zippers on the chest area that unzip for extra venting on warm nights. This innovative feature adds breathability and zips up to lock in additional warmth on chilly nights.
Despite the ventilation, the synthetic sleeping bag can get warm in extreme temperatures. For hot mid-summer nights, a liner or quilt may be better. However, for most summer night camping temperatures (up to mid-70s), this is the easiest and most durable option on the market. It also has just enough synthetic insulation to handle the odd summer cold snap.
In addition to the Thermogills, the NEMO Forte is both comfortable and stylish, and comes with a pillow pocket. With a temperature limit down to 35 degrees, the Forte is just about the perfect summer sleeping bag.
My choice for the best lightweight summer sleeping bag is the Sea to Summit Ember Ultralight 50F Down Quilt. Sleeping quilts are sleeping bags without bottoms. Like an outdoor blanket with straps that attach to a sleeping pad. Pairing it with a sleeping pad keeps the overall weight down, but the shape of the quilt and pad have to match for it to work right.
Quilts are awesome and highly versatile, weighing next to nothing and allowing hot air to seep out for summer camping. If you're camping on a warm night and want a lightweight sleeping option that weighs less than a pound and offers superior ventilation, I recommend the Sea to Summit Ember.
My choice for the best sleeping bag for hot weather peak bagging is the Marmot Always Summer Sleeping Bag. As the name implies, this is a summer model that’s perfect for desert nights on peaks outside of Phoenix or on grassy balds in the Southern Appalachians. The bag is lightweight, comfortable, durably made, and packs down really well.
Because of its focus on weight savings and ventilation features, the Marmot Always Summer Sleeping Bag doesn’t have a ton of insulation. It’s best to use the bag for temperatures that stay comfortably over 35 degrees. However, on the opposite side, with a foot box that can be completely unzipped to increase airflow, the bag can hang with those hot summer nights.
If you want to spend a night outdoors with someone you love, the ThermaRest Double Vela Quilt is my choice. This double sleeping quilt compresses down well, contains 650-fill hydrophobic down for increased water resistance, and only weighs 3 pounds. The versatility is great, and since the toe box is closed, you can keep your feet toasty in cold weather.
The downside to quilts is their lack of warmth. Usually, this isn’t a big deal in the summer, but for alpine nights with dropping temperatures, it should be noted. 650-fill down is a decent but not the highest rating (i.e., more down per cubic inch), so it will leave some cold spots if the temperature plummets.
All in all, if you need a roomy two-person quilt for summer backpacking and camping, the Thermarest Double Vela Quilt is the option you need.
Taking kids camping can be a joy, but they’re growing and changing fast, so you need equipment that can keep up. My favorite summer sleeping bag for kids is the Coleman 30F Kids Sleeping Bag. This affordable option is machine washable, comes with an interior pocket, and can accommodate kids up to five feet tall, so until they’re around 12-13 years old.
Since this is a full sleeping bag, it won’t perform as well as a quilt in extremely hot temperatures. However, for the majority of late spring, summer, and early fall camping, the 30F degree rating holds up well. For the bargain price, durability, and ease of washing, the Coleman 30F Kids Sleeping Bag is the best option for summer family camping.
Another Sea to Summit entry, the Traveler Sleeping Bag is my choice for the best packable hot weather sleeping bag. The nontraditional form, open at both ends and closed with included cinch cords, is more like a sleeping quilt. This means you get a noticeably lightweight profile, easy compressibility, good ventilation, and versatility.
Like most quilts, the lack of insulation can be a limiting factor. It certainly is if you plan to use this option as a three-season sleeping bag. However, for the middle of summer, this is a great backpacking, camping, and outdoor option. Even better, the versatility can be used for travel as well. You can wrap the quilt around you for road trips, airplanes, and stays at hostels or hotels.
If you’re looking for a great deal, the MalloMe Sleeping Bag is an excellent option. While most outdoor brands build their sleeping bags to withstand extremes, not all of us are going to be camping in those conditions. The MalloMe is a simple sleeping bag with a toe box that opens up for ventilation, has a sturdy zipper, and is made from durable polyester. It checks a lot of boxes.
Unlike premium options, this sleeping bag is a bit harder to pack into its compression sack, and the minimum temperature rating is fairly high at 50 degrees. Anything lower than that, and you'll want to add a sleeping bag liner to the mix to keep the heat retention up. However, if you’re looking for a well-appointed summer sleeping bag for a great price, I’d look into this one.
Sleeping Bags For Hot Weather Buying Guide
Before you go out on your next warm-weather camping adventure, make sure you've got a sleeping bag or quilt that can handle the heat. By considering the points below, you'll be ready to find the right model for your next camping trip or backpacking adventure.
The cost for lightweight sleeping bags is fairly wide. You can find stellar deals for under 50 dollars, but they will usually break down faster over time. Expensive sleeping bags that excel in weight savings, ventilation, and durability can cost anywhere up to $500.
Consistent campers are going to want to spend a little more to get the most use out of their gear. Sea to Summit and NEMO products generally fill this category well. However, if you're a casual recreationist who just needs something to sleep under, there are great budget deals out there, like the MalloMe Sleeping Bag.
Type & Shape
Traditional sleeping bags have more versatility built into their design. This can be really beneficial in mountainous terrain when the temperature can spike and drop a lot in 24 hours. However, sleeping bags perform worse in very hot and drier climates. Sleeping quilts make use of an open design to maximize ventilation but require a sleeping pad to function the best.
Most sleeping bags are mummy bags, so named because they feature a tapered design at the bottom that widens at the top, similar to how mummies look. There are also rectangular-shaped options. For quilts, in particular, it's important to match the sleeping pad to the quilt shape. A mummy quilt won't work with a rectangular-shaped sleeping pad.
Type of Insulation
Sleeping bags and quilts use down fill or synthetic insulation, which is what gives the sleeping bag its warmth. Down comes from goose feathers, is extremely lightweight and comfortable, and features the best warmth-to-weight ratio. Synthetic sleeping bags work in a wider temperature range and generally handle damp and wet conditions better than untreated down.
Down fill is rated with a number. The higher the number, the more down feathers have been shoved into one cubic inch of space. 900-fill down is usually at the top of the list, while 650-fill down is on the low end. The lower end is less expensive, but less down means that it may bunch up in areas, which can create cold spots instead of an even distribution of insulation.
Ventilation & Breathability
With hot summer weather, you want a sleeping bag option that has some ventilation features. Some really useful options include a zippered toe box that can be opened or vents on the side (like the Thermogills on the NEMO Forte) that allow warm air to escape.
Generally speaking, quilts will have more ventilation because they don’t have the bottom component of the sleeping bag. However, they do need to be paired with the same shaped sleeping pad and can’t handle wider ranges of temperature. If it gets a bit colder at night, a full sleeping bag has better-insulated coverage.
How small a sleeping bag or quilt gets is important, especially for backpacking when every ounce of space matters. Packability simply refers to how small you can roll or stuff the bag when it’s not in use. Good packability increases the space inside a backpack for more gear. If the bag comes with a compression sack but doesn't fit into it, that weighs on its packability.
The temperature limit rating is the minimum temperature that a bag can perform in. It isn’t always comfortable to sleep in a bag at its minimum temperature, so keep that in mind. Also, quilts, since they lack a bottom, don’t have a temperature rating. If you cinch the quilt to a sleeping pad, they’ll generally keep you happy to around 50 degrees Fahrenheit.
The comfort rating is another temperature rating associated with sleeping bags. This is often a more realistic interpretation of the degree range that keeps a sleeping bag comfortable. The comfort rating is always going to be higher than the temperature limit rating.
If you’re looking for a double sleeping bag to share, the Thermarest Double Vela Quilt should be at the top of your list. And for bargain hunters, the MalloMe Sleeping Bag is an affordable model that’s surprisingly durable.
You want a sleeping bag to work down to around 40 degrees if you're camping in warm conditions. Mountain weather is variable, and you want to be able to handle swings in temperatures overnight. For sleeping bags rated down to 35 degrees, check the ventilation features to make sure you can air out the bag in case it gets too warm.
Yes, summer sleeping bags give you the comforting sensation of being wrapped up in something without getting too hot and sweaty. If nighttime temperatures are above 80 degrees, any type of bag, quilt, or sleeping bag liner might still feel like a lot. For beach campers, hammocks and camping fans are great options to consider as well.
Whether it’s better to sleep with fewer clothes boils down to personal preference. If you prefer pajamas, light hiking clothing options like linen will feel nice to sleep in. If you don’t like to sleep with clothes, a breathable sleeping bag or a quilt will still help cover you up and prevent your skin from sticking to a tent footprint or sleeping pad.
Yes, you can use a four-season sleeping bag in summer but not in hot or drier environments. If you’re summer camping in taller mountains, a four-season sleeping bag will work well. But, the lack of ventilation and breathability will make it tougher to get an enjoyable sleep if the nighttime temperatures are warm.
*The information on this site is based on research and first-hand experience but should not be treated as medical advice. Before beginning any new activity, we recommend consulting with a physician, nutritionist or other relevant professional healthcare provider.