Three-Season Sleeping Bag
Nemo Kyan 20/Azura 20
$220, 2 lbs. 3 oz. (men’s regular)
Sizes: men’s and women’s regular and long
From sleeping under the stars in Idaho’s Sawtooth Mountains in August to a six-day backpacking trip on the Continental Divide Trail in Glacier National Park in September, I slept like a baby in Nemo’s Kyan 20. But even more impressive about the men’s Kyan and women’s Azura are the qualities that ensure you won’t lie awake at night questioning your decision to buy this bag: warmth when damp, respectable packability, and a price that seals the deal.
Nemo’s Feathercore construction uses a continuous sheet of Primaloft Silver synthetic insulation—which, like other synthetic insulation, traps heat even when wet—to minimize air flow and heat loss, while maximizing compressibility; the insulation also contains 70 percent post-consumer recycled material. Nemo claims the construction method reduces the bag’s packed volume by 40 percent, making it comparable in packability to affordable down (think: 650-fill power down). Compressing to roughly the size of a soccer ball, it doesn’t have the packability of 850- or 900-fill power down, but it’s also priced like a much more affordable down bag.
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The bag’s warmth is good, but not exceptional. While I found the Kyan 20 plenty warm enough for nights slipping down into the 30s Fahrenheit in Glacier in September, I need warm base layers top and bottom for temps in the 20s in this bag (and I sleep fairly warm): It’s not quite as warm as the most thermally efficient down bags with a comparable temp rating—but nor is it nearly as expensive as those bags. It was more than warm enough for a night camping under the stars in the Sawtooths in late August with an overnight low in the 40s.
Nemo’s unique Thermo Gills—a pair of long zippers on the top that, when opened, create insulation-free vents (with nylon fabric, not openings into the bag) that release heat for milder nights that aren’t quite warm enough to open up the bag. That’s a smart innovation that Nemo introduced several years ago and has stuck with.
Zipping the Kyan up completely, I found plenty of shoulder and torso room to lie on my side and extend my arms almost fully, while the mid-section and foot box are adequately spacious if not as capacious as the roomiest bags I’ve reviewed—without much contorting, I could bring a knee up to my chest. The generous hood wraps comfortably around my head and has a close fit even without tightening the drawcord, and closes down snugly around my face when I do tighten it.
The full-length, two-way, burly YKK zipper runs silky smooth and never snagged, thanks to a stiffer fabric backing it on the draft tube (which also seals out drafts). The shell is made of 20-denier nylon ripstop with a DWR (durable, water-repellant coating), as found in many lightweight bags; and similarly, the 30-denier nylon taffeta lining is common and comfortable enough against skin.
A synthetic bag is a smart choice if you routinely sleep in wet climes—and a bag’s insulation doesn’t have to get rained on to get damp, moisture can enter the insulation from your body or humid air inside a tent on a trip with sustained rainy weather. And the Nemo men’s Kyan and women’s Azura offer the warm-when-wet benefit of synthetic insulation with the packability of affordable, mid-quality down—at a super value.
BUY IT NOW You can support my work on this blog by clicking any of these links to purchase a Nemo Kyan 20 sleeping bag at moosejaw.com or campsaver.com, a Nemo Azura 20 at moosejaw.com, outdoorplay.com, or rei.com, a Nemo Kyan 35 at moosejaw.com or rei.com, or a Nemo Azura 35 moosejaw.com or rei.com.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all my gear reviews at The Big Outside.