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Hands-on Gear Review
REI Joule Review
Cons: Uncomfortable fit, zipper fabric bulky and uncomfortable
Bottom line: The Joule is a great lightweight, quality choice for all your backpacking adventures.
We finally got the chance to get our hands on the updated REI Joule and are pleased to report that we still think it is a super high quality backpacking sleeping bag for women. This contender kept us warm and cozy on cold, wet, and windy nights in the High Sierra. The updated version has a slightly lower quality 700 fill down insulation, but otherwise is essentially the same and we still feel confident in its ability to provide a good night's sleep in the backcountry. The dimensions of the bag remain a little exaggerated, leaving too much room in the shoulders and feeling a little squeezed in the legs.
To see how the Joule compares to the rest of the sleeping bags we tested check out our Best Women's Sleeping Bag Review.
RELATED: Our complete review of sleeping bags - women's
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The Joule is a top performer in this review. Our testers really liked its low weight and high warmth.
After the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 800 Women's, we think this contender is one of the warmest sleeping bags in this review, and is just as warm as the Mountain Hardwear Heratio that is rated to 15 degrees. We feel that its EN rating of 23°F is dead on, and indeed, it kept us warm down to that temperature. The bag feels cozy, and the 700 fill down is very lofty. The Joule's shell material protected our testers from wind when they slept out under the stars on windy nights. REI has eliminated the strange neck baffle from the previous version and we're glad because it didn't add much in terms of warmth, and we prefer a traditional baffle that can be tightened around the neck for added warmth
We took comfort in the fact that the bag's shell material has a waterproof coating when we were in a torrential downpour in a floorless shelter. It kept us dry throughout the night despite a constant misting from water bouncing off of the ground and tarp. This could be a good option for someone who wants a down bag in a wet climate like the North Cascades.
The Joule weighs in at 2 lbs 3 oz, which is not super lightweight for a down sleeping bag but is the 2nd lightest women's bag we reviewed (the Rab Neutrino 400 - Women's is 4.6 ounces lighter). This is a pretty average weight for a down backpacking sleeping bag, but we think it could be lighter. REI attempts to lighten their bag up by slimming the dimensions down, and now has a lightweight shell fabric. This bag weighs 3 oz more than the previous one, probably because of the change in fill weight.
The Joule's dimensions make an effort to mimic a woman's hour-glass shape by making the shoulder and hip area large and the leg area small; however, the proportions are about as exaggerated as Barbie's. There is lots of space in the articulated foot box, but not enough leg room around the knees. Then there is ample, if not too much space in the shoulders. All this is to say that we could have done with less room in the shoulder area, but our legs were a little too squeezed together. We do love how warm this bag is, and we like the feel of the material, so we forgave it for a little leg discomfort.
The stuff sack that is included with the Joule is not a compression sack, but is made from lightweight materials. When we took it out in the backcountry, we used one of our own compression sacks instead, and it packs down quite small. We really like the compression sack that comes with the Rab Neutrino 400 - Women's. Check out our The Best Sleeping Bag Stuff Sack review to find a compression sack that works best for you.
REI has trimmed the fat in this department and we are in favor of the work they have done. They have gotten rid of the stash pocket entirely and added a light colored liner fabric so you can find your missing sock without difficulty. We really like the pink liner color; it is light, but won't show dirt as much as the Mountain Hardwear Laminina Z Flame. The zipper works well, contrary to reports we read about this bag and so we are wondering what's with the super burly zipper lining fabric? We think it may be a reaction to complaints of zipper catching on this bag, but unfortunately, it adds weight and bulk and our testers can feel it when they're sleeping; it bunches and creates a hard, uncomfortable lump.
Although the waterproof coating on this bag works well, it also add extra weight. We do appreciate the degree of mental comfort it gave us when using it in an exceptionally wet summer season in the Sierra. We watched water bead off the coating with relief more than once in our floorless shelter, but we wonder how long this coating will last without being re-treated.
This is a great bag for backpacking and camping. We dragged it along with us on many backcountry adventures when we wanted the lightest bag.
The Joule is a great value for your money and we agree that it is worth it to invest in a quality down bag like this model. At $240-300, the Joule is at the same price point as the Marmot Angel Fire and the Mountain Hardwear Heratio and it weighs less. It is a less expensive and potentially more durable option to the Rab Neutrino, although it is seven ounces heavier.
The Joule is warm and relatively lightweight, with the newest version of this bag reduced to 700 fill. But it is available for a lower price and is now a great deal. If it weren't for the uncomfortable zipper lining fabric, the lower fill power, and the tight cut around the legs. this bag would be neck and neck with our Editor's Choice, the Rab Neutrino; we still think it would be a great choice for your backpacking adventures.
The REI Serrana is slightly lower quality down bag and lower priced than the Joule. REI Lyra 24 is a synthetic fill bag similar in dimensions to the Joule. The Igneo is the men's version of the Joule.
— Jessica Haist
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: August 12, 2016
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