For starters I was completely wrong in my claim that the usual difficulties would be encountered getting the Bivi back into its bag. It’s actually incredibly quick and easy to roll up and slip into the bag. I think the main reason for this is the breath-ability of Gore-Tex material allowing the air to escape as the bivi is rolled up. Of course this is easy to say when it’s bone dry but I dare say the process is less enjoyable when the bivi is soaking wet! I’m tempted to put the bivi into a waterproof compression sack to overcome the problem of what to do with it when wet. Whilst this won’t do much for drying it out, it will at least stop it getting everything else in my rucksack wet until such time as it stops raining and I can dry it properly. Incidentally, Sea To Summit do a great Dry Compression Sack that I’ll certainly be using for my clothes and sleeping bag.
In my previous post I also questioned how to peg the bivi down and the seeming lack of said pegs. Well it’s actually slightly worse than I thought. Whilst the front pegs can be shared between the groundsheet hoops and the guy lines, there was no hope of me getting between the lines and into the bag. I suppose it would be possible to pull them out and put them back from inside but honestly, what’s the point? Easier to get a few extra pegs. I have a 6 pack of Tikes that do the job nicely. I found the best combination was to use the supplied pegs for the 4 pole points and two front groundsheet hops. The Tikes then do the 3 guy points and the rear groundsheet hoops (where I won’t kneel on them!). A total of 11 pegs in all.
One slight concern I have is the manner in which the guy lines attach to the bivi. They loop through webbing hoops but those points are only attached by stitching to the bivi fabric. I would feel happier if the webbing was stitched around the pole sleeves so that the tension from the lines was distributed evenly to the bivi fabric by the pole rather than focused on two small points. This is simply a visual impression though and I’ve no real cause to state it’s a weakness. I also wondered how tightly I should tension the guy lines. The nature of the bivi means it’s always going to flap a bit but the tighter they are the less the flap. I’ll live with the flap for now because of my previous concern.
Getting into the bivi takes some experimentation. This probably sounds silly to anyone who hasn’t tried it but trust me, it’s an art! My first temptation was to lie on the ground on my tummy and then walk back in on my hands and toes. This kind of works but if the ground is soaking wet, so would my front be. My best solution is to kneel on the door fabric (which unzips flat on the ground) and then to slide my feet in along my mat. This works fine on my Thermarest mat but obviously not to be done with boots on. I’m also very careful of doing it without the mat in place as the bivi groundsheet is less durable (and less expendable).
Once inside, the bivi is surprisingly spacious and I can easily toss and turn or read my book. The netting door blocks out a lot of the wind but lets in enough air for comfort and to prevent heavy build-up of condensation. Enough that is for night time. I wouldn’t want to be in there under a hot sun for long as it quickly becomes very hot and stuffy. Obviously adjustment to sleeping during hours of darkness is a good plan and morning lie-ins are not. By sleeping at the front end of the bag (remember it’s 8ft long) you get a nice view out through the mesh and little sense of claustrophobia. Closing the outer door instantly makes the bivi feel smaller and less airy but I’d rather be in there than outside in the rain and heavy rain is likely to be the only time I close it.
Overall I’m very happy with my Saturn Bivi and I don’t think there’s a lot of point in my saying more about it until I’ve actually done a field trip. That’s scheduled for the 11th of September when I’m walking the North Cornwall coast with Colin Kelly and Tim Clayton. No doubt I’ll write some more after that and probably contradict myself to some extent but I think it’s good to capture impressions from before and after the reality.