It’s hard to believe that it’s already been four years since I covered the original Backcountry Bed. At the time, I loved the product for its stunningly innovative design and its high weight-to-performance ratio. It was a lightweight, comfortable down product – but it also cost around $400. Coming in hot for Fall 2018 is the updated Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed, weighing in light on the scale and in the wallet.
Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700 / 35 Degree Features:
- 700-fill power insulation
- Patent pending zipperless design / no zippers = more comfort
- Oversized integrated comforter / all the comforts of your bed at home
- Insulated hand/arm pockets / helps to seal out drafts
- Patented self sealing foot vent / fast and easy ventilation
- Stretch cord closure system / helps to seal out drafts
- Sleeping pad sleeve keeps pad under you for comfort and warmth and replaces unnecessary bottom insulation
- MSRP: $250
A good idea just got more gooder
The updated Backcountry Bed 700 has many similarities to the 2014 original, including the zipperless design, vented foot box and attached pad sleeve. But, in many respects, the 2018 version represents a radical re-design of the old product. Probably the biggest change is the altered shape of the opening, which now seems to feature a deeper pocket around the shoulders and sides, a more snug cut around the head and legs, and an elastic keeper cord at the waist.
The new design is supposed to be more thermally efficient and it has certainly cut weight. This new 700-fill, 35 degree version 1lb 15oz with 13.9oz of fill weight. It’s also surprisingly affordable at $250, which is a testament to the work the SD team has done at lowering costs. The flashy aspect of the Backcountry Bed is its total lack of hardwear (no zippers, zipper pulls, etc), and while this results in a very soft, comfy package, it also represents cost savings and those have been passed on to the consumer.
The material is split between 20D polyester ripstop on the exterior and polyester taffeta on the inside. The taffeta fabric is a wonderfully comfortable, soft-to-the-touch weave that feels great to squirm around in. It’s hard to quantify this, but it feels like the material doesn’t get as clammy or sticky like other nylon weaves. One benefit to the polyester exterior is the natural water-repellant qualities of polyester, which does not hold as much moisture as nylon. This, coupled with the DWR and DriDown, offers pretty robust protection against the damp.
The cut of this new Backcountry Bed is subtly refined from the old version. While this is also hard to quantify, it seems to me that the bag is slightly more generous in the shoulders and chest but more snug around the head and legs. A key benefit to the added space around the shoulders and torso is that the bag doesn’t dictate how you sleep – you can sleep on your side, back or spread-eagle. At least for your upper body. The tighter fit around the legs preserves some thermal efficiency, but there’s still a self-sealing foot vent for those warm nights.
An interesting new feature is the drawstring across the waist of the bag. It’s hard for me to tell exactly what the purpose of this is. However, I’ve found two uses. One is simply to alter how far down the quilt goes when you flop it off your body; it keeps it higher up on your torso. However, the more useful feature I’ve found is that you can use it to tighten the bag around your waist to preserve heat. Did I use this feature much? No, I didn’t – but I was also using this bag in the middle of August in central Oregon. It’s probably helpful when it’s colder.
My coolest night out was about 40 degrees, and the bag was flawless at this temperature. The quilt apparently features zoned insulation, with less insulation around its edge (since that gets tucked into the bag anyway) and more across the top. This is more efficient and the bag is plenty warm down to the high 30’s, I would say. I wouldn’t push it much past its 35 degree limit, but that’s just me. On cold nights, though, the bag actually feels like it seals up pretty well. I would say this is improved from the old version, largely due to the tighter fit at the legs and the differently shaped opening. The pockets in the quilt corners help you to tuck yourself in like a wee baby.
On the flip side, the bag actually struggles a little bit on warmer nights despite the convenience of the quilt design; this is because there’s basically no way to regulate temperature over your thighs. On a conventional bag you could just unzip down that far, but there’s no such option with the Backcountry Bed. This is significant because one of the warmest spots on your body is your groin, and there’s no way to vent that particular area. I began to feel uncomfortable around 65 degrees, but I also run warm.
Sleeping in the Backcountry Bed is like nothing else out there. You decide how you want to sleep, and the bag will give you space to do that. Side and belly sleepers in particular will rejoice over this. The integrated pad sleeve is lightweight and accommodates wide pads, helping to keep the bag rooted. This is particularly important because there’s very little insulation on the underside of the bag, which saves weight but needs to be kept beneath the body or else you’ll get cold.
- New design is lighter, warmer, more comfortable and less expensive
- Zoned insulation throughout the bag is used carefully and effectively
- Vented footbox is what you need when you need it, and seals up well when you don’t
- Elastic strap thingy across the waist is cool and probably helpful on cold nights, but you can also totally use the bag without it
- Ventilation options are sufficient, but not as good as a conventional zippered bag
The Bottom Line: Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700
The Backcountry Bed is hard to beat in terms of sheer comfort and user-friendliness. If you have a friend who’s struggled to get a good night’s sleep in the backcountry, this ought to be your next Christmas gift for them (or for yourself). I particularly recommend this to new campers who might be put off by constrictive mummy bags, but it’s also a good option for experienced hikers who know the specialized uses and limitations of a non-technical bag like the Backcountry Bed. Overall, this product is highly recommended. Great work on the redesign, Sierra Designs.
Buy Now: Available from Backcountry.com