The Big Agnes Sidewinder is a side sleeper's dream bag.
As much as I love camping, I am one of those campers who rarely sleeps as well in the backcountry woods as I do at home. Mostly because I am a side sleeper. As a result, traditional sleeping bags have never been all that comfortable for me, even with a sleeping pad, cot, or air mattress.
I also toss and turn a bit when I sleep. If you are like me, you may have given up finding a bag that works for you. Well, the folks at Big Agnes, a Colorado-based company that manufactures quality backpacking gear have the solution.
It is called the Sidewinder, a series of ultralight synthetic and down sleeping bags specifically designed with side-sleeping in mind. I recently got the chance to test out the Big Agnes Camp 20? model. I came away thoroughly impressed with the design. In fact, it may be the best sleeping bag I've ever used.
Appearances can be deceiving.
When I first unboxed this sleeping bag, I was struck by how it looked like a traditional mummy bag. In fact, there is nothing remarkable that immediately stands out about this bag at all. It is not until you take a closer look, and zip it up for the night, that you realize this thing is super comfortable.
Let us go over some of the specs of this bag first before I dive into what made sleeping in it so awesome. First, the Camp model is directed more towards use for car camping or tent camping in a modern campground. The big difference between this and the Big Agnes Sidewinder SL model is in the material and weight. The SL model is about ten ounces lighter. However, the Camp model I tested only weighs two pounds, 14 ounces. To me, it felt more than light enough for a light backpacking adventure. The Camp weighs slightly more because it uses FireLine Eco synthetic insulation while the SL uses a 650 fill DownTek material for warmth.
The interior features a polyester taffeta lining. The lining has a PFC-free water repellent chemistry to keep things nice and dry while you are trying to sleep. The nylon ripstop shell fabric of the bag also has a nice water repellent finish to it. Big Agnes included an integrated hood into these sleeping bags to really help trap in the body heat on colder nights. The jacket-style hood includes a pillow barn that helps keep your head rest in place all night. No more taking your arms out of the bag to fumble and adjust a cold pillow.
Speaking of cold nights, they also added a nice draft tube on the upper hood opening. That, combined with the draft collar, help to eliminate those uncomfortable cold spots that cause you to wake late at night. These things are designed for extremely easy adjustment too. They make both the Camp and SL versions with 20 and-35 degree temperature ratings.
Camping with the Big Agnes Sidewinder Camp
I ended up going with the "long" variant of the Sidewinder Camp. Mostly because I am about 6' 1", and my big problem with many sleeping bags I've used in the past is just how cramped they made me feel. No worries about that with the Camp. This was probably the first sleeping bag I've ever used where the hood was actually comfortable to cinch up overnight.
Big Agnes designed these bags with a generous footbox that they say is designed to mimic the shape of your feet while laying on your side. I appreciate that extra room, it is a major factor in what made this bag so comfortable for me. The ambidextrous zipper is anti-snag and extremely easy to operate. I do not think I've had an easier time zipping myself up for the night. The addition of a zipper garage to prevent cold air from seeping in is another huge plus.
Another large problem I have had with sleeping bags in the past is that they always seem designed for someone laying on their back. As a result, it is easy to feel too compressed when you switch over to your side. Big Agnes said they designed these bags specifically to avoid the pressure points caused to side sleepers from more traditional bags and it shows. The bag feels more like a blanket or comforter on your bed at home than a cramped sleeping bag.
Despite being ultralight, the bag is also surprisingly warm. Temperatures dipped in the early morning hours during one night of testing, yet I was sung and cozy in the bag. When they say they built "no-draft" features into this bag they mean it. My latest trip was one of the few trips I've done where I did not wake up shivering at some point. At the end of the trip, I realized I had gotten some of the best sleep I have had while camping in years.
Speaking of the end of the trip, that ultralight design also gives this bag great compressibility. The regular version compacts down to just 6.5 x 8 inches and the long version compacts to 7.5 x 8 inches. It barely took up any space in my vehicle once stuffed in the storage sack, and the light weight makes it a dream to carry with a pack. While the bag has excellent water-resistant qualities, it seems Big Agnes thought of everything. They also included some excellent exterior loops to easily hang the bag to dry.
The bottom line.
The Big Agnes Sidewinder Camp is a winner. After using this bag, I cannot imagine digging out any of my older bags ever again. The quality and durability are excellent. Yet they are also light enough for a backpacker expedition into the backcountry.
Most importantly, it will keep you warm while also allowing restless sleepers the room to move during the night. No other bag I have ever used comes close to this one. If you are in the market for a new sleeping bag this summer, we can heartily recommend the Big Agnes Sidewinder series.