It arrived a week ago. I put it on and zipped up and saw myself in the full-length mirror, looking like the bastard offspring of Barney and Gumby, or scientist victim No. 4 from John Carpenter's The Thing. Mummified in polyester, I marshaled my intestinal fortitude to confront the very first thought I had when I saw pictures of the Selk'Bag, and the silent but deadly fear that had lingered since.
What happens when I fart in this thing?
The Selk'Bag is unlike any product review I've done for this site. It's a piece of camping equipment whose makers are trying to market to a lifestyle that rarely leaves the couch: The hardcore, hours-on-end video gamer.
If we're reviewing the Selk'Bag 4G Lite for its suitability for video gaming, as indiscreet as it is to bring it up, the thing has got to pass a fart test. It may be warm, it may be comfortable, it may be, in essence, a wearable bed. But if it's archiving three hours' worth of gamer farts down in the feet of the suit, there's going to be hell to pay when it's time to unzip.
So what happened? Put it this way, I'm astonished at how well this thing breathes. I never overheated, and despite my innate male urge to fluff the covers, so to speak, never smelled a thing.
Unlike the Snuggie, or the Slanket or other sleeved blankets the Selk'Bag 4G Lite is a full body warmth system. It's a wearable sleeping bag, and the convenience of it all really hits you when you put down the controller and get up to get something from the fridge. No unwrapping, no folding, no baggy sleeves that need to be pushed up, no stumbling on the tail end of a blanket.
On a day off I tried to go 24 hours wearing nothing but the Selk'Bag and, except for an emergency run to the grocery store, I could have made it. The thing really amazes you when you wake up before the alarm, and you're warm and snuggy and toasty and don't want to leave the bed, and then realize you are the bed. I've worn it to sleep for the past six nights, sleeping atop my bed covers. I've actually gotten up earlier because I know I can just stand up, make coffee and check email and that roasty-toasty bed feeling goes with me the whole way.
The thing really amazes you when you wake up before the alarm, and you're warm and snuggy and toasty and don't want to leave the bed, and then realize you are the bed.
My biggest ergonomic concern going in was the the sleeves. The Selk'Bag has full, over-the-fist sleeves that max out the snuggy factor when it's bedtime. Of course, there's no way you're going to play anything with two teal stumps (although I did test the Selk'Bag with Fruit Ninja Kinect, fully zipped up, and there were no problems at all). Your hands pop out of slits in the wrists of the sleeves and then a velcro strap secures the fist covering to the back of your forearm. This keeps everything out of the way not only for using a twin-analog controller, but also for keyboard-and-mouse gaming, or fooling around with an iPad. (Also, I found that the fist covering made a nice enough cushion if I rotated it underneath my forearm while typing at my desk.)
The Selk'Bag 4G Lite is rated to 45 degrees fahrenheit, comfy enough for outdoor sleeping (with some garments on underneath) and definitely warm enough with just gym shorts and a t-shirt for indoor use. You're not going to want to wear much more than that, though. You have two zippers on either side of your chest. The one on the right is the longest zipper and the main point of entry. The left can be lowered to provide some ventilation if you're getting too warm.
Personally, I run extremely hot. I take cold showers year-round before I go to bed. The Selk'Bag was comfortable throughout my time with it, and sleeping in it was just flat out awesome. I shut my heat off completely and felt the chill on my face and in my nostrils, but nowhere else. Just as I like it. The next morning I rolled over, shambled into the living room, and sat down for some NBA Jam. No getting dressed, no making the bed, just, boom: Game, sleep, game.
The Selk'Bag's size large (it goes up to XL) accommodates a dude up to 6-foot-4, and I'm 6-0, 220 (Dan Patrick Show *ding*) and had plenty of room to spare. The feet have a corrugated rubber surface, so you can take it out to check the mail or yell at the dog to shut up or whatever. Going down or coming up stairs can get a little tricky with the baggy legs as you can find yourself stepping on the ankles of the pants, yanking the rest of the bag down at your shoulders. You'll also need to readjust after bending over. It's not athletic wear; it's definitely for leisure.
While it did a great job dissipating my flatulence (and muffling it, too, I might add), it's not to say this thing will be odor free with heavy use. Wash your tail, and wear deodorant, otherwise you'll stamp B.O. all over the pits and crotch of the Selk'Bag. Washing it is not a chuck-it-in-the-machine proposition. The instructions advise handwashing with a mild soap and no time in a dryer, though I suppose it could be washed like any polyester sleeping bag. I was too afraid to ruin my test unit so I took a can of concentrated car air freshener and blasted the junk region.
The other inconvenience, well, a guy going No. 1 in the middle of the night is feasible if you zip down the entire right side and make sure to shake out every last drop. Going No. 2, or ladies doing anything, you're going to have to go EVA and completely detach. Sorry, but it's not like they could put a drop seat in the Selk'Bag (or should).
It's a little bit of a reach to pitch this item as a gamer product. The Selk'Bag is a comfort, not a necessity by any stretch. In the adult sizes it's $99, which is still a favorable price point in the very-nice-gift range for someone in your family or close to you.
But I was very impressed by how something I regarded as an oddity or a prop for a caricatured gamer lifestyle became such a mainstream part of mine. You may look completely insane with it on. But the Selk'Bag 4G Lite is an enjoyable, comfortable, even memorable way to spend a chilly weekend indoors reading, gaming or watching DVDs. It's simply the most awesome set of feety pajamas you'll ever wear.
The Selk'Bag 4G Lite retails for $79 in children's sizes; $99 in adult sizes up to XL. Available at select retailers in the U.S., Canada and Europe or directly from the company.
(Images by Becky Stafford. Grill, wheelbarrow and toilet courtesy of Stafford family.)
Note: I forgot to secure the hand coverings; there's a velcro strap that secures them to the back of the forearm, keeping everything out of the way.
Though it's no stinker, any seated bathroom activity is impossible. Unzip, step out, and do your bidness.
Bachelors who hate making the bed and washing the linens will adore the convenience of the Selk'Bag.
Some light outdoor activity is permissible thanks to the Selk'Bag's rubberized soles.