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The North Face Cat's Meow - Short Review

An inexpensive and versatile synthetic bag, this product is best suited for smaller people when there's moisture in the forecast
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The North Face Cat's Meow - Short Review (The North Face Cat's Meow is our favorite synthetic bag, just consider the size your purchasing for the best fit.)
The North Face Cat's Meow is our favorite synthetic bag, just consider the size your purchasing for the best fit.
Credit: Jessica Haist
Price:  $169 List
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Manufacturer:   The North Face
By Jessica Haist ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 22, 2023
66
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#9 of 14
  • Warmth - 25% 7.5
  • Weight - 25% 6.0
  • Comfort - 20% 6.5
  • Packed Size - 15% 6.0
  • Features - 15% 7.0

Our Verdict

The North Face Cat's Meow has been around for years, receiving new iterations periodically. Recently, we decided to have our female testers check out the 'short' version instead of the women's-specific model. Trim, compressible, and lightweight, this is the best-priced synthetic model we've tested. It's a very tight-fitting mummy design, and we would only recommend it for small people with narrow shoulders. Additionally, the Cat's Meow could be a good choice for activities where your kit is in danger of getting wet, like on boating trips or in rainy coastal climates. Synthetic insulation will keep you warm when it gets wet since it can maintain its loft, unlike down products.
REASONS TO BUY
Warm and comfortable
Keeps you warm even if wet
REASONS TO AVOID
Bulky packed size
Heavy
Tight fit

Compare to Similar Products

 
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Price $110.84 at Amazon
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Bottom Line This synthetic model offers snug fitting design that is surprisingly compressible and a good choice to keep you warm in wet conditionsThe highest three-season performance of any model in our bunchThis model is our testers go-to any time weight is less of a factor than having a comfortable nights sleep"Get Down" with this extremely well priced sleeping bag that will work for short to medium length backpacking trips in the summerToo heavy and bulky for backpacking but a great choice for car camping comfort
Rating Categories The North Face Cat'... Feathered Friends E... Sierra Designs Back... Sierra Designs Get... Marmot Trestles Eli...
Warmth (25%)
7.5
10.0
8.0
6.5
5.0
Weight (25%)
6.0
8.5
5.8
6.6
5.3
Comfort (20%)
6.5
8.0
10.0
7.0
9.0
Packed Size (15%)
6.0
8.0
7.0
7.5
5.0
Features (15%)
7.0
9.0
10.0
6.5
7.0
Specs The North Face Cat'... Feathered Friends E... Sierra Designs Back... Sierra Designs Get... Marmot Trestles Eli...
EN Temp Rating (Lower Limit) 20°F 20°F (not EN rated) 20°F 23°F 20°F
Insulation Recycled synthetic 950+ Goose Down 650 FP 85/15 GDD DriDown 550 FP DriDown RDS HL-ElixR synthetic fibers
Measured Weight 2.50 lbs 1.72 lbs 2.61 lbs 2.36 lbs 2.75 lbs
Female-Specific Features Available in a "Short" length, which is a standard women's size Extra fill in footbox and chest Women's specific cut Women's specific cut Women's specific fit
Fill Weight 38.9 oz 17.3 oz (medium) 22.36 oz 25.0 oz Unspecified
Material 20D ripstop nylon, taffeta Pertex Endurance UL 20d polyester ripstop/tafeta 20D polyester 20-denier recycled ripstop polyester
Neck Baffle Yes Yes No No Yes
Small Organization Pocket Yes No No No Yes
Sleeping Pad Sleeve No No Yes No No
Zipper Length 34.5 in 62 in N/A 39.5 in 53/15 in
Shoulder Girth 60 in 54 in 59 in 58 in 58 in
Hip Girth 55 in 56 in 58 in 56 in 58 in
Foot Girth 41 in 38 in 40 in 40 in 45 in
Compression or Stuff Sack Compression sack and storage bag Stuff sack and storage bag Stuff sack and storage bag Stuff sack and storage bag Stuff sack and storage bag

Our Analysis and Test Results

The Cat's Meow has slimmed down on unnecessary features included in previous versions. It's added warmth by putting insulation in all the right places, piling more on top and less on the bottom, making it more effective. This is a good value bag for a tight budget and a good option for wet or humid weather.

Performance Comparison


the north face cat's meow - short - the cat's meow is very well-priced and wins praise for being our...
The Cat's Meow is very well-priced and wins praise for being our favorite synthetic bag.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Warmth


The Cat's Meow is rated at an EN comfort rating of 20 degrees Fahrenheit. That said, we would hesitate to bring this bag out in temperatures that low, especially because, with its tight fit, we can't fit many extra clothing layers on our body inside the bag. It now has only a half-length zipper, which will help keep out cold drafts, but it isn't great for venting if you're too warm.


The North Face has gotten clever with constructing the Cat's Meow. They have moved the majority of the insulation to the top layer and just left a thin layer on the bottom. We think this is super smart and way more efficient. Insulation keeps heat in by trapping air molecules in the loft. The air warms up, keeping you warmer. Any insulation that is under your body is being compressed and won't be lofty, so it is ineffective at containing heat and keeping you warm. Your sleeping pad is what should be keeping you warm and insulating you from the ground, not the insulation on the bottom of your sleeping bag. The Cat's Meow does a great job retaining warmth with its smart design.

Not only that, but the loft is made of synthetic fibers that will retain their warmth even when wet — as opposed to down insulation, which loses its loft when it gets wet. This adds to overall warmth in all types of conditions. Our verdict? This is a warm synthetic option that will keep you cozy in all sorts of environments, down to probably around 30 degrees Fahrenheit.

the north face cat's meow - short - the cat's meow has most of it's synthetic fill on the top of the bag...
The Cat's Meow has most of it's synthetic fill on the top of the bag to concentrate warmth where it's needed.
Credit: Brigitte Denton

Weight


Weighing in at 2.5 pounds, the Cat's Meow has slimmed back down to previous, lighter versions — it was a full pound heavier the last time we tested it. This is now the lightest synthetic model in this review. We think it is a decent choice to carry around if you are set on a synthetic-filled bag.


One way to make your load even lighter with this product is to choose a different compression sack. The Cat's Meow comes with a compression sack that weighs 3.7 ounces, which is unnecessary weight. By purchasing a lighter sack, you can shave off the ounces, making this a more viable option for adventures that require lightweight gear. The one weight-saving strategy The North Face uses is a half-length zipper, which probably shaved an ounce or two.

the north face cat's meow - short - the cat's meow is the lightest weight synthetic bag we tested.
The Cat's Meow is the lightest weight synthetic bag we tested.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Comfort


We love the soft shell and liner materials on the Cat's Meow. They are very comfortable and feel soft on the skin. It is also nice that this bag still has a thin layer of synthetic on the bottom layer so you don't feel the materials of your sleeping pad below — which can feel cool and/or sticky. Sleeping in this bag is plush and comfortable, offering a nice sleep all night long.


The fit of this bag is very snug. Our 5'5" tester, who is usually exactly the right size for most women's sleeping bags (which often come in a single “women's” size), found that she could barely get her head into the hood (making it feel slightly claustrophobic) and could barely zip it up around her shoulders. We couldn't find any sizing information on TNF's website, but Amazon says that the max height for size Regular would be 5'6". We think it is closer to 5'4" and for folks who are on the slimmer side with narrower shoulders.

the north face cat's meow - short - the short version of the cat's meow is a tight fitting bag...
The short version of the Cat's Meow is a tight fitting bag recommended for folks 5'4" and under.
Credit: Ian McEleney

Packed Size


As with most synthetic bags, the Cat's Meow is not the most compressible — though it does noticeably improve on past versions.


As we mentioned, the compression sack is huge and bulky. We like the idea of a compression sack for synthetic bags, but it should be smaller and have less weight. We cinched the compression straps all the way down and noted that it could still be cinched smaller. This recent version of the Cat's Meow is way more compressible than previous ones and beats out other synthetic models in this category. Its streamlined design and lack of bells and whistles help it to fit into smaller spaces as well.

the north face cat's meow - short - the cat's meow in its included compression sack. this sack could be...
The Cat's Meow in its included compression sack. This sack could be much smaller as this bag is quite compressible.
Credit: Jessica Haist

Features


We like the large neck and draft tube baffle that keeps warm air in and cold air out. However, the white color of this bag is a bit disconcerting since it is pristine-looking in a world of dirt and will undoubtedly show stains very easily.


We like the small stow pocket inside the insulation and close to the head. It is convenient for keeping a headlamp or phone warm, preserving batteries, or keeping things at hand should they be needed in the night. Almost every other product we tested now has an anti-snag zipper, but the Cat's Meow does not. The non-women's-specific version of this bag doesn't have intentionally placed extra insulation around places where women get colder, like the feet and hips. This bag is simpler and yet not quite as useful for female physiology.

The Cat's Meow's zipper is not anti-snag, but we like that the...
The Cat's Meow's zipper is not anti-snag, but we like that the zipper pull glows in the dark!
The Cat's Meow's half length zipper saves some weight but reduces...
The Cat's Meow's half length zipper saves some weight but reduces the overall comfort and versatility of the bag.

Should You Buy The North Face Cat's Meow Short?


We think the current price makes the Cat's Meow a very good value product if you're in the market for a synthetic sleeping bag. Its insulation will keep you warm when wet, making it a great option for humid or wet weather. It would be a good choice for short backpacking and car camping trips in humid or wet climates, but be sure to try it out before purchasing it as it is a tight fit for average-height humans and those who are narrow in the shoulders.

the north face cat's meow - short - getting cozy in the cat's meow.
Getting cozy in the Cat's Meow.
Credit: Ian McEleney

What Other Women's Sleeping Bags Should You Consider?


If your heart isn't set on a synthetic sleeping bag, check out the Sierra Designs Get Down 20, which is down-filled and also a great price. It's slightly more expensive than the Cat's Meow, but also lighter and more comfortable. If you do want a synthetic model, one that is much more comfortable is the Marmot Trestles Elite Eco 20. It's heavy but has lots of features to support your comfort.

Jessica Haist