Everything about your day trip has gone wrong—you’re wet, cold, and far from your haulout—but if you’ve packed a bivy bag, your day has just gotten a bit brighter. The Exped BivyBag Duo UL, made of silicon-coated ripstop nylon, is similar to a large poncho and in seconds it can get you and a friend out of the wind and rain. Weighing in at about 10 oz, and only 4″ x 6″ when packed, the BivyBag is compact enough to easily carry, even aboard the smallest boat.
Removing the BivyBag from its storage sack takes just seconds—quick deployment is a must for any piece of emergency gear. The bag itself is shaped like a giant T-shirt, with a 56″-wide opening at the hem and three smaller openings at the other the top. Each of the four openings is equipped with a drawstring and toggle to adjust or close it. The neck opening is wide enough to pull on like a turtleneck, leaving one’s head free, or it may be worn over the head as a hood. My arms easily fit through the two smaller arm openings, even when I was wearing a shirt, fleece sweater, and jacket.
The Exped BivyBag’s fabric is thin, but it easily sheds water. The fabric isn’t breathable, and so on a rainy day, the inside of the bag was somewhat clammy; but on a cold day the impermeable fabric holds heat in addition to moisture. Despite the thinness of the fabric, I found that the bag provided a noticeable insulating effect. With an air temperature of 48 degrees F and under cloudy skies, the temperature inside the bag rose nearly 8 degrees in about 15 minutes.
When worn as a poncho, the BivyBag is long enough to come down past my feet (I am 6′1″). To keep from tripping on it, I fashioned a belt out of a piece of webbing. While I’m sitting I can pull my feet inside and close the bottom of the bag with the included drawstring.
In a worst-case scenario, the bivy bag can be fashioned into a temporary—albeit floppy—tent by tying it between a few trees, its openings cinched to eliminate drafts but allow enough airflow for comfortable breathing. In less dire conditions, the bag can be a discreet covering for changing clothes in a public location, such as a beach or dock, or for privacy using a camp privy.
In punishing conditions, it can be tempting to hurry on to escape the elements, a course of action that might lead to hasty decisions. The bivy bag helps prevent that scenario. If the wind is blowing hard during a rainstorm, and you need to consult a chart or unroll a dry bag, pull out the Exped BivyBag and you’ll be surrounded by relative calm and a dry place to work. It creates not only an instant shelter but also the peace and presence of mind that comes along with a measure of comfort, allowing for the thoughtful decision making that is essential to any successful outing.
Bruce Bateau sails and rows traditional boats with a modern twist in Portland, Oregon. His stories and adventures can be found at his web site, Terrapin Tales.
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