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Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700 Review
Cons: Not super light, less compact that other similar temperature rated bags in our review
Bottom line: The perfect bag for folks who generally dislike the tapered cut of traditional mummy bags but still want an option that offers respectable weight, thermal efficiency, and compressibility.
The three season Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700 bag brings a pretty unique design to the table, creating one of the more comfortable bed-like feels of any sleeping bag we have ever tested. It features no zippers, toggles or Velcro flaps of any kind, but instead offers a huge "U"-shaped opening that is covered by a down flap and acts as a quilt. This quilt/flap is not only a cozy way to close your bag, but our review team also found it helped to regulate temperature, particularly on warmer nights. The best part of this model is its relatively unmatched freedom of movement, offering tummy sleepers an excellent option that lets them tuck their arms under a pillow or jacket.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
While not the lightest nor the most compact in our review, the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700 is a fantastic option for folks who dislike the cut or feel of traditional mummy bags but still need something suitable for extended outings. At just under two pounds, the Backcountry Bed 700 35 degree offers a decent weight and is tough to beat from a comfort standpoint.
The Backcountry Bed 700 is a 35° F bag with an impressive 13.9 ounces of 700 fill that has been treated weather resistant down. This is more volume than most 35F bags, though it's worth noting that any bag that features a roomier fit/cut will require more fill material to accommodate the larger diameter girth and to compensate for poorer thermal efficiency. With that said, you'd almost wonder if this bag wasn't as warm as many other 35°F bags, but that's simply not that case; in fact, we found it warmer than a majority of them.
Overall, our testing team found the Backcountry Bed 700 was warmer than the Mountain Hardwear Hyperlamina Spark 35, Patagonia 850 down 30, and the Marmot Phase 30. The 700 provided similar performance to its comfortable competitor, the Nemo Salsa 30 and was of comparable warmth.
Despite its luxurious dimensions and comfort-oriented features, the Backcountry Bed 700 offers a pretty darn respectable weight, tipping the scales at an impressive 1 pound 15 ounces. To help keep its weight low, while also maintaining a high level of comfort and spaciousness, the Backcountry Bed is designed with no zippers or Velcro flaps and is constructed with a lighter than average 20D polyester ripstop exterior.
While it's not as lightweight as other contenders that offer top-tier performance, the Backcountry Bed 700 (generally being 4-8 ounces heavier than similarly rated bags) is still two ounces lighter than its comfort competition, the Nemo Salsa 30. It's also a full pound lighter than the Kelty Tuck 20.
New for the season, this model is much lighter than the previous Backcountry Bed 600, which is rated at 25F, and weighs 3 lbs 1 oz. The 35-degree Backcountry Bed 700 is not as warm as the 600; our review team thought the 10F difference was accurate in describing the difference between these two models. The plus side of this model is the 700 fill 35F bag did pack down around 1/3 smaller, while being one pound, one ounce lighter, and is still warm enough for most backpackers needs.
Comfort is certainly one of the primary reasons you'd buy this uniquely designed bag.
From the waist up, this model feels like you're in bed, or at least a sizeable rectangular bag. Fortunately, it remains light and packable enough to take backpacking or to be used for summertime mountaineering. The Backcountry Bed's torso area is spacious in girth and super comfortable in design; you can flail your arms however you'd like, roll over, and feel just plain be cozy. The down flap acts as a comforter and is quite a pleasant feeling to pull up around your body on cooler evenings. There is an overlap with a gap in between in the bottom foot area that allows for folks to sleep with their feet exposed if desired. This adds to the comfort factor and is a functional way to regulate temperature.
From the waist down, the Backcountry Bed 700 is undoubtedly spacious; however, it's not quite as roomy as other models in our review. Our high-knee sleeping testers preferred the Nemo Salsa 30, as it allowed for more freedom of movement for our lower extremities. While sleeping in this position (knee straight out from the hip), the Backcountry Bed was comfy and felt similar to the Western Mountaineering MegaLite, but was just not quite as roomy as the Salsa.
While this model didn't offer the same level of freedom and unencumbered mobility around the middle of the bag, it did provide more leg room to wiggle in than a vast majority of sleeping bags out there, especially in this weight category. If you are a belly sleeper, this is one of the best bags for you. It lets you sleep tummy-down, or slightly on your side, with your arms tucked under a pillow. If it's not too cold, you can remain outside of the comforter/flap but still tucked into the central part of the bag for proper temperature regulation.
The Backcountry Bed 700 packs down slightly smaller than its closest competitor the Nemo Salsa 30, or its 25F cousin the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 600. It packs down smaller than other wide synthetic bags, like The North Face Cats Meow.
While not mega compact when compared to the highest performing models in this review, it compresses respectably small nonetheless. We think this model's nighttime spaciousness and comfort comes at an incredibly low packed volume penalty; most buyers considering this model will be impressed by the compressed size it achieves.
The Backcountry Bed isn't incredibly versatile for a wide range of activities, at least in the traditional sense. However; a large cross-section of backpackers and campers will find this model is versatile.
It's plenty comfortable enough for most people that are car camping, but what sets it apart is it's still light and packable enough for a week-long (or longer) excursion. In fact, it's lighter than several 30F models, making it an excellent option for folks who want a light and compact bag but hate the constricting feel of a traditional mummy-style bag.
On the other spectrum of versatility, this contender performs well in a wide range of temperatures and offers fantastic ventilation. The upper flap helps fine tune the amount of warmth desired, depending on the user and the overnight temperature. Conversely, its massive cut allows it to be used with multiple extra layers to increase the heat, should you find yourself in below freezing temperatures on occasion. If it's really cold out and you do move around quite a bit, this bag can feel a little drafty, especially if the down flap/comforter untucks itself.
The Backcountry Bed is best for folks who don't like the feel of a traditional mummy-style bag but still want something respectably light and compact (for extended backcountry adventures). It's cozy enough for car camping or sleeping in your vehicle but light enough for all but the most hardcore gram-counting backpackers and climbers.
On top of its cool design, this bag is a pretty dang good value, ringing in at $250. It's also one of the least expensive down bags that weighs less than two pounds. It's $150-$200 less than several of our award winners that pack down a little smaller and only weigh 4-10 ounces less. One of its closest competitors, the Nemo Salsa, costs $220 and is marginally warmer but a few ounces heavier. The Backcountry Bed 700 is less expensive than the 25F Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 600 3-Season and over a pound lighter, though obviously not quite as warm.
Our entire review team found the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700 is a rad bag for what it is designed to do: offer the most comfortable sleeping bag possible that is still light and compact enough for extended backcountry adventures. While you can certainly buy more compressible and lighter weight bags, none can offer the bed like feel that the 700 provides. If you like this bag but aren't sure you want the flap/comforter design, we'd recommend the WM Megalite, which is around a half pound lighter, half the packed size, and offers more room than most mummy style bags. However, the Megalite doesn't match the Backcountry Bed 700 for pure coziness.
— Ian Nicholson
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