SLEEPING BAGS

The North Face Cat’s Meow Sleeping Bag: A Popular Synthetic Choice

The North Face Cat's Meow Sleeping Bag
Daniel Carraway
Written by Daniel Carraway

It is said that if you wish to get a sleeping bag of decent quality, you cannot go for one that costs less than $200. This poses a difficulty for hikers on a budget. You’re really looking for something about $50 cheaper, and yet at the same time, you do not want to get trapped on a cold mountaintop, shivering under the inadequate protection of a flimsy sleeping bag.

You’re not alone; there are lots of hikers that have faced the same dilemma you are currently troubled by, which is why the popular solution—The North Face Cat’s Meow Sleeping Bag— has become one of the most successful synthetic sleeping bags in today’s market.

Product Specifications

  • Nylon
  • Optimized fill achieves a smaller packed size
  • Continuous-filament and cut-staple Heatseeker Pro insulation maximize thermal performance
  • Shaped hood for more warmth and comfort, hand-warmer pockets
  • Glow-in-the-dark zipper with Velcro patch where the zipper opens
  • Gender-Neutral color options: serene ensign blue and a cool zinc grey
  • Touted as a durable sleeping bag that can last for 30 years

Check the price on Amazon

The Meow breaks the age-old belief that no sleeping bag that costs under $200 is a worthy purchase. You’ll find that there is no need to worry about poor heat retention or low durability when you go for the Cat’s Meow. You will be able to sleep in a comfortable warmth even when the temperature drops down to 20°F. As for durability, currently the top record is 30 years and counting.

Review

A good sleeping bag is one that is warm, lightweight, is easy to get into and get out of, wards off the chilly wind well, compresses well, is water-resistant, and can stand the test of time. The Cat’s Meow offers all of that at a very affordable price. To put it roughly, there is nothing particularly unique or special about this bag, but it’s a reliable choice in all the areas that matter—so much so that it has become a classic.

It’s not the lightest, but it is lightweight enough; it’s not the warmest, but it is warm enough. You would scarcely be able to find a better option in the same price range. As if it’s not a good enough value for money, the manufacturer, North Face, generously throws in a compression sack on top of a storage sack. If nothing else, it’s definitely a tempting deal.

Packaging

The Meow comes not only with the usual storage bag, but also with the addition of a compression sack. With just the storage bag, you can fold this sleeping bag into a small, handy size of 9”x17”, but with some help from the compression bag, the Meow will shrink down easily into the size of a soccer ball, taking up no more than 9”x12” in your backpack.

The North Face Cat's Meow pack

There are other sleeping bags that can be compressed into a smaller size, but these are mostly double or triple the Meow’s price. For its price tag, the Meow delivers an admirable packaging.

North Face presents you with 2 size options in case you are thinking about purchasing a Meow. The regular size will accommodate hikers with a height of up to 6’0”, whereas the longer option is made to stretch out to 6’6”. However, you may not be able to enjoy the full benefits of the adjustable hood in case you stretch the length of this sleeping bag to its limit, so it’s best if you are just a little bit shorter than the advertised full extent.

Design & Durability

There’s not much to complain about when it comes to the Meow’s design. It does its job of keeping the person sleeping inside warm and toasty. The combination of a foot box, full-length zipper, a hood, hand-warmer pockets, and a neck baffle really traps the warmth in and keeps the cold out. It allows for a comfortable night of sleep even when the temperature drops to below the advertised 20°F limit at night.

The North Face Cat's Meow design

The design is not only admirable because of its effectiveness, but also because this sleeping bag is quite adjustable. The hood is especially well-designed. With a draw cord that you can easily pull on with one hand, it will fit well around your head without bearing down too much and making you feel claustrophobic.

The neck baffle works well in conjunction with the hood, allowing you to wholly close your face off against any frosty attacks or open it up for a quick breather in case you need some air.

As for the hand-warmer pockets, these are an addition that not all sleeping bags have, and a good one at that. Even if you are not one to get cold around your extremities, you will still find this addition pleasant, because it’s made from fleece, and it really adds another layer of comfort to the whole experience of sleeping inside this sleeping bag. The color is another unique choice from North Face that really works. You can choose between a serene ensign blue and a cool zinc grey. They are both pretty gender-neutral.

The mummy shape may be a bit of a controversial point, because not everyone likes being all wrapped up in their sleeping bag and not being able to budge as they sleep through the night, but the Meow actually leaves quite a bit of space to move around in, as long as you are not that tall.

The regular-sized bag claims to be able to accommodate a person with a height of up to 6’0”, but is actually more suitable for people no taller than 5’5”. The larger bag is advertised to be for people measuring up to 6’6”, but may not be all that comfortable for anyone taller than 6’2”.

The North Face Cat's Meow durability

North Face certainly added some extra quirks to the Meow that make it stand out. The zipper is glow-in-the-dark, which is a nice touch that makes it simpler to adjust the bag for more or less airflow during the night. North Face also puts a Velcro patch where the zipper opens. This is honestly not that necessary of an addition, but it’s at least worth noting that even the Velcro is of good-quality and doesn’t have trouble sticking even after repeated usage.

There are no major concerns about durability. This synthetic sleeping bag is made to last. There are some concerns that the newer models have dropped in durability, but not by much, and the older models have been known to last for more than 30 years.

The overall fabric and insulation fill of the Meow will last for a long time, but there are some caveats. Be careful about throwing this sleeping bag in the washing machine since it blows up like a balloon inside and may rip if pushed too far to the limit. You also might want to pay extra attention to the zippers. They make up the less-sturdy parts of this sleeping bag.

Model

The North Face Cat’s Meow is a legendary sleeping bag that has a long history, dating back to the 80s. Since then, there have been several upgrades done by the company to attract new purchasers upon the release of a new model. Whether these new models are able to live up to the legend depends on which version it is and precisely what upgrades have been done, but there is a general consensus among hikers that have tried on both.

The North Face Cat's Meow model

Most hikers seem to lean toward the older models, claiming that these are better-designed and more durable. Newer models come with an assortment of unique accessories, yes, but with extra features come extra hassle.

If you are looking for a solid sleeping bag that does its job without all the extra frill, then you want the older model. However, it does not mean that the newer models are low-quality products that only survive by riding on the coattails of the older models.

Among the newer models, the 2003 version has had a noticeable success. The main reason for its popularity is the coloring. Cat’s Meow 2007, the one released after the 2003 version, sported colors that just seemed a little bit lackluster in comparison. Thankfully, North Face picked up on that mistake and had been improving the colors displayed on the later versions, which was how Cat’s Meow became a hit once again.

Warmth

Equipped with polyester fiber fill to provide the utmost insulation without all the hassle of a down fill, the Meow is set as a sleeping bag that can withstand a temperature of 20°F in the wild, which is an impressive number for its price tag.

Whether this sleeping bag really fulfills the standard North Face has set or not depends on the individual inclination of the user—whether they tend to run cold or hot, as is the case with every other sleeping bag. In general, however, it does its job well as a three-season sleeping bag.

The North Face Cat's Meow warmth

Whether it’s a river run during the summer or a high-altitude trek in the autumn, this sleeping bag will keep you warm at night. A trip during the winter might be a bit rough if you don’t come equipped with extras such as a sleeping pad and warm winter gear, however. The basic threshold for this sleeping bag is 20°F to 40°F. Any lower than 20°F and you’ll feel a bit of the chill. Any higher than 40°F and you might start to feel hot in the Meow.

The best part is how flexible this sleeping bag is when it comes to temperature adjustment. All you need to do is pull down the zipper or open up your neck baffle and draft tube when you start to feel like you’re going to appreciate a bit more airflow. Even the hood can be adjusted easily by pulling on the draw cord.

Weight

The Meow is not the lightest sleeping bag in its class, but neither is it the heaviest. Weighing just a bit more than 2 pounds, the Meow is certainly among the lightest synthetic bags, but when compared to a down-fill sleeping bag, it’s really rather heavy. This shouldn’t be a problem as long as you do not plan to take the Meow on long-distance trips where every drain on your stamina needs to be eliminated.

The North Face Cat's Meow weight

Despite its heavier weight, however, the Meow does not feel bulky. Thanks to the compression sack that comes with every purchase, it should fit comfortably in your backpack if you could just leave a small space for it—about the size of a basketball. It’s perfect for shorter trips.

The newer models are heavier than the older models thanks to the added features. You need to decide which one you value more—accessories or weight. In case you value the latter, you should still go for the older models instead of dismissing the Meow entirely. Most other synthetic bags are about half a pound heavier than this one.

Value for Money & Guarantee

You can purchase this sleeping bag on Amazon for approximately $159. Note that the longer version will be about $20 more expensive than a regular-sized one. The Meow has a good reputation of being a worthy purchase. It’s considered really cheap for the list of benefits that it offers. Touted as a durable sleeping bag that is able to last for 30 years, if the Meow even lasts half as long as that, it will already be a great value for money.

The North Face Cat's Meow features

North Face is an established company with experience in the business. North Face pays special attention to Cat’s Meow, since it is their best-selling sleeping bag, and one that ultimately brought fame to their company name. If you cannot count on North Face’s lifetime warranty against defects, you can at least count on the fact that North Face will never let the long-standing reputation of their best-seller suffer.

Close Competitors

Cosmic Down 20 Degree Sleeping BagCosmic Down 20 Degree Sleeping Bag

The Cosmic Down 20 Degree Sleeping Bag provides a revolutionary solution for the well-known problem that typically comes with down insulation. Thanks to its DriDown technology, the Cosmic is amazingly waterproof. By treating the down with a molecular level polymer, Kelty has managed to create the hydrophobic DriDown that will work to repel water in order to keep you warm and dry all through the night.

Wet down is the bane of any hiker’s existence, which is usually the reason why some prefer synthetic sleeping bags despite the heavier weight. But with this bag, there is no need to worry about that. Even if the Cosmic does get wet, the DriDown fill will make sure that water stays trapped on top of the fabric instead of seeping into the inner layer. It dries very quickly, too—about 33% faster than regular down.

This sleeping bag is a great choice if you are looking for a lighter option than the synthetic Cat’s Meow. But with every ounce taken out of the sleeping bag, the money you have to pay for it increases. This sleeping bag is about $50 more expensive than the Cat’s Meow.

It is natural for down-fill bags to be more expensive than synthetic bags. That is the main point of difference between the Cosmic and the Cat’s Meow. In all other aspects, the two bags are quite evenly-matched. They are both made to withstand a temperature of 20°F, and even the designs are similar. In the end, it comes down to which one you prefer according to your personal tastes: down or synthetic.

Mountain Hardwear Spark 35 Sleeping BagMountain Hardwear Spark 35 Sleeping Bag

If you are looking for a lightweight synthetic sleeping bag that you can carry with you during long runs in the wild, then look no further than Mountain Hardwear Spark 35 Sleeping Bag. Weighing no more than 1 pound and 15 ounces, this sleeping bag is hard to beat in the weight department. Even down-fill sleeping bags are not usually that lightweight.

Whether you should choose HyperLamina over the Cat’s Meow depends on your needs. In case your priority is to reduce the weight of your backpack as much as possible, then the HyperLamina would definitely be the better choice. On the other hand, the HyperLamina will only keep you warm as long as the temperature does not drop below 35°F, whereas the Meow stands firm against a temperature of 20°F.

Price-wise, there’s not much of a gap between the two options, with the HyperLamina costing maybe $5 more than the Meow does. Both are mummy-shaped and come with a compression sack as well as a storage bag. One point of contention would be the color. With only a single color option—a bright gingko yellow that is definitely not for everyone—if you would prefer a less cheerful sleeping bag, then the Cat’s Meow is better-equipped to fulfill that need.

The North Face Cat’s Meow Reg Blue RibbonThe North Face Cats Meow Reg Blue Ribbon

Coming from the same manufacturer and belonging to the same product line, there are many similarities between the Cat’s Meow reviewed above and The North Face Cat’s Meow Reg Blue Ribbon. The main difference lies in their temperature range and insulation system. Whereas the first Meow comes with a Heatseeker Pro insulation, the blue ribbon is equipped with Climashield Prism.

The continuous filament that comes with Climashield Prism makes this sleeping bag a very fluffy, comfortable one to sleep in. This is the reason why the blue ribbon is more expensive by about $30 than the first Cat’s Meow despite the lower temperature range—as the blue ribbon is designed to shield the user fully against the cold as long as the temperature does not drop below 35°F, as opposed to the Meow’s 20°F. The blue ribbon is one step ahead of the first Cat’s Meow when it comes to comfort.

In most other departments, the blue ribbon and the first Cat’s Meow are quite similar. Both are synthetic 3-season sleeping bags that are cut in a mummy-style. They both weigh just a bit over 2 pounds and come with a prepackaged compression bag. In case you tend to run cold, though, the blue ribbon’s temperature threshold may not be enough for you when you travel to high-altitude areas. The first Cat’s Meow would be the better choice in this situation.

Overview

The North Face Cat’s Meow is a classic 3-season choice for hikers. This sleeping bag has been in good standing with the community since the 80s, and has continued to preserve its reputation as the standard go-to bag for hikers who are looking for a balanced combination of value and price.

Able to keep you warm in a temperature of 20°F, the Cat’s Meow is a versatile sleeping bag that also won’t let you get too hot when the degree starts climbing thanks to the easily-adjustable hood, zipper, and neck baffle.

As a synthetic bag, the Cat’s Meow is naturally heavier than a down-fill bag, but it also promises convenience because it will not get saturated with water no matter how wet it gets. The Cat’s Meow will easily last frequent usage of more than 10 years, and perhaps even 30 years if you treat it with care. For a sleeping bag that costs approximately $159, this ones provides a lost list of competitive advantages.

Pros:

  • Comes with a compression bag
  • Affordable and durable
  • Can be adjusted to let air in when it gets hot
  • A popular and well-known choice among hikers

Cons:

  • Zipper is not as sturdy and non-snag as it is advertised
  • A bit snug for taller people
  • May not be suitable for machine-washing

The North Face Cat’s Meow is a tried and true bag that has proven itself countless times over by accompanying different hikers on their journeys around the world for more than 30 years. The design has changed a bit, but overall it retains its best features—living up to the Meow’s reputation as a versatile bag that delivers a good value for money. If you are looking for a well-designed bag that will become your partner on all kinds of trips, then the Cat’s Meow is a good place to start.

Do you think the Cat’s Meow deserves its long-lasting popularity? You can share your opinion about this sleeping bag by posting a comment down below.  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Daniel Carraway
Daniel Carraway

Daniel Carraway joined our team last year. He is a gear freak when it comes to hiking, climbing and camping. He went to REI Outdoor School to meet new people and learn best practices. Don’t even try to argue with him about the latest backpack or ice axe, he tried most of them. Daniel’s dream is to climb Mount Everest.

  • Tom Payne

    The North Face Cat’s Meow Sleeping Bag is definitely one of my favorite sleeping bags. I bought it for my wife actually and she really loves it. We first used it for a trip to the mountain last year and it did not disappoint. It kept her warm despite of the very cold temperature.

    • Daniel Carraway

      We love it!

  • Will Edward

    My sister loves Mountain Hardwear HyperLamina Spark 35 Sleeping Bag. I have never seen it personally, but she is crazy about it. She keeps on saying that it is the best bag she ever bought and that it is worth the money. I may have to look more into it now that you mentioned it too.

    • Daniel Carraway

      Thanks!

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