Rethinking the Sleeping Bag: The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed

No zippers. No Velcro. No cords. No toggles. The Backcountry Bed instead features a single large oval-shaped opening on top with an integrated comforter that you can snug around you as tightly, or loosely, as conditions merit.

Sierra Designs unveiled this radical rethink of sleeping bag design earlier this month at this year's Summer Outdoor Retailer, earning a Gear of the Show Award from Outside Magazine.

I'm always amazed at the relentless effort that goes into redesigning outdoor gear, especially gear designs that have successfully stood the test of time for decades, such as the classic mummy bag.

That being said, there are certainly some minor drawbacks to traditional sleeping bag designs that the Backcountry Bed clearly addresses. One, there is no zipper to get maddeningly stuck as you attempt to close it, a particularly annoying feature of virtually every sleeping bag I've used; and two, no scratchy Velcro tabs to pester you inside the bag, which I've also experienced on the hood closures and neck baffles of some sleeping bag styles.

The Backcountry Bed also appears to be cut wider around the torso and shoulders, which will likely make it more comfortable for tossers and turners. (Nemo Equipment also addressed this with a sleeping bag rethink in their Spoon Series.)

My potential concerns with the design hinge around the comforter element—how tightly it can be sealed and whether it may come loose as you shift around during the night—and the lack of a secure-fitting hood, which provides substantial warmth gains in cold conditions. But until I can hop inside one and test it out personally, the jury will remain out.

The Backcountry Bed isn't yet available for sale, and a lot of the specs don't seem to be available, but here's what we do know at the moment: It will be available in Spring 2014 in both a 30-degree and 15-degree men's and women's versions. You'll be able to choose between 600-fill and 800-fill DriDown insulation, with the 800-fill version ($349 to $399) weighing in at 2 pounds and 2 pounds, 7 ounces for the 30- and 15-degree versions, respectively. The 600-fill option will presumably be less expensive and a bit heavier, but no word yet on the exact details.

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 “Equipped” is an AMC Outdoors blog, written by Matt Heid.

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