The North Face Cat's Meow 20 Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Thick synthetic insulation, well-balanced performance, easy to use zipper, included stuff sack
Cons: Bulkier than expected, mediocre warmth-to-weight ratio
Manufacturer: The North Face
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Our Analysis and Test Results
It's hard to describe the Cat's Meow sleeping bag because like a good feline, it doesn't seek attention. Unlike a high-maintenance dog (i.e., down sleeping bag), it's happy to play if you are, but it can also take care of itself if left alone.
The Cat's Meow contains 26 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 2.39 pounds. This performance means that it's lighter than our favorite budget down bag but a heavier than our favorite synthetic. The compression sack that it comes with adds a hefty 4 ounces to its total packed weight. Overall, it provides warmth-to-weight performance that is roughly average for an under $200 sleeping bag.
The North Face doesn't list the dimensions of the Cat's Meow, but our testers think it feels roughly average in terms of spaciousness. The interior fabric is glossy nylon that feels comfortable but maybe not quite as soft as the taffeta nylon on the Big Agnes Husted. One gripe we frequently heard is that the floppy hood drawstring tends to rub against the face of annoyed would-be sleepers.
This bag comes with an effective, if somewhat heavy, compression sack. In our packed size test, we were able to compress it to 11.4 liters in minimum volume. This figure is about average for a budget sleeping bag, but a liter or two larger than a couple of other bags that weigh nearly the same.
The Cat's Meow has a two-way zipper that's pretty long for a budget sleeping bag. This feature adds minimal weight but makes it easier to vent excess heat on warmer nights. However, it lacks complementary features like a neck baffle for sealing extra heat in on colder occasions. Thus, the range of temperatures in which it can comfortably work doesn't extend as low as its primary insulation might allow. On a rainy trip, though, its synthetic insulation can be trusted keep you warm even if it gets soaked.
Features and Design
This bag has a convenient stash pocket position just inside the main zipper. This location makes it tricky to open the pocket if the bag is zipped up, but ensures that your headlamp or phone batteries stay warm because they're inside the bag. We also appreciate the stiff fabric sewn next to the zipper that helps snagging. Additionally, the top zipper slide has pull tabs on the outside and inside, which makes the difficult task of opening a sleeping bag in the dark slightly easier.
Compared to other similarly priced bags the Cat's Meow performs pretty well. It also comes with a functional compression sack that will save you from having to spend a extra twenty dollars on an after-market compression sack. For these reasons, we consider this bag to be a good value.
In the crowded field of under $200 sleeping bags, the Cat's Meow struggled to stand out. Its performance in warmth, weight, comfort, and packed size is consistently near average. That's OK, though. A well-balanced sleeping bag will make most people happy. Ultimately, our testers prefer the Top Pick Nemo Kyanat the same price point, but if you want a warmer bag or can find the Cat's Meow on sale, it's worth considering.
— Jack Cramer