We at the Loadout Room are all about a product’s versatility, myself included. I don’t want to use a so-called “one-trick pony.” The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed falls far from that phrase. I had a chance to check out this ‘newer’ offering from Sierra Designs at the 2015 Outdoor Retailer Winter Market, and have gotten my hands on one to run through some backcountry use. Products that are completely outside of the norm are traditionally treated with skepticism, and rightfully so, as many new “highly innovative” products seem like a great idea, but fail in practicality.
The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed offers several great features, from the integrated pad sleeve to the hands-free baffled foot vent, but one stands out above the rest: the lack of a zipper. Instead, the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed has a built-in quilt that is very similar to a traditional down comforter made for a bed you’d find in your home. The quilt can be left tucked or untucked depending on the user’s temperature-regulation needs. Not having to deal with a snagging zipper is quite refreshing when you want to cool off, warm up, or when nature calls in the middle of the night.
On a recent ridgeline traverse in the Cascades, I traveled about 12 miles and through 8,000 feet of elevation change. Needless to say, I was a bit tuckered and just wanted to relax, get some food in my stomach, and go to sleep. Upon arrival to my destination, I pulled out the two-season Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed, a stove, and food. The versatility of the quilt enabled me to sit inside the Backcountry Bed, sitting up with the quilt draped over me all while cooking, eating, and enjoying the view. Not that these tasks couldn’t be performed in a traditional mummy, just not with the same ease and comfort.
I slept without a tent or bivvy under the stars and a nearly full moon. The temperature dropped down to around the low ’20s with a slight breeze. Although the lowest temperature rating of the bag is 29° F, I was comfortable throughout the night while wearing a light base layer and socks. I tend to be a warm sleeper, so this may push the limits of comfort for other users. For those wanting a slightly warmer version of the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed, they do offer it in a three-season version with a lower limit rating of 20° F.
The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed has an integrated pad sleeve that keeps everything together and brings out the full comfort of the bag. By inserting a pad into the sleeve, the bag stayed stationary and allowed me to sleep on my back, stomach, and both sides. Despite all that twisting and turning, I wasn’t twisted up like a pretzel, nor did I roll off my pad like I have so many times in the past with a traditional mummy bag. The hand pockets at each corner of the quilt allow for easy tucking and protect your arms if you choose to sleep in the prone position.
Traditionally, down has been the standard for lightweight, warm, and compressible bags. The downside has always been moisture. Down is great and works perfectly when dry, but get it wet and it becomes a clumpy cold mess. In recent years, companies such as Sierra Designs have been chemically treating their down to make it waterproof, or at least very moisture resistant.
Waking up in the morning, my bag was covered in a light layer of frost and dew near my head. In the past, the down in that region would start to clump and lose its loft (down keeps its warmth by the high loft it holds, trapping warm air between the fibers). Instead, the Backcountry Bed retained its loft and warmth throughout the night—even with the moisture. I have yet to use this bag in a full downpour, but considering I am based out of the Cascades, the chances are high it will happen eventually. I will report further in a full, long-term review.
Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 800 Two-Season Specs:
- EN comfort limit: 38° F / 3° C
- EN lower limit: 29° F / -2° C (I pushed this into the lower ’20s by wearing a light base layer, wool cap, and socks)
Weight: 2 lbs / 0.91 kg (regular)
- Sleeping length: 80 inches (regular)
- Stuffed: 14 x 7 inches. This thing will pack down much smaller if using a small adjustable compression sack. One of the great benefits of down is its great compressibility.
- Shell: 20D nylon ripstop
- Liner: 20D nylon taffeta
- Insulation 800 fill duck DriDown
Given its size, comfort, and packability, the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed is worth looking into if you have a hard time getting a good night’s rest in the backcountry. It’s also a great option if you want a new bag with loads of versatility. The width of the bag is also a great feature and allowed me to sleep with my pants and belay jacket tucked in next to me throughout the night. No one enjoys getting up during a cold morning to put on cold and stiff clothing. There was enough width in the bag to keep me sleeping comfortably, and enabled me to put my clothes back on while staying in the bag. The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed is a bag for any type of sleeper.
Stay tuned for a forthcoming long-term review.