I am always looking for ways to carry less when hiking. Especially on longer multi-day hikes. The aim is to reduce weight and volume without compromising on quality, warmth, and comfort.
I’ve been researching sleep systems for a while - bags, quilts, insulated mats. And I have trialled a few combinations to figure out what actually works; as just one system does not suit all conditions. The last time I travelled to the Northern Flinders Ranges I packed something a little different - the SOL Escape Bivvy.
A breathable, reusable, reflective and completely waterproof emergency bivvy. It is like carrying a large pair of thick socks, rolled-up.
I was curious to see whether the SOL Escape Bivvy could replace my light-weight quilt saving me about 500g. I also wanted to know if it would keep me warm, keep me dry, stand up to multiple uses over 7 nights.
I knew this trip would put the bivvy to the test. The overnight temperatures are cold (they ended up being between 3-8 degrees). The terrain is tough. The South Australian desert area has almost every kind of prickle you can imagine, from round balls covered in spikes to three pointed stars and if that’s not enough it even has fine needle-like grass prickles.
On the first night I rolled out my standard issue canvas ground sheet. This protects my ultra-light Nemo Zor self-inflating mat from the assault of prickles trying to penetrate my mat, my bivvy and me! I also used a Sea to Summit Reactor liner inside the SOL Escape bivvy to test out how warm a super lightweight sleep system can be.
Now for context, this trip requires me to be fully dressed at all times so I wear an X-bionic hiking base layer under a short-sleeve shirt and then X- bionic run energizer shorts plus trousers.
I also carry a Multicam lightweight hootchie (600g) if rain is expected, but I only set that up if I need to.
So back to the bivvy. I got inside my liner and bivvy and I was quite comfortable. The only noticeable difference was the ‘lightness’ of coverage on top of my body as I tucked in for the night.
Now the purpose of a good sleep system is to insulate us from the outside environment so we retain our own body heat and keep warm. I quickly felt the reflective material of the SOL Escape Bivvy doing just that. My chest and upper body felt incredibly warm despite the strong icy wind that was blowing. The only issue I had was as the night progressed and the temperature dropped, my feet got cold (I'm a no sock to bed kind of guy).
I could have rethought my no-sock decision but I was carrying my Tier Gear -7deg Quenda quilt, just-in-case. So I pulled it out, put it inside the bivvy and I was toasty all night long. In the morning I woke pleasantly surprised to find I was dry. No condensation or moisture was trapped inside the bivvy. I was also surprised at how hard wearing the material seemed given its light-weight feel. And when it was time to pack up, the bivvy rolled up easily and fit back in its bag - bonus!
I used this same set up with the quilt over the following nights and found that I was warm throughout the night.
As the week progressed the last couple of nights warmed up and I was able to ditch the quilt and sleep comfortably in the liner plus bivvy combo. The temp overnight was between 8-10 degrees.
So, overall, the bivvy itself performed really well to repeat use, especially sleeping on the ground. I never woke with any internal condensation and in combination with the quilt and liner I was never cold. OK, so i didn’t get rain, and there was no morning dew, so I couldn’t test the how waterproof the bivvy was, but I am sure I will get the opportunity in the future and I will let you know.
The benefits of carrying the SOL Escape Bivvy is its added warmth, multi-use ability, breathability and it’s small size and weight. It could definitely replace your larger sleeping bag or quilt if you are travelling to locations with overnight temperatures above 5 degrees. Or you could integrate it into your current sleep system to add extra warmth. It also eliminates the need to carry an additional emergency bivvy.
- If used alone or in conjunction with a liner: Bivvy is suitable for overnight temps no lower than 5 degrees.
- SOL Escape Bivvy packed dimensions: 18cm x 13cm packed
- Weights: Mat (405g), Quilt (700g), Bivvy (240g) plus liner (248g) = total just over 1.5kg.