“Why the fuck am I carrying all this crap!?” I shouted, flinging my pack onto the trail and tearing into it to root around for a family-sized bag of beef jerky I’d hoarded. No one likes carrying a heavy pack, anywhere, ever. But at five months pregnant and 25 miles into the Wind River Range (what was I thinking?!), I hated just about everything in my overstuffed beast-of-burden backpack.
And yet, of all the so-called “crap” I was carrying, only the Parsec Sleeping Bag and NeoAir Xlite sleeping pad—along with that bag of jerky—escaped my hormonal wrath. After all, how could I hate that which weighed so little and gave so much in the form of taming my cravings and resting my weary, ever-changing body?
For these items, I smiled. “It’s all gonna be OK,” I told myself, taking another bite of jerky.
Thermarest Parsec 20 Review
The Parsec is a remarkably light 20F/-6C mummy-style sleeping bag from Thermarest’s Fast and Light series. The 2-pound weight owes to its super-thin polyester ripstop shell stuffed with high-quality 800-fill down. Both come with their own brands of water-resistant coatings. The down is Nikwax Hydrophobic Down and the nylon shell is DWR treated.
These treatments were a lifesaver in the cold backcountry, withstanding a soggy condenser of a tent nicknamed “Wet Willy” and my dog drying himself atop my bag. Inside, I was cozy and dry all night in below-freezing temps.
Another way the Parsec achieves its magical 2-pound weight is through a 3/4-length zipper. The low weight is thus a trade-off for being able to fully unzip your bag, but this wasn’t a deal-breaker for me.
The fit was comfy. I got the Regular size, and at 5’4” I had plenty of room for my legs. Up top there was similarly plenty of room for my shoulders and I was comfy sleeping on both my side and back.
The Parsec has straps that you can attach to your sleeping to keep you from sliding off your mat in the middle of the night.
I loved the roomy hood and easy-to-find drawstring and zipper pull. Plus it comes with a featherweight compression sack that cinches the Parsec down to the size of the gallon of ice cream I would’ve been eating had I not been camping in the backcountry.
I used this bag on many nights out while pregnant, and have since enjoyed it for all the same reasons now that we’ve got a little baby along for the ride. I won’t dock it points for the lack of sleep that now occurs, but I digress.
The Neo Air XLite sleeping mat is made to be paired with the Parsec (though it can obviously be used on its own, too). At just 12 ounces, this mat is extremely light, and it packs down to the size of a Nalgene, and yet it inflates to 2.5” thick, enough to insulate you from the ground and provide a little cushion.
I wish it didn’t take quite so many lungfuls to fill, however. At altitude, I had to take a break halfway so I didn’t get lightheaded. Blowing up an air mattress with warm breath on a cold night causes some loss of volume as the air cools. Pro tip: top it off with a few more puffs just before going to bed.
The NeoAir is quite narrow at the shoulders in the regular size and I really liked having my sleeping bag strapped right onto the pad so I could use every inch of mattress without sliding off. There is a large option that is wider which might be nice if you have broad shoulders.