Monday, August 8, 2016

To Bivy or Not to Bivy; That is the Question

Our Outdoor Reaearch Bug Bivies and the tent we would call home all week.
Be Prepared. That is what we always strive to teach our Scouts. Be prepared for life, be prepared for whatever it may throw at you. I had it all planned out. No more holes in the mosquito nets patched with duct tape. No more crazy rigging system to get the net to stay up. No more wasted money each year buying new nets. No more spiders or mosquitoes finding their way under the net. 

I had purchased two expensive bug bivies from Outdoor Research for Ryley and I to use for the rest of our Summer Camping days in Scouts. I had initially "tested" the bivies in the back yard for about 5 minutes and proclaimed to myself that although I could see a few shortcomings, these would work perfectly for scout camp. In doing so I had fallen into one of the classic traps that we teach out Scouts to watch out for; Overconfidence. I had convinced myself, without even thoroughly testing them out, that I only needed bug bivies to solve my problem. Fast forward to our first night at camp and we had already taken them down, in the middle of the night, and were sleeping in nothing but our shorts.

That night as I laid there on my cot, sweating to death, I tried to figure out a plan B. This is something I should have planned for before I ever left the house. I shouldn't have put all my eggs in one basket. I would have to suck it up and head to town and purchase some mosquito nets, paracord and wooden dowels. The next morning I got up, checked out of camp and headed to the nearest sporting goods store. Two hours later and about $100 lighter in the pocket, I was headed back to camp to try and assemble some sort of netting structure to protect us. I ran out of supplies as I built a sturdy frame for Ryley, so I opted to just sleep without a net all week. It wasn't that bad. Ryley slept soundly and I didn't get too many insect bites. Next time though, I will make sure to have a plan B handy in case I need it.

The Skinny: So for this adventure, as I have already mentioned, Ryley and I headed for a week of summer camp and needed some protection from bugs. We slept in a canvas walled tent and slept on cots (with sleeping pads). I had previously identified some potential issues that I thought I could work through. You can check out that review here. Needless to say the testing this time around did not go as planned. We only spent about 15 minutes in the bug bivies before I had to pull the plug. Below are some hits and misses of the bug bivies after having taken them to summer camp. While I have some opinions on the bivies I plan on testing them again one final time this Fall. 

Hits: To say the bivy is light weight is an understatement. Since the top part is made up of mesh it’s understandable as to why this is so light. The mesh also lets all the light in. Another positive is the bathtub floor. Not only does it keep the water and wetness out, as a sealed system, it also keeps the bugs out! That was always my one complaint about regular bug nets at summer camp. The insects would inevitably find their way up under the net and into my sleeping area. With this bivy that issue is completely eliminated. I also loved how there were straps on the inside of the bivy to anchor down your sleeping pad so that it would not come out from underneath you as you slept. 

Let me preface by saying that some of my misses are no fault of Outdoor Research and more having to do with how I was using the bivy.

Misses:  Because this bivy requires guy-lines it makes it difficult to use. If you chose not to use the guy-lines on each end the bug mesh tends to lay on top of you, creating an easy opportunity for a mosquito to land on the mesh and still suck your blood! Another issue with the guy-lines for me, in using it on a cot, it is made it very difficult to enter the bivy because the lines got in the way. Even not using a cot I can see how staking out the guy-lines would make it very difficult to enter the bivy without some maneuvering. I was lucky in that I could tie the guy-lines to the ceiling of the tent, which made it slightly easier to enter the bivy. Another thing that cause great difficulty in entering the bivy was the fact that you could only enter from the head area, like a sleeping bag. This was problematic when sleeping on a cot. Too much weight on the head of the cot and it tips over. But beyond that issue, when staked out the guy-line  prohibits entering from the head. Ounce you finagle your way into the bivy you have a difficult time getting in a sleeping bag, because there isn't much room in the bivy. I understand there isn't supposed to be much room, but all of the finagling to get into the bivy means you have less of a chance of getting into your sleeping bag correctly. Another issue I encountered was when I packed up the bivies. What turn out to be one of the hits turned out to be a miss as well, because of how it was constructed. The straps used to hold down the sleeping pad had velcro on it. When rolling up the bivy it is very easy, if you are not careful, to get the velcro stuck to the bug mesh. Do this enough times and you will create a hole and not have a very effective bug bivy. But my biggest complaint has nothing to do with all the things I thought might go wrong when I did my first review. No, it had quite a lot to do with the fact that we were camping in a walled tent, in the middle of summer in a hot and humid location with very little breeze. When sleeping in nothing but shorts on a cot it was definitely hot but not to the point of being uncomfortable. Inside the bivy it was unbearable. There was no air circulation at all. This has to do with the tight weave of the bug mesh. It definitely keeps out all the bugs, but it also keep out the air! To be fair though, this isn't like most tent mesh that feels light soft to the touch. The fabric is entirely more stiff and rigid because it has to be to stand up to use as a bivy. 

That is why even though it was an unsuccessful test at summer camp I am going to give the bivy one more try this Fall when the weather is considerably cooler. Until then keep taking your kids outdoors...

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