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How do you deal with condensation in your bivy?

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How do you deal with condensation in your bivy?

Postby peaksandpotatoes » Sat Oct 18, 2014 12:00 am

I love my OR Alpine Bivy. It's light and it is easy to set-up. I use it for all my backpacking and even car camping. However, when temperatures drop too low at night it gets pretty wet inside with condensation, and the soggy sleeping bag makes for a pretty miserable second night, especially if that next night is also cold. I'm thinking about just bringing a towel next time to lay over my sleeping bag. Any thoughts?



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Re: How do you deal with condensation in your bivy?

Postby gary c. » Sat Oct 18, 2014 1:21 am

A friend of mine was having the same problem. When the gun show came to the local fair grounds he found what was labeled as an "emergency bivy". What it is actually is just a sack shaped like a sleeping bag made out of the same materiel as an emergency space blanket. He just puts his bag inside of it and the milar keeps the condensation from soaking his bag. He still has some moisture from his body now trapped in the bag but it's not too bad. I would think that just covering your bag with a milar space blanket would be simpler and work better.
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How do you deal with condensation in your bivy?

Postby Hobbes » Sat Oct 18, 2014 9:14 am

Don't use a bivy - it's an obsolete technique for hiking. (It was lifted from climbers in one of the first attempts to develop ultralight hiking methods.) To control condensation, you need separation between you and your wind/rain shield. In other words, a tent or tarp.

Check out what PCT hikers use - they are the ultimate test pilots. 80-90% of the time, they simply cowboy camp sans bivy. The reason is because all new(ish) bags & quilts come with an excellent DWR (durable water repellent) embedded in the fabric. The technology is this area is amazing - basically, water molecules are larger than air. So, they've (that is, the MIC, but it's filtered out to the general public) developed materials and coatings that allow your skin to breath, but still block dew/moisture.

PCTers only put up their shelters in weather. Interesting, a lot of are re-considering the effectiveness of their tarps in favor of free-standing tents like the Big Agnes UL 2. The rationale is this: if you only put up shelter in weather, then it should be designed to withstand weather, right? QED

Here are two interesting reviews by PCTers who have thought about this issue, and describe their own (failed) experiences with tarps in extreme weather conditions:

http://lovelinepct.blogspot.com/2014/10 ... w-and.html

I saw a ton of traditional pole tents in the vein of the Big Agnes UL. Based on what I saw, they were the most common kind of tent, and the people who carried them seemed to really like them. They appeared to be fast to set up and hikers loved the free-standing function. I was jealous when I saw how they would just set up their tent and then move it around until they found a flat enough spot. The second most common tent I saw was the Zpacks Hexamid. Hikers seemed to like these as well, although, they had difficulty getting the stakes to stay in the ground and complained about them being a bit of a pain to set up.

http://bendbound.wordpress.com/2014/10/ ... -for-2015/

When I got back from my PCT section hike. I sold my Tarptent Notch and bought the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2. I have only used it on two trips since my PCT adventure. It sets up way faster than the Notch. It can be moved around to find that “perfect” spot once the poles enabled free-standing mode. I am sold on this 2-1/4 pound tent.

I'm going to stick with my MYOG tarp-tent because it can be set-up at a very low profile and only requires a few guy line stake points. But, it does take longer to set-up, and that definitely something to consider if you need to quickly assemble something while you're tired.
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Re: How do you deal with condensation in your bivy?

Postby Fly Guy Dave » Sat Oct 18, 2014 12:24 pm

...and welcome to HST, BTW! :)
"Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man." --Jeff Lebowski

Some pics of native salmonids: http://flyguydave.wordpress.com/
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How do you deal with condensation in your bivy?

Postby AlmostThere » Sun Oct 19, 2014 8:05 pm

gary c. wrote:A friend of mine was having the same problem. When the gun show came to the local fair grounds he found what was labeled as an "emergency bivy". What it is actually is just a sack shaped like a sleeping bag made out of the same materiel as an emergency space blanket. He just puts his bag inside of it and the milar keeps the condensation from soaking his bag. He still has some moisture from his body now trapped in the bag but it's not too bad. I would think that just covering your bag with a milar space blanket would be simpler and work better.


Mylar is not breathable at all. I suspect your friend has a tyvek/Mylar bivy, which also has a way of opening it up to vent it. Either way, tyvek is NOT waterproof, and Mylar isn't breathable - the hybrid (I have one) still manages to have condensation in the right conditions.
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Re: How do you deal with condensation in your bivy?

Postby gary c. » Sun Oct 19, 2014 11:12 pm

AT, you are probably right. I'm not sure just what it is made out of. It is a dark color on the outside, maybe camo. The inside is metallic colored and why I just assumed it is all mylar.
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Re: How do you deal with condensation in your bivy?

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Oct 20, 2014 7:00 am

peaksandpotatoes wrote:I love my OR Alpine Bivy. It's light and it is easy to set-up. I use it for all my backpacking and even car camping. However, when temperatures drop too low at night it gets pretty wet inside with condensation, and the soggy sleeping bag makes for a pretty miserable second night, especially if that next night is also cold. I'm thinking about just bringing a towel next time to lay over my sleeping bag. Any thoughts?



Just imagine waking up with a pound of ice all over your sleeping bag and the inside of the bivy. There is a reason most of the local SAR team started out with bivys and migrated into small tents and tarps....
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Re: How do you deal with condensation in your bivy?

Postby peaksandpotatoes » Mon Oct 20, 2014 2:14 pm

Thanks for the ideas and the welcome! Looks like maybe it is time to starting saving for a tent.
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Re: How do you deal with condensation in your bivy?

Postby KathyW » Mon Oct 20, 2014 2:40 pm

Bivy sacks are great. I've not had too much trouble with condensation on the bivy sacks I've used. The one I have now is made of Event fabric and it has a hoop over the head - it's a Integral Designs (Rab) Unishelter that they don't make anymore. My old bivy was a fabric similar to the fabric used in Bibler tents - no hoop on that one, but there was a wire that kept it off my face. I actually liked that one better than the one with the hoop, but it wore out eventually. Bivy sacks are so easy to use - you can make and break camp pretty quick with a bivy sack. You can also camp just about anywhere with a bivy sack - if you're traveling cross-country where there aren't any ideal tent spots, having a bivy sack makes life easier. If the weather forecast doesn't look great I carry a tent, but when it looks like it will be mostly clear I'll pack the bivy.

I may be obsolete, but bivy sacks are not. Tents are not obsolete either. As far as tents, if it isn't free-standing I don't want to mess with it. I've never seen a free-standing tarp, but maybe I'm not up-to-date on the latest ones on the market. I've seen those tents/tarps that use a hiking pole for support - I don't get those ones because if you basecamp with one of those, you'll have to head off on your day trips without the pole(s). :)
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Re: How do you deal with condensation in your bivy?

Postby markskor » Mon Oct 20, 2014 3:08 pm

With all due respect, must disagree -
KathyW wrote:Bivy sacks are great...

Until you get stuck all day in the rain...can't sit up/ turn over...getting wet by just touching the sides - Too confining for me.
KathyW wrote: Bivy sacks are so easy to use - you can make and break camp pretty quick with a bivy sack. You can also camp just about anywhere with a bivy sack - if you're traveling cross-country where there aren't any ideal tent spots, having a bivy sack makes life easier. ...

Not true in my experience...Packing up a damp, soaked-through bivy - or waiting around till it dries makes breaking camp, for me anyway, a longer wait than just cramming my tarptent in a side pocket...ground cloth only has to then dry...and that folds up small...last thing that goes in my pack.
KathyW wrote:If the weather forecast doesn't look great I carry a tent, but when it looks like it will be mostly clear I'll pack the bivy...

Most of my hikes are in the 10 day - 2-week variety...Sierra weather can change daily. What then? Additionally, I use my tent for bug protection mostly in the early season...can get hot and clammy escaping bugs in a bivy.

KathyW wrote: As far as tents, if it isn't free-standing I don't want to mess with it.

IMHO, all tents need stakes...the old vestibule thing.
BTW, What do you call a free-standing tent that is not staked out?...a kite.

As always, hike your own hike. If a bivy works for you, Great!
...but for me...no use for any bivy.
Mountainman who swims with trout
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How do you deal with condensation in your bivy?

Postby AlmostThere » Mon Oct 20, 2014 3:56 pm

a true bivy sack is indispensable for a mountaineer- fits on a narrow place where no tent can be used. For a regular garden-variety backpacker, a bivy sack is kind of an oddity – a waterproof bivy can weigh three pounds. So do a lot of great tents you can sit up in. my winter tent, a golite shangri la, weighs 2.5 pounds including the pole, and two people plus winter gear can be quite comfortable.

try setting up and taking down your bivy - and getting out to pee - in any rain storm without getting your bag wet. One of my criteria for a tent, other than being a side entry and much lighter than my more comfortable hammock set up, was that it needs to be set up in a jiffy and not expose the inside to rain while being set up. The lightheart solo won in all respects. And my dog and all my gear stay dry too.


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Bivy, tarp or tent?

Postby Hobbes » Mon Oct 20, 2014 4:29 pm

I'm really re-thinking my tarp vs tent approach. Even though I don't walk 2,660 miles all summer long like PCTers, my style is to still hike all day until dusk/dark. If the weather is nice, or at least not threatening rain, I'll just throw down my ground cover, pad and quilt and crash. But if I suspect some weather might be brewing, I'll go ahead and set-up my tarp.

However, and this is where the argument for a free-standing tent really resonates, while I may not be completely exhausted like a PCTer, I still don't enjoy screwing around setting up my tarp. Add some initial rain coming down, or gusts of wind, and/or some rocky terrain above tree-line where stakes don't really gain purchase to the situation, and you're describing some of my experiences trying to get that sucker up.

When multiple PCTers mention the same advantages - quick set-up, ability to lift & move around without disassembling & re-staking, they (specifically, Big Agnes) didn't collapse in major storms, etc, I think regular "civilians" should sit up and take notice.

I sent an email to one of the reviewers asking him if he noticed whether hikers using free-standing tents like the Big Agnes were also using stakes. It seems to me that if you had the tent up, your own body weight should be able to keep it relatively on the ground. If you still had to stake/guy the tent, then that loses some of the advantages, especially in rocky terrain above tree-level.

But, if you could quickly assemble it and then jump on in, well, that would be a pretty big selling point for me.
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