One of my fondest childhood memories is camping with my family. We had a giant tent that slept probably a couple dozen comfortably, and big, bright red cotton sleeping bags that would keep you warm on a muggy summer night in Indiana. They rolled up into bulky, heavy bundles that you’d never want to carry very far. But they had one feature I really liked: they were roomy.
When my family moved to California, I jumped at the opportunity to go backpacking. Clearly I needed different a different kind of sleeping bag.
Over the years, I’ve used variants of the traditional mummy bag in one form or another. While they generally did the job, I couldn’t really say that sleeping in them was especially comfortable.
I like to to turn in my sleep. I begin on my back and will switch to my front, my side and my back again numerous times during the night. In a traditional mummy bag, this is tricky. Wearing a slippery base layer helps some, but I often ended up feeling trapped in my bag as I twisted and turned inside.
Enter the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed
The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed is designed to give you the warmth of a mummy bag, with the comfort and maneuverability of a bed. It’s an innovative zipper-less design with no insulation on the bottom of the torso area. There’s an integrated sleeve for a sleeping pad to form the “bed” and the bag itself has a blanket-like quilt/flap that you can pull up and tuck in.
Would the Backcountry Bed live up to it’s promise of comfort for a back/front/side sleeper like me? I took it out on a recent backpacking trip on the Santa Cruz Trail in the Los Padres National Forest to find out.
An Overview of the Backcountry Bed
One of the first things I noticed about this sleeping bag is the weight. At 2 lbs. 8 oz. it’s considerable lighter than other bags I’ve used. There are a couple ways the bag accomplishes this feat. First is the zipper-less design.
The Backcountry Bed utilizes a quilt-like flap that you can fold down or pull up and tuck in. No zippers and the added weight they bring.
The other weight-saving trick is the elimination of fill under the torso area. Instead, the Backcountry Bed has a sleeping pad sleeve. I used my Thermarest self-inflatable pad and it worked perfectly. The sleeve does a great job of keeping you on the pad throughout the night, and really contributes to the bed-like experience.
The quilt-flap can be pulled up and tucked in for colder nights, giving you typical mummy bag warmth.
I tend to get hot (depending on the temps) so it was really nice to be able to simple fold down the flap when I got too warm. No need to wrestle with a zipper or contort my body. It was very much a bed-like experience.
The foot box has a little secret opening that you can slide your feet out of for dual-cooling.
For me, the real test was how the Backcountry Bed would work with my sleeping patterns. As I mentioned, I typically start on my back, then flip-flop around throughout the night — back-to-side; side-to-front; front-to-back, etc..
In a traditional mummy bag, I inevitably get tangled up and twisted in the bag. The Backcountry Bed made changing positions easy and comfortable.
One other nice touch about the bag were the “sleeves” inside the quilt flap. When you fold the quilt down, you can tuck your hands inside to keep your digits warm and toasty.
Sleeping Bag Warmth
I tested the bag on a backpacking trip in the Los Padres National Forest. The first night there was rain and temperatures dipped into the low 40s. The second night was dry and hit the high 30s. Both nights I was perfectly comfortable.
The bag is uses 800 fill DriDown that is designed to be more water resistant. I didn’t test that, and hope I don’t have to, but it’s nice to know it’s there.
Compression and Packability
The bag compresses well. The stuff sack that it comes with is roughly 12″ by 7″. Once it’s in the sack, it can be compressed further still in your backpack. Of course, when I hang mine in the closet uncompressed when I’m not using it to maintain loft.
The Bottom Line
I love this bag, and I’m looking forward to taking it into the Sierras later this year. It’s perfect for someone like me who likes to change sleeping positions throughout the night. It does require a good sleeping pad, but seriously, who doesn’t use a sleeping pad?
Disclosure: Sierra Designs provided this bag for review with no strings attached. The joy I experienced sleeping in this bag is my honest, unbiased opinion. I really like this bag.
Dara Morgan says
That is a really cool bag! It looks like a good nights sleep just waiting to happen. 🙂
Casey Schreiner says
As a finicky sleeper, this bag looks great! I also really enjoyed all the peaceful-looking sleeping photos of you in the bag 🙂
Jeff Hester says
Thanks, Dara and Casey! I’m really looking forward to taking this out in the Sierras this year. The bed moniker was pretty darn accurate. It was the closest experience I’ve come to that level of comfort in a sleeping bag.
Jeff, I like the sleeping pad sleeve design but did you ever get cold from sleeping on your pad with just a thin layer of ripstop between you and the pad?
Jeff Hester says
Ryan, I did not get cold at all. The temperatures were above freezing, and I tend to run warm anyway. The real test will come when I get a chance to test at sub-freezing temps.
Chris S says
I absolutely love this bag! SD was kind enough to send me a two season, 600 fill BCB (full disclosure, I work for an outdoor retailer). I never thought anything would replace my Big Agnes bags, boy, was I wrong.
On a recent trip to Big Bend and the Davis Mountains, the BCB performed way beyond my expectations. Daytime temps were in the 90s, with cool nights dipping in to the mid to low 40s. Combined with my BA Primaloft Air Core, the BCB let me sleep like a baby!
Anyone in the market for a new bag seriously needs to give the Back Country Bed a try.
Hey Jeff, how tall are you. I’m 6’1” do you thing the regular would work for me? The site says up to 6′ 180lbs. Any advice would be helpful.
Jeff Hester says
Brandon, I’m 5’10 and the regular fit “just right” for me. If I were 6’1″, I’d probably opt for a tall. My $0.02 worth.
It looks like a comfortable bag. It’s a bit pricey at $400. Also, I would be skeptical of the 20 degree temperature rating. I tested the Big Agnes Lost Ranger which had a temperature rating of 15 degrees. The Lost Ranger is very roomy and comfortable like the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 800, but is not very warm. I tested it in 25 degree temps and it failed miserably. I returned it to REI and bought a Marmot Pinnacle which is much warmer, but not as roomy.
Jeff Hester says
Ken, the 20 degree was the comfort limit. A friend of mine who worked at REI tells me that most sleeping bag ratings are completely subjective and often wishful thinking, but the EN ratings are pretty reliable. A lot of manufacturers skip the EN testing because of the cost. In the end, it’s going to be up to the individual.
I’m taking it on the Lost Coast and again on a Sierra trip this summer and will report back.
Thanks Jeff and funny thing is that this is one of the Bags that I am looking at. Pack is a tad heavy and dropping weight on it. Yes it is pricey but in this case I hope you get what you pay for.
Jeff Hester says
You bet, Rick. I love this bag, though I still haven’t had a chance to test in in colder weather. I’ll be taking it to the Lost Coast in a few weeks and then to Kings Canyon in September, and will keep you posted. Last weekend on San Jacinto it was comfy, but it didn’t get that cold.
The real selling point for me isn’t how warm (or not) the bag is — as I run hot anyway. For me, it’s the elbow room. I can twist and turn throughout the night and never feel constrained. Awesome.
I was camping near Round Valley by San Jacinto on the same weekend. The weather was very mild. I didn’t measure the temps, but it felt no colder than about 50 degrees. For a mild weather backpack/car camp, I am using the Marmot Mavericks 30 sleeping bag. It’s insanely cheap at $75 and keeps me warm down to the mid 40s. Since it’s a synthetic fiber the bag doesn’t compress that well and is heavy for it’s comfort rating. On the plus side, it’s super easy to clean in a regular washing machine and I have no fear of it getting stolen on a car camp near a big city. It also doubles as a compact travel sleeping bag when visiting friends. Maybe I can do a writeup for you after I have done some more testing.
Thanks for the review.
What I feel is missing EVERYWHERE on the internet is how big the sleeping bag is when packed. That’s kind of really important as one will have to carry it and that size really matters.
Mind taking a photo?
Jeff Hester says
Great point, Ruben! I’ve updated the review and added a photo of the compressed bag. The stuff sack that it comes with is roughly 12″ x 7″ and it can compress even smaller when stuffing it into your backpack.
Any update on your experiences with this bag?
Jeff Hester says
Al, I used this bag on 99% of my backcountry trips in the Sierra Mountains, from May to October. It’s a great 3-season bag. There were a couple times where we had temperatures below freezing at night, and I made two adjustments for the cold: first, when I suspected colder temps, I brought an insulated sleeping pad (I used a Thermarest Z-Lite). Second, I layered up as necessary to stay warm.
Bottom line? It’s my go-to sleeping bag unless I’m expecting single digit temperatures.
I bought this bag three years ago, after reading Jeff’s review and others. If you need a 3 season bag and value comfort, this is a great bag. It’s not cheap and it’s not ultra light. It is, at least for me, much more comfortable than a traditional mummy bag. Much more.
I’ve taken it on several trips, including a 50 miler in the Olympics and two 35 milers in North Cascades. I slept great.
Thanks Jeff for the great review. I totally agree with your conclusions.
Jeffrey Hester says
Thanks, Adam. Glad it’s worked out well for you, too. Sierra Designs makes some great gear.