Marmot Helium 15 Review
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Marmot Helium 15
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|$520.00 at Backcountry|
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$245.00 at Backcountry
|Pros||Wide upper body dimensions, decent warmth-to-weight ratio||Spacious dimensions, super comfortable, great loft, lightweight, made in the USA||Super lightweight, incredible loft, snag-proof zipper, cozy hood||Best-in-class warmth, legit draft collar, light weight, exceptional loft||Decent weight, respectable warmth, awesome bargain|
|Cons||Overpriced, no neck baffle, narrow foot dimensions, accessory zipper ineffective at venting||Expensive, awkward hood, good but not great zipper||Uncomfortably narrow dimensions, bare-bones design, noisy fabric||Really pricey, kind of bulky, awkward hood closure||Average materials, limited features, basic design|
|Bottom Line||A high-quality sleeping bag that's marred by a perplexing secondary zipper||The best ultra-premium bag that combines warmth, low weight, good packability, and luxurious comfort||Our favorite when ounces matter, this is a full-size mummy bag that's both warm and ultralight||Our favorite premium backpacking bag to keep us warm at night when the temperature drops||An exceptional deal for a capable and sturdy backpacking sleeping bag for those looking to get outside without breaking the bank|
|Rating Categories||Marmot Helium 15||Western Mountaineer...||Feathered Friends H...||Western Mountaineer...||Mountain Hardwear B...|
|Packed Size (15%)|
|Features & Design (10%)|
|Specs||Marmot Helium 15||Western Mountaineer...||Feathered Friends H...||Western Mountaineer...||Mountain Hardwear B...|
|Insulation||800+ FP Down||850+ FP Down||950+ FP Down||850+ FP Down||650 FP Down|
|Compressed Volume||9.9 liters||7.2 liters||7.3 liters||8.7 liters||7.5 liters|
|Measured Bag Weight (Size Long)||2.33 lbs.||1.62 lbs.||1.45 lbs.||1.86 lbs.||1.98 lbs.|
|Manufacturer Claimed Weight (Size Regular)||2.28 lbs.||1.50 lbs.||1.33 lbs.||1.81 lbs.||1.79 lbs.|
|Compression/Stuff Sack Weight||1.0 oz||1.6 oz.||0.8 oz.||1.6 oz.||1.6 oz.|
|Manufacturer Temp Rating||15 F||30 F||30 F||20 F||30 F|
|EN Temp Rating (Lower Limit)||10.4 F||Not rated||Not rated||Not rated||30 F|
|Fill Weight||22 oz.||13 oz.||12 oz.||17 oz.||15 oz.|
|Compression or Stuff Sack Included||Stuff||Stuff||Stuff||Stuff||Stuff|
|Shell material||20D Nylon Ripstop||Extremelite (12D)||Pertex Endurance (10D)||Extremelite (12D)||20D Nylon Ripstop|
|Liner material||30D Nylon||n/a||n/a||n/a||30D Plain weave nylon|
|Small Organization Pocket||Yes||No||No||No||Yes|
|Zipper||3/4-length / Left Side||Full-length / Side||Full-length / Side||Full-length / Side||3/4-length / Left Side|
|Shoulder Girth||63 in.||64 in.||58 in.||59 in.||62 in.|
|Hip Girth||57.9 in.||Not stated||52 in.||Not stated||53 in.|
|Foot Girth||46.1 in.||39 in.||38 in.||38 in.||Not stated|
Our Analysis and Test Results
Marmot is experimenting with adding a secondary zipper to several sleeping bag designs to allow new venting possibilities. The location of the secondary zipper on the side of the Marmot Helium 15 is one of the more perplexing of these experiments, causing us to downgrade an otherwise stellar sleeping bag.
The Marmot Helium utilizes 20 ounces of 800FP down, a pretty sizeable amount for a 3-season backpacking sleeping bag. It receives a 10F lower limit temperature rating on the industry-standard EN test but Marmot markets the bag with a more conservative 15F rating. We think the conservative manufacturer rating is more accurate because this bag doesn't incorporate a neck baffle to trap heat inside the bag. Some folks may prefer the simplicity of this design but be aware that this allows considerably more heat to escape out the collar of the hood. This isn't an issue in most conditions but it becomes a problem in temps approaching the 15F rating.
A size long Marmot Helium weighed in at 2.08 pounds on our GearLab scale. That's pretty light for most backpacking sleeping bags with this level of warmth. However, the Helium is a premium bag with a premium price. In our tests, we identified a couple of other bags that provide similar warmth while weighing as much as 25% less. So even though the Helium is light, we were disappointed with its warmth-to-weight ratio compared to the top-performers in the category.
The comfort of the Marmot Helium is enhanced by its generous upper body dimensions. Unfortunately, it tapers considerably at the foot box and some of our testers found the narrowness in this area unpleasant. We did like the supple feel of the 30-Denier nylon lining combined with its fluffy 800FP down. The hood also seems well thought out with a spacious design that can cinch comfortably to seal heat in on a cold night.
As one of the warmest models in our backpacking sleeping bag category, the Marmot Helium 15 includes substantially more insulation than others, and its packed size understandably suffered for this reason. Although it's a bit bulky, the premium down is still highly compressible and we would estimate that it would exhibit a better than average packed size among bags supplying similar warmth. Although this bag comes with a drawstring stuff sack, we discovered that it was exceedingly difficult to stuff our size long test model inside. We do not know if the same issue would occur with a size regular.
One of the unique features of the Marmot Helium is a secondary zipper on the right side. The intention is that you can open this zipper to vent excess heat on warm nights. In practice, however, we found it rather ineffective for this purpose. The secondary zipper is simply too short to open the bag very far. On colder nights, the Helium also seems to be ill-designed because it lacks a neck baffle to seal heat it. Due to this issue, we think this model has a rather narrow usable temperature range and it's thus not very versatile.
Features & Design
One of the best features on this bag is the hood which cinches down comfortably and incorporates a drawcord that's directed away from your face. The bag also includes a convenient stash pocket for keeping the batteries on a headlamp or small smartphone warm. When it comes to the broader design, we just can't get past the ineffectiveness of the secondary zipper. We believe using the extra zipper material to extend the main zipper from 3/4- to full-length would improve versatility far more. The bag could weigh the same and a truly full-length would allow it to unzip into a blanket for warm nights.
The Marmot Helium 15 is a high-end sleeping bag with a corresponding price. Its 800FP down certainly feels premium and we were impressed with its all-around construction. When you compare the Helium with other high-end models, however, its deficiencies become apparent. Other companies simply offer lighter, more packable designs that also utilize even loftier down. If you're going to splurge for an ultra-premium sleeping bag, the Helium seems like a subpar value.
On its own, the Marmot Helium 15 is a very nice sleeping bag. It's lightweight and warm, and it exhibits the quality construction you would expect from a model with its premium price tag. In head-to-head competition with other expensive bags, however, it just can't keep up. We consider the top-rated backpacking sleeping bags from Western Mountaineering and Feathered Friends to be better in nearly every way. In other words, we'd likely steer clear of the Helium at full price but give it some consideration if you find it on sale.
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