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NEMO Kayu 15 Sleeping Bag Review

NEMO Kayu 15 Sleeping Bag Review

The NEMO Kayu 15 is a down-insulated mummy sleeping bag designed for three-season backpacking and camping. Weighing 2 lbs 3 oz, the Kayu is not the lightest weight sleeping bag in its class, but it has several features that differentiate it from comparable sleeping bags with the same temperature rating. Chief amongst these are special thermo-regulation gills on the chest that let you vent it in warmer weather without having to crack open the side zipper and let in chilling drafts. It also has waterproof/breathable fabric on the hood and footbox to prevent tent condensation from degrading the bag’s insulation, since these are the parts of the sleeping bag most likely to be affected.

RELATED: 10 Best Down Sleeping Bags for Backpacking

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Men’s
  • Tested Lower Limit: 17F / -8C
  • Tested Comfort Limit: 27F /-3C
  • Insulation: 800 fill power
  • Water-Resistant Down: Yes
  • Weight: 2 lbs 3 oz / 992g (Actual weight is 2 lbs 4 oz)
  • Down Fill Weight: 17 oz / 480 g
  • Length: 72 inches tested (78″ also available)
  • Girth: Shoulder (63″), Hip (55″), Footbox (46″)
  • Compressed Volume: 5.9L
  • Compression Sack Weight: 3.3 oz (included)
  • Storage Bag: Included
  • Fabric: 20D nylon ripstop with DWR on the shell, 30D nylon taffeta lining, and a 40D nylon ripstop waterproof/breathable footbox.

Sleeping Bag Features

Unlike NEMO’s spoon-shaped bags which are designed for side sleepers, the Kayu is primarily designed for back sleepers who don’t roll onto their sides or curl up when they sleep. To that end, the bag is cut somewhat slim in the chest, although roomier in the hips and foot box, to reduce the amount of body heat required to heat it up and keep it warm while you sleep.

The Kayu 15 has a beefy draft collar that seals around your upper chest and back to prevent warm air from escaping through the hood when you move around inside.
The Kayu 15 has a beefy draft collar that seals around your upper chest and back to prevent warm air from escaping through the hood when you move around inside.

Feature-wise, Kayu 15 (also available in a 30-degree model) has all of the standard features you’d expect on a premium sleeping bag, including:

  • a beefy draft collar that covers the upper chest and back to prevent heat from coming out the top when you move around inside the bag
  • a 3/4 length, bi-directional zipper to save weight, but allow flexible venting of the legs independent of the chest
  • a two-way side zipper with a draft tube and taped zipper stiffeners. The draft tube prevents cold air from leaking in between the zipper teeth while the stiffeners reduce the chance of a zipper snag and ripping the interior fabric.
  • a jacket-style insulated hood, which turns with you if you roll over on your side at night
  • an external zippered stash pocket to hold a headlamp at night
The narrow jacket style jood moves with you when roll over so your moist breath does not soak the sides.
The narrow jacket-style hood moves with you if you roll over so your moist breath does not soak the sides.

Thermo-Gills

But the thing that really sets the Kayi apart of the therm-gills on its chest, which are zippered down baffles, that when opened release heat trapped inside the bag to cool you off. They’re the equivalent of pit-zips on a rain jacket although the back of the thermo-gill is not open but covered with a thin piece of nylon. Still, when the thermo-gills are unzipped, some of your core warmth is released through them. When they’re zippered closed, the insulated sides of the thermo-gill fill in the space under the zipper, trapping your core warmth once again.

Open and Closed Thermo Gills
Open and Closed Thermo Gills

But the real value of these Thermo-gills is that they increase the effective temperature range that the Kayu 15 can be used in by about 25-30 degrees, so you can use the same sleeping bag from 15F up to 40F, without having to buy a second warmer weather sleeping bag. That’s a big deal when sleeping bags cost a couple of hundred dollars.

Waterproof hood and footbox

The Kayu 15 has waterproof fabric on the foot box and the back of the hood to prevent tent condensation from compromising the insulation. This is a neat feature that makes a lot of sense on multi-day trips in the spring and late autumn when tent condensation is most likely to occur and will have the greatest impact on bag performance.

Waterproof (black) fabric on the back of the hood and the footbox prevent tend condensation transfer for your tent.
Waterproof (black) fabric on the back of the hood and the footbox prevent tend condensation transfer for your tent.

Comparable Down Sleeping Bags

Make / ModelTypeWeight
REI Magma 15Unisex35.6 oz / 1009g
Western Mountaineering Versalite 10Unisex32 oz / 907g
Thermarest Parsec 20Unisex28 oz / 680g
Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15Unisex31.8 oz / 902g
NEMO Disco 15Men's, Women's43 oz / 1219g
Zenbivy Ultralight Bed 25 (Quilt, Pad, Sheet, optional Hood)Unisex23 oz / 652g
Feathered Friends Flicker UL 20Unisex23.2 oz / 714g
Feathered Friends Egret UL 20Women's27.2 oz / 771g
Enlightened Equipment Convert 20Unisex22.8 oz / 748g
REI Magma Quilt 30Unisex20.3 oz / 575g

Recommendation

The NEMO Kayu 15 is a down-insulated sleeping bag that has a much wider temperature range than its name would suggest. While it is designed to keep you warm in 15-degree weather, it has a temperature regulation feature called Therm-Gills that let you vent warmth up to about 40 degrees. That offers a degree of flexibility that is rare in a mummy sleeping bag.

Despite that, I’m on the fence about this bag. The Thermo-Gills are a nice feature to have and they worked for me, they’re just not as compelling a feature on the Kayu 15  as on a cold weather bag like the NEMO Sonic -20 or even the Sonic 0 where cracking open the side zipper isn’t a very comfortable alternative. That said that Kayu 15 is a perfectly decent 15-degree mummy sleeping bag and a viable option if you want to spend less than a more expensive and lighter-weight sleeping bag for the same temperature range.

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Disclosure: NEMO donated a sleeping bag for review.

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