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Using a bivy without tarp
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Jon Franklin
(Junto01) - F
Using a bivy without tarp on 05/21/2011 15:36:48 MDT Print View

I just purchased the rei minimalist bivy under the impression that it could be used by itself without a tarp but I'm seeing a lot of people use the bivy in combo with a tarp. Is that necessary even though the bivy is waterproof? I realize that it can get a little uncomfertable being stuck in a bivy for a long period of time without the added protection of a tarp but is this the only advantage that the tarp/bivy combo has over just using the bivy alone?
For some background info, I live in socal and I hike mostly in the sierras and local mountains during the late spring, summer and early fall so I don't see a lot of rain or snow. I use a 3-season down quilt(golite) with the z-lite pad(just in case that info is pertanent).
Thanks in advance for comments.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
REI Minimalist bivy without a tarp on 05/21/2011 16:05:56 MDT Print View

The main purpose of the Tarp is rain protection for the Bivy and for your gear. However, given that you don't encounter that much you could probably use a rain jacket draped over the mesh part and a garbage bag to keep your pack protected during an emergency rain storm.

If you were hiking in the Pacific NW or in other parts of the country where you get more rain than I think the addition of a Tarp is worth the ability to sit up outside of your Bivy while it rains so you can cook etc...

Edited by randalmartin on 05/21/2011 16:06:52 MDT.

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: REI Minimalist bivy without a tarp on 05/21/2011 16:23:19 MDT Print View

You could also ad a micro tarp to give yourself a windbreak and a place to keep your pack and head out of any minimal rain. Like this one here...

Charles Henry

Locale: Arizona and British Columbia
1 on 05/21/2011 16:59:20 MDT Print View

If you don't expect alot of rain, a bivy alone is fine. IE, maybe a shower or a single storm.

I've often even slept with only a sleeping bag and pad in my of my trips.

If it's raining alot, I think a Bivy alone would be pretty have no dry place to organize your backpack, get out papers or listening devices, cook etc.

Note that your bivy is a pretty heavy. A small tent beats a bivy in performance in many ways. I have a TT Moment, which i will use without a bivy on rainy trips. On drier trips I will bring a bivy alone.

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Micro Tarp on 05/21/2011 17:15:19 MDT Print View

Yes, SoCal isn't as bad and a bivy alone would probably be totally fine in most cases, but even in SoCal you can get stuck in multi-day rain showers. At times like that, you can end up with lots of wet gear from condensation and splash in a bivy without any cover.

As stated, a tarp acts as a wind break as well.
Check the weather and you should be fine without.

Now you may want a small tarp for hikes at high altitude or in the Northern parts of the country.

A 5x9 tarp of cuben or spinnaker doesn't weigh much and you may appreciate the extra benefits like: a wind break, sunshade during a nap on a hot summer day, keeping rain/dew off your face and gear, a nice place to relax and cook a hot meal and somewhere to hang wet socks and shoes.

Nate Meinzer
(Rezniem) - F

Locale: San Francisco
Using a bivy without a tarp on 05/21/2011 20:38:32 MDT Print View

Surprised no one mentioned this, but the REI bivy is NOT waterproof. There is no covering over the face. The splash guard doesn't reportedly work well, and if left out in the elements the inside will be totally wet.

Also, the condensation issues reported are quite severe. You'd be better off returning the bivy and getting a tarp.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Using a bivy without tarp on 05/21/2011 23:15:22 MDT Print View

Most of the bivies used by folks here have more water-resistant and VERY-breathable fabrics on the top half like the TiGoat, MLD, etc. with momentum. These have less condensation and weigh less than traditional "waterproof-breathable" ones, like GTX or REI's Elements, etc. They pair really well with a tarp because they keep any wind-driven rain from the edges of your sleeping bag, while the tarp keeps the rain off the main part of the bag. They also help with drafts if you are using a quilt in colder conditions.

If you have a bivy like this, you could probably get away with a 5x8 tarp (look at Integral Designs or Oware, where a silnylon tarp is heavier than spinnaker or cuben but only $54.00). I have a 5x8 ID Siltarp but I only take it in the summer when I really don't think there is going to be any rain. Most of the time, I'd rather carry something slightly larger, even with a weight penalty.

At about the same weight as the REI bivy, you could carry a small tarp and TiGoat bivy and have a more flexible system. Of course, you'd have to add guylines and stakes, but could handle just about any weather in comfort.

Theron Rohr
(theronr) - F

Locale: Los Angeles, California
Re: Using a bivy without tarp on 05/22/2011 13:21:42 MDT Print View

I have the Minimalist and also live in SoCal. I got it because I was experimenting with minimal options and it was relatively cheap, relatively light weight and relatively waterproof. I do think this is about the simplest/cheapest/lightest way to guarantee you won't die of hypothermia in camping :). It's also probably the least comfortable and if you're like me you will find that this becomes more of a deciding factor over time.

The downsides are: if it's raining when you get in you will invariably get a lot of wetness inside and it probably won't dry out overnight because it's not that breathable. Even if it's not raining then your bag will get quite a lot of condensation. These aren't deal breakers in and of themselves but I find it makes it feel colder so you need a bag with enough extra thickness to still provide warmth when damp and that kind of defeats the point of the bivy. In a group camp you miss the privacy of a tent/tarp.

There are good points: it is light, cheap and waterproof. Even the mesh keeps off light rain and provides a nice pocket of warm air to breathe. If you leave it in the rain just fold the head end over the foot end so the mesh is protected. I've done this and it was fine. A poncho tarp provides enough covered space at the head end to get in, cook and protect you gear from getting too wet.

Lately though I've been using a 7x9 tarp instead of the bivy which gives me wind and rain protection plus more room to spread out and be comfortable. It is more work to set up though.

Dustin Short
(upalachango) - MLife
Re: Re: Using a bivy without tarp on 05/22/2011 13:40:14 MDT Print View

I also have the minimalist which I picked up at a garage sale. Living in AZ, it's pretty much the only shelter I bring. I have found that condensation is a big problem with it though and will probably be moving to a bivy/tarp combo as soon as I financially can.

I do love the bivy in that it has provided a great way for me to lighten my pack AND it's a workable but uncomfortable enough solution that anything else I switch to that offers more versality/lighter weight will also feel so much better to sleep in. IE the minimalist bivy does not spoil you at all and any other options will feel like a Five Star hotel!

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Tarp on 05/22/2011 14:19:25 MDT Print View

If I had to chose between a bivy or a small tarp, I think I would go with the tarp.
The weight would be approximately the same, but the tarp is more flexible and more comfortable.

Most modern sleeping bags/quilts do a good job of repelling light moisture and of course since they breath well condensation is not much of an issue.

The combination of small tarp and ultralight bivy would be more comfortable and safer in rough weather.