Four-Year Test: the REI Co-op Joule Sleeping Bag
With 700-fill down and a rating to 23 degrees Fahrenheit, this bag is ready for a lifetime of adventures
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If you treat it right, a good sleeping bag will last a few decades. Of course, that means dishing out a little extra dough in the beginning and investing in quality materials. That’s why, four years ago, I bought the REI Co-op Joule sleeping bag ($300). It has been on every backcountry and car-camping trip with me since and it’s one of my best gear purchases ever. It comes with REI’s lifetime guarantee and has a few smartly designed features that have proven themselves over the years. If you’re in the market for a new sleeping bag, here are some reasons why you should consider the Joule.
This sleeping bag is made from some of the best but most economical materials on the market. Stuffed with 20 ounces of 700-fill duck down, the Joule has an exterior of lightweight ripstop nylon taffeta, and the down is treated with a water-resistant polymer coating, which protects the feathers in the event that moisture leaks through the bag. While the coated down will still compress when soaked, it will retain more loft when wet or damp than uncoated down.
As an added precaution to keep the down dry, REI cleverly put extra waterproof fabric on the hood, sides, and footbox to help resist the moisture you would normally gather from the inside of your tent walls.
Sleeping with a partner? This bag zips together with any other REI sleeping bag, creating a double bag.
Most sleeping bags are noisy and abrasive because they’re designed to be durable, not necessarily comfortable against your skin. The Joule’s face fabric hits the sweet spot. It’s super soft to the touch, but in the four years I’ve owned it, it’s never punctured—even with my rowdy husky nestling in it with me. The warmth of the high-fill-power down has saved me on multiple occasions—the most salient being when I got caught in a storm in the Boundary Waters and was continually drenched by four-foot waves in my canoe. Once I reached the shore, trying to stave off hypothermia, I wrapped myself in my soggy sleeping bag and it kept me warm.
Size and Fit
My favorite part about this bag is how lightweight it is—just two pounds two ounces. Plus it packs down to the size of a large grapefruit in my waterproof compression sack, making it a viable backpacking bag. A true three-season sleeping bag, it has a weight-to-warmth ratio that’s much more impressive than other sub-$400 bags’. Between trips, I store my Joule on a hanger in my closet to allow the down to breathe, resist clumping, and enjoy a longer life.
This bag has a women-specific fit, which means it is a little wider in the hips, leaves less room in the shoulders, and has extra insulation in critical heat-loss areas. I’m a petite, around five foot four inches, and I find it roomy enough to use car camping when comfort, not lightness, is my priority. But if you tend to be claustrophobic or don’t like the fit of traditional mummy bags, I would suggest the regular wide size, which provides an extra four to six inches across and is overall less constricting.
For what you get, the Joule might be the most cost-efficient bag on the market. Sure, it could have slightly more compressible 800-plus-fill goose down and feature name-brand materials instead of REI’s proprietary ones. But a two-pound down bag for $300 is almost unheard-of, especially one that has resisted abuse like my Joule.