There are the clunky ones you bring to sleepovers as a kid. The ones that have lived for decades in your dad’s garage with the clumpy down and broken zippers. Mummy-style ones that you can’t get comfortable in. The ones you can never seem to shove comfortably into your stuff sack. The ultralight, ultraexpensive ones. I am, of course, talking about sleeping bags. And it wasn’t until I was choosing a new sleeping bag for our national parks trip in Arizona and Utah that I realized just how incredibly hard it is to choose one that’s just right.
Shopping for your first real sleeping bag is a big decision. It’s one that you only have to make a couple of times in your life if you choose well! That’s why I really dithered with the choice. I researched the hell out of some of the most popular sleeping bags on the market. Spent hours reading reviews. Chose one, then changed my mind. And after all that? I chose something seriously unconventional. Rather than going with a well-reviewed bag from a major brand in the outdoor industry, I went for a backpacking quilt from a small startup called Zenbivy. Now, why the hell would I go and do a thing like that?
Photos from The Needles District in Canyonlands National Park.
Because Zenbivy opened my mind about what backcountry sleeping could look like. For my side sleepers, my claustrophobes, and my early adopters, here’s a review of the Zenbivy Light Bed and why you should check it out.
Former Sierra Designs VP, Michael Glavin, created Zenbivy with a team of outdoor industry experts. They set out to design a freestyle sleeping bag that would allow people to sleep as comfortably as they would at home. When they raised funds in a 2017 Kickstarter, they raised far and above their $50,000 goal. Men’s Journal said it was “the best outdoor sleep system we’ve ever tried.” And now, for the last two years, Zenbivy has been extending and improving their product line. They produce backpacking quilts, mattresses, and pillows, and their two major products are The Zenbivy Bed and the Zenbivy Light Bed.
The Zenbivy Bed | The Best for Car Campers
Warmth: EN 23° limit // Weight: 2 lbs 5 oz // Price: $279
The Zenbivy Bed is their original product. While it doesn’t bear the word “light” in its name, it’s all relative. The Zenbivy bed weighs in at just 2 lbs 5 oz and compresses down to 5L. The quilt has zippers that go halfway down both sides that enable you to free up your torso or zip your quilt directly onto your mattress. There’s also a zipper that runs from the middle of the bag down to the footbox so you can zip it into a mummy bag or unzip it completely into a quilt. Read more here.
The Zenbivy Light Bed | The Best for Backpackers
Warmth: EN 23° limit // Weight: 1 lb 13 oz // Price: $359
The Zenbivy Light Bed is newer to the range and the one I went with (full review below). It’s only 1 lb 13 oz and compresses down to 4L. The Light Bed is distinct in its use of cords and hooks rather than zippers. This both cuts back on weight and allows you to flexibly anchor the quilt onto the mattress. The bed is incredibly soft and deceptively warm for how light it seems. Read more here.
UNSTUFFING THE ZENBIVY LIGHT BED
I wanted a 3-season backcountry bag, so I went with the Zenbivy Light Bed 25º. It came with two parts: a Light Quilt 25º and a Light Sheet 25º. If you want to complete the set, they also make a Light Mattress, but the bed fit fine on a rectangular 20×72 Thermarest.
As it’s a two-part bed rather than a simple sleeping bag, there’s definitely a learning curve the first time you set it up. It’s also much better to set it up in daylight (at least the first few times you do it).
You’ll want to start by blowing up your air mattress. From there, you hook the sheet around the corners of the mattress, and clip the straps underneath it so the sheet doesn’t slide off. Before you clip the quilt to the sheet, you should decide if you want to use it as a rectangular bag or a mummy bag. Rectangular is pretty straight forward while mummy takes a bit more instruction, but the gist of either is that you’ll secure the footbox with cords and hooks, then hook the top half of your bag onto the sheet to hold it in place.
Sound a bit tricky? It’s not so bad, but here’s an instructional video which does a better job of explaining the details of this.
OUR REVIEW OF THE ZENBIVY LIGHT BED
Mummy bags are the classic sleeping bag style. If you’ve always had a mummy bag, using a sleeping quilt takes getting used to. But quilts are rapidly becoming a backpacker favorite; since they cut down on excess material and insulation, they’re really damn light.
The Zenbivy Light Bed is far from a conventional sleeping bag, and it even pushes the boundaries of what a sleeping quilt is. While it’s my first quilt, they successfully addressed the two biggest drawbacks that I’m aware of. First, the cord and hook system enables the bag to be both comfortably anchored to the mattress without sliding around. It can also be converted into a mummy-style bag for cold nights.
When clipped, Zenbivy Light Bed doesn’t wrap as tight as a true mummy bag, but it’s a worthy trade-off for freestyle sleep.
On Warmth & Insulation
The bag promises to keep you warm down to EN 23° with 800 fill-power duck down. Since my review of the bed is based on temperatures from Arizona and Utah in May, I didn’t get to put the full range to the test. But what I can say for sure is that the bag has an impressive warmth-to-weight ratio. The bag is so deceptively light that I was nervous it would hold up in the cold. I was pleasantly surprised that I was so comfortable on the couple of nights we did get below 30°F.
On Look & Feel
There’s no denying that the Zenbivy Light Bed looks super cool.
First of all, the shell is a super soft and silky Nylon Taffeta. Where most sleeping bags are firm and swishy, it’s so light and quiet!
Another thing to love about Zenbivy is their color combos. I HATE the color of outdoor products targeted at women, so I really dig their bold color combinations (orange/red, black/blue, and blue/orange/black). You can mix-and-match your quilt and sheet to create your preferred color combination.
It’s worth noting that the fabric wrinkles easily when the bag is tightly packed in a stuff sack.
WANNA SNAG A ZENBIVY OF YOUR OWN?
This post is sponsored by Zenbivy. I received the Zenbivy Light Bed in exchange for an honest review.
Want to know more about sleeping bag styles, warmth, or materials? Check out our guide on How to Choose a 3-Season Sleeping Bag for Travel or…