Tuesday, 19 August 2014 11:11

The North Face Cats Meow 20F Tested and Reviewed

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With autumn on its way the nightime temperature is finally starting to drop, and when it comes to testing the TNF Cat's Meow that's welcome. We've had it in for a few weeks now but on initial tests in July it was just too warm.The "Official" ratings for this synthetic bag are Comfort: -1, Limit: -7 and Extreme: -24 but it's only in the last week that we've had temperatures approaching the Comfort rating.

For most people this range of figures is pretty meaningless; sure there's definitions about what "Comfort", "Limit" and "Extreme" mean in terms of an average person's ability to survive, but everyone knows we all sleep differently and one person's Comfort is another person's Limit. Then there's the question of do you rate it wearing clothes or not, base layers only or fully clothed and possibly most important of all; How well is it insulated from the ground? These factors make temperature rating a nightmare and while in real terms we work to a figure between Comfort and Limit it's going to be different for each individual. Whether you sleep warm or cold, however, when you start getting night time temperatures in double figures even the full length zip is going to struggle to give you enough venting. Once you start getting down to freezing, however, it really starts showing its true qualities.

If you're picking out the real highlights of the Cats Meow the PR people will probably want to point out the weight and price compared to down along with the water resistant advantages of synthetic bags in the UK climate but while they're valid points to be honest they're nothing ground breaking; almost any synthetic bag is going to be cheaper than an equivalent in down and the main reason for synthetic bags existing is their superior performance when wet. What makes a difference day in day out are the design and features; the way the bag uses those advantages over down. For the record, though, it tipped the scales at 1218g (excluding stuff sac).

You can't use the Cat's Moew without noticing the zip, not only is it glow-in-the-dark but it has a stiffener that really does stop it snagging - to the point that I sat there and zipped it backwards and forwards 100 times just to see if it would snag at all. It didn't! IT may only appear to be a little thing but if you've ever woken in the middle of the night and tried exiting from your bag in darkness you'll know how infuriating it is to find yourself imprisoned by a reluctant zip and a bit of stray material. Likewise the hood works well, single handed and close fitting but not to the extent of totally covering your face - if you don't need it it's also a good shape for inverting and stuffing with clothes as a pillow The inner fabric is soft and breathable and the outer Firestorm fabric shrugs off condensation readily.

Sleeping in a synthetic bag is slightly different from sleeping in a down bag and the difference is really pronounced in the Cats Meow. While baffles hold down in place to a degree there's still a degree of movement and differential flattening but with the continuous filament Climashield Prism you get a totally uniform and consistent fill that doesn't move at all. Whether this will impact on the durability, with identical spots taking the pressure and compression time after time, is yet to be seen but along with a good neck baffle it certainly helps to eliminate any cold spots.

Spring and Autumn are difficult seasons for sleeping bag selection in the UK with temperature swings of up to 10 or more degrees in 24 hours and rainfall almost guaranteed, but never predictable. This is where the Cats Meow comes into its element and while too warm for summer and not quite up to hadling full on winter temperatures it fills that gap where you want something that can handle a degree of variation while giving you protection if the weather turns. Being synthetic it provides insulation without the high loft associated with down, making it ideal for bivvies and with a street price of around £120 it's affordable.



Comfort: -1°C
Limit: -7°C
Extreme: -24°C

Short: 1134 g; Regular: 1220 g; Long: 1304 g

S/M/L: 23 cm x 43; XLN: 25 cm x 48 cm

  • Combined continuous-filament and cut-staple insulation for maximized performance
  • Draft collar for comfort and to prevent heat loss
  • Included compression sack and storage sack
  • Pad loops for attaching the bag to a sleeping pad
  • Shaped hood for more warmth and comfort
Last modified on Sunday, 23 October 2016 13:06

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