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The North Face Cat's Meow 20 Review

A simple but effective synthetic mummy bag.
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Price:  $170 List | $159.95 at Backcountry
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
By Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  May 19, 2019
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55
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RANKED
#2 of 11
  • Warmth - 20% 6
  • Weight - 20% 4
  • Comfort - 20% 6
  • Packed Size - 15% 4
  • Versatility - 15% 7
  • Features & Design - 10% 6

Our Verdict

The Cat's Meow is provides well-balanced performance for a budget backpacking sleeping bag. It doesn't excel 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. It's still a great choice for anyone looking for a synthetic bag that's warmer than the Kyan.


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Price $159.95 at Backcountry
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Pros Thick synthetic insulation, well-balanced performance, easy to use zipper, included stuff sackAwesome warmth-to-weight ratio for the price, very compressible, tons of venting options, nice compression sack includedCheap, anti-snag zipper, sturdy materials, versatile synthetic insulationInexpensive, burly, decent warmth, roomy fitExtra-long zipper, lightweight, packs small, unzips into a quilt
Cons Bulkier than expected, mediocre warmth-to-weight ratioNot as warm as its temp rating, no draft collar, uncertain durabilityModerate warmth-to-weight ratio, doesn't compress well, limited extra featuresHeavier than average, bulky, no storage sack, no compression sackColder 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
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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Versatility (15%)
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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 1.91 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
Hydrophobic down? N/A N/A N/A Yes No
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
Neck Baffle No No No Yes No
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) Not listed 46 in Not listed Not listed Not listed
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.

Performance Comparison


Settling in for a tentless night in the Cat's Meow.
Settling in for a tentless night in the Cat's Meow.

Warmth


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.

Weight


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 website doesn't list the dimensions of the Cat's Meow. You can see here that it's slightly narrower than the 63-inch wide Therm-a-Rest Saros (green).
The North Face website doesn't list the dimensions of the Cat's Meow. You can see here that it's slightly narrower than the 63-inch wide Therm-a-Rest Saros (green).

Comfort


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.

The hood drawstring has an annoying tendency to bend towards your face where it can poke your nose or eyes.
The hood drawstring has an annoying tendency to bend towards your face where it can poke your nose or eyes.

Packed Size


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 comes with its own sturdy compression sack.
The Cat's Meow comes with its own sturdy compression sack.

Versatility


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.

The small stash pocket is pretty convenient. However  its position next to the sleeping bag's main zipper can make it difficult to use when the bag is closed.
The small stash pocket is pretty convenient. However, its position next to the sleeping bag's main zipper can make it difficult to use when the bag is closed.

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.

The Cat's Meow comes with a pull tabs on the inside and outside of the bag. These are simple and lightweight but make opening the bag way easier in the dark.
The Cat's Meow comes with a pull tabs on the inside and outside of the bag. These are simple and lightweight but make opening the bag way easier in the dark.

Value


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.

Conclusion


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