Can you use a Winter Sleeping Bag in Summer?

Buying a sleeping bag for each season is expensive and absurd. Most would like a single sleeping bag that they can use throughout the year. It makes sense because it is cheap. A winter sleeping bag is a great option for this purpose because it is expensive and should guarantee warmth in all seasons.

Short answer: Yes, you can but you would find a winter bag too heavy and warm for summer nights in some regions. Otherwise, it will work fine for the rest of the year.

Winter vs. Summer Bags: The Difference

Winter sleeping bags are designed to keep you warm in below-freezing temperatures during the winter night. They are designed to keep you warm. Winter sleeping bags are filled with a large amount of high-quality insulation, either synthetic or down. The outer shell of winter sleeping bags is more durable than that of summer sleeping bags.

Because of a more durable fabric and heavier insulation, winter bags are heavier. But because you don’t lose energy sweating like in the summer, you can carry these heavy bags in the winter. Winter bags are labeled for temperatures of 0 – 5oF. The weight of these bags starts above 3lbs and can go above 5lbs. They also have more water-repellent shells because they have to deal with snow and moisture.

Summer sleeping bags, on the other hand, have less amount of insulation which makes them lighter. This is a benefit for summer backpackers as they don’t have to carry too much weight during the summer heat. Summer bags are usually labeled for temperatures of 35 – 40oF. The weight of summer sleeping bags starts around 1lb with some ultralight bags like the Sea to Summit Spark weighing as little as 12oz.

The shape of sleeping bags also differs. Winter sleeping bags usually have a mummy shape because it is compact and retain the most amount of body heat. Summer sleeping bags usually have a rectangular or a semi-rectangular shape because they allow airflow. But both types of sleeping bags can be found in any shape.

Reasons to use Winter Bags in Summer

  • The most significant reason for using a sleeping bag in summer is because it saves money. We all know that sleeping bags aren’t cheap. Not many of us can buy a separate bag for each season. So, if it saves money, then why not?
  • The second reason is that it guarantees warmth even during fluctuating temperatures. You can always unzip it if you get too warm. But if you get cold zipped up in a summer sleeping bag, you would find out the hard way how difficult it is to get warm again.
  • Having only one sleeping bag to use all year round would save you a lot of space at home. Think about it, where are you going to store sleeping bags if you have two or three of them? Not that you can’t store them. You would probably have enough space in your house. But you can use that space to store some other important stuff. Storage space is a commodity these days that we take for granted.
  • It can also be great if you are going on a backpacking or a camping trip as a couple. Using a winter sleeping bag as a top quilt would keep both of you warm assuming you don’t mind sharing. It will also save space in one person’s backpack for more essentials. This case doesn’t apply to everyone but it is something to think about.

Some Downsides

  • The major downside associated with winter bags is the weight. You would have to carry a heavy sleeping bag in the summer heat. The weight of a bag doesn’t affect you much in the winter because you don’t have to deal with the scorching heat. But in the summer, you will get exhausted quickly through excessive sweating. If you are planning to hike for long distances, you should get a summer or a 3-season sleeping bag.
  • Being heavy is not the only problem, it also takes up more space in your backpack, space that you can use for other essentials like more water and food.
  • The other obvious downside of a winter bag is that it tends to overheat in the summer. People living in the northern and southern parts of the world wouldn’t have as much of a problem as people living near the equator. That is where the heat can get really uncomfortable. But then again, you won’t need a sleeping bag in that case.

Consider a 3-Season Option

If you head out camping only during warm seasons, a 3-season sleeping bag is the best option for you. Unless you camp all year round, a winter sleeping bag is useless because it also cost much higher than 3-season sleeping bags. A 3-season sleeping bag is the most suitable choice for most people as it is all they would need.

The North Face One Bag: Best For Year Round Use

The North Face One Bag
Rated to: 5/20/40°F
Weight: 4 lbs. 4 oz. (all three layers)
Fill: 800-fill goose down
Shell material: 20D nylon

The One Bag is a completely thought-out product by The North Face. The 3-in-1 design offers exceptional value and versatility. The two uppers allow you to have 40°F, 20°F, and 5°F configurations. You can use this bag year-round in almost all types of weather conditions. The uppers have different colors for easy recognition. The thin blue upper is for 40°F temperature and has a synthetic fill. The yellow upper is for 20oF temperature and has a down fill. When both uppers are combined, they can be used for 5°F.

It should be noted that this is not the first time such a modular design has been introduced in sleeping bags. But the One Bag is the best representation of it being extremely practical. Nothing in this bag is out of place. The bag is very comfortable with generous dimensions. The U-shaped, color-coated, zippers make it easier and faster to zip and unzip the uppers. Of course, the only downside with this sleeping bag is that it’s heavy. The whole bag with both uppers weighs a little over 4lbs. We would say that is not bad considering winter bags are heavy. But you can drop the weight by dropping an upper. The yellow upper is what you will be using most of the time. This will be the only bag you would need all year round.

What I like: Extremely versatile, great value, very practical

What I don’t: Heavy and bulky

See the The North Face One Bag

Final Thoughts

Having a single sleeping bag to use throughout the year makes sense as it is economical and you don’t have to deal with storing extra sleeping bags somewhere safe. You can use a winter sleeping bag in summer. Of course, it won’t be ideal but it will get the job done.

The only problem would be that your bag is going to be heavy to carry in the summer heat. They can also overheat if you are camping in spring. But they work fine for the rest of the year. If you only camp in warm seasons, then it would be better if you get a 3-season bag as a winter bag would be useless.