Review: Nemo bikepacking sleep gear

Words and photos by Adam Newman

Bikepackers and cycle tourists have been using traditional backpacking and camping gear for ages, but Nemo’s new trio might be the first aimed specifically at bike riders. What makes it “bike touring specific”? Not much to be honest. These three products are essentially just variations on tried and true designs that work for both wheeled and foot travel.

Apollo 3P bikepacking tent – $300

While it’s rated for three people, it’s also big enough to fit yourself and your bike, provided the bike is laying on its side. If you want to get creative, you could tie it off to the bike’s handlebars or some other fixed point to get you a little more headroom. On its own the Apollo is tall enough to sit up in, a non-negotiable feature in any sleep setup if you ask me. It’s not freestanding of course, but it is super simple to pitch with the included center pole, which is itself adjustable, so you can fine-tune the tension on the guy lines. The body is 15D Sil-Nylon in a light green that can help you blend in if you’re stealth camping on a bike tour.

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At 1 pound 5 ounces the Apollo is quite light for its size (57 square feet), but it achieves that weight by trading off some features, notably a floor. Now the Moonwalk bag is designed to go directly on the ground— more on that in a bit—but one of the key elements of a sleep system, to me, is the floor. Sure, if you want to sleep under the stars on a clear night, you could just use the Apollo as a ground sheet, but when it rains the moisture doesn’t hit the ground and magically disappear.

Let’s say it’s been raining all day, the ground is muddy and soft, and you need to set up shelter. A tarp will keep the rain off your noggin, but you’re forced to sit on the soaking wet ground. And put your stuff on the ground. And make your dinner on the wet ground. You get the idea. I’d be really interested if there was a ground sheet shaped to match the outline of the Apollo’s five-sided footprint.

These criticisms are not limited to the Apollo and indeed apply to all tarp setups, so I can’t be too critical of its execution. If you are a tarp user, you’ll like the Apollo. I’ve always been a big fan of tarps—that is until I discovered ultralight tents.

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Moonwalk down sleeping bag – $280

Because the Apollo has no floor, you wouldn’t want to put your nice sleeping bag right on the ground would you? Well, the Moonwalk has you covered with its waterproof, bathtub ground panel built in. If things get a little soggy, the down insulation will stay dry, and you’ll stay warm. Down also packs much smaller than synthetic insulation, and if you’ve ever crammed 40 liters of stuff into a 10 liter pannier, you’ll appreciate that. The down is also treated to be more water repellent with a product known as Down-Tek. It’s ethically sourced, environmentally friendly and weightless.

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I put the Moonwalk to the test through a week-long expedition through the mountains of British Columbia and tested everything to the limits of its waterproofness. Even when my shelter became saturated and began dripping all over me during the endless rain, the Moonwalk kept me comfortable. It’s rated to 30 degrees, and I feel that’s a pretty accurate temperature rating. At 2 pounds 2 ounces its weight is competitive but not ultralight by any means.

I appreciated the integrated sleeping pad sleeve that prevents you from rolling off the pad during the night and cuts down on the amount of annoying noise it generates from sliding around. I would have liked a pillow pocket of some kind, but I found that I could shove my puffy coat into the pad sleeve and it would mostly stay put where I wanted it.

While I DO recommend the Moonwalk as an all-purpose sleeping bag, I DON’T like the idea of putting it directly on the ground. Why? Because I go out of my way to keep my sleeping bag clean so I can limit the amount of times it needs to be washed. If you’re putting it right on the soggy ground, it’s going to have to be washed every single time. You can’t just throw a down sleeping bag in the hamper with your gym socks, so I try to avoid it at all costs.

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Escape Pod 1P bivy – $120

Because the Apollo tarp has no lining it can’t keep out the creepy crawlies that seem to bother so many folks about the outdoors. Nemo’s answer is the Escape Pod bivy that slips over your head and down around the mouth of your sleeping bag. Like Nemo’s other bivy bags, it uses an inflatable beam rather than a pole to keep the material up off your face. Unlike other bags, it is mesh-only and doesn’t offer any protection from the elements.

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I gotta say, this thing just left me shaking my head. If bugs and stuff are a concern, just use a regular tent. Maybe there’s a chance you’re going somewhere that has killer, blood-sucking mosquitos and you need something just in case, but you’re still better off going with a fully lined shelter that has room to sit up, change your clothes, cook food, etc. There’s only one thing you can do with the Escape Pod and that’s sleep. As long as you don’t move in your sleep, that is, and knock it over or get your arms caught up in it or whatever.

I think this is a solution in search of a problem.

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