Reviews You Can Rely On

The North Face Cat's Meow 20 Review

A simple but effective synthetic mummy bag
The North Face Cat's Meow 20
Photo: The North Face
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Price:  $170 List | $158.95 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
  • Share this article:
Our Editors independently research, test, and rate the best products. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Learn more
57
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#3 of 10
  • Warmth - 20% 6
  • Weight - 20% 5
  • 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.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Best Buy Award Best Buy Award  Best Buy Award 
Price $158.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$200.00 at REI$399.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$120 List$99.95 at REI
Overall Score Sort Icon
57
63
63
55
52
Star Rating
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
Pros Thick synthetic insulation, well-balanced performance, easy to use zipper, included stuff sackDecent weight, respectable warmth, awesome bargainSpacious, decent warmth-to-weight ratio, reasonable priceSuper warm, cozy liner fabric, clever hood design, great valueGreat price, respectable weight, simple design
Cons Bulkier than expected, mediocre warmth-to-weight ratioAverage materials, limited features, basic designBulky, ineffective hood closure, limited versatilityAlmost too heavy for backpacking, bulky, awkward stuff sack shapeSubpar warmth, annoying hood drawcords, no storage sack, mediocre versatility
Bottom Line A simple but effective synthetic mummy bagAn exceptional deal for a capable and sturdy backpacking sleeping bag for those looking to get outside without breaking the bankA mid-range double bag for weight-conscious and comfort-seeking adventure pairsA warm and affordable bag with an unfortunate weight problemAn acceptable sleeping bag at a rock bottom price
Rating Categories The North Face Cat'... Bishop Pass 30 Big Agnes Sentinel... Big Agnes Husted 20 REI Co-op Trailbrea...
Warmth (20%)
6.0
5.0
5.0
7.0
5.0
Weight (20%)
5.0
7.0
7.0
3.0
3.0
Comfort (20%)
6.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Packed Size (15%)
4.0
8.0
8.0
2.0
5.0
Versatility (15%)
7.0
6.0
4.0
7.0
7.0
Features & Design (10%)
6.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
6.0
Specs The North Face Cat'... Bishop Pass 30 Big Agnes Sentinel... Big Agnes Husted 20 REI Co-op Trailbrea...
Measured weight (size Long, in lbs) 2.39 lbs 1.98 lbs 3.25 lbs (size regular) 2.75 lbs 2.74 lbs
Manufacturer claimed weight (size Regular, in lbs) 2.25 lbs 1.79 lbs 3.5 lbs 2.75 lbs 2.5 lb
Temperature rating (F) 20 F 30 F 30 F 20 F 30 F
EN lower limit (rating for men)/ EN Comfort Rating (rating for women) 22 / 33 F 30 F Not rate 19 (lower) F 29 F
Compression/Stuff sack weight (oz) 4.0 oz 1.6 oz 1.4 oz 1.6 oz 1.2 oz
Measured compressed volume (size Long) 11.4 L 7.5 L 11.2 L (size Regular) 13.4 L 9.8 L
Fill Synthetic - Heatseeker Guide 650 FP Down, RDS-certified 650 FP Down Synthetic - Fireline Pro Synthetic - Polyester
Hydrophobic down? N/A No Yes N/A N/A
Fill weight (size Reg, in ounces) 26 oz 15 oz 19.5 oz 30.5 oz Not listed
Shell material 20D Nylon Ripstop 20D Nylon Ripstop Polyester Ripstop Nylon Ripstop Polyester w/ DWR
Neck baffle No No Yes Yes No
Small organization pocket Yes Yes No No Yes
Zipper Full-length / Side 3/4-Length / Left Side Dual 3/4-Length Full-length / Side 3/4-Length / Side
Shoulder girth (size Regular) Unknown 62 in 105 in 60 in 62 in
Hip girth (size Regular) Unknown 53 in 105 in 54 in 56 in
Foot girth (size Regular) Not listed Not listed 84 in 36 in Not listed
Stuff or compression sack included? Compression Stuff Stuff Stuff Stuff
Storage sack included? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Water resistant shell? No Yes Yes DWR Yes
Total weight (size Long, in ounces) 38.2 oz 31.2 oz 52.0 oz 50.2 oz 43.8 oz
Manufacturer claimed weight (size Long, in ounces) 39 oz 32. 7 oz 56.0 oz 49 oz 42 oz

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.
Photo: Jack Cramer

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...
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).
Photo: Jack Cramer

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

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.
Photo: Jack Cramer

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...
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.
Photo: Jack Cramer

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 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.
Photo: Jack Cramer

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