The Cat's Meow's performance is notably well-balanced for a budget backpacking sleeping bag. It doesn't perform particularly well in any area, but it also doesn't have any glaring weaknesses. Perhaps our favorite feature is its zipper, which is full-length to let you vent excess heat and also designed to be anti-snag. We weren't big fans, however, of the hood drawstring — it can rub against your face. Overall, the Cat's Meow is a decent budget sleeping bag, but there happen to be a couple of other bags, such as the Nemo Kyan and Kelty Cosmic, that we like a little more.
The North Face Cat's Meow 20 Review
Cons: Bulkier than expected, mediocre warmth-to-weight ratio
Manufacturer: The North Face
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The North Face Cat's Meow 20
|Price||$169.95 at Backcountry||$199.95 at REI|
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|$169.95 at Backcountry|
Compare at 2 sellers
|$159.95 at REI|
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|$199.95 at Amazon|
|Pros||Thick synthetic insulation, well-balanced performance, easy to use zipper, included stuff sack||Awesome warmth-to-weight ratio for the price, very compressible, tons of venting options, nice compression sack included||Cheap, anti-snag zipper, sturdy materials, versatile synthetic insulation||Inexpensive, burly, decent warmth, roomy fit||Extra-long zipper, lightweight, packs small, unzips into a quilt|
|Cons||Bulkier than expected, mediocre warmth-to-weight ratio||Not as warm as its temp rating, no draft collar, uncertain durability||Moderate warmth-to-weight ratio, doesn't compress well, limited extra features||Heavier than average, bulky, no storage sack, no compression sack||Colder than its warmth rating, no draft collar or stash pocket, unpleasant smell|
|Bottom Line||A simple but effective synthetic mummy bag.||An exceptional deal for a lightweight bag that excels in wet conditions.||An affordable workhorse with solid all-around performance.||A legit backpacking sleeping bag that won't cost you an arm and a leg.||Lightweight and packable, but minimal insulation.|
|Rating Categories||The North Face Cat's Meow 20||NEMO Kyan 35||Mountain Hardwear Lamina 30||Kelty Cosmic 20||Klymit KSB 35|
|Packed Size (15%)|
|Features & Design (10%)|
|Specs||The North Face...||NEMO Kyan 35||Mountain Hardwear...||Kelty Cosmic 20||Klymit KSB 35|
|Measured Weight (size long, in lbs)||2.39 lbs||1.89 lbs||2.28 lbs||2.63 lbs||3.14 lbs|
|Temperature rating (F)||20 F||35 F||30 F||20 F||35 F|
|EN lower limit (rating for men)/ EN Comfort Rating (rating for women)||22 / 33 F||35 / 46 F||27 (lower) F||19 (lower) F||21 / 32 F|
|Manufacturer claimed weight of size Regular (lbs)||2.25 lbs||1.69 lbs||2.17 lbs||2.41 lbs||1.90 lbs|
|Compression/Stuff Sack Weight (oz)||4.0 oz||2.4 oz||3.7 oz||0.8 oz||0.8 oz|
|Compressed Volume (L)||11.4 L||6.6 L||8.6 L||8.7 L||7.0 L|
|Fill||Synthetic - Heatseeker Guide||Synthetic - Primaloft Silver||Synthetic - Thermal.Q||600FP Down (83%) / Polyester (17%)||650FP Down|
|Fill Weight (Reg oz)||26 oz||12 oz||Unknown||18.2 oz||14.1 oz|
|Shell material||20D Nylon Ripstop||Ripstop nylon (20D)||Ripstop nylon (30D)||20D Nylon taffeta||Sil-Nylon|
|Small organization Pocket||Yes||No||No||Yes||No|
|Zipper||Full-Length Side||Full-length / Side||Full-lengh / Side||3/4-Length Side||Full-Length+ Side|
|Shoulder Girth (Reg)||Unknown||62 in||60 in||64 in||60 in|
|Hip Girth (Reg)||Unknown||57 in||58 in||60 in||60 in|
|Foot Girth (Reg)||Unknown||46 in|
|Stuff or compression sack included?||Compression||Compression||Compression||Stuff||Stuff|
|Storage sack included?||Yes||Yes||Yes||No||Yes|
|Water resistant shell?||No||DWR||DWR||No||DWR|
|Total Weight (Long size, in oz)||38.2 oz||30.2 oz||36.4 oz||42.0 oz||30.6 oz|
|Manufacturer claimed weight (Long, oz)||39 oz||30 oz||Not listed||42.7 oz||Not listed|
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 which reduces your ability 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 model is lighter than our favorite budget bag with down insulation, the Kelty Cosmic 20, but a half pound heavier than our favorite synthetic budget bag, the Nemo Kyan 35. The compression sack that it comes with adds 4 ounces to its packed weight. Overall, it provides warmth-to-weight performance that is roughly average for an under $200 sleeping bag.
At the time this review was written The North Face did not list the dimensions of the Cat's Meow. Our testers think it feels similarly spacious to a moderately roomy mummy bag like the Mountain Hardwear Lamina or Marmot Trestles 30. The interior fabric is glossy nylon that feels comfortable but maybe not quite as soft as the taffeta nylon on the Big Agnes Husted.
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 Kelty Cosmic, for example, weighs three ounces more and provides similar warmth, but compresses almost 3 liters smaller.
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 an unfortunately 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 spot makes it tricky to open if the bag is zipped, 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 to reduce 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.
The Cat's Meow is light and warm enough for most 3-season backpacking applications. The synthetic insulation, in particular, is nice to have if there's a more than negligible chance of your bag getting wet. Many users will also appreciate the long zipper during the warmest nights of summer.
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 $20 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 Nemo Kyan and Mountain Hardwear Lamina at the same price point, but if you can find the Cat's Meow on sale, it's worth considering.
— Jack Cramer