My sleeping bag is my most important piece of gear. It heads into the backcountry with me, car camps with me, couch-surfs with me, and, this weekend, slept through five nights in the desert with a temperature gradient of 30 degrees (and two smelly dudes) with me. It sees plenty of use and abuse, rarely gets washed (though it very well should—here’s a helpful guide), and, in case of a backcountry emergency, is one of the most crucial pieces of safety gear I carry. A great sleeping bag should be hardy, streamlined, warm, lightweight enough to pack around the world and deep into the wilderness, and, ideally, super comfy. That said, I’ve never had super strong feelings about my sleeping bag. Until now. If you’re in need of a new tent-mate (I’m not talking human, though feel free to invite me on any sweet trips you have planned), look no further than NEMO’s Rave Spoon Shape Sleeping Bag.
Plenty of outdoor gear these days feels overbuilt, offering tons of features that seem unnecessary or superfluous, and I worried this was the case when I first saw the Rave. With a crazy shape, a stash pocket, a “blanket fold” (a flap of soft down-stuffed fabric right at the opening), and “gills” intended to help dump heat on warm nights, I wondered if I’d find myself wishing for my simple, 6-year-old Mountain Hardwear Lamina (also an awesome bag). These careful details, though, made all the difference, taking a totally functional and practical bag into “I’m telling everyone I know about this” territory.
The human body is not shaped like an elongated egg, despite what most sleeping bag manufacturers seem to think. NEMO’s Spoon follows your curves a little more carefully, widening at the elbows and the knees to allow for tent-bound tossing and turning and more comfortable side sleeping. No matter how many nights I spend on the ground, I regularly wake up in the dead of night feeling like I’m being strangled by my sleeping bag. I’m an “active sleeper,” to put it lightly, and just about anyone sleeping on the ground (even if you’ve got the best sleeping pad ever) will readjust at night. The extra space afforded by the hourglass shape eliminated the strangulation element, letting me rock’n’roll all night in supreme comfort.
I went for the 15 degree bag, curious to see if the gills–two zippered sections down the center of the bag intended to provide ventilation on warm nights—would do the trick. They do help dump heat, though I ended up unzipping my torso on warmer nights anyways. As a rule, I prefer the warmer version of sleeping bags, knowing that I can always strip down and unzip on warm nights. I’ve never slept in hardcore enough conditions to truly merit a four- or five-season bag, but I’d be totally confident bringing the 15 degree Rave on below-freezing trips and snow camping. Plus, even with the generous shape and warmth, the 15-degree bag fit neatly into my medium-sized Sea to Summit Compression Dry Sack (these are game-changers, if you don’t already have one). That said, it’s not crazy compressible or crazy light, if you’re trying to do the whole ultralight/minimalist thing. The regular length, meant to comfortably accommodate someone up to 5’6″ tall, weighs in at three pounds and two ounces. I clock in just under 5’6″, and had ample room.
The zippered stash pocket near the top of the bag is great for keys, phones, and other small items you don’t want floating around the tent, and the “blanket fold” (the feature I was most skeptical about) is actually awesome. You can flip it up to block light and trap warmth without stuffing your head inside your bag and steaming things up (or feeling like you’re suffocating.) The ripstop nylon at the foot of the bag is water-resistant, protecting your feet from tent-wall condensation, and the bag dried out quickly when hung in the sun after damp nights.
One downside: the Rave’s 650-fill, Responsible Down Standard-approved Nikwax hydrophobic down leaks. Not dramatically, but enough to find a few feathers stuck to my sleepwear each morning. It’s not a deal-breaker, but worth mentioning.
The 30-degree bag will run you $260 and the 15-degree $300, and at the moment, it’s an REI exclusive.
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