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.
REI Co-op Helio Down 30 Review
Cons: Not very warm, ineffective stuff sack, annoying hood drawstrings
Manufacturer: REI Co-op
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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