Hands-on Gear Review

The North Face Cat's Meow 22 Review

Price:  $189 List | $175.00 at Amazon
Pros:  Warm, comfortable, light for a synthetic bag
Cons:  Bulky, feels short, heavy compared to a down bag
Bottom line:  We think the adjustments to the Cat's Meow lowered its quality and it is not the value it used to be.
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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  • 5
EN Comfort Rating (F):  22
Women specific features:  Women's specific cut. More insulation than men's version.
Total Weight (oz):  48 oz
Manufacturer:   The North Face

Our Verdict

The North Face Cat's Meow has been made by The North Face for years — it's the classic introductory sleeping bag for outdoor recreation - and for good reason; because it's inexpensive and comfortable, it's a good choice for short summer backpacking trips. However, it has had an update since we last tested it in 2014 and we think that the updates did not improve the bag overall. It is relatively lightweight for a synthetic sleeping bag and warmer than any other synthetic bag in this review. It beats out other budget bags such as the Slumberjack Boundary 20 - Women's and the Marmot Trestles 30 - Women's by a lot.

2018 Product Updates
The North Face has given the Cat's Meow a slight makeover for 2018. Check out the details below.



RELATED REVIEW: Best Sleeping Bags for Women


Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Jessica Haist

Last Updated:
Friday
July 13, 2018

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2018 Cat's Meow Updates


The North Face updated their Cat's Meow line of sleeping bags with an updated fabric this year. The new fabric is intended to provide an increase in compressibility as well as shaving some weight off of the bag. See the new version on the left, below, followed by the older green version we tested.

Cat's Meow 22
  • Fabric Update — The updated Cat's Meow employs 20D taffeta material for the liner and a 20D nylon ripstop for the outer shell.
  • 10% More Compressible & Decreased Weight — The North Face claims this bag is now more compressible as well as more lightweight. The model we tested tipped the scales at 42 oz, while the previous version was about 48 oz.

Since we haven't slept out in this newest version yet, our opinions from here on only refer to the older bag.

Hands-On Review of the Cat's Meow - Women's


A tried and true inexpensive synthetic insulated sleeping bag, the Cat's Meow is an excellent introductory sleeping bag for short backpacking trips and car camping adventures. Its synthetic fill insulation will keep you warm even if it gets a bit wet and feels comfy and cozy.

The Cat's Meow is a warm and comfortable synthetic sleeping bag.
The Cat's Meow is a warm and comfortable synthetic sleeping bag.

Warmth


Luckily, we had this model with us when we were hit by an intense, windy thunderstorm in our floorless shelter, where driving rain came in under the tarp. It was a comfort to know this synthetic bag would retain its loft…even if it got wet. This bag kept us warm in all kinds of weather in the high alpine and while car camping.

This sleeping bag is the warmest of the synthetic bags we evaluated. It kept us warm in the alpine during the summer months, when temperatures can dip down into the 30s. We think the key to this contender's warmth is in large part due to the fit of the bag. Our 5'5", tester found this contender provided the ideal fit (although the new design is not quite as perfect) and kept the heat trapped inside with its large neck baffle and draft tubes.

The North Face has also added more insulation to the hood and foot box of this women's specific sleeping bag to keep the extremities nice and toasty. Since women's extremities tend to feel colder, The North Face has added internal hand warmer pockets to the Cat's Meow for additional warmth. We did not find this pocket to be particularly useful for our hands, but the additional layer of fleece on our torso felt cozy.
We like the Cat's Meow's lofty draft tubes  but wish the hood's drawcords were different to distinguish between the top and bottom.
We like the Cat's Meow's lofty draft tubes, but wish the hood's drawcords were different to distinguish between the top and bottom.

Weight


This model is no longer the lightest synthetic bag in this review. With the addition of the interior fleece hand warmer pockets and other shape redesigns, the bag now weighs in at three pounds even. It is still lighter than the synthetic NEMO Celesta 25 at 3 pounds 4 oz and the Mountain Hardwear Laminina Z Flame 21 which weighs 3 lbs 7 oz. This bag uses a lightweight exterior material and slimmed down features to keep it relatively light, though it doesn't pack down very small. The Slumberjack Boundary is one ounce lighter than the Cat's Meow but is not as warm or as comfortable (though it does have an appealing $60 price tag). The Kelty Cosmic Down 20 - Women's weighs an ounce less than this bag, but has mostly down fill; knowing this, we would choose the Cat's Meow because it has the added versatility of being synthetic.

Comfort


We would not recommend this bag for anyone taller than 5'5. We were disappointed that it felt so short — our 5'5 tester had to point her toes and turn them in slightly to pull the bag up around her face. We wish this bag had an articulated foot box like the Mountain Hardwear Laminina Z Flame for more foot room. There is enough wiggle room in the shoulders to wear an extra layer if things get chilly. We like the feel of the soft shell material against the skin, and the additional insulation placed in key spots makes for a cozy sleep.

We wish the Cat's Meow had an articulated foot box like the Lamina Z. Our taller testers don't feel like their feet have enough room.
We wish the Cat's Meow had an articulated foot box like the Lamina Z. Our taller testers don't feel like their feet have enough room.

The large baffle around the neck sometimes feels a bit restrictive, but the extra warmth provided by this baffle makes it worth it. The hood cinches down comfortably, and we did not feel too claustrophobic with it on - as opposed to the NEMO Celesta's substantial smothering hood. This bag has an annoying Velcro patch at the zipper opening, and we found that our hair kept getting stuck in the Velcro. This extra closure seems unnecessary in a sleeping bag, and is another thing to open in the middle of the night when you have to get up to pee — not to mention the noise it makes to wake up your tent-mate!

We find the extra velcro closure an added annoyance when getting out of the bag and it often catches our hair in it.
We find the extra velcro closure an added annoyance when getting out of the bag and it often catches our hair in it.

Packed Size


This was one of the bulkier bags in this review, and its material does not compress as well as the Boundary 20's or any of the down sleeping bags. This could be due in part to the bulky fleece handwarmer pocket as well as the design of the compression sack that comes with the bag. It is poorly designed and seems overly heavy for what it is. We suggest shopping for a separate stuff sack that is lighter and easier to use. Check out our article on stuff sacks for tips on choosing the best one for you.

The Cat's Meow comes with a mesh storage sack and a compression sack. We found the compression sack to be cumbersome and heavy.
The Cat's Meow comes with a mesh storage sack and a compression sack. We found the compression sack to be cumbersome and heavy.

Features


We love the extra insulation packed into the foot box and hood where we women need it most, as well as the soft, lightweight bag material. The stow pocket in the interior of the bag is a good size for storing a headlamp or midnight snack. We wish that the draw cords on the hood and neck baffles had different strings, like on the Slumberjack Boundary 20 so they could be tightened independently, and the glow in the dark zipper pull is quite handy for late night bathroom trips. The features that distinguish this bag from the men's version is the extra 10 oz of insulation added to the hood and foot box of the bag, as well as the newly added fleece hand warmer pockets.

The new interior fleece pocket adds some degree of warmth  but you have to be a back sleeper to utilize it  and our hands do not stay in there when sleeping even so.
The new interior fleece pocket adds some degree of warmth, but you have to be a back sleeper to utilize it, and our hands do not stay in there when sleeping even so.

Best Application


This contender is a great car camping sleeping bag. It will also work well for short backpacking trips, especially in wet climates like the Pacific Northwest or Alaska in the summer. This could also be a good choice for any big wall lady climbers.

Value


This is a good value at $189 for a decent product that can get you started on your outdoor adventures. We were surprised to find that the Mountain Hardwear Laminina is $10 less and of equal quality. Even though the Boundary 20 is cheaper, we think the Cat's Meow is a much better value and has higher quality materials and design. It is just as warm and comfortable as the heavier, more expensive NEMO Celesta. If you want something even cheaper and more compressible for backpacking check out our Best Buy Award Winner the Kelty Cosmic Down 20 - Women's.

Conclusion


Because of its bulkiness and weight, the Cat's Meow is much less versatile than a down sleeping bag like the REI Joule, or the Rab Neutrino 400 - Women's, that pack down much smaller and weigh less. But for what its worth, this bag is a workhorse and is good for trips where you expect the weather to be wet and cold; its synthetic insulation will retain its loft when wet better than a down bag that will lose its loft and insulating ability. This model is a great introductory bag for a beginner backpacker since it is inexpensive for its quality, and is ideal for someone who is looking for an inexpensive summer backpacking sleeping bag that will keep her warm in all conditions.

Jessica Haist

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Most recent review: July 13, 2018
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