What Temperature Sleeping Bag For Appalachian Trail?

Are you considering a hike through the Appalachian Trail? Investing in the right sleeping bag is imperative to a successful trip. Whether you plan on hiking one section at a time or undertaking the entire 2,000-mile stretch, having the right sleeping bag is critical to your comfort, success, and even survival during your hike. This can seem like a real challenge as the Appalachian Trail covers countless types of terrains and climates.

You will need a sleeping bag that has great insulation properties to keep you warm and comfortable at night. It should be easy-to-carry, lightweight, packable, waterproof, compressible, and durable. It is also a good idea to find a bag that provides features like snag-free zippers, hydrophobic insulation, and a nice hood.

Temperature Rating

The temperature rating is one of the most important factors in determining which sleeping bag you should purchase. Knowing the temperature of the sleeping bag that you will need is imperative to choosing the right one. Temperature rating is a critical factor. The average temperature rating used by Appalachian Trail long-distance hikers is around 20°F. Ultimately, the warmer the temperature bag rating, the happier the hikers are with their choice. This is likely the most sufficient sleeping bag for a majority of the conditions found on the Appalachian Trail.

Some people will try to make do with a 30-degree bag, which is not completely unsuitable. However, anyone hiking during the cooler months, late August to mid-April, may face at least a few frigid nights. In this case, you need to ensure that your sleeping bag is within the 15-20 degrees range so that you are kept warm enough and comfortable enough to sleep.

Sleeping Bag features

There are a few different factors that you will need to consider when choosing a sleeping bag, especially one that you plan on using to hike the Appalachian Trail. These features will determine how comfortable and warm you will feel during your trip. Choosing a sleeping bag with the features that best suit your needs will ensure the most enjoyable sleeping experience on your hike.

The vast majority of hikers are going to experience below-freezing temperatures during their thru-hike. Because of this, it is encouraged to look for a sleeping bag that is well-suited for the needs of your trip. Another piece of gear that can help keep you warm during your hike is a sleeping pad. These go under your sleeping bag and help to add extra support and protection from the elements during your hike. While I’m not going to explore these in-depth in this article, they are important to mention because they contribute to the comfort and warmth of your sleeping bag.

Another critical feature is the type of insulation. This includes down, typically sourced from duck, and synthetic, otherwise known as fake down. There are pros and cons to both types of insulation. Sleeping bags made with down tend to take more time to dry out when they become wet and usually cost more. However, these sleeping bags are typically much warmer and weigh less than those made with synthetic insulation. Synthetic bags usually weigh more, retain less heat, are quicker to dry out, and usually cost less. Hikers prefer sleeping bags with natural down on the Appalachian Trail.

About the Trail

The Appalachian Trail is a long-distance hiking trail that spans over 2,000 miles up the east coast. It starts at Springer Mountain in Georgia and ends at Mt. Katahdin in Maine. Every year thousands of hikers attempt to hike the entire trail, referred to as thru-hiking. Those who hike the whole trail typically do so within a twelve-month period.

Hiking this trail means that it is very important to understand the hazards that you face regarding the climate and the weather. Your sleeping bag is the ultimate protection against these hazards while you are sleeping. Here are some of the factors that you need to consider when choosing the right sleeping bag for your hike.


Almost every section of the trail has the potential to experience snowfall up until mid-late April. Winter weather conditions often occur during the early fall and into late spring in many sections of the trail. Some of the highest peaks on the trail in Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina receive an average of 100 inches of snowfall each year. This is why it is essential to pack a sleeping bag that can help you maintain the right body temperature while you are sleeping.


Hypothermia, sometimes referred to as exposure, can occur even when temperatures are well above freezing. Due to hypothermia, cold rain can become one of the most dangerous weather conditions for hikers, both while they are working the trails and when they are sleeping. When you get wet while you are outside and the air further adds to the chill, it can have dire consequences. When the rain and wind chill the body enough so that its core temperature decreases, hypothermia occurs and must be treated in a timely manner. Proper layers, staying hydrated, eating well, and a suitable sleeping bag and tent are all crucial preventative measures of hypothermia.

The Bottom Line

Ultimately, when it comes to the Appalachian Trail, hikers agree, the warmer the bag, the happier the hiker! While some hikers may switch between warm weather bags and those created to sustain cooler weather, bags with a 20-degree temperature rating have been shown to be the preferred choice among hikers. No matter which bag you choose, or whether or not you decide to switch during your hike, the most important thing is that you choose a sleeping bag that is most suited for your needs and the time of year that you are going to be hiking the trail.