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Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700 Review

The perfect bag for anyone how's never liked sleeping bags.
Top Pick Award
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Price:  $280 List | $279.95 at Backcountry
Compare prices at 2 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
#8 of 14
  • Warmth - 20% 5
  • Weight - 20% 5
  • Comfort - 20% 9
  • Packed Size - 15% 8
  • Versatility - 15% 6
  • Features & Design - 10% 7

Our Verdict

Frustrated with finicky sleeping bag zippers? Fed up with their cramped dimensions? 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.

Sleeping bag comfort can be very subjective. Although this bag excels at it, some people may prefer alternative designs that also emphasize like the hourglass-shaped Nemo Riff or the lofty down of the wide-girthed Western Mountaineering MegaLite.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards Top Pick Award Editors' Choice Award Top Pick Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $279.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$470.00 at Backcountry
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$430 List$389.00 at Feathered Friends$164.96 at Backcountry
Compare at 3 sellers
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Pros Spacious fit, luxurious comforter-like closure, no zipper to get stuckSpacious dimensions, super comfortable, great loft, lightweight, made in the USASuper lightweight, incredible loft, snag-proof zipper, cozy hoodBest-in-class zipper, best-in-class hood, awesome loft, great warmth-to-weight ratioAwesome warmth-to-weight ratio for the price, very compressible, tons of venting options, nice compression sack included
Cons Low warmth-to-weight ratio, requires a sleeping pad, limited leg ventExpensive, awkward hood, good but not great zipperUncomfortably narrow dimensions, bare-bones design, noisy fabricNarrow leg dimensions, no draft collar, heavier and bulkier than some 3-season optionsNot as warm as its temp rating, no draft collar, uncertain durability
Bottom Line The perfect bag for anyone how's never liked sleeping bags.The only ultra-premium bag to combine low weight, good packability, and luxurious comfort.Our favorite when ounces matter, this is a full-size mummy bag that's both warm and ultralight.Our favorite zipper and hood in a bag that's also exceptionally warm and lofty.An exceptional deal for a lightweight bag that excels in wet conditions.
Rating Categories Backcountry Bed 700 MegaLite Merlin 30 UL Swallow 20 YF NEMO Kyan 35
Warmth (20%)
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Weight (20%)
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Comfort (20%)
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Packed Size (15%)
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Features & Design (10%)
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Specs Backcountry Bed 700 MegaLite Merlin 30 UL Swallow 20 YF NEMO Kyan 35
Insulation 700 FP Down 850+ FP Down 950+ FP Down 900+ FP Down Synthetic - Primaloft Silver
Compressed Volume (L) 7.3 L 7.2 L 7.3 L 8.5 L 6.6 L
Measured Bag Weight (Size Long) 2.10 lbs 1.62 lbs 1.45 lbs 1.94 lbs 1.89 lbs
Compression/Stuff Sack Weight (oz) 0.8 oz 1.6 oz 0.8 oz 1 oz 2.4 oz
Manufacturer claimed weight of size Regular (lbs) 1.94 lbs 1.5 lbs 1.33 lbs 1.79 lbs 1.69 lbs
Hydrophobic down Yes No No No N/A
Manufacturer Temp Rating (F) 35 30 30 20 35
EN Temp Rating (Lower Limit) 27 Not rated Not rated Not rated 35
Fill Weight (oz) 13.9 13 12 17.5 12
Shell material Ripstop nylon (20D) Extremelite (12D) Pertex Endurance (10D) Pertex YFuse (20D) Ripstop nylon (20D)
Neck Baffle No No No No No
Small Organization Pocket No No No No Yes
Zipper None Full-length / Side Full-length / Side Full-length / Side 3/4-length / Side
Shoulder Girth (in) 64 64 58 60 62
Hip Girth (in) 63 Unknown 52 56 57
Foot Girth (in) 43 39 38 38 46
Compression or stuff sack included? Stuff Stuff Stuff Stuff Compression

Our Analysis and Test Results

If you're done with frustrating zippers, our backpacking sleeping bag review really only gives you two choices: the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700 / 35 or Sierra Designs Cloud 20. Both bags have interesting, but similar, designs. You can also find a couple of other options (think quilts) in our separate review of ultralight sleeping bags.

Performance Comparison


Of the two innovative zipperless bags from Sierra Designs  we prefer the "comforter" closure of the Backcountry Bed (blue) over the angled flap on the Cloud (red).
Of the two innovative zipperless bags from Sierra Designs, we prefer the "comforter" closure of the Backcountry Bed (blue) over the angled 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 Cloud (top) and Backcountry Bed (bottom) both feature the same fabric sleeve to attach the sleeping bag to a sleeping pad.
The Sierra Designs Cloud (top) and Backcountry Bed (bottom) both feature the same fabric sleeve to attach the sleeping 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, check out the equally innovative Sierra Designs Cloud 20.

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 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.


Some of our testers really like these features and appreciated the bed-like feel they achieved. Other testers, however, complained that the zipperless design 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 the same top-score as the Western Mountaineering MegaLite and Nemo Riff 30.

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).

Each of the bags, interestingly, we consider comfortable for different reasons: the MegaLite for the coziness of its incredible loft, the Riff for its notably wide lower body dimensions, and the Backcountry Bed for its blanket-like comforter. We, therefore, recommend the Megalite for backpackers that like sleeping on their backs. Side sleepers, in contrast, may prefer the Riff. Finally, tummy sleepers or anyone that's always disliked traditional sleeping bags will likely favor the Backcountry Bed.

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 other bags that supply similar levels of warmth, such as the Nemo Kyan 35 or Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 32 UL.


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 be a significant factor in your decision.

The Backcountry Bed comes with a simple drawstring stuff sack. In an after-market compression sack in packed down to 8.4 liters.
The Backcountry Bed comes with a simple drawstring stuff sack. In an after-market compression sack in 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 zipperless design of the Backcountry Bed over the alternative design of its Sierra Designs cousin, the Cloud 20. The centered comforter on the Backcountry Bed seemed to work better for side sleepers than the asymmetrical closure flap on the Cloud. Both designs, however, have negative consequences for warmth and weight.


The Backcountry Bed includes a useful elastic cord for keeping the comforter closed. But this cord was 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.

Best Applications


This innovative zipperless design is suitable for a lot of the same activities as an ordinary sleeping bag—things like backpacking, mountaineering, whitewater trips, or just crashing on a friend's couch. The same design, however, prevents you from zipping it together with another bag. In addition, the inconsistent insulation on the underside necessitates that you use it with a good sleeping pad, so it's not ideal for hammock camping.

Value


Evaluating the Backcountry Bed's value is tricky. Although its $280 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 an REI Co-op Igeno 25 that's warmer and four ounces lighter. Most, 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 a 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