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Adrian B
(adrianb) - MLife

Locale: Auckland, New Zealand
Ideas on tackling moisture in bivys on 03/02/2009 22:44:35 MST Print View

Ok, so I've been using my MLD Soul bivy and thinking about how to tackle moisture, which is going to become more important as winter approaches down under (which here means lows of perhaps 5 F but usually warmer). And much as I enjoy buying new gear, I'm hoping to avoid buying a double wall tent.

Assuming I've already got the most breathable shells on the bag and bivy I can get, things I can think of:

1. Go for a wide bivy.

When pegged out, the Soul bivy does a really good job of a bathtub-like floor by having the waterproof bottom come up at the sides. Great for keeping out side on rain-splash etc, but the sides of my bag tend to come up against the non-breathable sides and condensation results. The problem will be worse with a thicker bag. So I figure if I have a wider bivy than strictly necessary there should no contact with the waterproof side and my bag. Same thing applies for the length, except I've already achieved this because a standard length MLD bivy is generously long for my 5'7" height.

2. Try clipping up the foot of the bivy, like the head is

The foot box is where condensation is worst. I really like how the head of the bivvy can be clipped up to the roof of the tarp, giving you lots of space over your head. I'm wondering if it would help if you tried a similar thing at the foot of the bivy, to create a buffer of air between the bag and the bivy top ? This one is fairly easy to experiment with.

3. Add a small mesh window to the footbox

Air circulation down the bottom of the bivy must be pretty much non existent. I wonder if adding a small mesh 'window' on top, combined with clipping the bottom end up away from my bag, would help out here. Ideally I guess it would be zippable to fine tune it for windy vs calm, but a fixed window would be light and cheaper. So something like the MLD superlight bivy's head, but at the foot: http://www.mountainlaureldesigns.com/shop/images/snewtieoutuperlight.jpg.

4. Don't rely on zipping right up to stay warm

It's attractive to add some warmth by zipping myself right in. Works in the short term, but I think this might be counter-productive over many nights though, because it makes it harder for moisture to escape resulting in a wetter bag. By the fifth night, say, with a damp collapsing bag, arguably you might have been warmer overall allowing more circulation from the outset (although colder on the first night!). So I'm going to aim for a bag warm enough that I don't need to seal myself right in, with the hope that it will stay drier longer.

Thoughts? Any other ideas?

Edited by adrianb on 03/02/2009 22:45:31 MST.

Jim Sweeney
(swimjay) - MLife

Locale: Northern California
window at the foot end on 03/02/2009 23:51:17 MST Print View

How were you thinking of adding a window at the foot end? I think you're right, that a window would help a lot for condensation, but how would you do it so as not to let moisture in? At the head end, if it's raining you'll quickly know if any water is coming in, but with a foot window, it might be a while before you realize. But if you could get it to work, you'd not only be ventilating the foot, you'd be creating the possibility of flow-through ventilation.

James Dubendorf
(dubendorf) - M

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
A Bivy in Winter on 03/03/2009 01:34:28 MST Print View

Adrian,

If you are looking at multi-day trips in very cold weather far below freezing, down towards 5 F, some form of vapor barrier may be the way to go whether you use a bivy or not. At that temperature, no amount of bivy ventilation will prevent moisture from condensing in your sleeping bag when the dewpoint is in the bag itself- this is true for both down and synthetic. A recent thread I participated in looked at vapor barrier liners, and I experimented fairly successfully with bivy and a vapor barrier liner made out of garbage bags.

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=17103&disable_pagination=1

While most find vapor barrier liners less comfortable once the temperatures climb above the low 20s F, some are able to comfortably sleep in them in higher temperatures. There is no doubt that they deal very effectively with internal moisture, but only you can decide whether it fits with your system (VB clothes are also an option). Andrew Skurka's recent article is another great resource.

You've hit on some other great ways to regulate moisture in a bivy- especially keeping it as open as possible. I've seen designs that incorporate an opening in the footbox, but have never used one. In my experience, it is best to take advantage of every opportunity to dry out insulation in the wind or sun, even when it is very cold- this has served me well.

James

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Ideas on tackling moisture in bivys on 03/03/2009 01:51:46 MST Print View

Adrian,

Do you have the Momentum or eVent top? With eVent you are probably going to have to do something for extended trips at the temps you are talking about.

With Momentun, maybe or maybe not. Apparently it varies by user and length of trips. I have a Soul Bivy Side Zip with a Monmentum top. I have had no condensation down to 20F. But the longest I have used the bivy is two nights.

I am no fabric expert. As stated on the MLD website, Momentum is water resistant and breathable and eVent is waterproof and "breathable." Which is why I opted for the Momentum.

I have another bivy which is water proof and breathable (yeah, right!). Condensation is an issue with it. But using a Vapor Barrier Liner, there is no condensation.

I would be hesitant about modifying the foot box, and potentially allowing moisture in from the top.

Adrian B
(adrianb) - MLife

Locale: Auckland, New Zealand
Re: Ideas on tackling moisture in bivys on 03/03/2009 02:19:41 MST Print View

James S - I'm using the MLD Patrol shelter, which has very good protection around the lower end from any rain because the back can sit flush against the ground. Perhaps in a regular tarp that might be more of an issue? But if you're getting the bottom of your bivy steadily rained on, over the course of a night a non-waterproof upper like Momentum isn't going to do the job either.

Edited by adrianb on 03/03/2009 02:21:21 MST.

Adrian B
(adrianb) - MLife

Locale: Auckland, New Zealand
Re: A Bivy in Winter on 03/03/2009 02:39:20 MST Print View

James D - 5F is probably a minimum, more commonly I imagine the temperature might be perhaps around 20F. I had assumed it wouldn't be cold enough in winters here for VBL (certainly not cold enough during the day).

But perhaps it's something I should look into. Since the foot box is the first to suffer, I wonder if just VBL socks would be worthwhile on colder nights.

Also this raises the issue that adding a window for ventilation could push the dew point inside the bag by lowering the temperature of the bag surface.

Adrian B
(adrianb) - MLife

Locale: Auckland, New Zealand
Re: Re: Ideas on tackling moisture in bivys on 03/03/2009 02:48:07 MST Print View

Nick - bivy upper is Momentum. As for allowing in moisture from the top, as mentioned, I'm confident the shelter above sufficiently protects the lower end of my bag. And again, I don't think you that can rely on a non waterproof fabric like Momentum for blocking much more than occasional spray anyway.

James Dubendorf
(dubendorf) - M

Locale: CO, UT, MA, ME, NH, VT
Ideas on tackling moisture in bivys on 03/03/2009 11:11:06 MST Print View

Adrian,

In theory, in sub-freezing but not frigid temperatures, it is possible that the dewpoint could be inside your bag in some areas of the bag (say, down by the feet) but not others (near your chest). Since your feet give off quite a bit of moisture, and are relatively cool, vb socks might be useful- is worth some experimentation! With a vb liner, you can always cinch it up to your waist and accomplish a similar function but with more coverage.

VB deals with internal moisture, and bivy fabric will have very little impact on this issue in very cold temps. When using a vb liner, the only thing you are asking the bivy to do is keep moisture out- its breathability does not really matter. Of course, there are other conditions where bivy fabric is very important, and I, like you, have the mld soul bivy because, for most of my trips, I want a very breathable bivy.

Another thing to keep in mind is that, when using a bivy w/o vb, sometimes the inner surface of the bivy becomes the condensation point- I can recall nights when I had frost on the inner bivy surface but not on the sleeping bag (at least not any visible condensation). Get rid of that frost before it thaws, and it can be a big help.

James

John Sixbey
(Wolfeye) - F
adding a vent on 03/03/2009 15:40:20 MST Print View

In reference to adding a vent at the foot, I've thought of doing the same thing. The only way I can think of doing it without letting rain in is to make a little fly that covers an insect window. Getting much air circulation down there would mean adding a hoop or a guyline for volume, though, and I don't like to spend much time pitching my bivy.

I've also thought it would make sense to build a bivy/sleeping bag hybrid to deal with such issues: construct the part that covers the lower 2/3 of the body like a water-resistant sleeping bag, and design the rest so it functions like a bag with a bivy cover. I'm not sure if the design would work, but it would eliminate a layer that collects moisture.