By Andrew Liszewski
When you’re packing for an adventure in the great outdoors, particularly one that involves a lot of hiking and carrying, multi-purpose tools are the only way to go. Axes that double as shovels, spoons that double as forks and even diaries that double as toilet paper will make your trek far more enjoyable. And who says that a sleeping bag has to only be a place to sleep? Not the people at Selk’bags, that’s for sure. While their sleeping bags do provide warmth and comfort while you doze all night, their unique design allows them to be enjoyed when you’re awake as well. In fact, wearing one is kind of like never having to get out of bed!
We had the chance to try out their latest model, the Selk’bag 4G Lite, at the cottage last weekend, and you can check out our full review of it after the jump.
The 4G Lite is the 4th generation of the Selk’bag sleepwear system, and is about 30% lighter than the previous generation model. But it’s not the result of new, more efficient materials or anything like that. The 4G Lite is specifically designed to have less insulation than the previous models, allowing it to be used when temperatures don’t exactly hit zero at night. In fact, the Selk’bag 4G Lite is rated to about 45°F, which is well above freezing. So while you won’t want to rely on it while sleeping in a tent in the dead of Winter, it should provide more than ample comfort during a cool night in the Spring, Fall and even Summer.
Just be warned. Even though it’s distinguished as the ‘Lite’ version of the Selk’bag, it still provides ample insulation. So needless to say that shooting these photos in the early afternoon when it was over 90°F proved to be a toasty experience.
Of course at this point you might be asking yourself why on Earth you’d ever want to wear something like the Selk’bag? And besides looking like you’ve just returned from a moon mission, I can think of 2 other good reasons:
1) You’re like me and absolutely can not stand sleeping in a zipped-up sleeping bag. And I mean it. While I have no trouble drifting off to sleep once I’ve slid in and zipped up, the first time I roll over and find myself tangled up inside, I almost lose my mind. At that point I’ll usually just completely unzip my sleeping bag and use it as a blanket in the wee hours of the morning. Which of course means that the cold has plenty of places to creep in. While wearing the Selk’bag though, you can toss and turn all night long and it will still feel comfortable and non-constricting to sleep in.
2) You absolutely, positively hate the idea of getting out of your warm, cozy sleeping bag on a cold morning. (Or, in the middle of the night to make a bathroom run.) With the Selk’bag you’re free to get up, walk around and pretty much do anything you’d normally do while out in the woods. Try that with a traditional mummy or rectangular sleeping bag and you’ll find yourself tripping and falling before you even get out of your tent.
In fact the Selk’bag is incredibly easy to move around in. (Assuming you’ve got one that perfectly fits your height, which I’ll talk about later.) It’s made from the same material as a traditional sleeping bag, including the smooth ‘wooshy’ outer layer, and is very comfortable to wear.
Whether you’re kicking back, relaxing on a deck chair on the dock…
…or awkwardly posing for obviously staged photos of you fishing.
One thing I particularly like, and this could be due to the ‘Lite’ nature of the suit, is that it’s not overly padded. You don’t feel like you’re wearing one of those inflatable sumo wrestling suits, and it doesn’t really inhibit your movements at all. Something like putting on a life jacket vest, which can actually be awkward without wearing a sleeping bag, is not made any more difficult wearing the Selk’bag.
For added warmth when sleeping the Selk’bag’s sleeves are capped so that your hands remain as warm as the rest of your body. And to minimize the number of holes where heat can escape.
But given they’re padded like the rest of the suit, you really can’t use your hands at all while they’re inside. It’s not like wearing mittens where you have limited, but usable, control over your fingers. With your hands inside the Selk’bag’s sleeves you’re not going to be baiting a hook, paddling a canoe or even scratching an itch. So on either sleeve there’s a strategically placed slit near the wrist that you can pop your hands out of when you need to use them. Most of the time you’ll need your hands right away to finish getting ‘dressed’ in the Selk’bag, but it’s nice that they’re still available for other activities as well.
And so that the ends of the sleeves don’t dangle and get in the way when you’re trying to use your hands, they can be pulled back and tethered using a velcro patch. It doesn’t make them completely unobtrusive, but it’s a good enough solution I think. It will prevent you from safely doing certain activities, like say working over a hot stove, or maybe even starting a campfire. But otherwise it’s a perfectly usable solution when you need to use your hands.
Now I have to admit. When I first opened and unraveled it, it seemed like getting ‘dressed’ in the Selk’bag was going to be as difficult as suiting up for a space walk. But it turns out it’s pretty easy, particularly if you’ve got experience wearing a snowsuit as a kid. On either side of the chest you’ll find a zipper, with the one on the right (pictured here) being slightly longer than the one on the left, running all the way down to just above your leg. With both of them unzipped they provide easy access to step into the Selk’bag’s legs. And after that you just need to slip your arms into the sleeves, pull it up onto your shoulders and toss the hood over your head.
Once dressed there’s a few moments when you feel a little encumbered while wearing and trying to move around in the suit. But you get used to it pretty quickly. And I imagine when the temperatures outside are particularly cold, you’ll learn to appreciate being able to roll out of bed without having to leave the cozy behind.
And since it’s designed to let you walk around while wearing it, without being able to put shoes or boots on over your feet. The bottom of the Selk’bag’s legs are covered and reinforced with a stiffer, heavier fabric. I wouldn’t recommend walking around on broken glass or anything like that, but the feet will certainly withstand sharp rocks or twigs, which you’re probably more likely to encounter out in the woods. I also found the fabric was really easy to brush off and clean, so you don’t drag dirt and other debris into your tent when you’re ready to hit the hay.
Finally, like any regular sleeping bag, the Selk’bag can be considerably compressed and rolled up for easy transport and storage. In fact, dealing with the suit while you’re not wearing it is kind of like carrying around a dead, though remarkably light, body. That might sound a little morbid, but the empty legs and arms tend to hang all over the place as you move it around. So the fact that you can stuff it away in the included compression sack is great.
And while this photo doesn’t provide much in the way of scale comparison, the compressed results are actually fairly compact as far as sleeping bags go. And even though you have to contend with loose arms and legs, rolling up the bag is pretty much as easy as with a mummy or rectangular style sleeping bag.
As someone who can’t stand being constricted inside a sleeping bag while they sleep, I think the Selk’bag is pretty much the greatest thing since sliced bread. And if you’ve ever used a sleeping bag, you’re already familiar with how a Selk’bag works and why you’d need it on a camping adventure. But if you’ve ever stumbled outside your tent with a regular sleeping bag draped over your shoulders, I think you can probably see the benefits of having one specifically designed with separate legs, sleeves and a drawstring hood. Like I’ve already mentioned, unless you’re a blogger, it’s the closest you’ll get to waking up and starting your day without having to get out of bed.
However, your comfort level while wearing the Selk’bag is dependent on getting one that fits properly. Using the sizing guide on their website, I determined I would need an ‘Extra Large’ sized Selk’bag since it’s recommended for persons who are 6’2″, exactly my height. But it’s also designed for people who are anywhere from 5’11” to 6’4″. When the review unit arrived though, I was dismayed to find they had sent me a ‘Large’ instead. Checking the packaging of the Selk’bag 4G Lite though I discovered that the ‘Large’ is actually designed for persons who are 5’7″ to 6’3″, so I figured it would fit perfectly.
And it did. Mostly. I was certainly able to climb into the bag and zip it up with no problems. But I found that as I walked around in it the ‘Large’ Selk’bag was just a bit short for my frame. Not enough to make it difficult or impossible to move about mind you, but enough for it to feel slightly constricting. In fact, while not to draw attention to my posterior, you can see in a couple of the photos that I have what many refer to as a slight wedgie. (Sorry to go blue there for a moment.)
I also found that the size issue unfortunately made climbing stairs a bit of a challenge. Stretching my legs out to reach the next step made the suit feel particularly constricting. And while I was never worried the Selk’bag would tear or anything, it did make it somewhat uncomfortable. Which is exactly what you’d want to avoid in something you’re designed to sleep in. I’m pretty sure the next size up would have been perfect for me, and hopefully the company will unify the sizing information between the actual products and what’s listed on their site. Because ordering one that’s properly sized for your height will make a big difference in comfort and usability while you’re zipped up inside.
+ It’s a warm, comfortable sleeping bag that in theory you never have to take off. (Assuming you’ve given up bathing.)
+ Thinner than previous Selk’bag models, making it better suited for the non-Winter months when it gets cool at night, but not freezing cold.
+ Extremely easy to wear and move about in, and hand holes mean you can go about your regular routines without being too encumbered by it.
+ Easy to put on and take off, though it can be a bit cumbersome to carry around when empty.
+ Bottom of the Selk’bag’s feet are covered with a thick, durable fabric so they won’t get damaged while you walk about on rough terrain.
+ Includes a compression sack making it easy to store and travel with.
+ Reasonably priced when compared to other well insulated sleeping bags.
– Very important to get a size that fits your frame, otherwise wearing and moving about in the suit will be difficult and uncomfortable. Hopefully the company will clear up sizing discrepancies on their website.
– Probably not completely safe to go about all of your regular activities while wearing the suit, like tending to fires or cooking over a hot stove.
– Not the best thing to wear during a mid-day photoshoot while it’s 90°F+ outside. Probably best suited to the Spring and Fall.
Selk’bag 4G Lite – $99.99
If you have any questions about the Selk’bag 4G Lite you’d like answered, please feel free to leave them in the comments, and I’ll try to respond to them as best I can.
Special thanks to Carole and Stacey for their assistance, and Anne and John for the use of their facilities.