Two Slik bags showing the roomy mummy style with center zip
Kifaru Slik Bag
I picked up a ‘Slik’ bag from Kifaru’s shop in Denver in September 2015, and over the last couple of years have tested it across various environments and temperatures. Kifaru mainly seem to specialize in their packs and Tipi tents but have been making these bags for quite some time, they also make an insulated jacket using the same fabric and insulation(Lost Park Parka-https://hardyardshunting.co.nz/2019/05/12/kifaru-lost-park-parka/).
The Slik bag is what I would call a ‘roomy’ mummy style. It is a shaped mummy style bag but is quite wide across the shoulders and has a roomy foot box. This means that is easy to move about in and layer clothes underneath. Their website says you can even wear your boots in the bag, which I have not tried but I am sure you can. This is a big bonus for the bigger guys/gals out there who struggle to fit comfortably in normal mummy bags.
Unique 3 slider center Zip
One of the most noticeable design features is the zipper. Kifaru uses a center zip with 3 sliders. This allows the user to open the center of the bag and eat/drink with still the hood section of the bag on. The zip runs down to around the knees and I have not found it difficult to get in and out of the bag, but the bag cannot be fully opened like some bag styles. Kifaru have tried to combat heat loss with a large baffle that is held in place with small Velcro patches.
Large Center Baffle
Kifaru have designed a very good hood for this bag, which cinches up with one simple draw cord, much like a ‘hoodie’. This is probably my favorite part of the bag, very simple to use and effective.
The Slik bags come in both wide and long size options which means there are 4 sizes over all (regular, wide, long, and wide long). I have been using the regular size and found that to be right for me at 5’ 10” (178cm) and 150lbs(70kg). Any taller and I would probably go with the long.
The shell fabric of the bag is made from Kifaru’s ‘Rhino skin’ fabric, this is a very thin, light and shiny fabric. It is a little reflective and very slippery. I did find this a little annoying to stay on a sleeping pad on less than flat camp sites.
Insulation wise Kifaru have chosen Clima-Shield Apex, this is a continuous filament synthetic insulation made in the USA. It is rather bulky and from my research sits about the same as Prima Loft One/Gold in terms of warmth/weight. The main advantage of this insulation is that is requires no baffles, this is a big advantage to the manufacturer as less sewing etc during the production phase, it also reduces any cold spots as it is a continuous insulation. The bag does drape very well and the insulation stays together very well, no clumping when wet like down.
These synthetic bags are also much easier to wash and dry compared to down bags.
Kifaru sell their bags in three temperature ratings 20F, 0F and -20F. This should roughly convert to -6C, -17C and -28C, these are the ‘comfort’ ratings for the bags.
The bag I have mainly used is rated as a 0F, which should be suitable for any conditions we have in NZ (hunting wise)
In the Field
The main reason I got this bag was because I was mid-way through a season hunting in North America and my down bags zipper broke on me, I was in Denver and wanted to try a Synthetic bag so the Slik bag it was. I used this bag for a week or so hunting Elk in Colorado and it seemed comfortable, I then headed north to finish my season hunting Moose in Northern BC, this was a dive into the deep end and the Slik bag seemed to struggle.
I would estimate the temperatures on this moose hunt to have been around minus 10 to 15 Celsius or around 5 to 10 Fahrenheit, above the 0F rating of my bag. I quickly went back to my down bag on this hunt and even with a broken zipper it was more comfortable. This is with out a doubt the coldest Temp I have tested this bag in.
Over the last 3 years I have continued to use this bag on and off, and every time have been left a little disappointed in terms of warmth. In NZ we do not encounter temperatures down to 0F/-17C very often, and most of my time spent in the outdoors, the night time temperature is above or only slightly below freezing level (0C/32F to around -5C/23F).
My first impression of this bag was that it was rather bulky, heavy and not very warm. This has not changed.
I think there are several factors that contribute to me being cold in this bag.
- Roomy bag- My first impression of this bag was that I was ‘swimming’ in it. Length wise the bag has been good but is roomy through the chest. You do want some space in a bag to layer, but I think too much room creates wasted space that is harder to heat.
- Center zip- You don’t see many bags with center zips, and I think the main reason is that they are just colder than side zips. Even with a big baffle, I don’t think they work as well.
- Synthetic vs Down- Synthetics have been improving in the last few years, but I still feel they are a long way behind down in terms of weight vs warmth. I am not convinced by some of the claims made by ClimaShield Apex, and it does not seem to stack up in the field.
- Temp Ratings- Most Kiwis are used to the EN 13537 rating system, this is the European standard for sleeping bag ratings and gives 3 temperatures, ‘comfort’, ‘lower limit’ and ‘extreme’. This test is conducted with a thermal manikin in a controlled lab setting. Generally, you are safe to take the lower limit as the lowest temperature you can get a night’s sleep at. Everyone does feel the cold differently, but this is the only real test and rating that we can use to compare sleeping bags with. Kifaru (as far as I know) have not used this test for their temperature rating systems. A large number of North American based companies do not seem to use EN 13537 ratings and I would take their temperature ratings with a grain of salt. With out a standard test/rating system companies are left to publish temp ratings as they please.
- Cold Sleeper- I am a cold sleeper, and cold in general, but my down bag has a lower limit/transition rating of -12C/10F and I have never been ‘cold’ in this bag, even when damp.
I have used this bag sporadically over the last few years and did have one failure. The bag seems well made but one of the interior seams broke at the stitching which was a little disappointing. I have no real explanation to why this happened or what caused it. Kifaru was very generous and sent me a new bag, which is more than they should have done. This may have been a small error in the stitching that slowly unraveled.
Small tear in the seam
For me right now down is still king for sleeping bags. Even though I work in a ‘wet’ environment, I still think down is the best option for warmth to weight and for the weight of a comparable synthetic bag you can pack an extra waterproof/breathable bivvy bag to use with your down bag to reduce condensation/moisture issues.
I have recently been using the Lost Park Parka from Kifaru which is made of the same materials. This jacket has impressed me and I have found it to be very warm and is now my go to jacket.
Why do I find the sleeping bag ‘cold’ and the jacket ‘warm’?
I honestly have no real explanation, my real world testing of these two products have given me a very different impression of the materials.
I think for jackets/pants synthetic insulation is a good option, your quite likely to get these damp from sweat/snow/rain and they do not need to be as warm as a sleep system.
For sleeping bags I still think down is best, its fairly easy to keep your sleeping bag dry and its weight/pack-ability is more important in my view than a jacket.
I know there are alot of people out there who have had very good experiences with the Kifaru Slik bags, but for me it just doesn’t work.