I’d give up 5.14 for the ability to sleep well anywhere, any time. I’m a horrible sleeper. I’m often hot, uncomfortable and mildly in pain from too much climbing/stress. When it comes to dreaming about all the things I wish that I was better at, sleeping is right at the top of the list.

It sounds like a weird thing to wish for, but all the latest research indicates that quality and duration of sleep directly hugely benefits both creativity and athleticism—the two things that I care most about most.

I’ve spent hundreds of nights in sleeping bags of all brands, fills, temperature ratings and designs. No matter what the situation, the experience has been profoundly the same:

Never quite right.

Sierra-Designs-Backcountry-1Too hot. Too cold. Too twisted. Too uncomfortable. Too confined. I’ve spent countless nights cocooned within a mummy-style bag, only to wake hours later in a feverish sweat and desperately performing Houdini-grade maneuvers to somehow unzip myself despite a zipper that annoyingly snags on every other baffle of fabric. Or what about the perpetual game of “hot and cold”—in which you take your feet out of the bag and lay it on top of you like a blanket, only to find yourself frozen 15 minutes later so you get back in and wait until your feet are so hot you wish you could just saw them off.

With all this in mind, the award for my most favorite piece of new gear tested in 2014 probably has to go to the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed—an innovative sleeping bag that did away with the zipper and completely re-engineered the basic structure of the classic mummy-style bag to create a new way of sleeping in the places you love most. Bottom line: the Backcountry Bed makes it easier for you to adjust your temperature throughout the night with far less disruption to your sleep. That’s a bingo!

Instead of painstakingly describing each and every feature in the bag, I’ll encourage you to watch this video from Sierra Designs that shows how the bag works.

My favorite feature is easily the ability to pop your feet out of the bag or back in. It takes a few tries to find the flap with your feet, but once you master the motion (takes only a few tries), you can literally give your feet air, or warmth, in your sleep.

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The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 600 15-Degree Women’s $339

What’s also great about this bag is its versatility. It has a place everywhere from most weekend-warrior camping situations to something you can bring when you crash on your climbing partner’s couch. Even in an expedition base-camp situation, the Backcountry Bed would greatly increase your comfort in your base-camp tent. However, this sleeping bag isn’t really meant for technical climbing or mountaineering situations (bivvying on the side of a mountain, etc.).

The Backcountry Bed comes in two classes of fill-powers—600 fill and 800 fill DriDown—and two temperature ratings—15-degree and 30-degree. The 800-fill class is lighter and more expensive than the 6-0-fill power class. I always prefer higher-quality down, if given the choice, so I opted for the 800-fill 30-degree Backcountry Bed. It weighs just 2 pounds and packs down to the size of a loaf of bread. I’ve been using it in cold to mild to hot conditions throughout this past spring and summer, and haven’t had a problem with the temperature. I’d certainly opt for the 3-season bag if I were to do more camping in the late fall and winter.

For those not familiar with DriDown, it describes Sierra Designs’ proprietary process for applying a water-resistant polymer to down feathers. Sierra Designs claims DriDown keeps feathers dry seven times longer than regular down in the presence of moisture. Further, the treated feathers will dry three times faster, and retain more loft.

Having tested DriDown with both this bag, as well as the Sierra Designs Zissou, I’ve been impressed with the resilience and imperviousness of DriDown in the presence of moisture, whether that’s condensation from my tent or whether that’s because I’m sleeping near a body of water.

This is a fantastic new product. If you hate sleeping in normal sleeping bags, then I highly recommend giving this one a try. It changed my perspective on what it means to get a good night’s sleep while camping at a climbing area. I said that I’d give up 5.14 for a good night’s sleep, but now, fortunately, I can at least dream about sending one …

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