I had three objectives for this trip:
- Test out my new Vaude bivi
- Pack everything required for an overnight camp into a 22 litre rucksack
- Go for a walk
I just about met Objective 2, although I had to leave my Thermarest Ultralight 3/4 at home and strap my foam rollmat to the outside of the pack instead. There was a slight panic when I realised I nearly didn’t have enough space for my sandwiches – but it all fitted in eventually and I was quite pleased to be setting off on a two-day walk with only a small daysack.
I hadn’t planned Objective 3 very well at all. I’d decided to go to the Forest of Bowland, starting from Slaidburn, but I only had the vaguest plan of where I was going to walk to. I felt much happier, after a few hours of random bimbling, when I finally came up with A Plan; maybe the TGO Challenge has reduced my sponteneity?
Anyway, back to Objective 1.
I’d practised pitching the bivi in the back garden, but it’s a simple enough job anyway. I’d taken one extra peg so that I could peg out the head end of the bivi properly. This removes a crease which runs across the width of the groundsheet.
There was enough room at the head end of the bivi to stow all of my gear and I pushed the near empty rucksack to the foot end. Being 5′ 4″ tall means that I generally have plenty of space in 1 person tents, but I reckon most average sized people could fit their gear around them in this bivi.
So far, so good. The first issue arose when I took off my soaking wet boots; where could I put them? They really were soaked through and stinky – partly due to me sinking thigh-deep in a peat bog – and I would normally have left them in the porch of my tent. The weather had been fine and sunny during the day, but there was now 100% cloud cover and I could tell it was going to rain so I didn’t want to leave my boots outside (although they could not have got any wetter). I left them outside for as long as I could, but they had to come inside with me at bedtime. Maybe next time I shall leave them outside in a plastic bag.
I put a mug of water on the stove and pegged my home-made windshield around it. However, there was now absolutely no wind at all and the still conditions were bringing out the midgies. D*mn it! Why hadn’t I thought of that when I chose the only dry patch in a very marshy area? Luckily, I’d brought my head net with me, so I put that on while I waited for the water to boil. However, I was wearing shorts and the nasty little blighters were making a meal of my legs so there was really no choice but to zip myself up into the bivi. When I could hear the water boiling, I rehydrated my meal then zipped myself back inside again.
Unfortunately, I had to eat my dinner propped up on my elbow inside the bivi – as eating whilst wearing a midge net is not the easiest thing to do. There were quite a few midgies inside the bivi until I realised that the rear vent was open, so I had to zip that up too. I managed to get changed for bed inside the bivi – although it wasn’t easy as there’s no way you can sit up or even lie on your back with your knees fully bent – and I decided to sleep in my head net so that I could open up the rear vent again. My Pack ‘n’ Go camping meal (Best Before May 2011) had been delicious and I was soon drifting off to sleep.
I woke several times in the night. Nothing unusual there, but I eventually decided I was cold and I wanted to change my T-shirt for my long-sleeved Icebreaker baselayer. The moon was very bright, so I had enough light and enough space to prop myself up while I unrolled my pillow and found my other top. I then carried out another act of contortionism while I changed into the warmer baselayer.
When I woke up again it was raining. I do like lying in a tent listening to the rain, but it was now after 7am and I’d had enough sleep; I wanted to get up but how do you get dressed and make your breakfast when you can’t sit up without unzipping the bivi and getting wet? I pondered my options whilst eating a cheese roll which I could just about reach inside the rucksack down by my feet. I knew that I could get dressed, as it was just the opposite of getting undressed which I had already managed, but there was no way I could put on my socks and boots unless I got out of the bivi. I knew that the rain was probably not as heavy as it sounded but, everytime I thought about going outside, the heavens would open!
Eventually I managed to get dressed into my full waterproofs and, after packing up as much as I could, I unzipped the bivi. The rain was nowhere near as bad as it had sounded, so I put on a dry pair of socks and my still stinky wet boots. The rucksack was easier to pack now that I was wearing my waterproof trousers and had eaten most of my food.
So, what did this first night teach me about the Vaude bivi?
- It’s quite “coffin”-like compared with a tent, but I expected that and there’s enough room to stow my gear around me.
- If it rains, you would not get wet if you opened the “window” for a bit of ventilation. The midgies weren’t a pest in the morning, so I unzipped the vents and had no problem with rain coming in.
- If you camp in a midge hotspot, expect to be bitten or to have to zip yourself in – with the resulting condensation.
- Condensation was not a major issue, but parts of my sleeping bag were damp where they’d rubbed on the inside of the bivi – but what do you expect if you eat hot food inside a sealed bivi bag?
- I could have managed my packing up better if I’d taken an extra drybag or plastic bag to temporarily cover things while I was taking down the bivi.
- Because of the midges, I did not get that “outside” feeling that I get when I use my Rab Survival Zone bivi bag. I’d hoped to sleep with the door completely unzipped if the weather had been dry or at least with the vents fully open.
- Rain does pool on the outside of the bivi, so it’s worth giving it a shake before unzipping the door.
What would I do differently next time?
- I’d take a couple of bags for my boots and to keep things dry while I’m packing up.
- I’d also try to camp higher where there was more wind; one of the reasons I bought this bivi was so I could travel fast and light and make my camp anywhere, but a lack of planning meant I’d ended up in Midgeville.
- If I took a down sleeping bag, I’d be tempted to also use my Terra Nova Moonlite sleeping bag cover to protect it against condensation – but then you could start to ask why not just take a proper tent? I think the venting would reduce condensation to a minimum as long as there’s a decent breeze – so pitching location is crucial.
Marks out of ten? I’d say 9 based on this trip. This is a good, well-made little tent and any limitations are purely due to its small size – but you would know that before you bought it.