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Hands-on Gear Review

The North Face Cat's Meow 20 - Women's Review

Sleeping Bag for Women

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Best Buy Award
  • Currently 4.0/5
Overall avg rating 4.0 of 5 based on 1 review. Most recent review: August 4, 2015
Price:   $189 List | Varies from $174 - $189 online  —  Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Warm, inexpensive, durable
Cons:  Bulky, heavy, tiny stow pocket
Manufacturer:   The North Face


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.

New Version Update - June 2016
A new version of this award-winning bag was made available in 2016! Scroll down for a more detailed comparison of the new The North Face Cat's Meow 22 vs. the older Cat's Meow 20 version. We are in the process of testing this new product, and we will post a full update with our findings soon. In the meantime, the text and ratings still reflect the older 2015 version.

RELATED: Our complete review of sleeping bags - women's

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Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings

Review by:
Jessica Haist
Review Editor

Last Updated:

New Version of the Cat's Meow 22 vs. The Older Version

This Best Buy award winner will remain in the North Face line in an updated version. The North Face Cat's Meow 22 features a slight color and style change. Moreover, the fill material has been changed to a synthetic insulation called Heatseeker Pro, designed to retain its insulating properties when wet. Unlike the previous model, this new version has an EN comfort rating for women of 22 degrees Fahrenheit. The fit of the Cat's Meow 22 is now 61 inches in the shoulders and 59 inches in the hips, compared to the shoulder and hip girths of 56 inches and 60 inches, respectively, in the model featured in this review. In addition to these changes, the new version weighs two pounds and 15 ounces, which is eight ounces more than its predecessor. The list price, however, remains $189.

See below for a side-by-side comparison between the two versions, with the newest model pictured on the left and the older model on the right.
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Hands-On Review

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.

Performance Comparison

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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. We were comforted knowing the synthetic insulation would keep us somewhat warm even if it got wet.


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).


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The Cat's Meow is the warmest synthetic sleeping bag we tested. Jessica Haist, our 5'5, tester found it fit her perfectly and it kept the heat trapped inside with its large neck baffle and draft tubes.
As we said before, this bag fits our 5'5" testers like a glove, and there is enough wiggle room in the shoulders to wear an extra layer if things get really chilly. We like the feel of the soft shell material against the skin, and the additional insulation placed in key spots makes for a cozy sleep. The large baffle around the neck sometimes feels a bit restrictive, but the extra warmth provided by this baffle makes it worth it. The hood cinches down comfortably and we did not feel too claustrophobic with it on - as opposed to the NEMO Celesta's huge smothering hood. There have been some slight changes to the updated Cat's Meow which may add to its comfort, including internal hand warmer pockets. We have not been able to test this feature, but imagine that they could add to the comfort and coziness of the bag.

Packed Size

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The Cat's Meow comes with a mesh storage sack and a compression sack. We found the compression sack to be cumbersome and heavy.
The Cat's Meow was one of the bulkier bags in this review, and its material does not compress as well as the Boundary 20's or any of the down sleeping bags. This could be due in part to the design of the compression sack that comes with the bag. It is poorly designed and seems overly heavy for what it is. We suggest shopping for a separate stuff sack that is lighter and easier to use. Check out our article on stuff sacks for tips on choosing the best one for you.


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The Cat's Meow has a small interior stash pocket that we found to be a little too small to be useful. It could barely fit a small headlamp.
We love the extra insulation packed into the foot box and hood where we women need it most, as well as the soft, lightweight bag material. The stow pocket in the interior of the bag is slightly too small it barely fits a small headlamp - and we think it could have used another inch or two of fabric to make it a bit larger. We also wish that the draw cords on the hood and neck baffles had different strings, like on the 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.

Best Application

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).

Other Versions and Accessories

North Face Cat's Meow 20
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  • Cost - $160
  • Weight - 2.5 lbs
  • Men's version
Jessica Haist

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews

Most recent review: August 4, 2015
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