Sierra Designs Frontcountry Bed 35 Duo Review
Our Analysis and Test Results
Upon removing the Frontcountry Bed from its stuff sack we noticed immediately it was unique. Examining it by hand quickly revealed high-quality workmanship, a unique interlocking design, comfortable fabrics, and no zippers — anywhere. The bag is well-constructed and thick and heavy (in a down comforter kind of way). It also possesses an "it" factor that makes it the favorite of all the double bags we've tested.
Despite its relatively modest 35-degree rating, we were pleased with this bag's ability to keep us warm while tent-camping in chilly mountain air. We found the bag's zipperless design trapped body heat very efficiently. We were also impressed with the bag's over-sized top quilt, which is wider than the Frontcountry Bed's base width.
One unique feature of the top quilt is its insulated hand and arm pockets. Sewn into both sides of the quilt, these tube-like structures allow sleepers to use their hand and forearm to anchor the quilt and more easily and naturally wrap it around their necks and upper bodies.
This design keeps the quilt in place and keeps the cold air out. The only drawback to this design feature is that its effectiveness is subject to body size. In short, we noticed that when two sleepers have larger frames, it was difficult for them to use their hand-arm pockets simultaneously, resulting in a kind of tug-of-war for the covers. Luckily, Sierra Designs also makes a queen-sized version of this bag, which is more spacious (you can select this size on the retailer sites by following the links at the top of this web page).
We gave the 35-degree Frontcountry Bed the same warmth scores as bags with warmer manufacturer temperature ratings. We felt the Frontcountry Bed's design allows for excellent heat retention. While not as warm as heavier bags like the our Editor's Choice Winner, we were surprised at the Frontcountry Bed's ability to keep us warm, despite its modest 35-degree rating.
A zipperless design, combined with overstuffed polyester taffeta lining, resulted in near-perfect marks for comfort. We love the overall feel the bag offered us while sleeping outdoors. Sometimes it's difficult to clarify exactly why one bag is more comfortable than another. We found this to be true with the Frontcountry Bed. It simply felt more comfortable. The overall feeling we had was: Snug as a bug in a rug.
Of the two double bags we tested, the Frontcountry Bed scored slightly higher than most in our comfort criteria, which included overall comfort, ease of movement, and overall padding. The reason for the Frontcountry Bed's slightly higher score is the overall comfort the bag provided us while sleeping.
When compared side by side, one comfort-related drawback with the Frontcountry Bed is its narrower design, which makes the bag 10 inches less in width than other wider double bags. One workaround option is the Sierra Designs Frontcountry Bed 35 Queen, which offers several more inches in width.
The Frontcountry Bed offers much more than shiny bells and whistles. It's evident that designers put extra thought into this bag's unique design, resulting in high marks in our features metric. One key feature is the creative use of folds, seams, and buttons, creating a sleep system that is completely void of zippers. The result is a sleeping bag that offers a more natural feel and look of common bedding.
When compared to other two-person bags, the Frontcountry Bed simply offers more thoughtful features: an over-sized top quilt; a self-sealing foot box that allows for optimum foot ventilation; a massive hood; and built-in sleeves to hold sleeping pads securely in place.
Two of the Frontcountry Bed's features we found to be the most unique are the over-sized top quilt (addressed above in our warmth section), and the self-sealing foot box. Most bags come with a zipper that opens from either end, allowing the sleeper to unzip the bottom half of the bag independently for ventilation. However, the key flaw with this design is it requires the user to raise up to a seated position, find, and manually unzip the zipper. This can be particularly disruptive if the need for extra air strikes in the middle of the night.
The Frontcountry Bed's zipperless design incorporates an interlocking, folded system, which allows sleepers the ease of simply snaking their feet through the folds, without sitting up and fumbling for a zipper. This folding foot box is a simple feature; however, we were quite entertained with it and found it effective, very easy, and extremely convenient.
It's a double bag, so you're probably not surprised to hear the Frontcountry Bed packs up a larger than most single bags. Yes, it's large; however, we were pleasantly surprised to find that the Frontcountry Bed's packed size was not that much larger than some of the larger single bags we tested. This is a result of thinner materials and shell fabrics and a lack of extra bulk from zippers.
When compared to larger double bags, the Frontcountry Bed's smaller size results in it having a smaller packed size. Additionally, the Frontcountry Bed has a smaller stuff sack. It requires a little more elbow grease to stow this bag into its sack.
Two Polara 3-in-1s zipped together measures 72 inches wide. In comparison, the Frontcountry Bed is 50 inches wide. Our dilemma with finding value in double bags, like the Frontcountry Bed and the Tru.Comfort is hinged on their practicality.
Buying two bags that can be zipped together offers more options and sleeping space; however, it often comes with a higher price tag. Double bags are much lighter, take up less space, are more convenient, and often have a smaller price tag than buying two bags. In the end, we love the creativeness of the duo bags like the Frontcountry Bed, and, although some of our testers lean more to buying two bags and zipping them together, we do see the value and merits of the double bag for the niche market it serves (i.e., campers who simply just want one bag to share).
It's well-designed with many unique conveniences. We love the bag's zipperless design, over-sized top quilt with integrated arm-hand sleeves, easily accessible foot vent, and sleeping pad sleeves. However, this bag serves a niche client. Some campers like the idea of grabbing one large, lighter, all-in-one bag. They want the convenience of throwing it down and jumping in, rather than fumbling to zip two bags together.
The Sierra Designs Frontcountry Bed 35 Duo gives campers the ability to pack or unpack one self-contained sleeping system in seconds. For many, this is just more appealing regardless of price point. However, some shoppers may prefer the options associated with purchasing two bags and zipping them together.
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