User Review: The North Face Cat's Meow
Good price/function/weight ratio; the stated weight matches the actual weight. I've used this bag a lot, though the coldest I've had this bag to was the mid-thirties, moderate humidity, and inside a tent. Performed well, though I suspect that 20 degrees would be optimistic without a liner or some clothes.
I've had my bag about three years and it has lost a fair amount of loft. This is simply a fact of life for synthetics. It helps if you don't smash it into oblivion, however.
When I received my bag in the mail, the first thing I did was to see how much I could compress it. I immediately regretted doing so, as I could tell the difference when I pulled it back out of the compression sack. (Can you think of any other $150 dollar item that you own, which you feel compelled to smash?!)
I'm not really that hard up for space in my backpack, so I quit compressing it so much. In fact, I have recently skipped the nearly 1/4 pound weight of a compression sack altogether, and began putting it in an ultralight stuff sack! It will stuff to 8 1/2" X 18" this way, with very little compression.
The bag has a fairly tight cut. I have the men's long model and I bought the women's model for my wife. She couldn't tolerate the tight fit and passed the bag down to one of our kids. (Bought her a Mountain Hardware Switch 20, which she likes much better). I am 6' 2", 210 lbs. The girth is tolerable until I try to stick out my pointy elbow, which is attached to my very long arm.
The zipper performs well in daylight, less well when you are fumbling in the dark. I haven't had any bad snags, though it occasionally hangs up.
The small pocket they provide I find to be absolutely useless in the dark. In my opinion, they could lose this feature and save a few grams. If an item is really needed in the middle of the night--flashlight, toilet paper--it gets put it in the corner of the tent anyway.
I really do like this bag, though I sound as if I don't.
I give it 4 stars. I base this on the balance between price, functionality, and weight. This is an award winning bag (Backpacker Magazine), but not because it's the best on the market; it is award-winning because it excels in its price/weight range, while still meeting reasonable expectations for a synthetic bag.
As I have already alluded to, I didn't buy this bag expecting it to be a 5 star bag. Like a lot of backpackers, I long for a 5 star, $300, down bag (like the ones made by Western Mountaineering, Montbell, or Feathered Friends). I also long for a lighter bag. I drool over the 1 1/2 pounders like a sugar-starved kid in a donut shop. But for now I am content--sort of--with my $150, synthetic, sub-three-pound, Cat's Meow.
P.S. When I bought my bag, it was listed as being filled with Polarguard. Newer listings show Climashield. I don't know if this is the same or similar stuff. This is something worth looking into, since the reviews seem to have gone downhill more recently.