If you find a mummy sleeping bag too constricting to sleep with on backpacking or camping trips, a hoodless quilt can be a more comfortable and lighter weight sleep insulation option. Quilts insulate the top of your body at night, while your sleeping pad insulates the bottom. They’re very similar to sleeping with a blanket, making it easier for side sleepers or people who toss and turn at night to get a good night’s sleep.
There are basically two types of quilts available today: bed style quilts that slide over a sleeping pad and wrap around its sides and ultralight-style quilts that rest on top of your sleeping pad and attach to it using some kind of strap system. Bed style quilts are better for casual camping in warm weather while ultralight quilts tend to be lighter weight, have higher quality insulation, and are better for cooler weather when you need to trap more body heat.
The NEMO Siren Down Quilt ($369.95) straddles these two quilt categories because it only weighs 19 ounces and is filled with 10 ounces of high compressible 850 fill power down like an ultralight backpacking quilt, but drapes around a sleeping pad more like a bed-style quilt. Rated at 30 degrees, I can vouch for its warmth, having taken it down as low as 29 degrees on backpacking trips.
Backless, the Siren is designed to be used with a sleeping pad that provides insulation against the ground. The sleeping pad slips into the quilt’s footbox and is held in position under your quilt using an optional draw-string strapping system. There are also snaps along the top of the quilt than can join under your sleeping pad to cinch the quilt closed around your neck and shoulders to trap more heat. These are very effective in cold weather.
If you prefer, you can drape the quilt over yourself like a comforter without the draw-string. This is good in warmer weather when cold drafts are less of an issue or if you want a looser fit.
When you use the draw-string strapping system and neck snaps, the sides of the quilt overlap the sides of your pad and fold under it. This can limit the height and width of the sleeping pad you can use the quilt with, because it pulls the quilt around you more tightly, potentially compressing the down above you and reducing its loft and warmth.
In testing the Siren, I found that it works best with a thin self-inflating sleeping pad like a Therm-a-Rest Prolite or an EvoLite and not a thicker, inflatable Therm-a-Rest XTherm or Exped Downmat. With a shoulder width of 52″, the Siren is a bit on the narrow side for a bed-style quilt intended for ground use, so test your sleeping pad with the draw-string and neck snap system before you try to take it down to 30 degrees in colder weather. A thicker sleeping pad might still work fine for you if you have a smaller stature than me: I recommend you experiment with different pad thicknesses to figure out what works best.
If you don’t want to use the draw string, it is connected to the quilt using small plastic loops and easy to remove. The plastic loops are very unobtrusive and you can’t feel them, even if you use the Siren without the draw-string as a top quilt in a hammock.
The Siren is sewn with a box baffle construction that keeps the 850 down fill power insulation in place and prevents it from shifting and creating cold spots. The foot box is also filled with down, except on the bottom, where it’s filled with Primaloft. There’s no point in putting 850 fill power down on the bottom since it would be compressed and not insulate.
The exterior of the Siren is made with a 10D Nylon Ripstop w/ DWR to help prevent moisture from compromising the down fill. The interior is also lined with a very and comfortable and soft 10 Nylon Ripstop Mini-ripstop.
The NEMO Siren Down Quilt is an ultralight backpacking quilt that only weighs 19 ounces and is insulated with 850 fill power down. With a temperature rating of 30 degrees, it includes a strap and neck closure system that makes it comfortable for use in cold weather, but which can also be discarded in warmer temperatures if you want to use it more like a blanket or comforter.
While expensive, the Siren is an excellent down quilt. However, sizing can be an issue if you have an above-average built or want to use a thick inflatable sleeping pad. If you intend to buy the Siren for cooler temperatures, test it out to make sure that the down insulation isn’t being compressed and losing loft because it’s wrapped around you too tightly. If you can’t snap the top of the quilt closed underneath your sleeping pad, it means that the quilt is too tight and it won’t fit your cold weather needs.
- Down fill power: 850
- Loft: 2″
- Fill weight: 10 ounces
- Total weight: 19 ounces
- Width: 53″ (52″ on the SectionHiker tape measure)
- Foot box width: 25″ foot box width
- Length: 66″ (fits a person up to 6′)
- Stuff sack volume: 5L
Disclosure: NEMO provided Philip Werner with a sample Siren Down Quilt for this review.
Written 5/2016.Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored gear reviews, articles, and hiking guides.
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