The Sleeping Bag Re-Imagined: A Field Test of the ZenBivy Bed

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Decades ago, the mummy-style sleeping bag was born as a warmer, lighter, and more packable improvement upon your grandfather’s Boy Scout bag (which was little more than a variation on the old theme of wrapping yourself up in a wool blanket when sleeping out under the stars). And while mummy bags are great at keeping you warm through cold nights, they kinda suck in one crucial area: actually fostering restful sleep.

Fed up with this problem, longtime outdoor-gear designer Michael Glavin has reinvented the sleeping bag with his new Zenbivy Bed, currently in pre-launch on Kickstarter. We got to test his idea on a recent campout, and the verdict is unanimous: Zenbivy is the best outdoor sleep system we’ve ever tried.

While more complex than a quilt or mummy, Zenbivy’s design is still simple, intuitive, and elegant. By deconstructing a traditional bag and pad, with an eye toward maximum comfort and the wide variety of natural sleep positions that ensure most folks get a good night’s rest, Glavin has created a fully modern, modular, and exceedingly versatile snooze sack. 

Rated to 25°F, with 700-fill-power HyperDry 80/20 duck down, and weighing two pounds, six ounces, Zenbivy is composed of two parts: shape-shifting quilt up top, and a sleeping-pad sleeve with integrated hood down below. The removable, backless 3/4-mummy top fully unzips into a down quilt to lay flat.

In full mummy mode, the zippered and cinched footbox kept cold toes warm, but as early-morning sun began to make things toasty, we were able to quickly unzip and uncinch it for quick temperature regulation and immediate comfort-level tweakage. The down hood of the sleeping-pad sleeve (which Zenbivy dubs a “fitted sheet”) doubles as a pillow cozy, if you want to sleep on top of the hood itself in warmer temps. The bottom of the sleeping-pad sleeve wraps around a variety of inflatable pads at the head and feet but is mostly open, with straps for securing the pad. Zippered “wings” flanking the sides of the hood zip into the quilt not at its edges but about 12 inches in, on the surface, so you can wrap more of the down under your bod and enjoy better insulation, as well as welcome baffling against cold that would otherwise seep in through zipper channels. It’s a new gold standard — allowing you to mummify yourself against freezing temps, let it all hang out on hot summer nights, and everything in between — in one affordable system.

The Kickstarter price is $250 ($30 off the planned MSRP of $280). Promised delivery is January 2018.

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