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Hands-on Gear Review

The North Face Cat's Meow Review

The North Face Cats Meow
Price:   $170 List | $124.99 at MooseJaw
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Pros:  Very quick drying, respectable weight for a 20 F synthetic bag, warm, killer value, comfrotable interior dimensions, a work-horse of a synthetic bag
Cons:  Packed size isn't good, included compression sack is a little big, interior fabric feels ok, is not quite as cozy as other options
Editors' Rating:     
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Manufacturer:   The North Face

Our Verdict

The North Face has been making a version of the Cat's Meow sleeping bag since around 1977. They've done a solid job at updating this timeless classic over the years, continuing to offer small additional features like glow-in-the-dark zippers and an included compression sack, along with materials to keep it at a respectable weight. This versatile, above average synthetic bag is a work-horse of a synthetic bag; it's not outlandishly heavier than most down bags and is lighter than many comparable warm synthetic bags. The Cat's Meow is a jack-of-all trades for general purpose backpacking, car camping, extended kayaking trips or when extended poor weather is a possibility; when completely soaked, its' Heatseeker Pro insulation dried in around a quarter the time of other bags during our side-by-side testing (when compared to treated "water-resistant" down).


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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results

Review by:
Ian Nicholson
Review Editor
OutdoorGearLab

Last Updated:
Wednesday
November 23, 2016

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Performance Comparison


The North Face Cat's Meow
The North Face Cat's Meow

Warmth


This contender is a 20 degree bag that uses The North Face's proprietary synthetic Heatseeker Pro for insulation. The North Face made the change in insulation to their own Heatseeker Pro (from Polar Guard in 2014). We don't necessarily think that was for the better, but the new material just works as intended and does pack down slightly smaller. This bag easily kept us warm down to 25F; however, during a true 20F or colder overnight low temperature, most folks will need bulk up on the layers they are wearing. That said, compared to similarly rated 20 F synthetic bags, the Cat's Meow feels slightly warmer than most. For example, in a side-by-side test with the Kelty Tuck 20, Marmot Trestle, or Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Flame 20, each of our testers felt the Cat's Meow was slightly warmer than the previously mentioned contenders.

The North Face Cats Meow features a well designed hood that helped to keep us warmer than most comparably warm synthetic bags.
The North Face Cats Meow features a well designed hood that helped to keep us warmer than most comparably warm synthetic bags.

Weight


The Cat's Meow weighs 2 pounds 11 ounces; the weight is not bad for a synthetic bag that is slightly above average, especially among comparably warm non-down bags out there on the market. It's obviously heavier than the less-insulated 30 degree Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Spark 35, which weighs in at a pretty amazing 1 lbs 12 oz, but its still very comparable to the equally warm Nemo Salsa 30 (2 lbs 1 oz). When compared to the Hyperlamina bag, the Cat's Meow offers a full-length zipper, whereas the HyperLamina model only features half-length zippers. The Cat's Meow is lighter than the Kelty Tuck 20, which tips the scales at 3 pounds, or the Kelty Cosmic Down 20, which weighs 2 lbs 13 oz.

The North Face Cats Meow weighs 2 lbs 11 ounces  lighter than most synthetic bags and a handful of down bags of comparable warmth. That said its still pretty easy to drop around 10-12 ounces by going with a down bag.
The North Face Cats Meow weighs 2 lbs 11 ounces, lighter than most synthetic bags and a handful of down bags of comparable warmth. That said its still pretty easy to drop around 10-12 ounces by going with a down bag.

Packed Size


The Cat's Meow compresses down slightly smaller than most comparable in warmth synthetic bags; like most synthetic bags, it is roughly twice the size of many down bags. The Cat's Meow packs down roughly 25% smaller than the synthetic Kelty Tuck 20 and offers a comparable, though slightly bigger packed size than the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 600 3-Season or the Kelty Cosmic Down. It is roughly twice the size as the very packable synthetic Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Spark 35 and was a little larger than the 20F HyperLamina Flame. Unlike most sleeping bags, the Cat's Meow came with an actual compression sack to help minimize the packed size. While we loved this feature, our testers wish it came with a slightly smaller compression sack, as we maxed it out every time.

The North Face Cats Meow packed down reasonable well (4th bag from the left) but could have packed a little smaller if its included compression sack was slightly smaller. Bags from left-to-right: Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed  Marmot Hydrogen  Western Mountaineering MegaLite  The North Face Cats Meow  Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina 35F  Western Mountaineering UltraLite.
The North Face Cats Meow packed down reasonable well,(4th bag from the left) but could have packed a little smaller if its included compression sack was slightly smaller. Bags from left-to-right: Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed, Marmot Hydrogen, Western Mountaineering MegaLite, The North Face Cats Meow, Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina 35F, Western Mountaineering UltraLite.

Comfort, Spaciousness, and Fit


This comfortable sleeping bag provides a nice balance of spaciousness, while still offering efficient insulation. It has a similar feel to the Western Mountaineering MegaLite and has a little more room than the Marmot Hydrogen or Western Mountaineering Ultralite. The Cat's Meow was good for side sleepers and folks who like sleeping with their knees bent, but didn't offer as much comfort as the Nemo Salsa 30. The internal fabric feels average against our skin, but wasn't as "cozy" feeling as several more expensive models.

The North Face Cats Meow was on the roomier side of sleeping bags we tested  but didn't wasn't so big that our testing team felt it was inefficient at keep us warm. Here the Cats Meow (center) compared to the cuts of the Sea to Summit Spark III (left) and the Kelty Cosmic Down (right).
The North Face Cats Meow was on the roomier side of sleeping bags we tested, but didn't wasn't so big that our testing team felt it was inefficient at keep us warm. Here the Cats Meow (center) compared to the cuts of the Sea to Summit Spark III (left) and the Kelty Cosmic Down (right).

Versatility


This contender is fairly versatile and we and would categorize it as a general-purpose sleeping bag. Because of its weight and packed size, it isn't a great option for extended backpacking or summertime mountaineering trips where weight is a more important factor. However, it excels at shorter backpacking trips, extended kayak or car camping trips, or anytime your adventure has your journey traveling through a potentially wet location.

We liked the large mesh storage sack included with The North Face Cats Meow.
We liked the large mesh storage sack included with The North Face Cats Meow.

Features, Water Resistance and Design


The Cat's Meow's full length zipper makes for easy ventilation on warmer nights and mates to zip together with any other full-length North Face Sleeping Bag.

Get the opposite zip so one bag isn't facing down when they zip together.

The North Face Cats Meow features a small zippered pocket near the top of the bag that was big enough for a watch (our favorite use of the pocket)  phone or small headlamp.
The North Face Cats Meow features a small zippered pocket near the top of the bag that was big enough for a watch (our favorite use of the pocket), phone or small headlamp.

If the bag gets soaked, it dries exceptionally fast. A polymer or similar proprietary treated down ("AKA water resistant down") can't even compare to most synthetics, especially in our water-resistance and drying-time tests. During our testing, the Heatseeker Pro insulation dries in roughly a quarter the amount of time as treated down.

One of our favorite features of The North Face Cats Meow is its glow-in-the-dark zippers which worked perfectly and came in far handier than we would have expected.
One of our favorite features of The North Face Cats Meow is its glow-in-the-dark zippers which worked perfectly and came in far handier than we would have expected.

Best Applications


The Cat's Meow is great for general purpose backpacking, car camping or summertime mountaineering. It has been our go-to bag for big wall climbing for both spring and fall routes on El Captain or other similar walls in Yosemite. It's our favorite synthetic bag for extended kayak camping trips in the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

Value and the Bottom Line


At $170, The North Face Cat's Meow is nearly the perfect blend of performance and price. It isn't quite as light or packable as Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina bag, but is also $70 less than the comparably warm Mountain Hardwear Hyperlamina Spark 35 bag. While $70 more than the functional Kelty Tuck 20, this bag packs down smaller and is lighter, warmer, and offers nicer feeling face fabric.

The Cat's Meow is perfect for sleepers that get cold easily or who want a versatile bag for camping in wet climates. It's a legit option for those who simply don't want to shell out at least another $100 for a comparably warm down bag that offers similar features, at a similar value.

Other Versions and Accessories


If you like the Cat's Meow but don't need something quite as warm check out the very similar in-design but 35 F The North Face Lynx, which weighs 13 ounces less (Reg: 1 lb 14 oz/850 g) and packs down roughly 1/3 smaller.
Ian Nicholson

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: November 23, 2016
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:   
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 (4.0)
Average Customer Rating:     (0.0)
Rating Distribution
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4 star: 100%  (1)
3 star: 0%  (0)
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