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.
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.
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.