Vaude Bivi 1P – First night – Midges and rain

I had three objectives for this trip:

  1. Test out my new Vaude bivi
  2. Pack everything required for an overnight camp into a 22 litre rucksack
  3. 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 pitched the bivi near to a stream.  There was a pleasant breeze blowing and the ground, although a bit tufty, was flat and soft without being boggy.  Not perfect, but good enough.

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!

A quick look outside revealed dark grey clouds and lots of rain

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.

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27 Responses to Vaude Bivi 1P – First night – Midges and rain

  1. John J says:

    An interesting report Judith.
    I’m sure I’m not the first to point out that Vaude quote that bivi as weighing 910gm = the same as the Terra-Nova LaserComp – although I imagine the bivi packs down smaller.
    I’m not criticising the bivi…but I like the space that a tent affords!


    • Judith says:

      Ah, but my Vaude bivi weighs 838 grammes and my TN Laser Comp actually weighs over 1kg once I’ve tied on the “optional” pole cover (that makes it waterproof) and added in some proper pegs. One thing that attracted me to the Vaude bivi is that it should be stable in absolutely foul weather. You know that TGOC feeling of wondering at what point in the night you’re going to be blown into the next County? Well, I reckon I’d sleep soundly in the bivi in those conditions as it has a very low profile. I now have a choice of tents and bivis and they each have pros and cons. If only I had a Sherpa to carry them all; like a golf caddy who could pass me the best club/tent for the conditions!


  2. louse4 says:

    And I’ve gone the other way, I’ll be taking David’s Superlight for more space at the same weight as my Kraz. More street cred too… (If I can sneak it into my pack without him noticing.)


  3. AlanR says:

    Thanks Judith. Both the report and the comments are interesting. I’m pretty sure that i prefer the extra space of my Moment which is 0.85kg which includes a midge net doorway so that i can sleep with the outer door open. But i would give it a go before i said never.
    I have seen boots inverted on walking poles with peeps who use bivi’s a lot.
    Its amazing how little you actually need to do a short backpack. We can get sidetracked with MUST HAVE this for JUSTIN CASE. When really we can make do without.


    • Judith says:

      Hi Alan. I did think about putting my boots on my poles – but only after I was nearly asleep and couldn’t be bothered.
      I was pleased to be carrying so little and I know I could go lighter. I did still have a few “just in case” items.


  4. Phil Cook says:

    How come you always end up thigh deep in bogs Judith? I know they’d just be knee deep for most folk, but surely you’ve learned to recognise the signs by now? Keep away from anything bright green or redish, or come to that any areas infested with cotton grass.


    • Judith says:

      This time it was due to lack of concentration. I’d been carefully picking my way through and round the bright green bits and the mucky brown bits, but then I decided I could walk on water – splurgh! The worst bit was picking clods of soggy peat out of my pockets. 😦 And hey, I’m not THAT short!


  5. Excellent report, Judith, not glossing over the compromises inherent in bivy camping. I still prefer my tarp, but then I used to feel claustrophobic even in my old Macpac Microlight 🙂

    Something I’ve found useful when camping with a tarp or bivy is an umbrella. It really helps when you need to put the kettle on etc. in the rain, although obviously it can’t do anything about the midges.


    • Judith says:

      Cheers Jon. I’ve seen people using umbrellas whilst hillwalking – or, should I say, I’ve seen umbrellas strapped to a few rucksacks – but I’ve not yet been tempted to try one. I generally use walking poles, even with quite a light pack, so I wouldn’t have a spare hand for the brolly when on the move. I think I’m mentally moving towards a full-size tarp; something that’s open enough to enjoy being outside but big enough to spread out (and pack up) under. I do love my tents – especially my Hilleberg Akto – but the idea of a modern “shaped” Tarp is becoming quite attractive.


      • Judith says:

        Follow up to my own comment: I do realise that you meant that the brolly could be handy when stopped, rather than walking, but I believe it can be a nicer, more effective way (than a hood) to keep the rain off your head and face when walking.


  6. AlanR says:

    Judith you cannot beat a GoLite brolly, for walking with, as a windshield when cooking and for going to the pub with.


  7. Howellsey says:

    I think I will stick to the tent, wee bit more room!


  8. Alan R says:

    Did you have any problems doing overnight parking in Slaidburn? Is the village hall parking free?


    • Judith says:

      Alan, there are signs up at the Village Hall saying that you can only park there if you are using the hall. The Pay and Display carpark seemed quite expensive (up to £9 a day if I recall correctly) and there was no way of paying for a two-day stay. I parked for free at the side of the road just before the school. The village roads are quite tight but there are a few places you could take your chance with.


      • Alan R says:

        There are so many places like this now. Crazy. You didn’t go to the School lane car park by any chance did you. Last time i was there it was free.
        Thanks for the info,.


      • Judith says:

        No, I didn’t use any other carparks. When I am “wild camping”, I have to look for “wild carparking” too!


  9. Laura says:

    I’m almost impressed with the bivi bag – a good review – but I think I’ll stick with my tent! If I could get INTO a bivi – I feel I might not be able to get out again!!! And I do like being able to sit up to get dressed!


    • Judith says:

      Hi Laura. I think the best way to get dressed is to get out completely! I haven’t decided what conditions would best suit this bivi – compared with a tent or a simple bivi bag – but I am looking forward to using it in the snow with my Tundra Pure -10 sleeping bag. That should be cosy.


  10. Martin B says:

    Very interesting Judith, especially the small rucksack. I wonder what weight you were carrying? I have had so many boot/slug incidents that I always keep mine inside, but my closest kit to the bivi is my Karrimor Marathon tent – roomy but not very stable. Carry on testing, and feel free to join us in Cheshire next Wednesday evening.


    • Judith says:

      I didn’t weigh my pack, Martin, but it was a very comfortable weight to carry. It would have been handy to have a little more room in the pack so I think I’ll use a bigger rucksack next time but take all the same things. Thanks for the invitation to the walk(s). I do keep an eye on your list but your walks always seem to clash with something else so I’ll have to give this one a miss, I’m afraid.


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