Report By: Chad Poindexter
April 14, 2011
stick1377 (AT) gmail (DOT) com
Corinth, Alcorn County, Mississippi, USA
5' 10" (1.78 m)
200 lb (90.70 kg)
I love backpacking! However, with only two years under my belt so far, I would still consider myself a little green to it all, so to say… Initially, I started out with heavy gear but since then I have gone lighter, although I still use a little of it all. I have gone from tent to tarp, canister stove to alcohol stove, sleeping bag to quilt and quite happily from synthetic to down. All of my hiking so far has been in the South East United States, and up to this point has been with friends or family.
Manufacturer: Marmot Mountain LLC.
Manufacturer's Website: www.marmot.com
Year Manufactured: 2009
Size Reviewed: Regular (Also Available In Long)
Insulation Type: Certified 850+ Fill Power Goose Down
Temperature Rating: 15 F (-9 C)
MSRP: (US) $389.00
Listed Weight: 34 oz (964 g)
Measured Weight: 34.5 oz (978 g)
Supplied Stuff Sack Measured Weight: 0.7 oz (19.8 g)
Listed Fill Weight According To Product Tag On Bag: 19 oz (539 g)
Measured Circumference at Widest Point at Shoulders: 63.5 in (161 cm)
Listed Size on Hip: 58 in (147 cm)
Listed Size on Foot: 40 in (101 cm)
Measured Circumference at Foot: 41 in (104 cm)
Main Material: 100% Nylon Ripstop DWR 1.2 oz/yd
Lining Material: 100% Polyester Taffeta DWR 1.0 oz/yd
Color: Pacifica (Only Color Available)
Full Length Zipper on Left Side of Bag
The Marmot Helium sleeping bag (hereafter referred to simply as the "sleeping bag") is a mummy-shaped sleeping bag, meaning that it tapers from 63.5 in (161 cm) in circumference at the shoulders (the widest point), to 41 in (101 cm) in circumference at the foot (its narrowest point). The blue ("Pacifica") outer shell is made using a light-weight nylon ripstop which is coated with a durable water repellant (DWR) to help shed, or bead, water. The black inside liner is made using an even lighter-weight, softer, polyester taffeta which also has a DWR coating as well. This color scheme is the only color available for this bag.
The white, full length, two-way zipper runs along the left hand side of the bag. Marmot uses a ground level zipper here, which lessens the chances of drafts sneaking inside the bag along the zipper. And just as with the color of the sleeping bag, the left side is the only side that the zipper is offered on. There is a blue-colored, round nylon pull tab attached to the top zipper which measures 3 in (8 cm) long. Just above the zipper around the shoulder area is the Marmot name, in white, sewn into the sleeping bag. Just below this in a lighter blue color, "Helium 15F/-9C" is stitched in as well. On the inside, there is a down filled draft tube which runs the full length of the zipper to keep any cold air from sneaking in.
Moving all the way down towards the foot end of the sleeping bag, just above the zipper is a patch sewn in with Marmots signature "M" (see picture to the left). Then at the very bottom of the sleeping bag is another 2 in (5 cm) piece of round, blue nylon cord sewn in as a hang loop. There are a few product tags sewn into the bottom of the foot box as well. The actual foot box is a trapezoidal shape, which is narrower at the heels and widens towards the top of the foot. This allows more room for my feet to actually stand up in rather than being pulled down.
To wrap my head up in, the Marmot Helium sleeping bag features the Nautilus 6-Baffle Hood, which is basically 6 chambers of (nice-and-fluffy) down wrapped around my head. There is a flat, blue-colored nylon cord which runs inside a channel along the top of the chest area and along the bottom of the hood. This cord exits from the sleeping bag on the right hand side near the corner of the face opening. There is a white cord lock which is used to lock the cord in place when the hood is cinched around my face (see picture below).
While the Marmot Helium does have a full length draft tube, it does not include a traditional draft collar. Rather, the sleeping bag relies on Marmot's passive collar system, which is essentially an extension of the draft tube that doesn't stop at the zipper, but instead follows along the opening at the top of the chest area and around the hood. When the hood is cinched closed, the passive collar forms a gasket around my face to keep the air from moving in or out of the bag.
The Marmot Helium is stuffed with 19 oz (539 g) of 850+ certified goose down. The average loft throughout the bag is 4.75 in (12 cm) with the thickest loft being near the feet and the thinnest being in the chest area. The down is kept in place throughout the sleeping bag using stretch tricot baffles, which are stated to allow the sleeping bag to be stuffed and unstuffed numerous times without damaging the actual baffling system. As well, these baffles are continuous, which means I can shift the down inside the sleeping bag from front to back (or vice-versa) with just a few shakes.
A large white cotton storage sack with the Marmot name printed along the side and the bottom came with the sleeping bag. Of course it also came with an "XS" stuff sack as well. The stuff sack is made of 100% nylon and is the same blue-color as the sleeping bag. The stuff sack closes with a black, nylon cinch cord and a cord lock. The stuff sack also has a pleated section on the very bottom which serves as a pull handle to make un-stuffing the sleeping bag somewhat easier. When the sleeping bag is stuffed inside the stuff sack, it measures 12.5 in (32 cm) tall by 6.5 in (16.5 cm) in diameter. (See photo below).
|Size comparisons to a standard Nalgene|
LAYING IT DOWN...
I have used the Marmot Helium approximately 40 nights while on backpacking and car camping trips, and even backyard camping trips.
The most extended period of time of use was on a 4-day (3-night) loop hike that my wife and I did while in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park (GSMNP) last October. The elevations ranged from 2,200 to 6,300 ft (671 to 1,920 m). While on this trip we experienced everything from cold mornings, to warm afternoons and even a seriously rainy night. The temperatures were as low as 26 F (-3 C) in the early mornings and as high as 63 F (17 C) in the afternoons.
|At Cosby Knob Shelter on the Appalachian Trail in the GSMNP|
I also used the Marmot Helium atop Max Patch in North Carolina on an overnight trip. Max Patch is actually a bald which sits at an elevation of 4,629 ft (1,411 m). Being that it is a bald, we were subject to anything the weather wanted to throw at us, which happened to be very strong winds. The high winds quickly made the warm, sunny 55 F (12 C) temperatures feel much colder, and the wind continued until the very early hours of the morning. That night the temperatures dropped to around 27 F (-2 C), but the high winds made for a much colder wind chill, even inside our tent.
|Getting set up on top of Max Patch|
Most recently, I carried the Marmot Helium with me on a 2-night backpacking trip to, yet again, the GSMNP. Elevations on this loop-hike ranged from 1,775 to 4,949 ft (541 to 1,508 m). We started hiking in the snow and it came and went the entire time we hiked. Temperatures were between 20 to 55 F (-7 to 12 C). However, since we slept at lower elevations both nights we never slept directly on snow pack.
|In my Lunar Duo at camp site 113 on the AT in the GSMNP|
Other than on these trips I have used this sleeping bag while on other car camping trips as well as overnight trips to the Sipsey Wilderness in Alabama. At Sipsey Wilderness I used the sleeping bag in the lowest temperatures so far, a whopping 12 F (-11 C) one night this past January. We couldn't find a place suitable enough to set up my tarp, so we cowboy-camped; that is we simply threw a ground sheet down and laid our sleeping gear out on the ground.
|Cowboy camping at Sipsey Wilderness|
The first thing that I noticed about this sleeping bag is how soft it is against my skin. Both the inner and outer material used on the Marmot Helium is very soft and silky feeling. And to make it better, the 850+ fill power down is very fluffy. When lying down inside the bag the bag will puff up around my body and it feels like I am laying on/in a cloud. The only thing that is even slightly uncomfortable about this sleeping bag is that the threads which are used to sew the baffles are a little scratchy. When lying down inside the bag I can feel each horizontal line of thread where the baffles are located. However, since the sleeping bag must be sewn, I cannot figure out a way in which to improve this, except for maybe using a softer thread (if this is even possible). But this is ok because since the Marmot Helium is my winter sleeping bag, I will typically be wearing a pair of long pants anyway, which will keep me from feeling the thread lines.
I have been very happy with the amount of room inside the sleeping bag. I measure approximately 52 in (132 cm) around my chest and shoulders, so the 63.5 in (161 cm) circumference that this sleeping bag offers allows me plenty of room to layer additional garments if needed. I can easily lay on my back and let my arms rest next to my side while laying inside the sleeping bag when it is completely zipped up. Also, if need be, I can throw in some extra clothes or fuel canisters inside my sleeping bag with me, without feeling cramped. From head to toe, considering the fact that it is indeed a mummy-shaped sleeping bag, I am quite happy with the amount of room it offers.
At first, I was a little skeptical about this sleeping bag not having a true draft collar. Since I am a side sleeper, and I tend to move around frequently at night, I wanted to know that my warm air was going to stay inside the sleeping bag with me. So, I made sure to use this sleeping bag at (and even below) its stated rating. As well, I did this while inside a tent, under a tarp, and even just simply cowboy camping. After all of this I have come to be very happy with the way it preforms. Once I cinch the hood down, the passive collar does indeed form a seal around my face, which traps the air in (or out). The great thing about this though is that when I cinch the hood around my face, it is not uncomfortable at all, or is it even in my way (such as covering my mouth or eyes). In my opinion, the collar and hood system on this sleeping bag are quite functional. As well, the full length draft tube does a great job at keeping drafts from sneaking in around the zipper. Occasionally, when I shift positions I may feel a slight draft, but nothing significant.
As can be read above in my review, I have used this sleeping bag in temperatures lower than the stated rating. My bedding set-up consists of my regular size NeoAir and a 1/8 in (0.3 cm) thick closed cell foam pad with this sleeping bag. Even with me only using this, I have no worries about using this sleeping bag to its suggested rating. On the flip side, I have found that if the night time temperatures are expected to be much over 35 to 40 F (1 to 4 C) this bag will be way to warm. Thanks to the full length zipper, I do have the option of opening it up and using it like a quilt, but even used this way it can still be a small furnace...especially in higher temperatures.
Also, coming from a heavier, synthetic-filled sleeping bag, I am very happy with the light-weight of this sleeping bag. As well, I am amazed at how small the Marmot Helium will pack down if need be. However, due to other changes in some of my gear, I no longer stuff the sleeping bag in its tiny little stuff sack. Instead, I put it in a larger homemade silnylon stuff sack and let it fill my pack and then just throw everything else on top of it. This way, my sleeping bag only compresses as much as actually needed while on a backpacking trip.
One concern that I do have is how well the bag will shed/bead water. I sometimes use this sleeping bag with a tarp, but no bivy. So, on rainy nights I have been quite concerned about keeping my down sleeping bag dry. Also, I have found that on nights with a high humidity (especially in colder temps) that my breath will quickly condense and then fall right back down on my chest. In the morning I have found this area of the sleeping bag to be quite wet, to the point in which I believe the moisture has actually reached the down. For this reason I try to air out my sleeping bag as much as possible (see photo below).
|Airing my Helium out on a bear line in the GSMNP|
Since the sleeping bag is made out of a light-weight material, I always use the proper precautions when handling my sleeping bag so that I do not accidentaly damage it. I always try to make sure that the area I am using the sleeping bag on is free of sharp objects, however, I have always used it on top of a pad or a ground sheet. I think I am more concerned about it catching on something when I am storing it either at home or inside my backpack. I am happy to say that so far there has not been any damage to report!
The Marmot Helium is a no-frills, but focused bag. Marmot mixes quality materials with quality craftsmanship, and the end result is a simple sleeping bag that has performed its intended job exceedingly well for me. The Marmot Helium will be in my kit for as long as it lasts, and then I just may have to get another one...
1. Super comfortable.
2. Super warm (all the way to its stated rating).
4. Can pack small if needed.
1. Still concerned with its ability to withstand moisture.
2. The sleeping bag is made of light-weight materials, so some caution must be used with the sleeping bag.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.5
Copyright 2011. All rights reserved.
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