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.