Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Sleeping Bag Review

It's a $100 DOWN bag. Too good to be true? You may be surprised...

Recommended

Overall Rating: Recommended

The Cosmic Down 20 is a surprisingly well-made down sleeping bag for the price ($109.95), easily comparable to many down bags twice the cost. To be clear, at slightly over 2.5 pounds, this is not what some would consider an ultralight bag, but it is an excellent value with respectable weight and performance. The loft of the bag has a lumpy and uneven look, but the bag insulates well even when the mercury drops to 20 F / -7 C. It would be nice if the hood area were redesigned to optimize loft and sealing, and the draft collar could use a little tweaking. For those people on a budget, this bag is “Highly Recommended.” It’s an exceptional, well-performing sleeping bag, especially at this price point. You could buy a bag that weighs a pound less and lofts better, but it would cost you roughly three times as much.

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by Brad Groves |

Introduction

First thing first: It’s a $100.00 DOWN sleeping bag.

A hundred bucks for a down bag?! The skeptic in my head immediately said “Yeah, it’ll weigh five pounds and be good for 60 F (16 C).” But the sleeping bag only weighs two and a half pounds, and it’s been EN tested for 20 F / -7 C. Well, that clinched my curiosity. Is the Kelty Cosmic Down 20 a true bargain, or should backpackers on a budget save for a more expensive bag?

Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Sleeping Bag Review - 1
In this overview of the Cosmic Down 20, you can clearly see the over-stuffed nature of some baffles... and the average to under-filled look of a few other baffles. Does the lumpy appearance belie the bag's performance?

The Lowdown

I guess you could say I went into this evaluation with high hopes and low expectations. I’m accustomed to sleeping bags more in the price range of $400, and while the idea of saving $300 was awesome, I didn’t really think the Cosmic Down 20 would keep me warm. How could it? It weighs maybe 12 to 16 ounces more than a bag that costs nearly four times as much... and the Cosmic Down 20 is only using 550 fill down! For such a cheap bag, could the shell material really be light enough to offset the extra weight of 550 fill? As I waited for what I was sure would be an overweight package, I psyched myself up for some very cold nights.

The box that arrived at my doorstep was surprisingly small and light. “Huh,” I thought. “That actually feels about right.” Out of the box and onto the scale: my size regular Cosmic Down 20 weighs 2 pounds 9.6 ounces, 1.6 ounces over spec, but hey, that’s still pretty good. I had imagined wrestling a behemoth into a stuff sack, but it easily stuffed into a 10 liter dry sack. “Huh,” I thought again. “This thing might actually be legitimate.” I shook my head. “Nah, it won’t loft for beans.”

I’m not gonna lie: It isn’t a sexy bag. The 50 denier polyester taffeta shell fabric is not inspiring. The loft of the sleeping bag is... not bad. It does not have the distinctly reassuring appearance of, say, Western Mountaineering bags and their slightly overstuffed baffles. Maybe it looks a little lumpy? But the Cosmic Down 20 lofts well enough, even better than many. Down distribution in the baffles is more adequate than some $200 down bags I’ve handled. There are definitely some thinner spots in loft, particularly on the bottom of the bag, but overall I’m pretty pleased.

Brand Model Temperature Rating (F / C) Down Rating Length (ft / m) Shoulder Measurement (in / cm) Fill Weight (oz / g) Total Weight Cost Cost per Ounce
Kelty Cosmic Down 20 20 / -7 550 6.0 / 1.8 62.0 / 157.5 20.0 / 567 2 lb 8 oz / 1.13 kg $109.95 $2.75
Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20 / -7 850 6.0 / 1.8 59.0 / 149.9 16.0 / 453.6 1 lb 13 oz / 0.82 kg $385.00 $13.28

Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Sleeping Bag Review - 2
Just for grins, a comparison shot of the Cosmic Down 20 alongside a Western Mountaineering Ultralite. Note the hood and shoulder region “tummy tuck” on the CD 20; I wish there were more down in this region.

The hood has a reasonable amount of depth and shape, and has been cut to allow a bit of an insulated ruff around the top of the opening. Although I can fluff the hood to get some more down into the area, the neck region of the hood habitually shifts down out of the neck region and toward the head. The bag should really have some more down in that area, or use an additional baffle. There is a passive top draft collar in the Cosmic Down 20, an insulated tube that hangs from the top of the bag to block air movement. The draft tube is not circumferential, nor can you cinch it down, but the passive top collar does help keep the bag warmer.

The zipper draft tube is surprisingly well filled, and the zipper runs freely. The Cosmic Down 20 uses a three-quarter-length zipper, but it’s a three-quarter-length zipper that I’ve found eminently functional. Most partial zips don’t go down far enough to be useful for venting, but this one hits me just below the knee. They could have extended the zipper another foot for about an ounce, but oh well.

Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Sleeping Bag Review - 3
The three-quarter-length zipper has proven to be a true three-quarter-length zipper... it seems like many companies' “three-quarter zips” are closer to half zips to me. You can also get a slightly different perspective on loft here.

There are two large loops sewn onto the footbox for hanging, and a number of small loops along the sides so you could secure a pad underneath the bag. I’ve never found the need to do that, but they’re there if you’re so inclined.

Now that you’ve had the full tour, let’s take a look at some real-world performance. Does the bag do what it’s supposed to do?

Performance

I’m not a huge fan of equipment surprises when I’m in the backcountry, so I first test almost all new equipment in the backyard. Walking from my back door to the tent on a night in the high 30s I shivered a little, and thought to myself that I’d probably be headed back for the house halfway through the night. Instead I woke up warm, cozy, and smiling somewhat late the next morning. Huh! Yet another pleasant surprise from the Cosmic Down 20.

That’s not to say I trusted the rating yet, but the bag kept me warm on progressively cooler nights, including one that dipped into the twenties. The forecast for an upcoming weekend trip was for lows in the teens; I considered bringing a different sleeping bag, but decided to just bring an extra down layer and warmer pants to complement the Cosmic Down 20 if needed. Despite temps bottoming out in the low twenties, I slept warm and cozy for that weekend and the next. A night in the hammock (with a DownMat under me) down to the mid twenties found me, yet again, warm and toasty.

I’ve found that using pads with barely adequate insulation can dramatically decrease the performance of a bag, therefore I used pads with R-values ranging from 5 to 8 (yeah, I know the 8 is high, but I have the pad, it’s comfy, and I love it) for all my field evaluations. Although I normally roll over with the bag (kind of wearing it as I roll over to sleep on my side), I found myself turning inside the Cosmic Down 20 to keep the bottom surface down. I didn’t have much faith in the ability of its underside insulation.

Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Sleeping Bag Review - 4
Note the passive top collar and draft collar of the Cosmic Down 20. No, they’re not of the same quality as a WM bag, but the build construction is much, much higher than what I’ve seen in other bags near this price range.

A late fall/early winter overnighter was forecasted with single-digit temperatures. Although I was game to experiment and had gained healthy respect for the Cosmic Down 20, I took along a 0 F / -18 C bag as a backup. That night only dropped to about 15 F / -9 C, but I woke up perhaps five hours into the night, feeling particularly cold. I didn’t want to start from scratch warming up the zero degree bag, so I pulled it over me quilt-style and hunkered down for the rest of the night. It wasn’t until that morning when I got up and moved around for awhile that I really warmed up.

I was a bit perplexed. That night wasn’t significantly colder than several others, when I had been warm using the same pad and clothing combo. At first I dismissed it as a fluke, perhaps a hydration problem I wasn’t aware of, maybe a slight cold, or a light dinner... but all factors struck me as being completely normal. Then I realized that what had changed wasn’t so much the low temperature, but the high temperature of the day.

My previous experiences with the bag had all been during warm days, with highs perhaps in the forties and bottoming out in the twenties in the middle of the night. The night I slept cold had been in the mid twenties all day and dropped even lower that night. I had essentially been coasting through the previous lows on the borrowed heat of the day.

Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Sleeping Bag Review - 5
Night falls, but the loft of the bag is relatively inspiring. I gotta say, the shell doesn’t look too bad under flash light.

If I were headed on a trip and expected a narrow range of temperature variation, hovering around 20 F / -7 C, the Cosmic Down 20 isn’t the bag I would take. However, if I were looking for a decent three-season bag and typical temperature swing, this bag could be a good choice. Trips with days in the 40s or 50s F and nights in the 20s or 30s F would be fine with the Cosmic Down 20, and frankly those are conditions most backpackers are more likely to encounter.

Conclusion

The real question, then, “Should everyone buy this bag?”

No.

If you’re counting ounces, you could save three-quarters of a pound by going to an 850-fill bag. If you want and expect greatness from your equipment, this isn’t your bag. The Cosmic Down 20 is for those seeking a serviceable sleeping bag that gets pretty small, is reasonably light, and will do the trick for most three-season conditions. I see the bag working particularly well for those who would benefit from other gear upgrades... perhaps the $300 “savings” of the Cosmic D could be put toward a new backpack or tent that would save a few pounds.

Who should buy the Cosmic Down 20? Anyone on a limited budget who’s in the market for a good all ‘round sleeping bag. If someone’s new to backpacking and trying to put together their whole kit, this sleeping bag is a good bargain. Note that when I say “bargain,” I don’t mean cheap... I mean a good value. College students or Scouts might want to take a look at the Cosmic Down 20. If you want a spare bag, or even if you’ll be spending more time afield, this would be a durable option for the same price as value-priced synthetic bags. If someone wants to get into backpacking, but doesn’t want to make a large equipment investment, this bag could be just the ticket. There is nothing outwardly impressive about this bag in appearance, but it works. It’s a much better sleeping bag than I imagined.

Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.


Citation

"Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Sleeping Bag Review," by Brad Groves. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/kelty_cosmic_down_20_sleeping_bag_review.html, 2011-03-22 00:00:00-06.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Kelty Cosmic Down 20 Sleeping Bag Review


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Kathy Hoffman
(basecampbound)

Locale: Foothills of San Gabriel Mtns.
Just tested this one on 03/31/2011 03:59:19 MDT Print View

Just got this on sale from Campmor a few days ago, and thought I would share my experience with it.

Observations:

First, it comes with a substantial stuff sack, and you could get rid of an ounce by using an ultralight sack. The material is pretty rugged, overkill in my opinion, but at least the down won't poke through like it can with polyester taffeta. It doesn't compress as well as some of my other bags, and I chalk this up to the substantial material used. I tend to sleep warm, and I was just slightly chilled at 30 degrees with mid weight base layers, and a balaclava. An additional layer would help. It's a little tight in the stomach/hip area, but some of my other bags have this same issue. The zipper is sturdy, but not as smooth and it caught on one of the tie-down straps a couple of times. The loft seems a bit uneven, particularly in the hood, which is where I had the most trouble. The bag I have (and yes it is the blue one) doesn't seem to loft as well as the one pictured in this article, but it was still fairly warm. The hood is a bit large, and it took quite some futzing to get it cinched down appropriately, with the draw cord system causing a bit of frustration. The draft collar was just plain weird, and didn't really function very well, so I experienced drafts around my neck, which was remedied when I switched from a hat to a balaclava. I also noted that the material doesn't breathe as well as most higher priced bags, and condensation was a little more than I like.

The Verdict:

I lucked out and got an REI sub kilo for $90 when they stopped manufacturing them, and it remains my favorite lightweight bag, but the Kelty is certainly decent, especially for the price. I'm pretty picky about sleeping bags, and I actually found this to be comparable to some $250 bags that I've owned. It's fairly lightweight, serviceable, and the drawbacks are not that serious, especially if you are prepared for them and plan accordingly, (like making sure to use a balaclava and a base top zipped up all the way to compensate for the hood). It won't work for everyone, but it's an exceptional value for the money. In fact, I can't think of another down bag in this price range, especially at this weight. It's certainly an excellent value, and anyone on a budget should seriously consider it.

Edited by basecampbound on 03/31/2011 04:38:18 MDT.

Frederic Chang
(freddych) - F
Theres another option from Marmot on 04/01/2011 12:54:00 MDT Print View

I bought a $100 down bag made by Marmot that is made specifically for Dick's Sporting Goods. It has served me well on several summer trips and is also rated at 20F.

Kathy Hoffman
(basecampbound)

Locale: Foothills of San Gabriel Mtns.
$100 Marmot bag? on 04/02/2011 00:59:36 MDT Print View

Wow....a $100 Marmot bag? wish I could find one of those.

Frederic Chang
(freddych) - F
Marmot alpine adventurer on 04/02/2011 11:09:39 MDT Print View

There are two at Dick's. One is the alpine 40, a strictly summer bag. The one I got was the alpine adventurer 15. Msrp is 139 but I got it on sale for 100. Rated at 15 and weighs 2 lb 8 oz. I couldn't believe my eyes when I saw it. It compares to the much more expensive marmot sawtooth.

Lol. Dick's without an proper caps is profanity here!

Erik Basil
(EBasil) - M

Locale: Atzlan
Cosmic Down 20 is an excellent Scout bag! on 06/14/2011 23:59:39 MDT Print View

We desperately needed to lighten our 67lb. son's pack for him, but didn't want to break the bank to do it. After reading reviews, we found the Cosmic in "short" which fits to 5'4" and weight 2lb.3oz. It easily fits in his pack, is almost two pounds lighter than his synthetic bag, came in a Scout green color(ho ho) and he loves it. We are stoked on the price and quality of this item, and we're now recommending it to other Scouts.

Troy Pratten
(TJGator) - F - M

Locale: The Middle of Big 12-3+1 Country
Big Fan on 10/22/2011 16:54:57 MDT Print View

My wife was exactly the person you are talking about in your review. Just getting into backpacking, using my brother's old old synthetic sleeping bag and external frame pack.

I was able to get her a Short size for $70 on sunnysports.com. Newer version with the olive dots on lime green. She loves it. Haven't been in any nights colder than about 40 degrees yet, but the loft looks pretty good and it compresses easily into the 10L stuffsack. Best part is that getting a down bag for $70 allowed me to more or less ignore price when it came to finding her a new pack and sleeping pad and still feel like I came out way ahead.

Highly recommended for anyone starting to acquire gear or looking for a bargain bag.

EDIT: FYI, specs say 2lb 3oz, scale says 2lb 5.3oz. Pretty darn good I say.

Edited by TJGator on 10/25/2011 12:23:35 MDT.