SoulPad 4000-hybrid Bell Tent Review
When we go away on a trip, whether we're racing or just spending a week…
Price: 11380 Russian Rubles (approx £160)
This innovative – and slightly unusual – piece of kit is a sleeping bag that turns into a tunic and also packs into its own integrated rucksack. Designed with Polartec Alpha to offer warmth and protection at rest spots on multi-day adventure races, it allows you to grab a quick nap and then keep it on as a warming cape while you sort your kit for the next stage. It’s a very specific piece of kit but we’ve found lots of other uses for it.
With its foundations in mountaineering, Red Fox is Russia’s largest outdoor sports brand. The company manufactures high quality products using innovative technologies and has expanded into Europe and America. In recent years it has evolved into an adventure racing specialist, supplying Russia’s top teams and hosting extreme events including the Mt. Elbrus Vertical Kilometer and Vertical SkyMarathon, both of which are included in the Skyrunner World Series.
Made from a windproof and water-resistant ripstop nylon shell, Polartec Alpha insulation and a very light nylon lining this is a high specification sleeping bag. Designed for use as a warm weather bivvy bag it has a comfort sleep temperature of +20 C and an extreme temperature rating of +10 C, which isn’t particularly warm, but it is lightweight and protective. It dries out fast and is still warm and light, even when damp.
This is the first time we’ve seen Polartec Alpha as the insulation in a sleeping bag and it works well for this product. It’s an amazing insulation for lightweight jackets like the Inov-8 AT/C Thermoshell or the Salewa Pedroc Alpha, offering a good amount of warmth in a breathable and minimalist jacket, and it works well for this product too.
In a more normal sleeping bag, down or other higher-lofting synthetic insulation would offer more warmth, but couldn’t match Polartec Alpha for warmth to weight/bulk across all conditions. The windproof outer cuts out windchill and allows the insulation to trap and hold as much warm air as possible. Adventure racing conditions are often extremely variable and this is where it excels, staying warm and protective even in the wet, packing small and drying out fast.
The bag has a zipped mesh face cover designed to keep out midges and mosquitoes. It feels a bit weird but not too bad, and certainly better than being bitten all night.
We tested a regular size bag and it’s a fairly slim cut so go for the XL if you need more room.
To transform the bag into a smock you undo the two side leg zips and put your legs through them – the tail of the sleeping bag then folds up between your legs (slightly disconcertingly like a nappy) and clips onto the bag straps or loop at the top of your back. The two arm holes mean the upper is like a warm gillet. The hood of the sleeping bag can be worn as a jacket hood with the mosquito face mask done up or tucked into the collar. From the front it looks fairly sensible but it does look a bit strange from behind – not that you’ll care half way through a multi-day race.
It’s a warm and comfortable smock that can comfortably be worn over a couple of other layers. The windproof outer and Polartec Alpha insulation mean it feels warm and protective and the nappy design actually adds a lot of warmth. The hood is great and you can see through the mosquito face mask well enough to complete most tasks, however it doesn’t cover your arms.
The sleeping bag/tunic turns into a handy rucksack by packing into its own attached stuff sack that has shoulder straps. It won’t carry a lot of weight, but has enough room for a change of clothes. There’s no chest or waist strap, but the shoulder straps do have loops so that you can add one if you want.
Other than adding a bit of convenience for carrying it around we can’t think of many occasions where we would want the shoulder straps and might therefore cut them off to save a bit of weight and bulk. It does fit on over a race vest though so if you where racing a fully supported multi day race you could feasibly carry it over night in addition to your normal race vest.
The Red Fox 3-in-1 is an innovative and interesting piece of kit. We’ve enjoyed testing it but feel it lacks versatility – it would be great for a very specific scenario, but the rest of the time you’d want to vary your combination of sleeping bag, jacket and pack to suit your race and conditions.
Aside from its technical uses, we love wearing this sitting around the campfire on chilly evenings or for reading in the tent. It’s excellent to have in the car to put on when you get back from a long run to help you warm up quickly while you sort out food and kit.
So you probably don’t need one, but if you get one we bet you’ll use it more than you expect to.
Currently these are only available through the Russian version of the Red Fox website for 11380 Russian Rubles which translates to about £160; you may find that there are additional postal and import costs though. Hopefully it will be available in the UK soon.