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The North Face Cat's Meow 20 Review

A simple synthetic mummy bag with an inexplicable zipper design
The North Face Cat's Meow 20
Credit: The North Face
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Price:  $189 List | $178.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 3 resellers
Pros:  Thick synthetic insulation, well-balanced performance, easy to use zipper, included stuff sack
Cons:  Bulkier than expected, possibility of zipper failure, mediocre warmth-to-weight ratio
Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 1, 2022
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
47
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 10
  • Warmth - 20% 6.0
  • Weight - 20% 3.0
  • Comfort - 20% 6.0
  • Packed Size - 15% 2.0
  • Versatility - 15% 7.0
  • Features & Design - 10% 3.0

Our Verdict

The North Face Cat's Meow received a recent update and we're dismayed to report that this model has gone from a respectable budget sleeping bag to one that we must actually advise against. Our primary concern is the main zipper which is inexplicably sewn into the bag at both ends. This design choice means that there is no way to restart the zipper if it snags and the teeth become misaligned. Instead, a misalignment will cause the zipper to separate and you will be left "sleeping" with an open bag on a cold night. Beyond this major flaw, the Cat's Meow is a fairly decent bag with above-average comfort and warmth. Yet we can't overlook a main zipper that's poised for catastrophic failure, so we're forced to suggest that you consider another sleeping bag.

Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Best Buy Award Top Pick Award Best Buy Award  
Price $178.95 at Amazon
Compare at 3 sellers
$235 List
$235.00 at REI
$97.46 at Backcountry
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$100 List
$49.89 at REI
$109 List
$54.49 at REI
Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Thick synthetic insulation, well-balanced performance, easy to use zipper, included stuff sackDecent weight, respectable warmth, awesome bargainSuper warm, cozy liner fabric, clever hood design, great valueGreat price, respectable weight, simple designSolid warmth, comfy lining, full-length zipper, spacious dimensions
Cons Bulkier than expected, possibility of zipper failure, mediocre warmth-to-weight ratioAverage materials, limited features, basic designNearly too heavy for backpacking, bulky, awkward stuff sack shapeSubpar warmth, annoying hood drawcords, no storage sack, mediocre versatilityToo heavy, bulky, aforementioned heft and bulk too much for backpacking
Bottom Line A simple synthetic mummy bag with an inexplicable zipper designAn exceptional deal for a capable and sturdy backpacking sleeping bag for those looking to get outside without breaking the bankA warm and affordable sleeping bag with exceptional comfort and an unfortunate weight problemAn acceptable sleeping bag at a rock bottom priceA warm and comfortable bag that's compromised by excessive weight and a bulky packed size
Rating Categories The North Face Cat'... Mountain Hardwear B... Big Agnes Husted 20 REI Co-op Trailbrea... REI Co-op Trailbrea...
Warmth (20%)
6.0
5.0
7.0
5.0
7.0
Weight (20%)
3.0
7.0
3.0
4.0
1
Comfort (20%)
6.0
6.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Packed Size (15%)
2.0
8.0
2.0
5.0
3.0
Versatility (15%)
7.0
6.0
7.0
7.0
7.0
Features & Design (10%)
3.0
6.0
7.0
6.0
6.0
Specs The North Face Cat'... Mountain Hardwear B... Big Agnes Husted 20 REI Co-op Trailbrea... REI Co-op Trailbrea...
Measured Weight (Size Long) 3.10 lbs 1.98 lbs 3.14 lbs 2.74 lbs 3.66 lbs
Manufacturer claimed weight (Size Regular) 2.97 lbs 1.79 lbs 2.75 lbs 2.50 lbs 3.44 lbs
Temperature Rating 20 F 30 F 20 F 30 F 20 F
EN lower limit (rating for men)/ EN Comfort Rating (rating for women) 22 F 30 F 19 F (lower) 29 F 18 F
Compression/Stuff sack weight 3.4 oz 1.6 oz 1.6 oz 1.2 oz 1.6 oz
Measured Compressed Volume (Size Long) 12.8 liters 7.5 liters 13.4 liters 9.8 liters 12.2 liters
Insulation Heatseeker Guide (synthetic) 650 FP Down, RDS-certified Synthetic - Fireline Pro Synthetic - Polyester Synthetic
Hydrophobic down? No No N/A N/A No
Fill weight (Size Regular) 36.0 oz 15 oz 30.5 oz Not listed 37.1 oz
Shell material 20D Nylon 20D Nylon Ripstop Polyester taffeta Polyester w/ DWR Polyester
Neck baffle Yes No Yes No No
Small organization pocket Yes Yes No Yes Yes
Zipper Half-Length / Side 3/4-Length / Left Side Full-length / Side 3/4-Length / Side Full-length/ Left Side
Shoulder Girth (Size Regular) 62 in 62 in 60 in 62 in 62 in
Hip Girth (Size Regular) 57 in 53 in 54 in 56 in 56 in
Foot Girth (Size Regular) 42 in Not listed 36 in Not listed Not listed
Stuff or Compression Sack Included? Compression Stuff Stuff Stuff Stuff
Storage Sack Included? Yes Yes Yes No Yes
Water resistant shell? DWR Yes DWR Yes DWR

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.

Performance Comparison


The North Face Cat's Meow 20 budget backpacking sleeping bag - the critical problem with the cat's meow is the main zipper. notice...
The critical problem with the Cat's Meow is the main zipper. Notice how the end of the zipper is sewn directly into the bag. If the zipper snags and teeth become misaligned, there is no way to restart it. This is a huge durability concern.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Warmth


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.

The North Face Cat's Meow 20 budget backpacking sleeping bag - the cat's meow has a 22f temp rating. our testers believe its warmth...
The Cat's Meow has a 22F temp rating. Our testers believe its warmth matches this rating.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Weight


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.

Comfort


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.

The North Face Cat's Meow 20 budget backpacking sleeping bag - we were really happy to see that the hood drawcord on the cat's meow...
We were really happy to see that the hood drawcord on the Cat's Meow is designed to direct the cord away from your face.
Credit: 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 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 Cat's Meow 20 budget backpacking sleeping bag - this bag comes with an effective compression sack that packs it into...
This bag comes with an effective compression sack that packs it into a rather bulbous round shape.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Versatility


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.

The North Face Cat's Meow 20 budget backpacking sleeping bag - there is an internal zippered stash pocket for storing a headlamp or...
There is an internal zippered stash pocket for storing a headlamp or small smartphone.
Credit: Jack Cramer

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.

The North Face Cat's Meow 20 budget backpacking sleeping bag - there are plenty of budget backpacking sleeping bags to chose from...
There are plenty of budget backpacking sleeping bags to chose from. We this wide selection of worthy bags we can no longer recommend The North Face Cat's Meow.
Credit: Jack Cramer

Value


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.

Conclusion


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.

Jack Cramer

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