Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700 / 20 Degree
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Good 35+ degree bag without zippers. Do not recommend…
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $250 (on sale)
Good 35+ degree bag without zippers. Do not recommend below 30 degrees without additional support. Great for side sleepers and folks that get out of the bag at night and hate struggling with zippers half-asleep.
- Good for side sleepers and folks that roll around
- Foot vent
- Pocket for sleeping pad
- No zippers
- Mesh storage bag included
- No bottom insulation (relies on sleeping pad R rating)
- Poor foot insulation
- Too much airspace in shoulder area
- Not 20-degree bag without separate lining
- Need to stuff clothing in the foot box
As a side sleeper using a CPAP, I've always struggled with sleeping bags. My "go-to" bag for 20-40 degree weather is either a Kelty Cosmic 20 or Cosmic 0 bag. They work, but the 20 is more like a 30-degree bag and the 0 is more like a 20-degree bag. When Sierra Designs released the zipperless bag system, I was intrigued and purchased the Backcountry Bed 700/20 degree bag after reading several professional reviews.
I'm a relatively cold sleeper so an EN-rated 20-degree bag is the low end of my comfort at 20 degrees. I always bring a Double Diamond down throw blanket (thanks, Costco!) as a throw to increase thermal insulation. I also use a R-5 rated sleeping pad.
At a recent camp trip with my Cub Scouts at Silverwood Lake in early November, I gave my 20-degree bag to my wife and brought along the Sierra Designs. The forecast called for 35-40 degrees at night. Needless to say, the weather forecast was completely off. The ambient at 6:00 a.m. was 20 degrees and with the wind chill factored in, it was definitely in the teens.
How did the Backcountry 700/20 do? Not so well.
Warmth: In a test run in 45-degree weather, the sleeping bag was comfortable and performed as advertised. When the temperature fell to 33 degrees during the night at Silverwood, my obligatory throw blanket was insufficient to maintain warmth. At 25 degrees, it was unbearable and a cold night in a sleeping bag = no sleep but lots of shivering.
I figure that there were too many air pockets in the torso area and in the foot box to maintain warmth. My down throw wasn't big enough to cover my feet and torso and depending on where I stuck the blanket, I increased the warmth about the expected 8-10 degrees. I had to put on my fleece jacket, extra t-shirt, long pants, socks, and stuff the bottom of my bag with my towel and extra clothing. It was during the stuffing process that I learned that the foot slit (in the bottom of the bag) moved just enough that it would allow air in and/or create (another) air pocket that required me to layer my towel over it to prevent a gap. Even with all of extra clothing, it was a really poor sleep.
Comfort: Discounting sleeping at 20-30 degrees, it is actually a comfortable bag. It took some time to get used to the zipperless feature but I appreciated the extra room to sleep on my side. I particularly liked the gap and my ability to stick my arms out and/or stuff the CPAP tube into my bag (to warm the air) without creating a gap. In 20-30 degree weather, all of the positive features become a problem (at least for me). I realize I sleep colder than some but I've never had to "feather bed" and stuff my bag with all of my extra clothing just to avoid hypothermia. I'm 5'7" and not skinny nor fat. As a seasoned camper, I'm usually prepared for some chill and unexpected drop in temperature, but the length and extra roominess worked against me.
Side note: Getting in was easy and getting out was easy once you figure out the flap. During the test camp in mild weather, it was a joy to slide out and slide back into the bag at night without fussing around with the zipper. Nothing like trying to zip and getting it stuck or leaving the bag partially unzipped and allowing heat to escape. Of course, this all worked against me when I was trying to stuff and line my bag during the below-freezing trip. Without a zipper, I had to use my feet to place the various clothing instead of simply unzipping the bag and layering.
Packability: The bag weighs almost 2 lbs and doesn't compress down to the Cosmic size. I would take this bag on a backpacking trip if I'm using my 80L or 95L bag, but not with my 60L bag.
Loft: A few shakes puffed up the bag quickly.
Features: The integrated sleeping pad sleeve comfortably fit my REI pad. Granted, my pad was mummy shaped but there are slits on the corners so you can fit a rectangular pad as well. I strongly recommend a R5+ pad since there is NO insulation worth mentioning on the bottom of the bag.
Durability: Unknown at this time but it seems easy to clean and maintain. I didn't like the mesh bag and prefer a closed loose bag (for reduction of dust).
Pro-Tips: Use a liner. I've owned an ALPS and Sea to Summit Compact Reactor and occasionally will bring a flannel or cotton bed sheet to line my bag. Assuming I don't chuck this bag into the sleeping bag box and continue to use my Cosmic 0 degree bag, I recommend using a liner to increase warmth and comfort. However, I think a liner like Sea to Summit defeats the purpose of the roominess in milder weather. My next trip is in early December at Doheny State Beach and I'll update if the liner improved the experience or negated the roominess feature.
Sorry, no photos because it was too cold to take a picture.