Review: North Face Cat’s Meow

By JOE JOHNSON

On a recent three-day backpacking trip in the Teton Mountains of Wyoming, my sleeping bag of choice was The North Face Cat’s Meow. Touted as a “classic bag for three-season mountaineering treks,” the Meow has a polyester fiber fill for insulation and is rated for temps as low as 20 degrees F. My main concern in the Tetons, with temps forecasted to drop into the teens, was whether this mummy-style bag would keep me warm through the night.

At 2 pounds, 10 ounces, the Cat’s Meow is one of the lightest synthetic bags in its price range and class. It packs down to a size smaller than a soccer ball when stuffed in its included compression sack. A better compression sack could pack it even smaller.

North Face Cats Meow Sleeping Bag Photo.jpg

The North Face Cats Meow Sleeping Bag

The bag retails for $159 (regular length) and $169 (long). It is a bargain price to start with, and I bought it earlier this year after finding a good deal at a local outdoors shop.

In almost a full year of use, the bag has yet to disappoint. In the Tetons this summer, we hiked into Death Canyon and came out at String Lake. In between, we crossed over Static Peak divide at 10,790 feet, hiked up Cascade Canyon and over Paintbrush Divide to a camp.

We set up camp at Holley Lake, pitching the Alps Mountaineering Comet 2.0 tent, a two-person backpacking model, and then going to sleep.

Despite a chilly night that dropped as low as 18 degrees, the bag kept me warm with only a base layer on. I tend to sleep a bit warm, and in fact at one point had to use the bag’s full-length zipper to vent my feet.

North Face Cats Meow Photo.jpg

Close-up of hood area

The adjustable hood, which has a one-hand draw cord, kept heat in without completely covering my face. Sometimes looked at as excessive, I loved the bag’s chest pocket for my watch and headlamp. Plus, the glow-in-the-dark zipper pulls and the welded no-snag stiffener in the zip column made zipping the bag a breeze. This is the first time I’ve had a bag whose zipper has not snagged.

At 5 foot 11 inches tall, I use the regular-size bag, and it fits me well. Its shoulder and hip girth measurements provide just enough space to move around without losing heat.

In my tests — in the Tetons and beyond — the bag has proven to be durable, warm and great for camping in all seasons. For the price, versatility and features I would recommend the Cat’s Meow for all-around outdoors use.

—A native of the small mountain town of Tonasket, Wash., Joe Johnson is a cyclist, backpacker, runner, hiker, skier and world traveler currently residing in Spokane.

Posted by Mike - 09/25/2009 04:58 PM

I got a Cat’s Meow in High school. After a ton of use in Canadian Backcountry, then years of use through college in Colorado, 6 months sleeping on beaches in Australia, and other fine worldly destinations, the bag was done. The insulation was too beat, had been through too much. I called TNF, they said “send it back in!” Which I did, and low and behold, a few weeks later I got a fresh new bag in the mail. TNF stands behind their product, no matter what you put it through, and that’s why I keep coming back to them. Thanks guys!!

Posted by brett - 09/26/2009 08:27 PM

This is a great bag. I should point out that womens version has a fleece pocket on the inside to keep your hands warm, and the same fleece material around your feet. I don’t know why the guys dont get these cool features, but a really nice addition.

Posted by Cameron - 09/29/2009 05:52 PM

Agreed… I have 4+ years use on my Cats Meow and I’d call it a 3 seasons PLUS bag (at least here in California). I have used it in March in the Sierras/Tahoe, May on Shasta at 10k’, late October in Yosemite at 7k’, on the beaches in the summer, etc. and this is a good all-around-bag. It isn’t a winter bag or an minimalist light weight bag, but it is an excellent compromise of both. Good price, good functionality, good warmth (especially when you add some base layers) and excellet weight/stuff size!

Posted by Extreme Tolerance - 10/02/2009 11:41 AM

I have one of these. Got it in ’03. Great bag. Bought the womens version for my wife this spring.

I would say there are better bags out there, but they cost more money.

The one bit of advice I hand out about this bag, it where a base layer. I find that my legs/bare skin gets stuck to the lining material. But that would probably happen with any bag made out of that material.

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