Many of us started camping when we were young and very single, and as such, the standard single sleeping bag worked fine. But what happens when you find that perfect adventure partner for life? You get a double sleeping bag.
Double sleeping bags are tricky and fickle things. Despite the advantage of sharing body heat, they never trap heat as well as a single bag. There’s no cinching the hood down to the size of your mouth or nose. There’s often that awkward gap that shows up at some point in the middle of the night when one of you rolls over—out of the embrace that so often starts right after you’re both in the bag to stave off the cold—letting spine-chilling air drift between you.
For Car Camping
The problem with double sleeping bags is that they can’t be divided up among backpackers to distribute weight and bulk. Thus, most double sleeping bags are best suited for car camping. One of our favorites for cooler nights is the Dream Island 15 from Big Agnes. Rated at 15°F, this bag is toasty. It kept us warm even while frost covered the landscape around us overnight. It has a unique textured interior fabric made of a cotton and polyester blend to feel more like flannel sheets instead of the slippery nylon of most sleeping bags. Big Agnes came up with a new cut for the bag so the top cover feels more like the draping of a comforter from home. Other features include a number of flaps and wedges to minimize drafts, and there’s even a built-in pillow barn to keep your headrest from wandering. With synthetic Thermolite Extra insulation and burly fabrics, this bag is weighty at nearly nine and a half pounds: fine for car camping. To avoid the possibility of finding a gap between pads, we used the Big Agnes 50-inch-wide Insulated Double Z pad, although the bag has pad sleeves built in and holds two pads together just fine. For warmer nights we liked Therm-a-Rest’s Vela HD Double Quilt combined with the company’s Down Coupler for an extra-cozy featherbed base to sleep on.
Our favorite double-bag kit for the trail is the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed Duo 600. This two-season bag is lighter than two single Backcountry Beds and has some great versatility options. First, it can accommodate two 20-inch pads, two 25-inch pads, or one of each width. The pad sleeves eliminate gapping at the torso but are only half the length of the bag and can separate some at the feet, though this happened very rarely. The whole Backcountry Bed design is zipperless, which not only eliminates the chance of snagging or breaking a zipper, but it also helps keep the weight of the bag down to a mere four and a half pounds. Instead of zippers, the Backcountry Bed has a catenary-style opening with a sewn-in down comforter that accommodates back, side, and belly sleepers. It can also handle a broad range of temperatures: Sleepers can leave the comforter open for warm nights, drape it over for mild nights, or tuck it in under the catenary opening for cooler nights. As a two-season bag, it’s not recommended for nights when temperatures drop below 40°F, depending on the pads used (insulated or not) or if you and your partner need constant warmth. (This is one of those bags that can let in a little draft when someone rolls over.) It’s a little like when you’re under a comforter at home—a good reason to stick to two-season camping.
Another great backpacking double bag is the Tango Duo Slim Down & Slipcover from Nemo Equipment. The slipcover completely surrounds the two 20-inch sleeping pads. We agree with Nemo’s recommendation to use their Cosmo sleeping pad. The slipcover acts as a bottom sheet and keeps the two pads from gapping. The Tango weighs nearly half that of the Backcountry Duo, but takes a little longer to set up and isn’t quite as warm. The 700-fill power down comforter has large square baffles and wraps around the outside of the combined pads. It even has a reinforced foot box to ward off possible tent wall condensation.
Adventure correspondent Cameron Martindell travels the world seeking beautiful destinations and amazing adventure to document in photos, prose, and video. These adventures provide plenty of opportunities to break gear all in the name of the testing process. He maintains his own adventure website at offyonder.com and can be followed on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, and Snapchat as @offyonder. He lives in Boulder, Colorado.