As a side sleeper, I’ve struggled to sleep comfortably in mummy shaped sleeping bags for years. They’re usually too tight around the shoulders and legs for me to roll onto my side.
So I was intrigued when I learned about NEMO’s new spoon-shaped sleeping bags which are wide in the shoulders and knees, making it easy to turn on your side when you sleep. I figured I’d give a NEMO Nocturne 30 sleeping bag a try and see if it worked as advertised.
I was a convert after one night and I’ve been using the NEMO Nocturne 30 on car camping and backpacking trips ever since.
Rip Up the Rule Book
The conventional wisdom among sleeping bag aficionados is that you need high fill-power down and a very narrow sleeping bag without a lot of extra interior space to maximize the weight-to-temperature efficiency of a sleeping bag, and to minimize the amount of body heat needed to heat it up. (see Sleeping Bags for Backpacking: How to Choose from REI, for their spin on the relationship between weight and sleeping bag volume).
But the Nocturne 30’s spoon shape contradicts that design philosophy outright. The spoon shape is wider and has much more interior volume than a conventional mummy bag, it’s as warm as sleeping bags that use higher fill power down insulation, less expensive, and lightweight. Plus, it’s packed with features like a waterproof foot box, a blanket fold (draft collar) and pillow pocket, that make it one of the most versatile and well designed sleeping bags available today.
The Nocturne 30 is comfortable for side sleepers because it’s extra wide across the shoulders, hips and knees, allowing you to curl your knees when you sleep on your side, much like you do at home in your own bed. Mummy bags tend to be shaped more like triangles with the greatest width across your shoulders, and then tapering towards the hips and feet, so they’re quite snug across your knees: they are really designed for back sleepers, who sleep like egyptian mummies.
As a point of comparison, my longtime ultralight mummy sleeping bag, a Western Mountaineering Ultralite 20 has the following shoulder/hip/foot box measurements: 59″, 51″, and 38″. Compare that to the Nemo Nocturne 30, which measures 64″, 60″, 68″ (shoulder/hip/foot box) and you can see just how different the Nocturne 30’s spoon shape is from a mummy sleeping bag.
In terms of comfort, there’s simply no comparison between a mummy bag which fits like a straight jacket and is designed for back sleeping vs a spoon-shaped sleeping bag that lets you side sleep and roll around at night. I’m not sure I can go back and use my other subzero mummy bag this winter after experiencing the freedom of the spoon shape!
Despite its product name, the NEMO Nocturne 30 is rated for 23 degrees fahrenheit (for men), not 30, based on the EN13537 temperature rating, an industry standard that lets consumer compare sleeping bags across different manufacturers and models. This standard has been used in Europe and provides a valuable way for consumers to compare sleeping bag temperature ratings. REI, for example, won’t sell any sleeping bags that aren’t EN13537 certified .
I asked NEMO about this discrepancy and they acknowledged it, saying they kept the Nocturne 30 name because they wanted to have the warmest 30 degree sleeping bag on the market. I think the reason is a bit more complex than that. NEMO is a clever company and I think they decided that could sell more sleeping bags to people looking for a 30 degree sleeping bag than a 20 degree bag, since more people camp and backpack in warmer weather.
Regardless, if you’re on market for 20 degree bag, I’d take a hard look at the Nocturne 30. It’s got a 23 degree rating for cooler weather and it’s a lot less expensive than many of the other lightweight 20 degree down mummy bags available.
Duck Down vs Goose Down
The reason the Nocturne 30 is less expensive than other sleeping bags with comparable temperature ratings is that it’s filled with duck down and not goose down. More and more sleeping bag manufacturers are turning to duck down because it’s less expensive and more affordable than goose down. There’s also no difference between duck down and goose down in thermal efficiency when goose down is replaced by duck down with the same fill power rating (see Down Fill Power Ratings). Fill power is fill power regardless of the bird the down comes from.
Waterproof Foot Box
NEMO has added some interesting waterproofing features to the Nocturne 30 that also differentiate this sleeping bag, beyond the fact that it’s filled with waterproof down (DownTek), which has become common place in the outdoor industry.
The Nocturne 30 has a waterproof/breathable foot box that repels tent condensation from wetting the end of your sleeping bag at night. If you’ve ever woken up with a wet sleeping bag in the morning, you can understand what a great feature this is, especially in cooler weather on multi-day trips when you don’t have the time to let your bag dry in the morning.
The interior fabric of the foot box is a waterproof breathable nylon which prevents the down in the bag from getting wet and protects the waterproof breathable fabric because it’s inward facing on the inside of the bag. The outside of the foot box is nylon coated with a DWR layer which will resist getting wet, but will eventually need to be reproofed with a DWR treatment.
The Nocturne 30 includes a feature that NEMO calls a blanket fold, which you can position between the collar of the sleeping bag and your chest to prevent hot air from escaping from your bag in cold weather. It’s very similar to a draft collar that you find on higher end sleeping bags, except its optional whether you use it or not. In hot weather you can fold it over so that it lies on top your sleeping bag instead of on your chest, so hot air can escape around your collar. This is a really smart and effective feature that NEMO uses on other sleeping bags as well.
The Nocturne 30 also has a pillow pocket, really just a nylon sleeve, inside the hood that you can stuff an insulated jacket or pillow into at night so it doesn’t move around. If you use an insulated jacket for a pillow, which I do to save weight, it will wrap around your upper shoulders and neck, providing more insulation very much like a more conventional draft collar.
The NEMO Nocturne 30 sleeping bag with its unique spoon shape strikes an excellent balance between the comfort you want in camp with the technical performance characteristics you need on backpacking trips. This three-season sleeping bag advances the state of the art in sleeping bag design, combining affordability and an excellent temperature rating, without a significant weight penalty when compared to costlier ultralight mummy sleeping bags.
- 23 degree (EN13537 lower limit) temperature rating
- Comfortable for side sleeping
- Weighs 32 ounces
- Chin cover at top of zipper
- Left hand zipper
- Hood adjustment is a bit fickle
- Temperature Rating: 30F / -1C
- Fill Type: 750 Fill Power Down with DownTek™ nanotechnology
- Fill Weight: 15 oz / 415 g
- Weight: 2 lbs, 0 oz / 907 g
- Shape: Spoon
- Capacity: 1P
- Fits: Up To 6’0″ / 183 cm
- Shoulder Girth: 64 in / 162 cm
- Hip Girth: 60 in / 152 cm
- Knee Girth: 68 in / 172 cm
- Packed Size: 13.5 x 8.5 in / 34 x 22 cm
- Compressed Volume: 5.2 L
- Zipper Location: Left
- Shell: Fabric 15D Nylon Ripstop + DWR
- Foot box Fabric: 15D OSMO DT W/B + DWR
- Lining Fabric: 30D Nylon Taffeta + DWR
Disclosure: NEMO Equipment provided Philip Werner (SectionHiker.com) with a sample Nocturne 30 sleeping bag for this review.
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