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help choosing a bivy
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Tom Keefe
help choosing a bivy on 01/26/2014 07:14:11 MST Print View

Hello everyone, I'm looking to find a new shelter for trips where I may be doing some alpine style climbing or mountaineering mostly above the treeline where the terrain is typically very rocky and the weather quite windy and unexpectedly stormy.

I've been very happy with my Tarptent Double Rainbow for most trips but found last year that locating decent spots for a good storm-worthy pitch above treeline can be challenging. I've also found that pitching in "freestanding mode" with trekking poles isn't always a good idea in strong winds unless you can still manage to steak it out reasonable well (almost lost the tent down the side of the mountain with half my gear inside). I can always look for ways to use pro to anchor the tent, but again this requires some considerable time to find a good location and come up with a creative setup. I would prefer some kind of shelter that would pitch nearly anywhere where there is a reasonably level patch of ground.

I've been holding off switching to a bivy for as long as possible as I really do not like sleeping in them, but it seems as though this may be the best option for these conditions. Since I have never really considered a bivy in the past, I'm not really sure what the best options are on the market right now.

I also have some specific preferences:
- I don't want to deal with a ground cloth. In my opinion if a shelter needs a ground cloth, it was poorly designed to begin with.
- Needs to be waterproof. I will not be using this under a tarp as that would defeat the purpose.
- I would prefer the weight to be under 2 lbs (this seems pretty reasonable for a bivy). If I can get it closer to 1 lb, even better.
- Needs to be useable in cold weather and snow.

I guess I'm also wondering if I'm asking for too much in the first place...

John S.
(jshann) - F
Re: help choosing a bivy on 01/26/2014 07:50:10 MST Print View

Best Stand Alone Bivy

I think Event fabric may be best currently. Some waterproof bivy openings might allow water in. Consider a small tarp to pitch low over the head end. You can have the fabric lay on your face when closed up or have it off your face with a hooped bivy. RAB/Integral Designs, Big Agnes and others make stand alone event bivys.

There are flat bivys (no hoop or pole) around 1 pound. Billy Ray likes his BD Twilight bivy at 11 oz.

Edited by jshann on 01/26/2014 08:01:38 MST.

Joe A
(dirtbaghiker) - M
Borah Gear Snowyside Event bivy on 01/26/2014 08:17:39 MST Print View

20 ounces. Event..

Matt Weaver
(norcalweaver) - F

Locale: PacNW
Re: Borah Gear Snowyside Event bivy on 01/26/2014 09:49:09 MST Print View

I'll second the Borah Gear eVent bivy. I had mine made with a cuben floor to drop a few more ounces off and because I only use it on snow for the most part, so durability wise I knew it would be fine. The stock 70d floor it comes with should be very stout otherwise. This bivy is HUGE. I'm 6'4" and swim in it, which is good considering I primarily use it in the Winter. Big poofy sleep system, pack, lots of layers, all thrown inside. One time (admittedly out of only the three times I've used the bivy) I came into some precip when an unexpected warm front came through. Since I don't bring a tarp with it, I merely rigged my rain jacket that I always carry around the head hole. Worked fine for keeping water out throughout the night.

It's a stupendous deal. I added the side zip and had the seams taped. Highly customizable and John is the nicest guy ever to work with.

Andrew Urlacher
(anarkhos) - M

Locale: Colorado, Wyoming
Re: help choosing a bivy on 01/26/2014 09:55:01 MST Print View

I think if your intention is to use a bivy as a standalone shelter in alpine, you will be completely disappointed. In most respects, a lightweight bivy is intended for use under a tarp as added protection from water and wind. Obviously there are many bivys made for solo use for mountaineering, but these are extremely heavy (relatively) and will condense like crazy. I really feel that these bivys are meant as emergency shelters only and not designed for comfort in any way, unless used in conjunction with something like a snow shelter (not convenient).

My personal experience in mountaineering bivys is all negative. If you can find a small footprint shelter to make site selection easier (like a Mid tarp), i think you would be much happier. Waiting out a storm in nothing but a bivy is a miserable experience.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: help choosing a bivy on 01/26/2014 13:48:55 MST Print View

Probably you want an eVent bivy - that will be the lightest, most breathable thing you can get. Though it is worth considering the the gore-tex bivys with the fuzzy interior have about the best reputation as far as condensation. And if you get simple sack, get it BIG - if you are stuck in there in bad weather you will want room to change clothes, look at the map, etc.

Two other thoughts - the Milesgear Uber bivy

And if you decide that a bivy is going to be too confining, you might consider a BD Firstlight tent. You need a larger site than a bivy but less than your DR, and since the poles are inside the canopy you can stake out the floor, crawl in with your pack, and then set up the poles.

Steven Diogenes
(stevenn) - F
MLD on 01/26/2014 13:53:59 MST Print View

MLD also has an eVent bivy.

Tom Keefe
RAB South Col II on 01/26/2014 14:50:29 MST Print View

It looks like I may be able to get a Rab South Col II for about $160 shipped. Materials seem comparable to the Borah, but with the arm/vent holes and the option to tie in to an anchor (not sure how useful that would really be unless in a truly dire emergency on the side of a mountain). Also not sure how I feel about having one of those "waterproof zippers" on top, my experience is they are water resistant at best.

It seems like the main issue with having one of these out in a deluge is that water tends to come in from the vents/zippers on the top of the bivy. How easy would it be to just throw a hard shell jacket or something over the openings? I think it would take some creativity if there were any amount of wind though.

Maybe I will have to look at a small silnylon or cuben tarp or poncho that I might be able to rig over the opening if needed (maybe I could come up with some sort of tripod using my ice axe and trekking poles...).

I realize these are not comfortable to be stuck in on a long rainy day, but I would never sit still during the day when using this anyways. Generally if I'd be carrying this I'd be moving from before dawn until night regardless of the weather.

Joe A
(dirtbaghiker) - M
Re: RAB South Col II on 01/26/2014 14:57:45 MST Print View

I realize these are not comfortable to be stuck in on a long rainy day, but I would never sit still during the day when using this anyways. Generally if I'd be carrying this I'd be moving from before dawn until night regardless of the weather

Thats exactly how I feel..I love backpacking in nasty weather, it wont stop me from walking. I just need a simple place to crash for the night where I can be safe, warm and dry. Good luck with whatever you choose.

Paul McLaughlin
(paul) - MLife
Re: RAB South Col II on 01/26/2014 16:23:10 MST Print View

So - wacky idea, but... one way to deal with the water/weather coming in through zips, openings - assuming you can sip up at least somewhat and lean against a rock (or possibly snowbank) is to make a sack out of eVent that you could put over the head end of the bivy and that would reach down to about stomach level. With that you could open up the top of the bivy, but still have rain protection, as the rain would run off the sack and away. Again, only works if you are sitting up, but having lain down in a gore-tex bivy in the rain this sounds like it would be better.

Plus, you could use the sack during the day at rest stops kinda like a partial bothy bag - maybe?

I think that anything you try to do that involves rigging a tarp is going to be mostly useless for the kind of situation you are talking about. So much hassle for so little protection that you're going to swear, chuck the thing and wish you had brought the effin' tent.

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
Re: help choosing a bivy on 01/26/2014 18:05:45 MST Print View

I would check out the Uber Bivy. For 26oz it seems pretty solid and I think you might appreciate the extra room.

Edited by randalmartin on 01/26/2014 18:06:55 MST.

Dan Geiger
(strat) - M
Rab South coll II on 01/26/2014 18:25:09 MST Print View

I have that bivy and and i really like it.I can fit my Exped 7 synmat inside or even better outside and i use a Valandre BloodyMary bag with it as well.I am 6' 200lbs.The armholes are nice for air and it feels less confining when zipped up you can actually see outside a bit.I have not used in a Rain yet so not sure how well the center zip works but it is used with a tarp anyway.
I am going to get a Feathered friends Rockwren center zip bag with armholes to go with the bivy a nice match.

Edited by strat on 01/26/2014 18:44:09 MST.