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Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700 Review

The perfect bag for anyone who's never liked sleeping bags
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $280 List | $219.73 at REI
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Spacious fit, luxurious comforter-like closure, no zipper to get stuck
Cons:  Low warmth-to-weight ratio, requires a sleeping pad, limited leg vent
Manufacturer:   Sierra Designs
By Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 7, 2019
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66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 17
  • Warmth - 20% 5
  • Weight - 20% 5
  • Comfort - 20% 9
  • Packed Size - 15% 8
  • Versatility - 15% 6
  • Features & Design - 10% 7

Our Verdict

Frustrated with cramped mummy bags? Fed up with their finicky zippers Sierra Designs has answered your prayers with this zipperless bag that's designed for maximum comfort. The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed features an innovative closure flap that mimics the feel of an ordinary comforter. Meanwhile, its spacious fit gives you total freedom to roll over or stretch your legs. Achieving maximum comfort, however, requires some sacrifices in terms of weight and thermal efficiency. Nevertheless, a few extra ounces is a price many will be willing to pay to enjoy the luxury this unique bag provides.

Compare to Similar Products

Our Analysis and Test Results

If you're tired of infuriating zippers, our backpacking sleeping bag review gives you two choices: the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700 / 35 or Sierra Designs Cloud 20. Both bags have interesting, but similar, flap-closure designs.

Performance Comparison


Of the innovative  bags from Sierra Designs  we prefer the "comforter" closure of the Backcountry Bed (blue) over assymetrical flap on the Cloud (red).
Of the innovative bags from Sierra Designs, we prefer the "comforter" closure of the Backcountry Bed (blue) over assymetrical flap on the Cloud (red).

Warmth


Although Sierra Designs gives the version of the Backcountry Bed we tested a temperature rating of 35°F, it receives a 27° lower limit rating on the industry-standard EN test. Our review team thinks the higher 35° manufacturer rating feels more appropriate. This is partly due to there not being an effective way to close the bag fully. In the latest version, an elastic cord has been added to help keep the bag's comforter flap in place. This cord, however, is too long to let you pull the thicker insulation on the sides of the bag together for extra warmth on cold nights.


An additional warmth issue is that the bag lacks a way to cinch the hood around your head. Both of these design flaws contributed to our reviewers describing the Backcountry Bed as unpleasantly drafty. Shoppers should also be aware that to save weight there is no insulation on the underside of the bag in the area of the sleeping pad sleeve. A good sleeping pad is thus essential for staying warm near this bag's temperature limit.

The Sierra Designs sleeping bags we tried feature a fabric sleeve to attach the bag to a sleeping pad.
The Sierra Designs sleeping bags we tried feature a fabric sleeve to attach the bag to a sleeping pad.

For all of these reasons, we would only recommend the 35° version of this bag for warmer 3-season applications. For colder nights in spring and fall, there is a 20° version that on paper features more insulation, but appears to have the same closure issues.

This photo from inside the Backcountry Bed shows light shining through the uninsulated underside of the bag. Down insulation begins in the darker areas on either side.
This photo from inside the Backcountry Bed shows light shining through the uninsulated underside of the bag. Down insulation begins in the darker areas on either side.

Weight


We weighed a size long on our scale at 2.10 pounds. Considering its mediocre warmth, this suggests a below average warmth-to-weight ratio. We think this is likely due to the extra materials that are needed for its luxurious comforter closure.


Whereas other sleeping bag makers have often developed zipperless designs to reduce a bag's weight, it is important to recognize that this isn't the case with the Backcountry Bed.

Comfort


As its name suggests, this bag is designed to bring the comfort of your normal bed to the wilds of the backcountry. In this mission, it is highly successful. The main comforter flap that's used to close the bag nearly achieves the feel of an ordinary blanket. In addition, the bag's spacious interior dimensions help it avoid the constrictive feel that's common in classic mummy bags.


Most of our testers really like these features and appreciated the bed-like feel they achieve. Other testers, however, complained that the zipperless closure created chilly drafts that were less than comfortable. Due to this disagreement, it's hard to rate this bag's overall comfort objectively. Ultimately, we chose to give it a top-score on comfort, but with that caveat that some will likely find other designs more comfortable.

The symmetrical "comforter" on the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed can be closed to seal heat in (top) or opened to let heat escape (bottom).
The symmetrical "comforter" on the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed can be closed to seal heat in (top) or opened to let heat escape (bottom).

Compared to other designs with think the Backcountry Bed is best for tummy sleepers or anyone that's always disliked traditional sleeping bags.

Packed Size


In our tests with an after-market compression sack, the Backcountry Bed packed down to an impressive 7.3 liters in volume. This is smaller than average, but larger than some bags that supply similar levels of warmth.


This bag also comes with a simple drawstring stuff sack that isn't very good at compression. To achieve the compressed volume that we report you will need to acquire a third-party compression sack. If you're willing to do that, the packed size difference between this and other quality backpacking sleeping bags is minor enough that it probably doesn't need to factor in to your decision.

The Backcountry Bed comes with a simple drawstring stuff sack. In an after-market compression sack it packed down to 8.4 liters.
The Backcountry Bed comes with a simple drawstring stuff sack. In an after-market compression sack it packed down to 8.4 liters.

Versatility


The Backcountry Bed is suitable for a wide variety of sleeping styles, supplying a high-level of comfort whether you sleep on your back, side, or stomach. This bag, however, does not supply a similarly high level of comfort across a wide range of conditions or applications.


Like all down bags, it will lose its ability to insulate if it gets wet. The zipperless design also restricts you're venting options. This partially solved with the built-in foot vent, but there were situations were our testers' legs got sweaty even with the foot vent open. Finally, the lack of insulation near the sleeping pad sleeve necessitates that you use a good sleeping pad to stay warm. Many backpackers won't consider this a problem, but it may be for hammock or portaledge sleepers.

The Backcountry Bed has a built-in foot vent that's nice for keeping your shoes on when lounging.
The Backcountry Bed has a built-in foot vent that's nice for keeping your shoes on when lounging.

Features and Design


Our testers preferred the closure flap on the Backcountry Bed over other zipperless designs. Side sleepers, in particular, favored The centered comforter on the Backcountry Bed compared to asymmetrical closures. Both designs, however, have negative consequences for warmth and weight.


The Backcountry Bed includes a useful elastic cord for keeping the comforter closed. Unfortunately, this cord is too short to close the bag tightly on cold nights. It also lacks an effective way to adjust to hood for improved comfort or warmth. On the plus side, we like the foot vent because it gives you the option to sit in the bag while you make breakfast on cold mornings.

The latest version of the Backcountry Bed includes a elastic cord (yellow) to keep the comforter in place. This cord  however  can't easily be used for pulling the thick side insulation to the center.
The latest version of the Backcountry Bed includes a elastic cord (yellow) to keep the comforter in place. This cord, however, can't easily be used for pulling the thick side insulation to the center.

Value


Evaluating the Backcountry Bed's value is tricky. Although its list price is toward the lower end of the backpacking sleeping bag category, its warmth and weight are as well. For roughly the same price you can get there are other warmer and lighter offerings. Most people, however, will find the Backcountry Bed to be vastly more comfortable. So if you can appreciate comfort in your sleeping bag, this bag still seems to offer a decent value.

Conclusion


This bag largely lives up to its name and is successfully at bringing the comfort of an ordinary bed to the backcountry. It accomplishes this by offering a roomy fit and zipperless closure that mimics the feel of your comforter at home. These benefits, however, come with significant drawbacks in warmth and weight. Nevertheless, if you've always found traditional mummy bags uncomfortable, the Backcountry Bed is a godsend.

Jack Cramer