Wednesday, January 11, 2017

GEAR REVIEW: North Face Inferno -40 F Down Sleeping Bag- Great for Bushcrafters, Backpackers and Preparedness Kits- UPDATED

North Face claims their Inferno -40 Down Sleeping Bag is "Suited for use at the edge of human tolerance." I thought that was a pretty bold statement, but I have to say that after spending a year using the Inferno under extreme conditions, their claim isn't outlandish after all. Warm, waterproof, comfortable and rugged, as you'll see in the field notes below, the Inferno more than proved itself in our winter gear testing trials.....


  • 20D Pertex® Endurance™ shell
  • Side-block chevron baffles
  • Vaulted footbox
  • Winter heat trap with center draw
  • Expedition fit
  • Compression stuffsack doubles as a summit pack
  • 850 fill Goose Down
  • Glow-in-the-dark, glove-friendly Zipper Pulls
  • Weight: (Size Regular)- 4lbs (Size Long)- 4lbs 5 oz
  • Street Price- $700.00, available from


Featuring a healthy 850 fill Goose Down, waterproof -20 denier Pertex Endurance Shell, a generous draft collar, and an "expedition fit," the Inferno certainly has all the features in a bag meant for extreme winter conditions.

The generous draft collar:

The Inferno has over-sized zipper pulls that glow in the dark, making late night zipper adjustments in frigid temps a little easier.

The Inferno just fit inside the sleeping bag compartment of my Kelty Red Cloud 90 pack:

Stuff sack:


As I mentioned in the beginning of this review, the Inferno proved to be an excellent sleeping bag when mountain weather turned extreme. It's been a faithful companion on multiple winter gear testing trips, where I've had to endure temperatures approaching -30 F.

Whether I was winter backpacking up to the treeline on Longs Peak, spending the night in sub-zero temperatures in the mountains of FishLake National Forest in Utah, or testing the comfort limits of winter gear in Colorado's Roosevelt National Forest, the Inferno always kept me warm and comfortable. In fact, I found that if it's used in temperatures above 0 Degrees F, it will quickly become it's namesake-- a real 5-alarm fire if you don't unzip and vent it!

Sleeping under the stars in the mountains of FishLake National Forest, Utah, January 2014:

The morning after:

Roosevelt National Forest, near Mount Meeker, March 2013. Testing out a Kifaru ParaTipi "hot tent" for 3 days. With night time temps approaching -20, I brought the Inferno along to keep me warm when I couldn't run the wood stove after turning in for the night. I intentionally slept in the ParaTipi with the front flaps opened to let the icy air in to ensure a harsh test of the Inferno.

Longs Peak Trail winter backpacking trip, March 2013. Longs Peak Trail is an incredibly beautiful trail, but even in winter with snow covering everything, the National Park Service does not allow you to make a campfire, important if you get chilled and need to warm up. With day time highs hovering at 0 F, and night time temps dropping to near -30 F, the Inferno became my most cherished piece of gear. When I got chilled after setting up camp, I would jump into it and quickly get warm. It would even warm up my cold toes, one of the hardest body parts to warm quickly.

Camping in Goblin's Forest on the way up to the treeline:

Near the treeline of Longs Peak, with the Inferno tucked safely away inside my pack:


After the lengthy testing I did with the North Face Inferno, it has become more than a sleeping bag to me. It has become my most trusted piece of gear for winter survival. Whether out trekking in the mountains, winter camping, or driving in my vehicle, the Inferno stays with me at all times once Old Man Winter hits.

Spending time in remote mountainous territory, the way I do, with the constant threat of extreme weather conditions, I just can't take any chances. The Inferno gives me the confidence that no matter what happens, I'll have a good chance of surviving.

Sure, I could just build a good longfire to keep warm, but having spent many a winter night in the Rocky Mountains, I can tell you from experience, the fire is going to go out at some point, leaving the possibility of hypothermia if the conditions are extreme enough. Plus if you're injured and in a high snowdrift area, making a fire is a much harder proposition. Using the Inferno might not be the "purist" way to survive, but it works, and that's what counts. Even bushcrafting legend Mors Kochanski requires students at his winter survival school (which focuses on using natural materials and fire to stay warm at night) to bring winter sleeping bags as backups. I think this speaks for itself.

Cons? I would like to see some type of face screen built into the bag to keep your nose warm during use. The Inferno is also a 1/2 pound heavier than some of its more expensive competitors.

The final verdict on the Inferno? I think it's splendid. The Inferno is one of those rare pieces of gear that actually lives up to its hype and description, and in the case of camping, trekking, or "bugging out" in dangerous sub-zero weather, it could be a real life-saver. Yes, it's not cheap ($700.00 street price), but then again, no quality -40 F degree rated down sleeping bag is. Is $700 too much to spend on your life? You'll have to be the judge of that, but when a piece of gear is such a decisive game changer in a survival situation, for me, the answer is quite clear.

4.5 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)

About the author
Jason Schwartz is the founder and senior editor of Rocky Mountain Bushcraft. He is a former Red Cross certified Wilderness & Remote First Aid Instructor, and has taught bushcraft and wilderness survival techniques to the Boy Scouts of America, interned with the US Forest Service, and studied wilderness survival, forestry and wildland firefighting at Colorado Mountain College in Leadville, Colorado. Jason has also written for magazines such as The New Pioneer and Backpacker, including writing the "Tinder Finder" portion of Backpacker's "Complete Guide to Fire," which won a 2015 National Magazine Award (NMA). Email him at rockymountainbushcraft @ (without spaces)

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