Emergency bivy use

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Viewing 13 posts - 1 through 13 (of 13 total)
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  • #3803042
    BPL Member


    I bought this as an emergency bivy for my day hikes:


    Would it also be useful somehow for longer multi day treks, when I already have my sleeping bag?

    Haakon R
    BPL Member


    I have never tried to use one of these emergency bivvys in a real life scenario, so feel free to ignore my advice.

    Based on my own experience with other shelters and other peoples experience with this type of shelter, this is something you’d be happy to have in your backpack if something unexpected happens and the alternative would be to have nothing at all. I wouldn’t plan on using it as a primary shelter on overnight-/multi day hikes.

    If the weather is nice and warm, sure it’s something one could try just for the fun of it, but in colder weather I’d think twice about it. For most situations there are much better alternatives that don’t weigh a whole lot more.

    Monte Masterson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern Indiana

    Problem is the SOL bivy doesn’t breathe and it will cause condensation buildup. Okay for an emergency to ward off hypothermia, but not much good for anything else. You could put it over your sleeping bag if your bag isn’t near warm enough and the bivy would supplement the bag enough to get you through the night, however you’d still be dealing with the condensation. And with a down bag that can be detrimental. Nevertheless, if you had no tarp or tent the SOL is waterproof and would keep you and your sleeping bag mostly dry (condensation is better than complete saturation).

    SOL makes a heavier and more expensive water resistant breathable bivy, but if that’s what you had in mind there are better options for a WPB sleeping bag cover. The Montbell Breeze Dry-Tec is a good choice and only weighs 6.3 oz. Comes in a Wide and Long/Wide version as well. The Breeze Dry Tec also works stand-alone for just in case day hikes. Adds about 5 – 8 degrees F warmth to your sleep system. Doesn’t have the reflective mylar of the SOL emergency bivy though.

    Steve M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Eastern Washington

    This is actually a nifty multi-use item.  I almost always take one with me, and it can last several seasons  (polyethylene version, not Mylar) if you’re careful.


    * Ground sheet when sleeping out (sleeping bag goes on top)

    *VBL (vapor barrier liner used inside sleeping bag)…can add significant warmth to a light weight sleeping bag.   But yes, you will have some condensation inside the bivy.  I minimize this by cutting an additional side opening about 2 feet long (from the top)

    *  SUL clothing addition (when camped, not when hiking) by stuffing it under a windshirt

    *  Can be folded into a sit pad when needed (for wet/damp or muddy ground).

    * Insulator for wrapping up your freezer bag dinner.

    YMMV…and probably will.

    BPL Member


    You Could use it to keep your boots in there, wrapped up in bottom of quilt/sleeping bag in winter so they stay warm.

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    I used one of those to overnight on Adak in the Aleutians one night.  It worked for that.  My down quilt got some moisture (and weight) from that use since it’s unventilated, but I was back in the former Navy condo the next day and could let it dry out.  If used night after night without dry sunny days (as one might reasonably expect in the summer in the Sierra), there’d be no way to avoid it wetting out more and more.

    I’m comfortable planning to use it for a single night like that.  I’d be loath to count on it for multiple nights unless I had a synthetic sleeping bag / quilt.

    AK Granola
    BPL Member


    We found one of these alongside the trail in the Bob Marshall Wilderness, right after my friend’s tent pole snapped. I grabbed it up and she carried it just in case she couldn’t adequately jury-rig her tent. She ended up using it as a ground cloth one night when we cowboy camped and it worked ok for that. There’s no comfort in it though; it’s like a glorified emergency blanket. Didn’t give it the full emergency test, thankfully.

    Brad W
    BPL Member


    I carry that one if it’s the 4oz version, on every hike as a part of my essential 10. If I am out on a long day hike and SHTF, I could use that for warmth. If I was backpacking and needed more warmth beyond wearing every single item, I would put that bivy inside my quilt, not outside as it would soak the down by trapping expelled moisture. I have been close but not actually had to do that.

    BPL Member


    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    The metallic ones can be used as a back-up or boost (the company advertises for emergencies only for obvious reasons); troops using the multi-bag military cold weather set up (2 nesting synthetic bags inside a Gotetex bivy) will bring one to boost the temperature rating on a really cold night during field exercises.


    BPL Member


    Locale: Alberta

    Luke from The Outdoor Gear Review tried the breathable version (SOL Escape Bivy) and reported that, despite being more breathable, the conduction made him colder than standing outside:

    According to Luke, any bivy is going to have either too much condensation or too much breathability. For Luke, having too much condensation is safer than being too breathable and losing body heat due to conduction. What are your thoughts on his conclusion?

    I have tentatively concluded that having a thicker/more robust bivy like the MSR Pro that isn’t breathable is the safer option, but it does add bulk. Other thoughts?

    BPL Member


    Locale: The West is (still) the Best

    any thoughts?

    Some have tested these and some retailers claim they can be used in warm weather as a bag replacement.   Here’s the review for the basic types ..

    More “daring” use? A thru hiker “Shade” tried to use a more advanced version on his Calendar Year Triple Crown quest (that’s the AT, CDT, and PCT .. all in 1 yr).   In a very recent interview with Backpacker magazine (corroborated by the new PCT FKT holder Nick Fowler who hiked with him one afternoon), he got injured on the AT using traditional ultralight gear; to keep going he kept getting lighter and lighter stuff.

    You can find the interview, but sounded like he had poor sleep every night just using an emergency bivy.  Basically burrowing deeper as cold spots woke him up until the impossibility of sleep made him start hiking again.  This along with a daypack, then Amazon running vest packed with food and a satellite emergency unit.  He fell 2000 miles short of his goal, so maybe a bit more gear would’ve helped.

    Think the manufacturer’s direction of emergency use only should be heeded.  A sleeping pad would help of course, but sounds like a clammy, chilly way to spend any night that’s not warm.

    John S.
    BPL Member


    I read that backpacker article yesterday. Shade opens a new category of USL (instead of SUL) called Ultra Stupid

    Luke Schmidt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Alaska

    I think Mike used one on his sheep hunt in Alaska.

    I used to have an 11.5 oz BPL synthetic quilt. I think that would be a superior emergency shelter. It would wet through eventually but I think it would keep you warmer for longer. Kinda wish I hadn’t sold it.

    For Moose hunts I carry way more clothing then I do for backpacking. Makes me wonder how much more I’d need to bivy for a night.

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