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Hands-on Gear Review
Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 800 - Women's Review
Cons: Heavy for a down bag, bulky, expensive
The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed is unique and hard to describe. It wins our Top Pick Award because it is the most comfortable women's sleeping bag in this review. Its clever half quilt and "catenary" shaped opening cradle the sleeper and feel extremely comforting and warm. We love the versatility the quilt allows for different sleeping positions, as well as the ability to adjust to many different temperatures. The 800 version is quite pricey, and the bag is definitely a specialty item that you should consider purchasing if you are fed up with traditional mummy bag design.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The Backcountry Bed 800 is a stomach sleeper's best friend. This comfortable and versatile sleeping bag allows you to sleep in all different positions and regulate your warmth with its interesting quilt insert.
The intricacies of the bag/quilt interface took some time to get used to. At first, our testers found this bag a bit drafty in colder temperatures if the quilt wasn't properly tucked in. This is definitely one drawback to the design of the Backcountry Bed, but once you get used to it, it becomes easier to use. When the quilt is completely tucked in it seems to stay put, even when you move around. This bag has no zippers, so once it's all tucked in there are no draft points to worry about like with a zipper.
The temperature rating of EN comfort 25F seems to be right on the money. We feel very comfortable and warm in this bag at night when temperatures get down into the mid-30s, and feel almost too warm once they get into the mid-40s. Luckily with the integrated quilt and foot vent, it is very easy to regulate your temperature. If you are too hot at night, you can open up the bag by lowering a corner of the quilt or throwing the whole thing off. The Backcountry Bed has cozy hand pockets in the corners of the quilt that you can use when the quilt is untucked, like a folded down comforter, or put your hands into wrap it around you inside. We like that the bag does not have insulation on the back of it through the torso, as it is meant to have a sleeping pad insulate you from the ground, but it is insulated all the way around the foot box — an area that women tend to get very cold. The warmest traditional mummy bag we tested was the REI Joule.
We were disappointed in how heavy the Backcountry Bed is for a down fill sleeping bag. Weighing in at 2 pounds 9.4 ounces, it is almost 14 ounces heavier than our Editors' Choice Award Winner, the Rab Neutrino 400 - Women's. However, this is a very lofty, comfortable bag with a whopping 24 ounces of high loft fill, and for some people that extra weight might be worth it for a quality night sleep. For the ounce-counters, it probably will not be.
This contender wins our Top Pick Award because it is so comfortable. The quilt feature allows you to do virtually anything with your arms, including sticking them out of the bag. When the quilt is all tucked in it feels very cozy, almost as if you are being cradled in it. The ability to regulate your temperature by adjusting the quilt and the foot gasket make it extra comfortable in many different temperatures. This bag has the opposite dimensions of the NEMO Celesta 25, which is designed to offer a lot of leg room. The Backcountry Bed has more room for the upper torso and arms and less for the legs. Side sleeping is still quite easily done, your legs just rotate inside the bag.
We think that the bottom of the bag seems narrower than other mummy bags, like the Kelty Cosmic Down - Women's or the Neutrino, and feels a bit more constrictive, especially when compared to how roomy the upper part of the bag is. If you're looking for more room in the leg department, check out the Big Agnes Roxy Ann. This bag fits our 5'5" tester perfectly length-wise, but our 5'8" and ½ foot tester thinks it is too short. Unfortunately, the women's version does not come in a long, so if you are over 5'8" you may want to go for the men's version.
Luckily this bag's shell material and fill are quite compressible. We can just barely fit it into a small compression sack when we are trying to keep the size of our pack down. It is not as compressible as the REI Joule or the Rab Neutrino, but still more compressible than all the synthetic bags in this review like The North Face Cat's Meow.
Sierra Designs has put a lot of thought into the design and features of this sleeping bag. We really like how well all the features work together for the whole package. The catenary shaped opening of the bag is somewhat womb-like in how it cradles you and keeps your arms tucked in, holding the quilt in place as well. The quilt itself is lofty and cozy and the hand/arm pockets work well when your arms are outside the bag, either on your back or stomach. We like the zipper-less foot-venting gasket, although it is quite easy to stick your feet out of it accidentally, this is only a minor problem.
The DriDown hydrophobic down fill will give you a bit more piece of mind if things are starting to get wet and soggy, and should keep the bag loftier for longer. Read more about hydrophobic down in our Buying Advice Article.
This sleeping bag is great for all three season camping and backpacking trips. If you are a stomach sleeper or feel claustrophobic in a regular mummy bag, the Backcountry Bed could be a great solution.
As we have already mentioned, this bag is very versatile. It allows you to sleep in any position — except for starfish, since your legs are still confined to the mummy bag shape. The ability to tuck and un-tuck the quilt allows you to regulate your temperature easily. The only downside is that this bag will never be able to mate with another sleeping bag if you have the desire to combine bags with another human.
This model is the most expensive bag in this review at $440. It has high quality 800 fill DriDown and a softshell material, but so does the Rab Neutrino 400, which is almost a pound lighter. We would recommend dropping the extra dough on this bag if you are fed up with conventional mummy sleeping bags and are looking for something new. You can also go down in quality to the 600 fill women's backcountry bed for $100 less.
This unique, versatile sleeping bag wins our Top Pick Award for comfort. We like the innovative partial quilt design and how the bag cradles us like we're back in the womb. It has lots of great features and high-quality materials. With this unique design and quality materials comes a hefty price tag, and nine times out of ten we would recommend the lighter, more conventional sleeping bag over the Backcountry Bed, but for those who need more room for their torso to move around, this could be the solution.
— Jessica Haist
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