Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Lightweight, high quality materials, warm
Cons: Uncomfortable fit, neck baffle ineffective
Best Uses: Backpacking and car camping
The REI Joule kept us warm and cozy on cold, wet, and windy nights. This bag is made from high quality materials, and we feel confident in its ability to allow us t a good night's sleep in the backcountry. The dimensions of the bag are a little exaggerated, leaving too much room in the shoulders and feeling a little squeezed in the legs.
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.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
The REI Joule is the warmest sleeping bag in this review. We feel that its EN rating of 22°F was dead on, and indeed, it kept us warm down to that temperature. The bag feels cozy, and the 800 fill down is very lofty. The Joule’s shell material protected from wind when we slept out under the stars on windy nights. This bag has an attached neck baffle or “yoke” that attempts to block out cold air and keep warm air in your bag. We found this yoke ineffective because it does not close around the neck or attach to anything on one side of the bag. It didn't added much in terms of warmth, and we prefer a traditional baffle that can be tightened around the neck for added warmth. That being said, some 22°F bags do not come with a neck baffle of any kind.
The Joule weighs in at 2lbs 0.6 oz, which is not super lightweight for a down sleeping bag. The Rab Neutrino 400 - Women's is 4.6 ounces lighter than the Joule. This is a pretty average weight for a down backpacking sleeping bag, and we think it could be lighter. REI attempts to lighten their bag up by slimming the dimensions down, but we think they could also make their shell fabric lighter, and perhaps eliminate the neck yoke to skimp even more weight.
The REI 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, but the proportions are 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, so 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 sacks that come with the Mountain Hardwear Ultralaminina 32 and the Neutrino. Check out our The Best Sleeping Bag Stuff Sack review to find a compression sack that works best for you.
This bag comes with many features, some of which we thought were great and some we didn’t feel were necessary to make this a great bag. As we mentioned before, the baffle system of this bag left something to be desired. Also, locating the stash pocket on the outside of the bag, on the opposite side from the zipper, makes it inaccessible, and therefore we never used it. The zipper works well, contrary to reports we read about this bag. Although the waterproof coating on this bag works well, it does 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. We wonder how long this coating will last without being re-treated, though.
This sleeping bag is quite versatile. It is warm enough to use for a full three seasons, from early spring to late fall. The waterproof coating also adds to its versatility, as the down is a bit more protected from outside moisture.
This is a great bag for backpacking and camping.
It is worth it to invest in a quality down bag like the Joule. At $389, the Joule is at the higher end of products in this review. It is, however, a cheaper and potentially more durable option to the Rab Neutrino, although it is 4.5 ounces heavier.
— Jessica Haist
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Most recent review: November 1, 2013
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