The North Face Cat's Meow 20 Review
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The North Face Cat's Meow 20
|Price||$168.95 at Backcountry|
Compare at 3 sellers
$183.75 at Backcountry
|$130 List||$116.19 at REI|
Compare at 4 sellers
|$65.45 at Amazon|
Compare at 2 sellers
|Pros||Thick synthetic insulation, well-balanced performance, easy to use zipper, included stuff sack||Decent weight, respectable warmth, awesome bargain||Super warm, cozy liner fabric, clever hood design, great value||Inexpensive, burly, decent warmth, roomy fit||Lots of insulation, great venting options with the accessory zipper, durable construction|
|Cons||Bulkier than expected, possibility of zipper failure, mediocre warmth-to-weight ratio||Average materials, limited features, basic design||Nearly too heavy for backpacking, bulky, awkward stuff sack shape||Heavy, limited versatility, no storage sack, no compression sack||Really heavy, not very compressible, stiff lining fabric, heavy stuff sack|
|Bottom Line||A simple synthetic mummy bag with an inexplicable zipper design||An exceptional deal for a capable and sturdy backpacking sleeping bag for those looking to get outside without breaking the bank||A warm and affordable sleeping bag with exceptional comfort and an unfortunate weight problem||A bargain backpacking sleeping bag with mixed performance characteristics||This bag's mediocre performance fails to justify its considerable weight|
|Rating Categories||The North Face Cat'...||Mountain Hardwear B...||Big Agnes Husted 20||Kelty Cosmic 20||Marmot Trestles 30|
|Packed Size (15%)|
|Features & Design (10%)|
|Specs||The North Face Cat'...||Mountain Hardwear B...||Big Agnes Husted 20||Kelty Cosmic 20||Marmot Trestles 30|
|Measured Weight (Size Long)||3.10 lbs||1.98 lbs||3.14 lbs||2.83 lbs||3.54 lbs|
|Manufacturer claimed weight (Size Regular)||2.97 lbs||1.79 lbs||2.75 lbs||2.63 lbs||3.06 lbs|
|Temperature Rating||20 F||30 F||20 F||20 F||30 F|
|EN lower limit (rating for men)/ EN Comfort Rating (rating for women)||22 F||30 F||19 F (lower)||21 F||26 / 36 F|
|Compression/Stuff sack weight||3.4 oz||1.6 oz||1.6 oz||0.6 oz||4.2 oz|
|Measured Compressed Volume (Size Long)||12.8 liters||7.5 liters||13.4 liters||9.2 liters||13.1 liters|
|Insulation||Heatseeker Guide (synthetic)||650 FP Down, RDS-certified||Synthetic - Fireline Pro||550 FP Duck Down (75%) / Polyester (25%)||Synthetic - Spirafil|
|Fill weight (Size Regular)||36.0 oz||15 oz||30.5 oz||16.4 oz||33.8 oz|
|Shell material||20D Nylon||20D Nylon Ripstop||Polyester taffeta||20D Nylon Taffeta||70D Polyester|
|Small organization pocket||Yes||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|Zipper||Half-Length / Side||3/4-Length / Left Side||Full-length / Side||Full-length / Right Side||Full-length / Side|
|Shoulder Girth (Size Regular)||62 in||62 in||60 in||Not listed||62 in|
|Hip Girth (Size Regular)||57 in||53 in||54 in||Not listed||57 in|
|Foot Girth (Size Regular)||42 in||Not listed||36 in||Not listed||Not listed|
|Stuff or Compression Sack Included||Compression||Stuff||Stuff||Stuff||Compression|
|Storage Sack Included||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||No|
|Water resistant shell||DWR||Yes||DWR||Yes, CO and PFC-free||No|
Our Analysis and Test Results
The North Face Cat's Meow has been a popular budget backpacking sleeping bag for many years and was a past favorite among some testers. The latest version, however, utilizes a fragile main zipper that has eliminated it from any award consideration.
The Cat's Meow contains 36 ounces of synthetic HeatSeeker Guide insulation. Our testers believe its EN lower limit temperature rating, 22°F, is accurate compared to other bags. Close to this limit, however, it can begin to feel drafty because it lacks a neck baffle to seal heat in on the coldest nights. Nevertheless, this bag is still warm enough for most 3-season conditions.
This bag weighs near the middle of the pack. A size long on our scale weighed 3.10 pounds. This amount means that it's a bit heavier than our favorite budget backpacking sleeping bags. The effective compression sack that it comes with adds 3.4 ounces to its total packed weight. Overall, it provides warmth-to-weight performance that's a little below average for an under $250 sleeping bag.
The dimensions of The North Face Cat's Meow are generous at the shoulder and hip but a little narrow at the foot. The interior fabric is glossy 20-denier nylon that feels comfortable but maybe not quite as soft as the taffeta lining of some other budget bags. Our testers were pleased to see that The North Face has changed the hood drawcord to direct it away from the hood opening and your face.
This bag comes with an effective, if somewhat heavy, compression sack. In our packed size test, we were able to compress it to 12.8 liters in minimum volume. This figure is above average for a budget sleeping bag but on par with other bags that share its warmth and weight.
The North Face advertises the Cat's Meow's zipper as 2/3-length. However, it really only extends halfway from the hood toward the foot. This doesn't give you much ability to open the bag and vent excess heat on warm nights. It also lacks a neck baffle for sealing extra heat in on colder occasions. Thus, the usable temperature range of this bag is rather narrow. On a rainy trip, though, its synthetic insulation can be expected to retain better insulation than down if it gets wet.
Features and Design
The main zipper is the glaring flaw on this otherwise decent sleeping bag. For some reason designers chose to sew this zipper directly into the bag, foregoing the zipper slides seen on most sleeping bags. These slides would ordinarily allow you to restart a zipper if it becomes misaligned. If a misalignment occurs with the Cat's Meow, you won't be able to fix it in the field and you can expect the zipper to separate. That will leave the bag open, a miserable proposition on a cold night. Fixing a misalignment will thus require cutting the zipper off the bag and reattaching it. We consider this a huge durability concern.
Compared to other similarly priced bags the Cat's Meow performs near average in most performance areas. It also comes with a functional compression sack that will save you from having to buy an after-market compression sack. However, the durability problem with the zipper eliminates any value it might offer.
In the crowded field of under $250 sleeping bags, the Cat's Meow struggled to stand out. Its performance in warmth, weight, comfort, and packed size is consistently near average. And the durability of the main zipper is just too much of a concern. If you're on the hunt for a budget sleeping bag, we suggest you look elsewhere.
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