As the COVID-19 pandemic swept across the United States, many of us kept sane through socially distanced outdoor gatherings with friends. In the summer months, options abounded: camping trips, park beers, and sunny backyard gatherings. But as the days grow shorter, temperatures drop, and infection numbers skyrocket, opportunities for safe outdoor gatherings are growing slim. I spent the last golden days of fall mentally preparing myself to spend winter alone, bundled up in blankets and existential dread.
That was until I found the world’s first wearable sleeping bag: the Original Selk’bag 6G ($179). As a lifelong cold-blooded person (otherwise known as a “wimp”), I have often dreamed about an invention like the Selk’bag during frozen nights. An Everest expedition suit for the common folk, it is essentially a ripstop nylon, water-resistant, synthetic insulated Snuggie with legs. It looks as ridiculous as it sounds. But frankly, I don’t give a damn—I’m in love.
It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that the Selk’bag has kept me sane these past couple months, allowing me to attend outdoor social gatherings I would normally forego or leave early, shivering. So far, I’ve used it on two subfreezing camping trips, two backyard firepit hangs, one drive-in movie, one patio happy hour, and much to the amusement of my housemates, several cold mornings at my desk. I’ve outlasted my most warm-blooded friends around the fire or stargazing, and as strict shelter-in-place orders resume in New Mexico, I’m eager to take it solo camping. I comfortably strolled around a campsite in 20-degree weather, and I slept like a baby chick under a heat lamp through that night with only a very light 50-degree sleeping bag draped like a blanket on top. It all gave me hope that I might actually enjoy winter camping for the first time in my life.
The Selk’bag is rated to 44 degrees for comfort and 9 degrees for “extreme survival.” (There is also a Lite 6G version ($100), as well as the new Nomad ($249), which uses fabric and insulation made entirely from recycled materials.) While that’s not low enough to replace your winter sleeping bag, it will keep you warm enough while you’re awake in most climates. It traps body heat exceptionally well and, unlike a blanket, keeps that heat with you when you move. During porch drinks and outdoor movie nights, I can sip a beer or nibble on popcorn without breaking the seal of warmth. Plus, while there are always plenty of options for upper-body insulation (if you don’t mind looking like the Michelin Man), the Selk’bag also keeps your legs toasty.
The Selk’bag has four zippered vents—two on the legs and two on the sides—to prevent overheating. In addition to the handy kangaroo pocket, a fabric flap folds over the sleeve opening to make little cocoons for your hands. My favorite feature, though, is the zip-off booties. My piggies almost always feel on the verge of frostbite, no matter how many pairs of socks I have on, but to my surprise, the booties kept them toasty all night. They have sturdier fabric on the bottom, so you can wear them for short distances around camp.
My only real complaints about the Selk’bag are that I’d love the booties to have proper soles so they’d be more comfortable and durable. (They are a bit too bulky to wear under your camp shoes.) The suit is also a big pain to pee in—I found myself wishing for a crotch zipper. Since the Selk’bag zips up the side, jumpsuit-style, relieving yourself (for both men and women) requires pulling it halfway down. (To its credit, the bag’s warmth does make it less of a mental struggle to crawl out of your sleeping bag for a midnight bathroom break.) And while it’s great for car camping, the weight (3.4 pounds for a unisex small) makes it prohibitive for backcountry pursuits, but it’s so cozy that I might just schlep it in my backpack anyway.
If one piece of gear is a cure for the winter pandemic isolation blues, this is it. Sure, your friends will make fun of you. But you’ll inevitably get the last laugh when, through chattering teeth, they ask where they can get their own.