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.
The Kifaru Slik bag is a bit different to most sleeping bag designs out there, first off it uses a centre zip with 3 sliders. This allows the user to open the centre 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 most bag styles. The main down fall of centre zip bags is heat loss, Kifaru have tried to combat this with a large baffle that is held in place with small Velcro patches.
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.
Kifaru have designed a very good hood for this bag, which cinches up with one simple draw cord, much like a ‘hoodie’.
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).
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.
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 slightly below Prima Loft One/Gold in terms of warmth. The main advantage of this 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 is also supposed to reduce any cold spots as it is a cautious insulation.
Kifaru sell their bags in three temperature ratings 20F, 0F and -20F. This should roughly convert to -6C, -17C and -28C
The bag I have mainly used is rated as a 0F, which should be suitable for any conditions we have in NZ (hunting wise)
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.
1) 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 too much room creates wasted space that is harder to heat.
2) Centre zip- You don’t see many bags with centre 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.
3) 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.
4) Temp Ratings- Most Kiwis and Europeans 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.
5) 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 been doing some more research on Synthetic fill vs Down and will publish an article over viewing what I find, but for me right now down is still king. Even though I work in one of the wetter places on earth I still 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 issues.
About the Author
Owner/Operator of Hard Yards Hunting. Mountain hunting, especially for Tahr is my true passion and I spend as much time as I can in the hills. When I'm not guiding I am usually hunting for my self or testing gear.