Working through the night as an aid station volunteer is a thankless job. Most often the racers are tired, grumpy, and all-too-frequently looking to quit. Getting food in them and raising their spirits become the top priorities if they are going to continue on with the will to finish strong (quitting is NOT an option).
Humor and motivation are a subtle art in these situations. An ability to break through the mental doubt a racer might be feeling or the fatigue of 50+ miles is a practiced technique that only comes with years of experience as a racer yourself. Frequently, something as simple as a friendly face, knowing the right things to ask, or a quiet humorous quip is enough to break the ugly façade late in a race.
TAUR had the pleasure to work with Selk’bag recently and what better way to test the product than to wear them all night at a race aid station where it was 35 degrees outside and necessary to be mobile at a moments notice.
Selk’bag has been making “wearable, human-shaped, sleeping bags” since 2006. The inspiration behind the technology came from “the lost Selk’nam natives of Tierra del Fuego, Chile”. Built as a warm weather bag, these synthetic polyester bags are rated to 45F and meant to be not only slept in, but worn around camp or wherever you are. Sounds perfect for an aid station worker.
Recently, Selk’ took their core values of “Family + Friends + FUN” to a whole new level when they introduced a line of Marvel bags, targeted for both children and adults. Featuring The Hulk, Captain America, Spiderman, and Ironman, these bags combine warmth, versatility, and fun.
Matt Williams and myself each wore one (Matt as Ironman and me as The Hulk) throughout the night at the Buffalo Run ultra races as we each manned and worked different aid stations. While I worked in the relative warmth of an enclosed start/finish area, he was exposed to the elements for the entire duration of the race.
“For times when it’s cold but you’re moving around a lot, this bag keeps you incredibly warm, but able to be active and mobile, without wearing a blanket around”, said Williams.
The front offers a double-zip entry, allowing for ventilation even when staying in the bag. The zip-off foot booties also allow for the ability to wear normal shoes when needing to walk around in the elements. In my case the bag was a bit large and the legs too long. I learned after a few hours that there is a synch cord around the ankles, which made it so that the bag stayed off the ground. For especially cold situations or when you just want to get deeper into character, there is also a hood and the sleeves enclose to keep your extremities warm.
Matt’s bag was passed around between a few people. They all confirmed its warmth and versatility in the cold conditions. More importantly, the response they (and I) got from racers, even when worn out and sleepy was overwhelmingly positive. The subtle humor in dressing up can brighten the weariest of faces.
Williams described the benefits as follows, “The character option made for some fun in the middle of the night as tired 100 mile runners came through”.
As for myself, I worked throughout the night, with runners coming in and out on a regular basis (runners came through the start/finish on four occasions throughout the 100 mile event). By 5:30am the night had worn on me enough I needed a short nap. I found a relatively quiet spot in the dirt and closed my eyes. Comfortable in my warm and freeing bag I quickly drifted off for a 30 minute nap and woke with enough time to help prepare the area for the 50 mile start.
While Selk’bags may never be warm or light enough to carry deep into the back country on a sub-freezing night, they are certainly warm enough to handle a crisp Spring outing with great friends. They offer wind protection, warmth, and the versatility to move about unhindered. An incredible addition to anyone’s car camping goodie bag.