A Brief History of Sleeping Bags - and an Outstanding Review of Kryptek's Kilsia Bag

A Brief History of Sleeping Bags - and an Outstanding Review of Kryptek's Kilsia Bag

In 1914 Sir Earnest Shackleton sailed from England on an expedition aimed at being the first to cross the continent of Antarctica. 

Before reaching land, his ship, The Endurance, was beset in the ice of the Weddell Sea and during a wind storm was crushed by the ice and sank. Shackleton and his 28 men proceeded to pull whaling boats across the buckled and heaving ice to open water, surviving on penguins, leopard seals, and even their own sled dogs. They then sailed and rowed to Elephant Island where winds regularly exceeded 100mph and hit so hard it ripped the clothing from the men’s bodies. Shakleton and five of his men set out and crossed the Drake Passage in one of the small boats, covering 650 nautical miles to a whaling village where they began rescue attempts to reach the rest of the men. Three months later every man who set out on the voyage was successfully rescued.

Of all the lessons in leadership and perseverance we can learn from a story like Shackleton’s, one of ones I think about the most was a piece of their gear— the sleeping bag. Theirs were made of reindeer hides, soft tanned with the hair on. While the men crossed the coldest and most dangerous ocean in the world, their only respite was to crawl into a wet leather reindeer bag with the hair beginning to fall out in the places the hides had begun to rot.

We have come a long ways since then. This seemingly simple piece of gear has several difficult jobs it needs to do well:

1.) Insulate the body to a point where the inhabitant is neither hot nor cold while sleeping in a range of temperatures

2.) Pack down into a small space

3.) Be lightweight, but remain durable

4.) Handle moisture from the person inside and from the exterior without a significant loss of function

5.) Zip up and down without getting snagged

6.) Provide an adequate amount of space to move around in

I cannot tell you how many nights in the woods I have started in a bad mood while doing some kind of modified straight jacket sit-up maneuver, fighting for my life to get the zipper to move without snagging. We’ve all been there and it’s awful. Kryptek's Kilsia Sleeping Bag is the first bag I’ve ever used that the zipper doesn’t hang up. It uses a different design that doesn’t want to rip into the fabric like a bike chain vs a pant leg. Huge victory right there.

Kryptek's Kilsia Sleeping Bag

I’ve been using the Kilsia Sleeping bag since the summer of 2021, I opted for the 0 degree model which comes in a nice red color with reflective logos, a feature I never would’ve requested but very much enjoy. I spent nights out in Alaska, Oregon, Idaho and Wyoming in temps ranging from -11 to 50 above. I slept on snow and in rain. Goose down has long been the ultimate insulation material which is both compressible and lightweight, but once wet, it might as well be made of jello. The Kilsia uses a hydrophobic down which is treated with a durable water-resistant finish. It is advertised to absorb 90% less water than down and dries out 3X faster. It works. 

The 0 degree Kilsia sleeping bag

On a January coyote hunt, I used a floor-less shelter setup on about five feet of snow. Because it was going to be below zero at night, I brought a little propane heater to get the tent warm before getting into the bag and again before I got out of it the next morning. STUPID idea and more evidence I should’ve paid better attention in high school chemistry. When propane burns, its byproduct is water vapor. Early in the night the tent basically rained on us from the inside, then the water froze to the walls, and every time the wind blew it would knock the ice onto the sleeping bag and my face. Of course, the ice melted where it hit the bag. Remarkably, even though the nylon exterior was soaked, the down stayed dry and lofty all night and I stayed warm.

The Kilsia packs down a little smaller than a volleyball with the included compression sack. Did you know some companies don’t provide a stuff sack with their bags? At 3.5lbs it is in the middle of its weight class for 0 degree bags. Where it steps out is that there’s enough room to be comfortable in this thing. At 6 foot and 265lb I can provide shade in the summer, warmth in the winter and darken a doorway— this bag has enough room for me to roll around in. The footbox is 22” wide, the shoulders are 32” wide and the bag is 86” long.

The Kilsia is as packable as it is warm.

Recently, at the Sig Hunter Games in Wyoming, we were hit by a snowstorm. Getting snow above 9,000’ is a normal thing any month of the year and because I could see some possibility of that in the forecast, I brought my own sleeping bag in case the one provided wasn’t warm enough. Well, I’m glad I did. There was some serious complaining going on from a few of the other competitors the next morning. I emerged from my tent to see several of the other tents crushed from snow, broken fiberglass poles sticking through the fabric. Besides the times I woke up to kick the snow off my tent, I slept great and started the day’s competition eager and rested.

That’s how I want you to wake up on the mountain. Ready to go take on whatever challenge the day offers you because you got a good night’s sleep. The fact is that 1/3 of the time you spend on a hunt will be in your sleeping bag. Make it count. 

Posted in Gear Reviews