A bag, a tent, mosquito netting; NEMO’s dedicated bikepacking kit fits on the bicycle and functionally crosses over into lightweight backpacking.
You know a sport has arrived when REI releases an advertisement dedicated to it. Bikepacking’s tread has made an indelible impression, and one of the first mainstream companies to address it head on is New Hampshire-based NEMO Equipment.
No stranger to the intersection of ultralight and functionality, NEMO has been developing cutting-edge outdoor gear since 2002. With the popularity of bikepacking, NEMO saw an opportunity and seized it by the handlebars.
The bikepacking kit is composed of three specialized components: a floorless pyramid tent, a “bathtub” quilt sleeping bag, and a mosquito net bivy. We’ve been tooling around with the kit since fall and have unpacked it here in our review.
Apollo 3P Bikepacking Tent Review
Bikepackers have long reached for pyramid tents; they are light, easy to set up, and provide oodles of space-to-weight ratio. NEMO’s first pyramid tent is the Apollo ($250).
The twin-tone, green and gray, tarp comes with five stakes and a single pole. To set it up, you stake out the five corners and slip the pole into the protective cap at the apex of the pyramid.
The 19-inch collapsible pole extends to 51 inches. Pull the silver cap and the pole extends up to an additional 10 inches—a total of 61 inches of height. The push-button extension locks the pole at 2-inch intervals between. The pyramid pitches equally well using a single trekking pole. I used a Helinox Ridgeline collapsible pole and was able to pitch it up to 54 inches high.
The double zipper can be pulled down from the top to allow ventilation. The entire zipper length is protected by a storm flap, secured with Velcro tabs to shield the zipper from the elements.
Tie backs keep the door open to let in the light or ease transitions in and out of camp.
Apollo Bikeacking Tent Specs
- Capacity: Three people
- Weight: 2lbs. 1oz.
- Floor area: 105″ x 98″; 57 square feet
- Height: 58″
- Stakes: 5, three-sided aluminum stakes with red pulls.
- Pole: 1, extendable
- Made in: China
What We Liked: It doesn’t get much simpler than a pyramid tarp.
The floorless design allows you to freely walk in and out of the tent with your mountain bike shoes on. This also allows you to bring the bike (or dog) under the tent at night.
What We Didn’t Like: I’ve set up the Apollo a number of times. With five corners, it requires give and take to dial in the perfect pitch. It’s just not as easy as stake and raise.
Billed for three, with a pole sitting dead center, the Apollo is better suited for two or one plus a bike.
Two minor points. This isn’t a dig on the tent, but two of the stakes bent after hammering them into rocky soil. In general, I really like the three-sided aluminum stakes, but pound away with caution.
The 19-inch pole will strap swimmingly on a flat bar bike handle. But you’ll need to get creative when strapping it to a bike running drop bars.
Moonwalk Sleeping Bag Review
At its core, the Moonwalk is a quilt. But we think it’s the most innovative product of the three in the kit, unlocking the challenges of a dedicated bikepacking kit.
Quilts are a common go-to bag for the ultralight crowd. The theory is any underlying down is crushed, negating its insulation value. And a good pad will make up the difference in spades. We like quilts for trips where space and weight are paramount. But quilts require a ground tarp to keep them clean, dry and protected. The Moonwalk ($280) has this built into the design.
The top quilt is lofted with 700-fill down and is sewn to a taped, waterproof floor. A silky 40-denier nylon lines the inside of the quilt and sits topside to the pad sleeve. A full length or 3/4 pad slips between the silnylon and nylon liner, ensuring the pad always lays squarely under the bag. Look inside the sleeve, and you’ll see a stretchy rand running opposite the zipper, allowing it to swallow a variety of pad girths. The top of the sleeve has enough room to stuff a puffy jacket under the head for a pillow.
Four stake-out points enable you to pin down the sleeping bag.
A draft collar sits just below the neck and can trap heat when you draw the elastic collar. A second drawcord closes the entire bag below the chin. Hoodless by design, the theory is most cyclists will bring a cap of their own.
A 3/4-length double zipper runs down the left side saves weight and its semi-rectangular size provides tired legs with room to stretch and move.
Moonwalk Sleeping Bag Specs
- Rating: 30˚ F
- Fill: 700 down, DownTek treated
- Weight: 2lbs. 2oz.
- Shape: Semi-rectangular
- Fits up to: 6 feet
- Packed size: 16″ x 8″
- Compressed volume: 5 liters
- Zipper: Right
What We Liked: The waterproof pad sleeve is a clever addition; we’ve seen something similar before in products by Big Agnes. But this is the first time we’ve seen a fully waterproof bottom, which allows you to – theoretically – plop down in a puddle for the night. In short, it buys you some protection and also allows the Apollo tent to shine with its floorless design.
The palette strikes a balance with its subdued granite outer with a bold sunflower liner. The color difference helps identify the inside from out when setting up in the dark.
The hoodless design is intended to cut weight and volume. But more importantly, we think it provides better function. Hooded quilts with integrated pad sleeves can be a quirky match. The pad splays out the hood, creating draft tunnels around the head. For a mummy bag-like experience, we’d suggest buying a down balaclava.
What We Didn’t Like: The draft tube’s elastic drawcords are excessively long and dangle about 24 inches when pulled tight. This might be in part to the rectangular cut of the bag–it’s cinching a lot of material around the neck.
The stuff sack is standard issue NEMO. Made out of breathable material, air seeps out while stuffing the bag. But it’s a big bag, it isn’t waterproof, and it doesn’t include compression straps. On one hand, it can stuff in the nooks of a seat bag, but for a breathable, waterproof compression sack, we absolutely love Sea to Summits eVent Compression sack.
The medium fill quality (700 down) stuffs down to 5 liters. At 2 pounds 2 ounces, it’s still a fairly hefty bag that sacrifices compressibility. Perhaps not a big deal for ultralight hikers–where a bigger pack can carry more gear–space is a huge deal for bikepackers who stuff gear in limited sized frame and seat bags. That said, I was able to stuff both the Apollo tent and the Moonwalk sleeping bag into my 14L seat bag.
Though you lose the integrated ground tarp, for a $100 more, Nemo’s 19 ounce Siren is lofted with 850 fill and stuffs down to the size of a grapefruit. Decisions!
Escape Pod 1P Bivy Review
East-coast NEMO clearly understands the pain of sharing a sleeping space with bugs. Because the Apollo tent doesn’t include mesh netting, they’ve created a separate, one person mesh bivy.
The Escape Pod Bivy ($120) stakes out at all four corners, using the same three-sided aluminum stakes as the Apollo. The inflatable rib blows up with one breath and pitches the air-beam hoop two feet above the head. The 30D, waterproof floor provides added protection.
A mesh pocket hangs at the head of the bivy, providing enough space to store a headlamp or device.
Escape Pod Bivy Specs
- Weight: 7oz
- Interior Height: 24 inches
- Packed Size: 8″ x 4″
What We Liked: Unlike with a tent, buying a typical separate mesh liner to pair with a pyramid can be an expensive second purchase. Case in point: Black Diamond offers a two pound, 4 person pyramid tent for $290. The pairing bug liner is another two pounds and $290. At seven ounces, the Escape Bivy is a fraction of the weight at half the price. You don’t end up buying more than you need.
For those who don’t like the feeling of a bivy sack draped over the face, the Escape and Apollo combination is light and airy, and has some storage for those need-to-find items.
What We Didn’t Like: Traveling in pairs? The Escape bivy only fits one; your buddy will need to buy their own.
The bivy’s underlying floor fabric overlaps protection already provided by the bottom of the sleeping bag—adding unnecessary weight.
Because sharing my bikepacking experience with mosquitos is pure misery, I always toss in a mosquito head net on every bike packing trip. And realistically, this is a much more affordable way — in space and budget — to solve the bug problem.
The kit in its entirety — tent, bag, and netting — weighs in at four pounds ten ounces and costs $650. A high-end pyramid tent with matching nest might save you half the weight, but would also cost you a heavy $1000. And you’d still need to buy a sleeping bag.
But even more so than weight, bike packing is all about saving space. To fill the niche, companies making bike bags have gotten creative, filling otherwise empty frame triangles with bags and holsters. This makes for a tight ride, with gear securely snugged to the frame. But it doesn’t allow a lot of space.
While it’s exciting to see mainstream companies like NEMO addressing the sport with bikepacking specific gear, NEMO’s kit isn’t the lightest nor the tightest packing out there. But it’s reasonably priced and addresses some bike camping specific issues (with a floorless shelter and integrated waterproof sleeping bag floor).
Ultimately, we liked what NEMO brought to the table; it’s a functional ultralight kit that isn’t so specific as to make it exclusive to bikepacking. To that end, I expect we will see a lot of these kits tromping up and down the trails this summer.
For more information, including where to buy, head on over to NEMOEquipment.