Hands-on Gear Review
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Pros: Warm, inexpensive, durable
Cons: Bulky, heavy, tiny stow pocket
Best Uses: Car camping, short backpacks, big wall climbing
The Cat's Meow has been made by The North Face for years – it's the classic introductory sleeping bag for outdoor recreation - and for good reason. It's inexpensive and does the job well, which is why we give it our Best Buy Award. It is relatively lightweight for a synthetic sleeping bag, and warmer than any other synthetic bag in this review. It beats out other budget bags such as the Slumberjack Boundary 20 - Women's and the Marmot Trestles 30 - Women's by a lot.
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OutdoorGearLab Editors' Hands-on Review
New Version of the Cat's Meow 20 vs. The Older Version
The Cat's Meow 20 is still rated to 20 degrees, but has a new design. The North Face has confirmed that indeed a few things have changed, including how the bag and baffling structures are used to ensure warmth, as well as a new draft collar. The women's version now includes fleece hand warmer pockets as well.
See below for a side-by-side comparison between the two versions, with the newest model pictured left and the older model on the right.
A tried and true inexpensive synthetic insulated sleeping bag, the Cat's Meow is an excellent introductory sleeping bag for short backpacking trips and car camping adventures. Its synthetic fill insulation will keep you warm even if it gets a bit wet and feels comfy and cozy.
Luckily, we had the Cat's Meow with us when we were hit by an intense, windy thunderstorm in our floorless shelter, where driving rain came in under the tarp. It was a comfort to know this synthetic bag would retain its loft even if it got wet. This bag kept us warm in all kinds of weather in the high alpine and while car camping.
This sleeping bag is the warmest of the synthetic bags we evaluated. It kept us warm in the alpine during the summer months, when temperatures can dip down into the 30s. We think the key to the Cat's Meow's warmth is in large part due to the fit of the bag. Our 5'5", tester found it fit her perfectly and kept the heat trapped inside with its large neck baffle and draft tubes. The North Face has also added more insulation to the hood and foot box of this women's specific sleeping bag to keep the extremities nice and toasty. Since women's extremities tend to feel colder, The North Face has added internal hand warmer pockets to the Cat's Meow for additional warmth. To read more about women's specific features and why we sleep colder, check out our Buying Advice Article.
We were surprised to find that this bag is the lightest weight synthetic bag in this review, weighing in at 2 pounds 7 oz. The synthetic NEMO Celesta 25 is almost a pound heavier at 3 pounds 4 oz. We may have been deceived because the Cat's Meow seems bulky, but in reality the Celesta is bulkier. This bag uses a lightweight exterior material and slimmed down features to keep it relatively light, though it doesn't pack down very small. The Slumberjack Boundary is only one ounce heavier than the Cat's Meow, but is not as warm or as comfortable. The Kelty Ignite 20 - Women's weighs the same as this bag, but has mostly down fill - knowing this, we would choose the Cat's Meow over the Ignite because it has the added versatility of being synthetic (although the Ignite may pack down slightly smaller).
article on stuff sacks for tips on choosing the best one for you.
Slumberjack Boundary 20 - Women's so they could be tightened independently. The glow in the dark zipper pull is handy for late night bathroom trips – but the zipper catches more than other bags. The features that distinguish this bag from the men's version is the extra insulation added to the hood and foot box of the bag, as well as the newly added fleece hand warmer pockets. We have not been able to test the hand warmer pockets yet, but it looks like you can put your hands in a hoodie style pocket when sleeping on your back.
Because of its bulkiness and weight, the Cat's Meow is much less versatile than a down sleeping bag like the REI Joule, or the Rab Neutrino 400 - Women's, that pack down much smaller. But for what its worth, this bag is a workhorse and is good for trips where you expect the weather to be wet and cold. Its synthetic insulation will retain its loft when wet better than a down bag that will lose its loft and insulating ability. The Cat's Meow is a great introductory bag for a beginner backpacker since it is inexpensive for its quality.
The Cat's Meow Women's is a great car camping sleeping bag. It will also work well for short backpacking trips, especially in wet climates like the Pacific Northwest or Alaska in the summer. This could also be a good choice for any big wall lady climbers.
This is a great value for a decent product that can get you started on your outdoor adventures. Even though the Boundary 20 is cheaper, we thing the Cat's Meow is much better value and has higher quality materials and design. It is just as warm and comfortable as the heavier, more expensive NEMO Celesta.
The Cat's Meow wins our Best Buy award for this review, and is ideal for someone who is looking for an inexpensive summer backpacking sleeping bag that will keep her warm in all conditions. It is comfortable and surprisingly lightweight when compared to other synthetic bags in this review (and weighs the same as our heaviest down sleeping bag).
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North Face Cat's Meow 20
— Jessica Haist
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Most recent review: August 4, 2015
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