Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM)

Marathon des Sables

The South African Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon (KAEM) is a seven-day self-sufficient race covering 250km of sandy desert and rocky, mountainous outcrops. One stage of 80km is run over a complete day and night. Competitors carry everything they need for seven days on the move: food, sleeping bags, warm clothing, and cooking equipment. The overnight camp facilities provide shelter, drinking water, and an open fire, but that's it! So with a typical pack size of 10–12kg and temperatures in the day of 35-45° Celsius and a chilly 4° Celsius at night, the right kit selection is vital.

Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon Sleeping Bags

The most obvious choices for the KAEM are the M.Degree° 200K and 300K. The 200K excels at saving weight and bulk in your pack, while the M.Degree° 300K (only 105g heavier) ensures warmth if the temperature dips.

These are thoroughbred race bags, based on our proven Minim pattern but fine-tuned for the ultimate in weight saving; if you’re looking for more of an all-rounder however, the Minim series still lends itself very well to the KAEM. The Minimus K offers equivalent warmth to the M.Degree° 200K, while the Minim 400K is more of a piece with the M.Degree° 300K – a little warmer, in fact.

These “K-Series” bags use light materials and 1000 fillpower down to keep the weight lower than the ‘standard’ versions of the Minimus and Minim 400. The standard bags are just as warm and are still impressively light, but the K-Series has the edge when it comes to the minimalist concerns of the desert racer.

The less insulating bags (e.g. the Minimus K) have been used below zero on many occasions, but mostly in competitions where only one or two nights camping were involved. The KAEM is much longer and the argument for the extra comfort of the warmer bags (Minim 400K or M.Degree 300K) is strong.

To sum up: the M.Degree° 200K, Minimus K and Minimus are the cooler bags; the M.Degree° 300K, Minim 400K and Minim 400 are the warmer.

The basic figures for the above bags:

S-bag TOT (Min Temp) Weight Packed size
Hght x Diam (cm)
F gm oz 
Minim 400 -5 23 670 24 28 x 17
Minim 400 K -5 23 585 21 28 x 17
M.Degree 300K -3 27 445 16 21 x 13
M.Degree 200K 4 39 340 12 21 x 13
Minimus K 5 41 380 13 21 x 13
Minimus 5 41 465 16 21 x 13

Additional points:

  1. TEMPERATURE RATING: Put simply, these are the temperatures at which you should be able to get a night's sleep in normal circumstances. For fuller details about the TOT rating see this Technical Briefing.
  2. LINERS: A liner will add to the insulation if you choose the lighter bags, but want more warmth. As always it is a trade-off between the extra weight & bulk and the warmth you gain (maybe 2°C). Silk liners at around 140g are a popular choice, but for a greater boost of extra warmth, our K-Series Filler Bag will add 10°C to the bag’s TOT for a weight of just 240g.
  3. CLOTHING: Thermals (if you are taking them) and/or other clothing obviously help to keep you warm. If choosing the Minimus K or M.Degree° 200K, then Wafer clothing adds considerable warmth for minimal weight. Even warmer but still very light is the K-Series Ultra Down Vest at 150g. See the Clothing section below for more details.
  4. FABRIC OPTIONS: The Minimus and Minim 400 come as standard with M1 outer fabric, with the lighter MX fabric or water-resistant Drishell as optional alternatives. The K-series versions of these bags come with MX as standard, with Ultrashell as the water resistant option. The M.Degree Bags use our phenomenally light 7X outer, or Hypershell, our lightest water resistant fabric.
  5. ZIPS: None of these bags has a zip. Zips are an option, but most competitors don't ask for one. A short zip with draft tube adds 40-50g; a full zip and tube adds 90-110g. Zips also add to the packed size.
  6. PACKED SIZE: PHD stuff sacs tend to be on the loose side. All these bags can be compressed further in your pack.

Figures for Fabric options:

S-bag Materials TOT (Min Temp) Weight Packed size
Hght x Diam (cm)
F gm oz 
Minimus MX outer 5 41 447 15.5 21 x 13
Minimus Drishell outer 5 41 505 18 21 x 13
Minim 400 MX outer -5 23 652 23 28 x 17
Minim 400 Drishell outer -5 23 710 25 28 x 17
Minimus K MX outer 5 41 380 13 21 x 13
Minimus K Ultrashell outer 5 41 398 14 21 x 13
Minim 400 K MX outer -5 23 585 21 28 x 17
Minim 400 K Ultrashell outer -5 23 603 21 28 x 17
M.Degree 300K 7X Outer -3 27 445 16 21 x 13
M.Degree 300K Hypershell outer -3 27 460 16 21 x 13
M.Degree 200K 7X outer 4 39 340 12 21 x 13
M.Degree 200K Hypershell outer 4 39 355 13 21 x 13

Down Clothing selection

The use of down clothing to create a layered Sleep System while in your sleeping bag – and for wearing around camp of course – is worth considering for weight saving and versatility of warmth. Our Wafer and Wafer Ultima clothing was designed with this in mind: a fraction of the weight of fleece (and an even smaller fraction of the bulk), but totally windproof and capable of keeping you warm down to round about freezing point. Lighter still is the WaferLite range – probably the lightest down tops in the world – which are rated to 5°C: the temperature the race organisers say you should expect at night. If you’re looking to go warmer than this though, there is the Ultralight range: the Ultra Vest K weighs only 150gm, which is lighter than most T-shirts, yet it will provide real warmth down to approximately -5°C. The Ultra Pullover K is the sleeved version, and at just 225g represents another very useful option.

A full suit of Wafer clothing – top, trousers and socks – will lift the performance of your sleeping bag by 5°C; change the top half to an Ultra Pullover and the boost becomes 9°C.

The next Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon will start on 12 September 2024.