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shelter review - tactical bivy selection

My shelter systems include tents and hammocks. By weight an volume these systems are about equal. The tent is 23oz from Six Moon Designs. The hammock and straps, bug net, tarp are from yukon outfitters, sea to summit, and SOL.

As anyone who reads this blog knows I do not believe in the notion of "survival" as it means that you might lose, however, I do carry a complete shelter system with me. I carry a shelter not because I'm expecting to spend the night but because a hammock and tarp offer comfort from the Florida sun and rain as well as getting my feet out of the water. It's also a chance to practice setting up camp and getting used to carrying gear.

Several months ago I decided that a bivy and tarp was a good compromise between a tent and a hammock. I bought a snugpack jungle bag and it's matching tarp. I was pretty disappointed with both. The bivy itself is heavy and voluminous. And the tarp did not match the picture which snugpack has yet to correct.

jungle bag - 32oz and 30in wide at the shoulders (65cu in)

This morning YouTube recommended some sierra designs videos; one of which was the UFO tent and another was their backcountry bivy. What I like about this design is that there is a series of flaps making the tarp optional too; although it's not for the claustrophobic. Also the bright color os

backcountry bivy - 14oz and 36in wide at the shoulders (47cu in)

I do not know what happened but as I was flipflopping pages I linked to ZPacks. Their bivy is a fraction of the weight of the jungle bag but does not have the flaps of the backcountry. There is a nice touch as there is a loop that can be attached to a tree or pole to keep the bugnet off your face. ZPacks tarps are stupid expensive.

Splash Bivy - 7.4oz and 35" wide at the shoulders (47cu in ... I think this is wrong; should be much smaller)

There is the 2gosystems trifecta bivy which is more of a blanket/sleeping bag hybrid than a bivy. The trifecta offers no bugnet or enclosure. Just some good waterproofing and thermal reflection. I like that it can be used for either a blanket or shelter but if you're already carrying a tarp, then why worry about multiple uses.

trifecta - 15oz and 35in wide (54cu in)

Lastly there is the SOL bivy. SOL offers a number of bivy solutions; they differ in size, material and function. Similar to the trifecta they are not full featured bivy in that they do not provide bugnets etc. However they provide plenty of heat reflection. and you'll have to deal with condensation. Each of these compact to about the size of a soda can. The thermal bivy and trifecta are close in material not in weight and function; it's a tradeoff. One serious complaint is that it's a pain in the ass to put back into the stuff sack and even though many people talk about this being an every day carry; in practice you gotta be pragmatic like using a 1 gallon ziplock or an external stretch pocket until it's time to put it on the shelf.

emergency bivy - 4oz at 36in wide
emergency bivy XL - 6oz ar 60in wide
thermal bivy - 9oz at 36in wide
escape bivy lite - 5oz at 32in wide
escape bivy - 8ox and 31in wide

The MLD cuben fiber bivy has promise but it is not standalone like the others and requires poles and probably a tarp. Their other products are just stupid expensive so this is here as another alternative to a proper bivy.

mld bug bivy - 5oz at 27in (nothing but net)

One thing I like about tents/bivy over hammocks is that while they can be less comfortable sleeping on the ground you are less likely to experience a failure that will end in injury.

The last thing to take into consideration is the cost.

Jungle bag - $50 at 32oz
Backcountry - $150 at 14oz
ZPacks - $240 at 7oz
Trifecta - $63
emergency bivy - $17
emergency bivy XL - $23
thermal bivy - $30
escape bivy lite - $40
escape bivy - $60
MLD bug bivy (Cuben) - $175

For the price of the ZPacks bivy I have purchased a number of the SOL bivys, SOL blankets and tarps, the trifecta. For the moment I think I'll take my own advice and embrace the rain... and now the bugs. I could always add my sea to summit bugnet and liners.


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