Less than a decade ago many American manufacturers were marketing premium synthetic sleeping bags. That seems to have changed recently with hydrophobic down insulation capturing a growing share of the market. Synthetic insulation now appears to be mainly relegated to lower quality budget bags. One exception is the Kyan 35. Although it is affordable, it offers premium performance.
The Nemo Kyan weighs as little and packs as small as ultra-premium bags that cost twice as much which helped it earn our Best Buy Award.
The Kyan 35 contains 12 ounces of Primaloft Silver synthetic insulation. In the industry standard EN test, this fill resulted in a lower limit temperature rating of 35°F. In our field tests, our reviewers thought this bag felt a little less warm than other bags with similar temperature ratings. Thus, for most people, this bag will probably only be adequate for summer and the warmer nights of spring and fall.
Many users, however, will appreciate the minimal insulation on summer trips, particularly at lower elevations. Fans of the Kyan's design who desire additional warmth insurance should check out the 20° version. It weighs 6 ounces more and is still priced affordably.
The 35F version of the Kyan is great for summer on warmer nights in the shoulder seasons. However, we think the 20F version might be better for full 3-season use.
A direct benefit of this bag's minimal insulation is minimal weight. It tipped our scale at an impressive 1.89 pounds for a size long. Although synthetic bags are usually heavier than comparable down bags, the Kyan 35 is 3 ounces less than the similarly warm, but down, Sierra Designs Backcountry Bed 700.
The 35° and 20° versions of the Kyan also weigh less than the synthetic Mountain Hardwear Lamina 30. Both of these comparisons speak to just how lightweight this bag's low weight is. Any shopper will be hard pressed to find a better warmth-to-weight ratio at a lower price.
This bag does pretty well in the comfort department. The upper body dimensions are fairly generous, and it tapers toward the feet less than most mummy bags leaving extra space for your legs to move around. However, we consider the even wider dimensions of its Nemo cousin, the Riff 30, a better choice for side and tummy sleepers.
Overall, our testers thought the Kyan 35 was slightly more comfortable than other affordable mummy bags, such as the Mountain Hardwear Lamina 20 and Kelty Cosmic 20.
In our tests with an after-market compression sack, this bag packed down to an outstanding 6.6 liters in volume. Results were similar using the sturdy compression sack that it comes with. This performance is particularly surprising because the Kyan 35 is synthetic.
Ordinarily one of the primary drawbacks of synthetic insulation is higher weight and larger packed size than comparable levels of down insulation. In both of these areas, however, this bag's Primaloft Silver insulation outperformed similar priced down bags. In packed size specifically, it achieved one of the smallest compressed volumes we saw. This volume was particularly impressive because it matched its much more expensive down rival, the Therm-a-Rest Hyperion 32.
The Nemo Kyan was had one of the smallest packed sizes in our tests. And its included compression sack is pretty sweet too.
The Kyan 35 receives top marks for versatility. The first reason for this is its synthetic insulation. When down gets wet, the feathers are prone to clumping, and it loses nearly all its ability to insulate. Synthetic fills, in contrast, maintain a significant percentage of the normal insulative power even when soaked. In some circumstances this can be the difference between a night spent shivering and a night spent snoring. For this reason, we recommend synthetic bags like the Kyan 35 for wet climates or novice backpackers who might be less adept at keeping their sleeping bag dry.
The other reason this bag scored well in versatility is its ¾-length main zipper. Like a lot of manufacturers, Nemo actually calls this zipper "full-length." Our tape measure, however, indicated the zipper ended 19 inches from the toe of the bag. Although this seems closer to ¾- than full-length to us, it is still pretty long for a backpacking sleeping bag and gave our testers adequate options for venting excess lower body heat. Thus, the long main zipper, along with the venting "gills" discussed below, ensure that you can be comfortable in this bag across a greater range of temperatures.
The Nemo Kyan's synthetic insulation is ideal if you're worried about rain getting your sleeping bag wet.
Features and Design
Nemo is a company that's deservedly known for clever innovations, and the Kyan 35 includes a couple of examples. The most conspicuous, perhaps, are a pair of "gills." These gills are slits of uninsulated fabric on the top of the bag that are opened and closed using a tiny zipper. When opened, excess heat is able to escape past the uninsulated material. When closed, however, the zipper draws the adjacent insulation together, ensuring that heat stays trapped inside.
Although some of our testers viewed the gills as a completely unnecessary feature, others were big fans. The fans argued the gills helped them better adjust the bag's warmth throughout a night. A common tactic was to start off with the gills open to then close them after the outside temperature had dropped later in the night. Whether you end up liking the gills or not, the tiny zippers and extra small pieces of fabric add minimal weight to the bag.
Open the gill zippers (right) to open gaps in the insulation to let heat escape. Close the gill zippers (left) and the Nemo Kyan seals in heat like any other bag.
Near the gills, Nemo uses a tiny third zipper for a opening of a small stash pocket. This pocket is great a place to keep a phone or headlamp warm and close at hand.
The Kyan has an inconspicuous zippered stash pocket on the outside of the bag near the hood.
The Kyan's synthetic insulation makes it ideal for wetter activities, like coastal hikes, sea kayaking, or canyoneering, where its ability to insulate when wet can really come into play. The same applies for particularly wet locations like the Pacific Northwest or many parts of the US in spring. This bag's lower price tag is favorable for situations where your sleeping bag will take a lot of wear, such as long thru-hikers or tent-less "cowboy" camping.
At the time of this review, the Kyan 35 is a steal for $200 MSRP. Our review team believes it easily outperforms all the other similarly priced bags we tested. It also outperformed several other bags that cost a couple of hundred dollars more. This all suggests a bag that is an exceptional value. Our only concern is the longevity of its Primaloft Silver insulation. At present, it is not yet known how well this insulation will maintain its loft after repeated compression cycles.
With its reasonable price tag, you don't have to worry as much about hurting the Kyan as you would with a pricier bag.
With its well-balanced performance and bargain price, the Nemo Kyan 35 easily wins our Best Buy Award. Its best attributes versatility across a range of conditions and exceptionally small packed size. Some testers, however, the warmth provided by the 35° version we tested may not be enough for colder 3-season uses. The bottom line: if you live in a warm place, or know you sleep "hot", the Kyan 35 is an excellent and inexpensive choice. If you're concerned about getting cold, check out the Kyan 20 or other affordable, but warmer, options like the REI Co-op Igneo 25 or Kelty Cosmic 20.