The Sierra Designs Studio 2 tent and Synthesis 20-degree sleeping bag...
Editor’s Note: The following article was written by Hannah D., a 15-year-old up-and-coming outdoor adventurer. She tested the original Zenbivy Bed on several recent camping and backpacking trips, and shared some helpful feedback based on her experiences. We’re always glad to see the next generation developing an interest in nature and learning survival skills firsthand.
The ZenBivy Bed system is lightweight, comfortable, and rugged… but it’s also really confusing. At least at first. I didn’t completely figure it out until after I’d used it the first time, even though I watched some videos and looked over the website beforehand. It kept me warm though, despite using it incorrectly, so it wasn’t as bad as it could have been.
It is possible I should have listened to my dad and uncle, who recommended I field test in the back yard overnight before relying on it.
Zenbivy first released its two-piece sleep system in late 2017. Since then, the company has also added a Light Bed variant to its product line — you may remember that item from the previous OFFGRIDweb article about its IndieGoGo campaign.
I recently received a sample of the original Zenbivy Bed, which the company calls “the most comfortable backcountry sleeping bag ever designed.” That’s a bold claim, but the product caught my attention.
The whole system (with pillow) weighs less than three pounds and features left and right zippers to secure the quilt to the fitted sheet. You can use it sort of as a sleeping bag and mostly like a quilt, with a little bit of both and neither depending on how you arrange it. If you’re someone who kicks the blankets off during the night, you will probably like it, though if you have one leg stuck out into the snow that will kind of defeat the purpose of using it.
Described as a two-piece sleeping bag, the Zenbivy Bed is designed with a top quilt and fitted sheet. That quilt can be tucked in during cold weather, or left untucked on warmer nights. The fitted sheet can be secured to a 20- to 25-inch rectangular or tapered sleeping pad to prevent the bed from sliding out of place, and features a hood for your head and arms. The 20D nylon shell is coated in a water repellent finish and filled with 700 fill-power HyperDRY water-resistant 80/20 duck down.
If you pick up the Zenbivy Bed, it doesn’t seem heavy enough to really protect you from the cold. However, it does so very well. I used it on Pigeon Roost Trail in Arkansas with my Venture Crew back in late March.
Temperatures dropped to the low-20°F (-6°C) range with some wind chill, but despite how insubstantial it seems, the Zenbivy does a great job keeping you warm. It features an EN Limit rating of 23°F and a EN Comfort rating of 34°F.
It probably helped that I was using a good Marmot tent, too, but it does stand up to cold temps on its own well. I used it later for a week at Scout National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT) event and it worked great, though most of the time during that trip I was just sleeping on top of it. I don’t have photos from that time because we don’t keep phones with us during NYLT.
I also used this bag in early October on a backpacking trip with my troop. We hiked part of the Buffalo River trail system in Arkansas. We did not hike very far, but I’m okay with that because I still don’t have much experience when it comes to backpacking. Regardless, I was grateful for the lightweight bag. This campout was part of the requirements for our Wilderness Survival merit badge. Normally we would not be able to bring a sleeping bag, but because of the weather we were allowed. It got down into the 30s, and we had to build our own shelter that night! This bag made my night so much better — I would have been miserable for sure if I hadn’t had it with me.
Here are some additional benefits and issues I noticed while using the Zenbivy Bed.
The assembly issue might not be as bad for experienced (or younger) backpackers. My dad and uncle were having some trouble figuring it out, but they’ve been using old regular-style sleeping bags for a loooooong time in the military and for camping. They had also been trying out a new bourbon for a while the night we were messing with it. This might have had some impact on their ability to put it together and explained why their attempts to wrap up in it were kind of a trainwreck.
I would suggest someone “test fire” a bag like this before using it. It isn’t intuitive. You definitely need to play with it for a little bit or watch some videos before using it in the field. If I had read some of the other reviews of the system, I might have expected that.
I was advised to try to put it together and to sleep outside in it before the trip to get a sense of it — more to see if it would be warm enough than to “make it work.” But I didn’t do so. Lesson learned: I’ll figure out my own gear on my own ahead of time. If I do get help from my dad or uncle, I’ll do so earlier in the evening. Or on an evening when they haven’t just gotten a kind of booze they’ve never tried before.
I would have preferred a better color than mustard yellow with a cactus green stuff sack, but that really doesn’t impact how it performs, and there are other options now available. I have recommended it since then to some of my friends.
For more info on the Zenbivy Bed, go to Zenbivy.com.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly included references to the Zenbivy Light Bed. The product reviewed in this article is the original Zenbivy Bed, not the Light version. The article text has been updated to correct this error.
Hannah D. is active in Scouts BSA and Venture Crew. She started as a tagalong when her brother was in Scouts. Soon, she discovered she could not only hold her own in that environment, but in many cases outdo male scouts. Hannah is now on her own “trail to Eagle,” has attended National Youth Leadership Training (NYLT), and is determined to be one of the first female Eagle Scouts in her Council. Outside of Scouting she enjoys animals of all types and showing her brother up when she can.