If I use two identical 20-degree-rated bags, one inside the other, what would likely be the effective temperature rating? 10-degree? 0-degree? negative-10-degree?

  • My GF used two sleeping bags in Yosemite this winter, and thought they were over-the-top insanely warm. So, based on that one-time experience, I believe it would be closer to a -10-degree bags. Commented Dec 18, 2013 at 20:36
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    While you may be asking out of curiosity or may intend to do this in a scenario where weight isn't an issue, it's much better in terms of weight to just buy one sleeping bag for that intended purpose. It also leaves no question as the rating on the bag is "what you see is what you get" and doesn't leave you guessing. If I were to go out into the wilderness I'd want one sleeping bag that is rated to the lowest possible expected tempurature.
    – tsturzl
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 21:04
  • That said something I do, and noticed many others doing: I have a fleece sleeping bag that is good for maybe 50F, or really warm nights. I sometimes use this fleece bag as a liner to add warmth. I've been able to sleep in 10F cooler nights than the comfort rating on my sleeping bag using the fleece bag, but that's subject to my actual testing, not the combined ratings.
    – tsturzl
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 21:07
  • i placed a chinook brand 50 degree mummy inside a chinook brand 32 degree rectangle bag a slept for a bout 2 hours on my balcony on a 18 degree f night. i had thin baselayers on top and bottom and plain socks and napped warm and cozy. both bags are a synthetic fill.
    – scott t
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 9:59
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    This is basically using a sleeping bag as a sleeping bag liner. I doubt there's a simple formula in this case. Commented Apr 16, 2022 at 5:14

4 Answers 4


Warning This is pure conjecture! Test this information with your gear in a safe place before using!

That being said, the basic warmth of a sleeping bag is determined by the amount of loft the fill provides. Quality of fill has a huge impact on how much loft is necessary to provide a given warmth, along with construction (i.e. baffles vs sewn through, hood quality, down distribution).

Putting all that aside, a good 20F down bag will have 4-5" of loft. So theoretically one inside the other would have 8-10". Again, theoretically that would give you ~ -10F (or perhaps even lower!).

This is assuming you don't have any down compression happening when you stuff one inside the other (i.e. you choose two bags with girths such that they don't compress each other). Since that's not likely possible, I would imagine real world performance would be quite a bit lower (maybe -5F?), and I would certainly want to test it with backups available before striking out into the wild!

  • I guess two extra layers of fabric in the middle would help compress the down as you say, but would also help keeping in warmth a bit.
    – nsandersen
    Commented Dec 14, 2013 at 11:54
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    If the bags are really identical, as per the OP, then I suspect the inner bag will get pretty compressed and not insulated to its full potential. For a good selection of firsthand experiences layering bags/quilts, check out the Backpacking Light forums: backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/…
    – ppl
    Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 0:55
  • @ppl - yes indeed, I didn't see the part about two identical bags. I've seen weird results with compressed down though - some things suggest that (in jackets at least) volume of down is almost as important as loft... so it just goes to show you actually have to test your own setup!
    – Ryley
    Commented Dec 15, 2013 at 4:23
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    I don't think you would get that much compression of the down, but rather folds. Commented Apr 16, 2022 at 5:15

In terms of clothing insulation there is the concept of the CLO. The key equation is

T = (31 − 0.155·P·R)°C

where P is 48 W/m² while sleeping, R is the number of CLOs, and T is the temperature in Celsius.

To stay warm while sleeping at 20F you need 5 CLOs (yes there is huge variation between people). If you double the bags and ignore the air gap between the bags (which will add insulation) and any compression of the insulation (which will reduce insulation), then you can just add the CLOs (just like you do with clothing). A bag with 10 CLOs will keep you "warm" while sleeping to -46.12 F.

One should obviously be careful before heading off into -46F sleeping conditions. There can be big variations depending on how warm you sleep (i.e., the P value in the equation) and if you are using a tent or snow cave. There is also the concern of the bags compressing each other and reducing the insulation properties.

While -46F seems crazy, if we compare weights, the North Face Inferno 15F weighs 1049 g with 550 g of fill while the -40F Inferno weighs 1758 g with 1249 g of identical fill. In other words a -40 degree bag has similar amounts of fill as two 15 degree bags.

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    -46F seems like a steep example. Most mountaineering bags only go down to 0F.
    – tsturzl
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 21:11
  • @tsturzl and two 20 degree bags would way a ton. I added an example with fill weights of a 15 degree bag and a -40 degree bag. Hope it helps.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Mar 2, 2016 at 22:42
  • Don't agree you can just add the fill like that. Two bags will not breath properly. You will probably get some condensation between the two bags.
    – paparazzo
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 15:30
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    @Paparazzi Depending on the permeability of the shell and liner, the condensation very well might happen at the interface between the bags. This is likely much better than having the condensation happen in the fill of the bag (especially for down bags). Further, for 0F and colder, you generally want to use a vapor barrier of some sort.
    – StrongBad
    Commented Dec 22, 2016 at 15:54
  • To elaborate on the provided formula: 31 is the °C body temperature required (= 87°F), and may vary between people. Every sleeping bag insulates against a certain temperature difference, but somehow, no one tells you that difference. Theoretically, a 40°F sleeping bag should insulate against 47°F, and two together insulate against 94°F, so -7°F it should be. However, some bags are worse than rated (maybe the manufacturer wore warm pyjamas during tests), and since the error doubles as well, you should add a generous margin for both error and comfort.
    – Alexander
    Commented May 7, 2018 at 20:01

I have a synthetic summer/mountain sleeping bag with the comfort of 0°C (180€) and a moderate down winter sleeping bag with the comfort of -5°C (570€). comfort meant that I can be inside in my underwear and sleep "toasty". The first (0) sleeping bag is larger so the second inserted can loft properly. I didn't do math but from experience, I was comfortable, even a bit too warm with -18°C, so I suppose I would be safe even with lower temperatures. BUT both sleeping bags weigh 2 Kg together so a better option would be to buy an expedition sleeping bag with a weight of only 1.5 Kg and a similar price for both combined. I need such a combo, maybe once or twice a year so no need for the expedition one. I case of more frequent use I would pick an expedition sleeping bag.


My experience from the winter months is:

I used 2 synthetic sleeping bags and combined them, used them at the same time. Both are 12/8/-4°C rated or perhaps one is rate a little higher 15/12/2°C. Weight is 930 g for first and 830 g for second.

Temperature ranges:

8 - 4 °C. It was good, pleasant, enough warm. 0 - 4 °C. It got more unpleasant, but was bearable. -2 - 0 °C. It became even more unpleasant, I wouldn't go lower.

That was my experience with using 2 sleeping bags at the same time. That was only a few times, but in the next season I will get myself a proper winter bag. I expected more warmth using 2 bags at the same time.

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