Therm-A-Rest Haven Top Bag

If your mantra reads something like “Less is more,” your backpacking toothbrush is sawed in half, or you just like gear that does its job a little differently, then you should take a look at the Haven Top Bag by Therm-A-Rest. The Haven, rated to be warm to 20 degrees F, weighs a scant 22 ounces, has no zipper, and sports a giant hole in the bottom of it (put there in the name of saving weight).

Therm-A-Rest designed the bag to do away with some of what the company calls “redundant and un-utilized insulation.” I suppose the designers figured that with a camping mattress beneath you, that insulation is superfluous. A zipper is seen as an unnecessary convenience item, so the company eliminated that, too.

The (zipperless) Haven Top Sleeping Bag

When I pulled the Haven out on a recent backpacking trip, my buddies gave me raised-eyebrow looks and questioned the missing parts of my bag. A quick explanation of the idea got them nodding in agreement that the design made sense, especially when they saw how light and small it packed. The Haven easily packs to half the size of my other 20F bag.

Haven with ProLite sleeping pad

But being different takes a bit of getting used to. At first, I grumbled about having to shimmy into the bag from the top with no zipper on the side. But once you’re inside, the bag feels like every other bag, only maybe a little roomier. There’s a bit of set-up involved, too. If you use the tapered ProLite pads from Therm-A-Rest, they slip neatly into the bag, creating a draft-free system. If you use any other pad, you need to connect the Haven to the pad using the included straps. And if you sleep “hot” or find yourself in warmer than expected temps, you can use the hole on the bottom as a vent by simply not strapping the bag to your pad.

In most cases, for sleeping bags in general temperature ratings tend to run too cold for me. If a bag is rated to 20F, I am usually only comfortable to about 30F. As it did not dip below 35 degrees on my recent test trip I cannot speak for the accuracy of the Haven’s rating. But if I had to guess, I suspect that one might get cold in the Haven at 20 degrees outside. At least I might be cold. The bag was just warm enough for me in the mid-30s at night on my trip this past month.

Climbers, adventure racers and ultra-light backpackers — people who are already used to giving up a little convenience for weight savings — are going to love this bag. It packs small, weighs little, and it is warm enough for most nights three seasons of the year.

The catch is mainly in its lack of conveniences. I like zippers. They allow easy entry and exit as well as venting when I get too warm. On my test, once in the bag, I settled down and focused on drifting to sleep. But the first few moments spent with the bag left me feeling a little trapped. If you lean toward claustrophobic, you would do well to try this bag before buying.

Overall, I like the bag and its unique features. I look forward to the Haven riding small and light in my pack on my next adventure — right next to my ultralight tent and my toothbrush, cut in half, of course.

—T.C. Worley