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REI Co-op Helio Down 30 Review

A versatile bag that's best in warmer temps.
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Price:  $170 List | $169.00 at REI
Pros:  Super long zipper, lots of venting options, lightweight, compressible
Cons:  Not very warm, ineffective stuff sack, annoying hood drawstrings
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Jack Cramer ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Oct 23, 2019
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SCORE


RANKED
#7 of 11
  • Warmth - 20% 3
  • Weight - 20% 6
  • Comfort - 20% 4
  • Packed Size - 15% 6
  • Versatility - 15% 8
  • Features & Design - 10% 5

Our Verdict

One of the worst things about camping might be waking up and facing the prospect of climbing out of your toasty sleeping bag into the frigid morning air. Say goodbye to that misery with the REI Co-op Helio 30 Down. With its longer-than-full-length zipper, you can slip your shoes on and wiggle over to your cook spot without ever leaving the sleeping bag. Our testers were also impressed with this bag's low weight and small packed size. However, all is not perfect. We don't think the Helio is particularly comfortable, and we grew tired of the floppy hood drawstrings dragging across our faces. Still, this is a worthy bag for anyone looking for an affordable sleeping bag with exceptional venting options.


Compare to Similar Products

 
Awards  Best Buy Award   Best Buy Award 
Price $169.00 at REI$164.96 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$159.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$169.95 at Backcountry
Compare at 2 sellers
$159.95 at REI
Compare at 3 sellers
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Pros Super long zipper, lots of venting options, lightweight, compressibleAwesome warmth-to-weight ratio for the price, very compressible, tons of venting options, nice compression sack includedThick synthetic insulation, well-balanced performance, easy to use zipper, included stuff sackCheap, anti-snag zipper, sturdy materials, versatile synthetic insulationInexpensive, burly, decent warmth, roomy fit
Cons Not very warm, ineffective stuff sack, annoying hood drawstringsNot as warm as its temp rating, no draft collar, uncertain durabilityBulkier than expected, mediocre warmth-to-weight ratioModerate warmth-to-weight ratio, doesn't compress well, limited extra featuresHeavier than average, bulky, no storage sack, no compression sack
Bottom Line A versatile bag that's best in warmer temps.An exceptional deal for a lightweight bag that excels in wet conditions.A simple but effective synthetic mummy bag.An affordable workhorse with solid all-around performance.A legit backpacking sleeping bag that won't cost you an arm and a leg.
Rating Categories REI Co-op Helio Down 30 NEMO Kyan 35 The North Face Cat's Meow 20 Mountain Hardwear Lamina 30 Kelty Cosmic 20
Warmth (20%)
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Weight (20%)
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Comfort (20%)
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Packed Size (15%)
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Specs REI Co-op Helio... NEMO Kyan 35 The North Face... Mountain Hardwear... Kelty Cosmic 20
Measured Weight (size long, in lbs) 2.06 lbs 1.89 lbs 2.39 lbs 2.28 lbs 2.63 lbs
Temperature rating (F) 30 F 35 F 20 F 30 F 20 F
EN lower limit (rating for men)/ EN Comfort Rating (rating for women) Not rated 35 / 46 F 22 / 33 F 27 (lower) F 19 (lower) F
Manufacturer claimed weight of size Regular (lbs) 1.95 lbs 1.69 lbs 2.25 lbs 2.17 lbs 2.41 lbs
Compression/Stuff Sack Weight (oz) 1.8 oz 2.4 oz 4.0 oz 3.7 oz 0.8 oz
Compressed Volume (L) 8.3 L 6.6 L 11.4 L 8.6 L 8.7 L
Fill 600-fill duck down Synthetic - Primaloft Silver Synthetic - Heatseeker Guide Synthetic - Thermal.Q 600FP Down (83%) / Polyester (17%)
Hydrophobic down? Yes N/A N/A N/A Yes
Fill Weight (Reg oz) 15 oz 12 oz 26 oz Unknown 18.2 oz
Shell material 40-denier ripstop polyester Ripstop nylon (20D) 20D Nylon Ripstop Ripstop nylon (30D) 20D Nylon taffeta
Neck Baffle No No No No Yes
Small organization Pocket No No Yes No Yes
Zipper Full-Length+ Right Side, 1/4-Length Left Side Full-length / Side Full-Length Side Full-lengh / Side 3/4-Length Side
Shoulder Girth (Reg) 62 in 62 in Unknown 60 in 64 in
Hip Girth (Reg) 56 in 57 in Unknown 58 in 60 in
Foot Girth (Reg) Not listed 46 in Not listed Not listed Not listed
Stuff or compression sack included? Compression Compression Compression Compression Stuff
Storage sack included? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Water resistant shell? DWR DWR No DWR No
Total Weight (Long size, in oz) 33.0 oz 30.2 oz 38.2 oz 36.4 oz 42.0 oz
Manufacturer claimed weight (Long, oz) 33.1 oz 30 oz 39 oz Not listed 42.7 oz

Our Analysis and Test Results

REI Co-op is getting lots of respect for their sleeping bag game, and it's certainly deserved. Their premium Magma 30 was one of our tester's favorites in our backpacking sleeping review, and the Trail Pod 30 received top marks for bags under $100. Read on to what we think about its relative the Helio 30.

Performance Comparison


On chilly mornings  a sleep bag like the REI Helios 30 is a real luxury because you can unzip all the way around the bottom and wear it as you sip your coffee.
On chilly mornings, a sleep bag like the REI Helios 30 is a real luxury because you can unzip all the way around the bottom and wear it as you sip your coffee.

Warmth


The Helio is rare among REI sleeping bags in that it does not receive an industry-standard EN temperature rating. Instead, REI gives it their own rating of 30°F. We think this rating is pretty generous and feel like it provides a level of warmth more on par with other bags that have 35F to 40F ratings. This is still warm enough for many 3-season applications, but don't expect its 15 oz of 600 fill power down to keep you roasting during the coldest night of spring and fall.

At 2.06 lbs  the Helios is one of the lighter budget sleeping bags that we tested.
At 2.06 lbs, the Helios is one of the lighter budget sleeping bags that we tested.

Weight


We weighed a size long Helio 30 on our digital scale at 2.06 lbs. That's impressively light for a budget sleeping, especially one outfitted with two burly zippers. Keep in mind, however, that we don't think this bag lives up to its 30°F temperature rating, so the overall warmth-to-weight ratio is not quite as impressive as it appears on paper.

In terms of comfort  the Helios has average dimensions and average materials. We think its overall comfort  however  is less than average due to its annoying hood drawstrings.
In terms of comfort, the Helios has average dimensions and average materials. We think its overall comfort, however, is less than average due to its annoying hood drawstrings.

Comfort


This bag offers 62 inches of shoulder girth and a brushed polyester lining that together provide roughly average amounts of roominess and coziness, respectively. One drawback to this bag's dual zippers is the dual set of drawstrings that are used to seal the hood. Not only do they add weight, but both were prone to rubbing our tester's faces and disrupting their sleep.

Close the inner drawstring on the stuff sack to "compress" the Helios. Its not very effective  but hey  you also get to carrying around the extra mesh fabric that's needed to expand it to its storage sack configuration.
Close the inner drawstring on the stuff sack to "compress" the Helios. Its not very effective, but hey, you also get to carrying around the extra mesh fabric that's needed to expand it to its storage sack configuration.

Packed Size


The Helio 30 packs down pretty small for a budget bag. It's important to note, however, that the 8.3-liter minimum volume that we measured was achieved using a third-party compression sack. You won't be able to get it close to that small with the dual drawstring stuff sack that the bag comes with. That sack is supposed to be used as both a storage and compression sack, but it's ineffective at both — too small for a storage sack and poorly designed for true compression.

The dual zippers make it easy to vent the top of the bag. With most single zipper bags you would only be able to vent one side.
The dual zippers make it easy to vent the top of the bag. With most single zipper bags you would only be able to vent one side.

Versatility


Like most sleeping bags with down insulation, the Helio will perform worse than poorly if it gets wet. That's because wet down feathers clump together and lose their insulative power. So if you're going to use this or another down bag, do everything you can to keep it dry.

Aside from that limitation, this bag is useful across a wide range of temps. It owes this versatility to a super long main zipper paired with a second accessory zipper that together provide extensive venting options. What's more, if you fully open the main zipper, the bag turns into a quilt.

We're don't like the actual zippers on the Helio because they're prone to snagging and don't feature a pull tab on the inside of the bag.
We're don't like the actual zippers on the Helio because they're prone to snagging and don't feature a pull tab on the inside of the bag.

Feature & Design


This bag's dual zipper design undeniably provides significant versatility benefits. The actual zippers, however, had several issues. Neither one features an interior pull tab, and they both seem to snag constantly. We also don't like the dual hood drawstrings that are made with mediocre materials and were constantly scratching our tester's faces.

With most bags you have to deal with one annoying hood drawstring. With the Helios you get to deal with two...
With most bags you have to deal with one annoying hood drawstring. With the Helios you get to deal with two...

Value


Despite a couple of complaints, the Helio' low weight and small packed size present a solid value among the budget bags we've tested. There are a few budget bags that we like more, but this one could still be the best choice for those who can appreciate its longer than full-length zipper — especially if those shoppers can get it on sale or with an REI coupon.

Conclusion


The Helio's most distinguishing characteristic is the super long zipper that wraps all the way around the bottom of the bag. Our testers loved this feature on cold mornings because they could start making breakfast without having to leave their cozy sleeping cocoon. They were less than pleased, however, with this bag's mediocre comfort and ineffective stuff sack. Overall, the Helio may still be worth considering, but only if you're lucky enough to find it on sale.


Jack Cramer