Choosing a mattress is important and, when done right, life-changing in the best way. Choosing a sleeping bag can be life-altering, too, but usually under less savory circumstances – think frostbite, hypothermia, lopped-off extremities or worse. On a practical level, the trade-offs between comfort and weight, whether a bag is a two season or three season, and the vagaries of individual sleeping patterns make picking the perfect bag an arduous task. We recently tested out a contender, the Backcountry Bed, by Sierra Designs, and found it fulfills most all of our qualifications and needs and is a worthy all-around bag for both dedicated and casual outdoorsmen.
A number of innovative design elements distinguish the Backcountry Bed from the endless variety of bags out there. For starters, the zipperless design is not just aesthetically beneficial, it also allows more movement when we sleep, whether turning on our back, side, or stomach (and it offers an instant cure for early morning zipper face). The interior is smooth and snag-free and is lined with 30d polyester taffeta, while the shell is composed of rigid 30d ripstop polyester. The inclusion of a sleeve that accommodates a sleeping pad on the underside of the bag adds an extra layer of comfort and a sense of stability. And in particular, an integrated quilt really makes for a blissful night's sleep: The bag's man-size opening allows for easy entry, while the oversize quilt folds out like a large tongue. For warmer nights, it can be left folded down to your legs on the inside or outside of the bag, while for colder situations the quilt can be brought around the head and tucked in. And for those of us who like to read at night without losing a finger, the quilt has two insulated hand pockets that are comfortable and functional.
The Backcountry Bed comes in either 600- or 800-fill duck DriDown, Sierra Designs's hydrophobic, compressible down insulation (the 600 is good to 30 degrees, while the 800 is warm enough for 15-degree weather). Anyone who has suffered from (or caused) the accidental soaking of their bag from rain, heavy dew, or just dunking will appreciate the value of DriDown, which aggressively repels liquids so you don't end up toting around a 50-pound sponge.
We opted for the heavier duty 800-fill duck, which compresses down to eight by five inches and weighs a mere two pounds, seven ounces. All of this easily rolls (or stuffs, more likely) into its small bag and fits comfortably in our pack – talk about rest assured. [$250; sierradesigns.com]