I love camping. I like the idea of sleeping out in the open and close to Nature; but sometimes I want to get closer than a tent allows. I already have a Rab Survival Zone bivi – which is just a waterproof sleeping-bag cover with a drawstring around the face – and I have intended to combine it with a micro-tarp to keep the weather off; however, I have only done this once.
A step up from a sleeping-bag cover is the hooped bivi, but I have always been put off these by their design. Usually you have to wriggle in and out at one end of the bivi, which doesn’t appeal to me, and the extra weight of the hoop/pole makes them heavier than a sleeping-bag cover but without the benefits of a tent. Also, some of the hooped bivis are very expensive (ie over £200) and I would rather put that sort of money towards a tent.
When I saw reviews of the Vaude Bivi 1P [the 1P means 1 person; there is also a 2P] it seemed to meet my requirements: reasonably low weight (910g maximum), relatively cheap (£150 RRP, but available for about £100) and with a long zipped door at the side. This should be just what I need for high-level camping when I want to travel fast and light – and especially when the weather could turn a bit nasty. I’d read a couple of reviews and, accepting that it is a bivi and not a tent, I decided it was worth a gamble.
Weighing in at 838g including bags, pegs and pole repair sleeve, I was immediately impressed with the size and weight of the packed bivi. Here was something I’d be happy to stick in my winter daysack “just in case”.
Everything seemed well made and the instructions were clear enough. After a dummy run in the dining room (without pegs!) I took advantage of a rain-free evening and set the bivi up in the back garden.
The short pole, at the foot end, was not so easy to slot into place, as it’s far too short to bend, but there is a bit of give in the fabric and I’m sure I’ll learn the knack.
The bivi comes with 6 pegs. So that’s one for each corner and one for the guyline at each end – only there is also a pegging loop at the head end, so you really need 7 pegs not 6. I need to work out if the pegging loop and the guy could go on the same peg. The bivi was stable without that loop pegged down, but the floor was not as taut as I would have liked.
The guying at the foot end is a bit strange. There is a loop of guyline which has two metal rings on it. One ring is small, and fixed in place; the other is bigger and free to move along the guy line. Attached to the lower edge of the bivi flysheet (it’s a single skin tent, but there’s a flap of material over a vent at the end) is a hook. I think the hook should be clipped onto the smaller ring for better ventilation or can be clipped onto a 3rd ring, near the bottom of the short pole, in order to batten down the hatches in bad weather. I assume the tent peg goes through the bigger ring – although I’m just guessing and will experiment with other configurations to see what works best. The photo is not the best, but may give you some idea what I’m talking about.
I found the bivi easy to get in and out of via the door which runs along the side. Once you’re inside, you can either completely seal yourself in or open the “windows”. There’s a zipped vent in the rear wall, ie behind your head, and this can be kept open with a reinforced Velcro strip. There is also a mesh section above your head; so this lets in a bit of air but can also be opened with a zip, making a large gap for air to flow through but, hopefully, protected from the weather by the “hood”. This also means that you can peep out through this window if you want to see what’s going on outside.
I was hoping that the pole at the foot end would mean that the bivi fabric would be completely lifted away from my body. This is true at the head end, where there is plenty of room to move about, but the bivi was touching my feet when I lay on my back, and my hip when I lay on my side, and that was on a thin roll-mat with no sleeping bag. This shouldn’t be a problem if the venting is effective, but I might not want to use a down bag if there’s a risk of condensation.
There is one slight problem which I need to sort out. Poles A and B cross each other, with Pole A going over the top of Pole B. Pole B seems to want to twist forward and does not sit centrally in the gap under Pole A. This might not be important but it doesn’t feel right.
So, what do I think so far?
This is definitely a bivi not a tent and I cannot see it taking the place of my Akto or Laser Comp on the TGO Challenge. There is enough room inside to prop myself up on one elbow whilst eating my dinner or reading a book. I could probably change into dry clothes – with a lot of wriggling – but I wouldn’t be able to do anything that required sitting up. The venting seems well thought out, but I’ve not tested it in clammy conditions yet. The door can be tied back when open, and it looks like there are options for how open or closed to have the door depending on how bad the weather is.
So far, so good. Now all I need is the time for a trip into the hills.