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Hands-on Gear Review
Katabatic Gear Palisade 30 Review
Cons: Expensive, doesn't open into a flat quilt
To state it simply, the Katabatic Gear Palisade 30 is the best ultralight sleeping bag we tested, and it has held onto this distinction for 4 years. This closed footbox quilt continues its run as our Editors' Choice winner for delivering the best warmth-to-weight ratio and cozy comfort. Without question, the pad attachment system is the best in our review, and the Palisade's other features are top-notch as well. For three-season backpacking, thru-hiking, and bicycle touring, this is OutdoorGearLab's go-to ultralight bag.
Accompanying the Palisade's class-leading features and warmth is a high price tag to match. However, we believe that our Editors' Choice winner is well worth the investment. One of our testers is a thru-hiker and an alpine climber, and he has used this as his ONLY sleeping bag for five years and it's still going strong!
If you are on a budget, the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 quilt took home our Best Buy Award. At about half the price, the Revelation still earned our third highest overall score. Both these bags can keep you cozy below freezing. If you rarely camp in temperatures below 40°F, consider our Top Pick for Summer, the Big Agnes Pitchpine UL 45.
RELATED: Our complete review of ultralight sleeping bags
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
The Katabatic Gear Palisade 30 is the highest scoring bag in our ultralight review again this year, and earned top scores for warmth, comfort, and features. The only models that earned higher scores in our versatility metric are quilts that fully open up into a flat blanket. And while there are a few lighter products that we tested, none deliver the warmth-to-weight ratio that our Editors' Choice winner does. If we could only have one ultralight sleeping bag for three-season use, there's no contest: it would be the Katabatic Gear Palisade.
How to Get It:
Buyers should note that Katabatic Gear products are custom made in Colorado, and are not available from retail outlets.
Get it online at: KatabaticGear.com.
The Palisade is the warmest 30-degree rated sleeping bag we tested; it is also a little warmer than the two models we tested rated at 20 degrees! While many manufacturers' bags do not perform well near their nominal ratings, this bag kept us cozy warm at near-freezing temperatures with only a base layer and a warm hat. Continuous horizontal baffles filled with 10.2 ounces of 900 fill power down created the loftiest model we evaluated. Add an insulated jacket with a hood into the mix, and this bag has kept our testers warm enough down into the teens. Sleeping warmth does vary widely by age, body type, fitness, diet, gender, sleeping pad, tent, and campsite selection. If you know you are a cold sleeper, consider one of the warmer Katabatic quilts that are listed at the end of this review.
After the impressive loft, the most notable warmth feature of Katabatic Gear quilts is the unique sleeping pad attachment and adjustment system. Katabatic quilts wrap around your body, not around a sleeping pad like some other quilts. The pad attachment system on this quilt has several options to adjust the girth (and thus the warmth). In fact, the warmest set-up wraps the insulated edges well underneath you on the sides, sealing in warmth. This design minimizes dead air space whether you're on your back or side; a huge advantage for side sleepers when compared to quilts that tuck under the pad. Despite having an ounce and a half more down insulation, the hoodless mummy ZPacks 20 Degree kept our testers a little less warm than the Palisade - in part because some of the ZPack's down is compressed underneath the back. The ability to fine tune the girth of the Palisade to accommodate more or less warm clothing is also a major contributor to warmth compared to the fixed girth ZPacks bag.
The Katabatic pad attachment system works in one of three ways: clipped loosely to a sleeping pad, clipped tightly to a pad, or strapped around your body, not a pad. This system is adjustable, highly versatile, and represents the best of any quilt we tested.
Drape the bag loosely over you as a blanket in warmer weather, loosely clip it to a pad in cool weather, or clip it tightly to a pad in colder weather. Take a look at the product manual for a detailed explanation of the versatility of the pad attachment system.
Worth discussing here is the absence of a hood on this bag. Hoods are uncomfortable for many sleepers, and add lots of weight and construction cost to a bag relative to the warmth they deliver. Nearly all our testers backpack with both a warm hat and a hooded base layer or insulated jacket. Many of us commonly have all three along. The long and short of it when it is cold out, we're already carrying multiple warm layers for our head. If you are pushing the temperature limits of a hoodless bag, we recommend carrying a separate down hood for sleeping; the ZPacks Goose Hood is our favorite.
Weight & Packed Size
On the digital scale, our test model weighed in at 18.8 ounces with the pad attachment strings;the included stuff sack weighs .4 ounces; and the included optional straps weigh .4 ounces. The two bags we found similar in warmth, the ZPacks 20 Degree and the Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20 weighed in at 17.2 and 21.9 ounces respectively. We are happy to carry the Palisade's additional ounces, since it means increased versatility and comfort. The two lightest models we reviewed, the Feathered Friends Vireo and Hammock Gear Burrow 40 aren't nearly as warm as the Palisade.
Packed into the included SilNylon stuff sack, this model measures 5 x 11 inches, and it's stuffed in there quite tightly. Many of the bags we tested can compress further than the stock stuff sacks allow, but not the Palisade.
The variety of nighttime temperatures encountered on a long backpacking trip demand a versatile sleeping bag. Traditional mummy bags can be unzipped for ventilation, but that's it. And while some folks have the means to collect a quiver of bags for different seasons of the year, most of us want a sleeping system that can adjust to three-season temperatures. The Palisade earned a high versatility score due to the flexibility of the pad attachment system. Once we switched to the string attachment system with loops for ventilation in warm weather, we never looked back that is, until it got cold out again. The only products in this review that received higher versatility scores are the Revelation and Feathered Friends Flicker 40 UL. Both of these quilts open fully into a flat blanket, and with some DIY pad attachment work, can be used to cover a snuggling couple securely.
For thru-hikers that can afford it, the Palisade is likely the most desired bag for hiking America's major Scenic Trails: the AT, CDT, and PCT. Our testers have slept in the Palisade on sections of all of those trails, and there's keen competition for who's gonna get to keep using our test model.
The most thermally efficient way to sleep is on your back. Tossing and turning exchanges warm air from inside your bag with cold air outside, so those who want to sleep the absolute warmest should train themselves to sleep still on their back. The great thing about the Palisade, unlike many of the other quilts we've tested, is you don't need to sleep on your back for great performance. The pad attachment system is remarkably effective even when faced with tossing and turning.
The least comfortable part of any sleeping bag can be the hood or neck opening. The Palisade tackles this by eliminating the hood and addresses it further by adding an overstuffed down collar that is comfortable around your neck and seals in warm air. This feature adds a significant amount of comfort at the expense of a slight increase in weight. In addition, the cord lock here is free-floating (rather than attached to the bag), making loosening and exiting much easier.
The majority of the ultralight quilts and bags we tested have basic neck closures that are neither as comfortable nor as effective at sealing in warmth as Katabatic Gear's neck baffle.
While we've already discussed most of the features of the Palisade, here we detail them for your convenience.
This permanently closed footbox quilt does not have a zipper. Compared to similar quilts, the closed footbox is longer, measuring 26" from the foot to the top of the enclosed portion. An additional strap situated 33" from the foot further closes the bottom of the bag for colder nights.
The pad attachment system is awesome, with two locations at hip and shoulder level. Two lightweight clips at each location provide multiple options for adjusting the girth of the bag and its warmth. These attach to a string that is installed around your sleeping pad.
A large snap closes the neck of the bag securely. The neck cinch is created by a flat cord with a free-floating cord lock at the chin. The most notable feature here is the down filled neck baffle internal to the cinch cord, which is in a non-insulated sleeve.
Katabatic Gear uses Pertex Quantum ripstop shell fabric to add a bit of moisture protection. Continuous horizontal baffles contain this model's 900 fill power down. In the lower part of the bag these baffles extend all the way around. The bottom of the footbox is also baffled for warmth. There are no hang loops sewn into the foot of this bag, but there are lots of options for hanging it to air out.
Anything and everything. If we were to have ONE sleeping bag for three-season backpacking, thru-hiking, and alpine climbing, this is it. The Palisade is your best choice if your focus is finding the most comfortable sleep system with the best warmth-to-weight ratio.
The Palisade is priced competitively with other top-of-the-line three-season down bags. It's more expensive than most other ultralight bags, but we think that the added warmth, comfort, and versatility are well worth the cost.
The Katabatic Gear Palisade 30 is the best and highest scoring ultralight sleeping bag we tested in this review. Very warm for its nominal rating of 30°F, this closed footbox quilt is comfortable for all types of sleepers. Additionally, its patented pad attachment system makes it adjustable for a wide range of nighttime temperatures. Our Editors' Choice winner offers an excellent warmth-to-weight ratio. It's warmer and lighter than many other traditional style bags, and we recommend it to anyone who wants to shave weight from their three-season system.
Sizing, Accessories, & Other Versions
The Palisade is available in the following sizes: : 5'6", 6', 6'6", 6' Wide, and 6'6" Wide. We suggest the wider size for bigger people or those who might want to use the bag well below its intended limit, such as zero degrees. For example, alpine climbers (who, unlike backpackers, often bring warm belay jackets) can pair a Wide Palisade with a winter parka for a fast and light setup appropriate for winter.
All Katabatic Gear Quilts are offered in a 850-fill hydrophobic down option; this adds 0.7 ounces to the weight of a 6' Palisade. However, we don't recommend hydrophobic down as a substitute for synthetic insulation.
The Palisade is one of five Katabatic quilts. All share top notch features and the superior pad attachment system.
Dream Backpacking Gear List
The Palisade is one of many items featured in our Dream Backpacking Gear List. Check it out to see other top-tier "dream" backpacking items.
— Brandon Lampley
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: November 1, 2015
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