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Reviews > Sleep Gear > Sleeping Bags > Selkbag Patagon Sleep System > Test Report by Coy Ray Starnes
Test series by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: October 12, 2013
Field Test: February 24, 2014
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy biking, hunting, fishing, canoeing/kayaking and most other outdoor activities, but backpacking is my favorite pastime. I enjoy hiking with friends and family or solo. I hike throughout the year and actually hike less in the hot humid months of summer. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. However, I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9 kg) not counting food or water.
For the older crowd I'm going to make this as simple as possible. Remember the cartoon character Gumby? Well if the Selk'bag Patagon came in green, this would be the perfect costume to play the part. For the rest, I would describe it as a sleeping bag that is built much like a pair of insulated coveralls with a hood and booties. In other words, a sleeping bag I wear and allows me to get up and walk around. The booties are removable so the Patagon can be worn with other shoes before going to bed. In fact, it could be worn anytime warmth is needed, such as outdoor events like the kids ballgames etc. I'm sure it would elicit a few stares, and while I consider embarrassing my kids a bonus, some might not.
The Selk'bag Patagon shell is made of rip-stop nylon. The liner is listed simply as nylon. The manufacture list the insulation as KreKran Synthetic fiber. The removable booties are made of nylon as well, but they look and feel like they are constructed of a much tougher material than the shell. There are two lateral strips of material sewn across the sole of each bootie that further aid in making the soles slip resistant. I could not find any care instructions but I will treat it like I would any synthetic sleeping bag.
The bag features dual zippers at the front. The one on the right features a two way zipper and zips all the way down to the waist while the one on the left only unzips about halfway down (mid chest level). Both chest zippers are backed by draft tubes. These should both be in the down position before stepping into the bag. Once in the bag the hands must be freed from inside the arms of the sleeping bag in order to operate the zippers. This is accomplished by simply finding the slot located down near the wrist area and to the inside and pushing each hand out. The excess part of the bag is then folded back and fastened with hook and loop fasteners located on the sleeve and the corresponding strap at the end of the arm. Here is a close-up of how it fastens out of the way with my hand extended.
The hood features elastic cords on either side and barrel locks to secure the hood at the desired tightness. There is a substantial draft tub sewn across the bag just below the hood. There is a 12" (30 cm) zipper on each leg which opens from just below the knee to just above it. There is a mesh liner under these zippers to keep out the bugs when using them for ventilation. However, they have a draft tube to ensure they seal up well when zipped closed.
Once the hood and all the zippers are adjusted, simply undo the hook and loop closures and pull both hands back inside the bag. These slots might seem like an easy place for cold air to get in, but the way they are designed, the outside opening of each slot is well below where the hand enters from the inside. There are magnets on both sides of the slots where the hands exit and seal very nicely when the hands are inside the bag. In fact, once closed it is hard to even see the slots knowing right where they are.
The stuff sack has built in compression straps. Once I took the Patagon out it was a little difficult (but not impossible) to get it back in the stuff sack. The bags temperature rating is listed on the bottom along with the different sizes and weights of the bag. Here is bag in the stuff sack compared to a basketball followed by a close-up of the information printed on the bottom.
Information listed on the stuff sack
The Selk'bag Patagon uses the European temperature rating (EN13537). The bags stated rating is Comfort 6 C/43 F, Limit 2 C/35 F and Extreme -13 C/9 F.
Trying it on
I've tried on a lot of things in my life but it does sound like a weird statement when discussing a sleeping bag. However, it really does fit when talking about the Selk'bag Patagon. First, let me describe myself a little and then I will comment on how the bag fits. I am 6' (1.8 m) tall and weigh around 250 lb (113 kg). I am not real fat but let's just say, I'm steady in a strong breeze... I have heard myself described as long waisted. I wear size 38 jeans but the inseam is only 32 inches (81 cm). I wear XL jackets, shirts and tees and have a hard time keeping shirts tucked in unless they are have long tails.
I am testing the XL which is recommended for folks between 6' 1" (185 cm) and 6' 6" (202 cm). Selk'bag recommends a large for anyone between 5'6" (170 cm) and 6' (184 cm) but does mention that larger folks should go up a size. The bags are also unisex. The XL size fits me perfectly except that the legs are a little long. This really does not seem to be a problem but I did notice the heel area dragging the ground when I took off the booties. With the booties on they just bunched up a little down near the ankle. The hood also felt a little too big but that had nothing to do with the length of the bag since it fits nice and snug (but not too tight) across my shoulders. I did find the right chest zipper very hard to zip all the way up. It moved easily until the last few inches at the top. I rubbed both sides of the zipper with a candle and it became a lot easier to operate but is still sticking a little at that one spot.
As a bonafied hammock user I am very familiar with the difficulties involved in getting inside conventional backpacking sleeping bag while in my hammock, especially a mummy bag. As a result, I am always on the lookout for a sleeping system that is easier to use. My first solution was to just use a sleeping bag I already owned like a quilt. However, I noticed I have a tendency to move around a lot in my sleep and would often wake up to find the bag was no longer positioned properly which resulted in getting cold in the exposed area. I have also used a half bag in conjunction with a down jacket. This worked much better but my legs were exposed to the cold when I got up during the night. I know this does not sound like a serious problem but I will often wake up in the middle of the night and decide to do a little hiking or go sit by the creek for awhile. I am often driven back into my sleeping bag before I am ready by the cold. The Pantagon should solve this problem.
I am hesitant to mention the weight as a negative but I know some are obsessed with cutting weight from their pack. With my bad knees I also try to keep my pack weight down, especially when I am going on a long hike or one with lots of hills to climb. The Patagon is definitely not a lightweight sleeping bag, but in theory it does offer enough advantages that I will be using it as my go to backpacking sleeping bag during the test and possibly beyond. However, I also do other types of camping where weight is not a major concern. For instance, when I go canoe camping I generally pack a cast iron skillet, a beach chair and several other luxuries that are out of the question when backpacking. The Selk'bag Patagon should lend itself well for this type of use.
Field Test: February 24, 2014
Testing Locations and Conditions
I have used the Selk'bag on three overnight trips so far. I also carried it as part of my emergency preparedness kit in my truck several times when traveling on icy and even closed roads (not for fun, my job requires I show up). This included a trip to Arkansas when snow was a very slight possibility but did occur and a trip to Kentucky when ice was predicted but did not occur. The overnights were on short trips in some local woods near my home in North East Alabama. This has been one of the coldest winters on record in our area. However, being this far south has meant a good mixture of cold and not so cold weather. The low on the coldest overnight was 26 F (3 C). The low on the warmest overnight was 46 F (8 C). The low on the other overnight hike was 41 F (5 C).
Field Test Results
I must say, using the Selk'bag has been an eye opener. I have never been able to get completely comfortable in any type sleeping bag in my hammock. And by this, I mean, eventually I want to flop a leg in one direction, an arm in another etc. With a traditional bag this is just not possible, with the Selk'bag it is a no-brainer. Of course in the summer I am usually able to just unzip my bag and use it more like a quilt, but even then my feet are pretty much limited to the foot box if it was very cold. But the real benefit has been being able to get inside the Selk'bag and then lay down in my hammock. I don't think I can adequately describe the difference in effort required but the difference is night and day, trust me.
The Selk'bag has lived up to the temperature rating in my experience. As a matter of fact, I'd say it was pretty much dead on for the Comfort 6 C/43 F rating as I was pretty toasty on a slightly cooler night. I do think the Extreme -13 C/9 F rating would make for a very long night because I was well above that temperature on the 26 F (-3 C) overnight and I woke up feeling chilly even before reaching the overnight low. I was also wearing some medium weight thermal bottoms under my hiking clothes which consisted of a pair of camo jeans, a summer weight short sleeve tee, a thin wool sweater and light rain jacket. My feet got cold first but I had sweated some hiking in and my socks were a little damp. However, there is one thing I can do (and did) to offset the chillness I felt while in the Selk'bag which would be impossible in a regular sleeping bag. I got up and moved around my campsite several minutes until I started feeling comfortably warm. I did some half squats, marched in place and just generally wiggled my arms around. I repeated this twice, first at around 3 AM and then at around 4:30 AM. Both times I was able to get back in my hammock and go back to sleep feeling nice and toasty. I will say that all that moving around did wake me up and made going back to sleep a little harder than normal. When I woke up the last time I could have repeated the process again but it was almost daylight so I just wore the bag while I took my hammock down. This helped me warm up my core so that when I took the bag off to pack it away I was warmer (especially my legs) than I would have been if packing everything away while wearing just my hiking clothes.
I did encounter one problem during the test and it started on the very first overnight. For some reason I had to get up several times to pee early on during the night. I think it may have been due to the cold weather and not being used to it because on later nights I did not have to get up quite as often. Anyways, on about the third time (around midnight if I recall correctly) I unzipped the right (long) zipper and took care of business. As I zipped it back up the zipper became stuck within a few inches if being completely closed. I am pretty sure it got stuck at the same place I mentioned it becoming hard to move in the Initial Report but regardless, I felt trapped as I struggled with it. After several minutes of tugging it started separating below where it was stuck. At first I thought, I am going to just have to go back to sleep with it in this position, but then it occurred to me that I might be able to use the lower zipper and at least partially close the bag. When I moved this pull upward it did not close the zipper but when I went back down, wallah, it had closed it. I spent the rest of the night with the upper zipper pull stuck. This meant I had to unzip the shorter chest zipper on the right side of the chest (remember, it has a short and long chest zipper instead of one center zipper) and remove the upper part of the bag in order to go pee. Fortunately, I only had to pee one more time during this night. When I got home I worked several minutes freeing the stuck upper zipper pull. It slides freely now all the way to the top but leaves the zipper apart. I can then pull the lower zipper all the way up and then go back down and close the bag off. I can stop anywhere along the way if I want too. I can still unzip the top for ventilation but have to repeat the process if I want it zipped all the way back up. If this sounds a little complicated, believe me, it is even more so when I'm half asleep. Fortunately, on the last night I spent in the bag it only dropped to 46 F (8 C) and I did not even bother using the right zipper. I was actually surprised that I did not feel any draft but it helped that it was fairly warm most of the night. I did end up draping my down jacket over the opening but I could have survived without it and could have zipped up if needed.
I have debated sending the bag back for repair but I actually don't plan to use it in real cold weather and will probably only use it for car camping from now on. The bag is just too big for any of my packs other than my dedicated winter packs. If I did get it repaired I would want that zipper replaced with a much heavier duty zipper. This might add a little to the weight of the bag, but it is already a fairly heavy bag and a few more ounces (grams) really would not be a big deal in my opinion.
Thoughts so far
Other than the faulty zipper and bulkiness of the bag I am extremely pleased with the performance of the Selk'bag. I will leave it at this. As far as hammocks and sleeping bags go, this is about as close to a match made in heaven as I can imagine.
This concludes my Field Report. Please stay tuned for the Long Term Report which should follow in approximately 2 months time. I would also like to thank Selk'bag and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this bag.
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