FR - Selk'bag - 4G Lite - Derek Hansen
Thank you for editing this series. Here is my field report for your red pen.
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2 Jan 2012
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I've taken the Selk'Bag on four backpacking trips and 6 uses. I've also used the bag during multiple indoor "cabin" overnights for more than 12 uses.
Oct 7-8: Foothills near Mount Elden, Flagstaff, Arizona. I took my daughter on a short backpacking trip in the national forest in Flagstaff. We found an ideal spot on the north slope of a small cinder mountain, just below 7,000 ft (2,134 m). The weather was cool, around 35*F (2*C) and dry.
Nov 4: Old Caves Crater, Flagstaff, Arizona. A backpacking trip cut short due to an unexpected rain storm with intense lightning and wind. The temperature was just above freezing and I had to abandon my overnight plans. Thankfully I was only a few miles from the trailhead.
Nov 10-12: Upper Pumphouse Wash, near Sedona, Arizona. I took a three-day trip into the Upper Pumphouse Wash in Northern Arizona where temperatures got down to 15*F (-10*C) with scattered snow conditions.
Dec 16-17 ~ Coconino National Forest, Flagstaff, Arizona. I took my Boy Scout troop out for a winter camp in the forest. We had about a foot of snow so we snowshoed in to our camp area. Elevation was around 6,900 ft (2,103 m) and overnight temperatures around 12*F (-11*C).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
The temperatures in Flagstaff dropped quickly in the fall and I was faced with cold winter conditions throughout the remainder of the calendar year. So, while I was able to use the Selk'Bag multiple times, it wasn't in ideal conditions for the temperature rating of the bag.
The cool temperatures didn't hold me back from using the bag and I was grateful to have it as it added warmth to my sleep system, which included a hammock on all of the backpacking trips.
DRESSING UP IN THE BAG
My typical camping system includes a hammock. I love that I can keep all my gear off the ground using a hammock, but the Selk'Bag posed a unique challenge: getting into the bag necessitated getting the bag on the dirt. At first I tried to stand on a ground cloth, but then I relaxed and just stood on the ground. What's the use of a wearable, mobile sleeping bag if I don't walk around in it?
Thankfully I could pitch my hammock in pristine areas so I minimized any muck I would stand in. Getting in the bag wasn't ever too difficult, but in the cooler temperatures I found one big problem: my hands. With my naked hands, the slits are just big enough to squeeze my hands through. When it got cooler and I wore a light glove liner, it was very difficult to push my hands out of the slits. In fact, the material always caught on the hook-and-loop fasteners making the process of pushing and pulling my hands in and out very difficult.
With the glove liners, my hands were a very tight fit. And, I could barely squeeze my watch through the slit to check the time.
I'm finding that the zipper is tough to pull once it turns the angle at my upper chest. I sometimes just leave this partially unzipped until I'm laying down and then pull it all the way up.
Moving around in the bag has its challenges. Because of the uni-fit size, I had to pull up on the legs when I walked around to avoid tripping and snagging. When I didn't pull up on the legs so that my feet were planted solid in the bottom of the legs, I would snag the material and often trip up on the feet or walk on the toes or heel areas that do not have the thicker material and added protection.
Because of the torso size, when I sit in the suit, the back pulls down, which pops off the hood from my head. Even when laying down, I often felt a tug on the hood. This is why I stopped using the hood when I slept because it would strain around and I couldn't get a good fit. I noticed that I'm starting to rip out the back side of the bottom area because of this strain on the material. I wish the groin area were gusseted to provide more room when sitting or bending over. As it is, I now have to be careful so I don't rip out the bottom.
The bag is basically sewn with boxy right angles, which don't really map to the curves of the human body.
There were two areas where the bag really excelled in mobility: getting in and out of my hammock, and in the mornings. Getting in and out of my hammock was a joy with the Selk'Bag. Having the insulation already wrapped securely around me made the process of sweeping my legs in and getting comfortable in the hammock a breeze. No fiddling.
In the mornings, it was great that I could pop out of bed and not worry about getting cold when I had to go to the bathroom.
One problem with mobility, however, is that the feet are not waterproof. I've had two trips where the heel area soaked through, getting my socks wet from the ground. From this experience, I try to keep my walking to a minimum.
My biggest complaint about the bag is the floppy feet. I know that this is due to the uni-size bag, but I can't stand that I have to pull up on the legs to walk around. I've noticed that the manufacturer has solved this issue with their other bags by providing a cinch cord around the ankles, but the Light version does not benefit from this. I think there are models with removable feet and I think that would be a nice upgrade.
On my trip in October, the nighttime temperatures were in the upper 30s*F (2*C) and I wore long-sleeve fleece top and bottoms with gloves and a separate hood. In a hammock, I used insulation underneath me to protect from convective heat loss. With this set-up, I slept comfortably for a few hours, but I started to feel a chill above me. I brought along a light summer top quilt and that combination got me through the night.
During the colder nights backpacking I wore my jacket and coat inside the Selk'Bag and also used a summer-rated top quilt for warmth. It actually wasn't a bad combination for warmth and I loved the added benefit of getting out in the morning without worrying about being cold.
As long as I was moving about, the Selk'Bag was fine in cold temperatures for keeping me warm. When I slowed down, I cooled down and needed more insulation.
The manufacturer recommends the Light bag during the winter only for indoor "cabin" camping or sleepovers. I've done a lot of this, actually, and think this is where the Light version excels. The temperature for my indoor uses have all been around 65-70*F (18-21*C). I usually wear a light t-shirt and shorts and some socks and I have been plenty warm.
I am hoping I can get in a few trips down in the lower elevations of Arizona where the overnight temperatures are within the bag's comfort rating. I feel confident that the bag would be great in the summer months, but I have the challenge of testing this bag in the winter.
Wearing the Selk'Bag takes some getting used to. On my first backpacking trip with the bag, I wanted to pull my arms in to my chest, but I couldn't. I wanted my legs closer together, but I couldn't. It was strange. I found that I have a psychological attachment to a quilt, blanket, or sleeping bag that I can pull over my shoulders and tuck under my chin. After a few uses I'm more accustomed to the bag, but I think I still prefer a regular sleeping bag.
FIELD USE SUMMARY
I must admit that I get teased a bit when wearing this bag. It's so unique that everyone I've shown it to has an opinion about it. A few people have shown genuine interest in it and think it's a great idea. I'm fine with how I look in the bag, but I do wish the hand slits were bigger and I had a better way to hold up the leg fabric when I walk.
PRO--Great when using a hammock; nice to have an envelop of warmth in the morning.
CON--Difficult to fit my hands through the slits with glove liners on; the floopy feet make it difficult to walk; the material is ripping out at the crotch; the hood doesn't fit well when sitting and doesn't tighten up well.
Please check back in two months for my long-term report.