Thursday, 30 September 2010
Bivvy Bug Niche
I spent some time last night looking through old issues of TGO and Trail to see if there was anything about the Bivvy Bug Niche. I didn't find much but there were a few mentions of the Niche together with some ad's for 'Bivvy Bug'. I also discovered that they made a similar type of thing for 2 person use called the 'Broch'
I did get sidetracked a few times in my quest as every other issue seemed to have either an advertisement or feature about the Phoenix Phreeranger, most of the features having a photograph with a youthful Chris Townsend. I also found a 'Lightweight Tent' grouptest featuring both the Bivvy Bug Niche and the Phoenix Phreeranger together with the TNF Tadploe, Vango Odyssey Micro 2 and the Hilleberg Nallo 2.
I discovered that the Bivvy Bug Niche cost £169 back then which was pretty expensive when you consider that my Wild Country (Terra Nova) Quasar cost £245 and my Phreeranger EB cost £190.
Of course I wanted to see how the Bivvy Bug Niche felt in use so tried it last night (in the garden of course!!) I knew that the bivvy bag wasn't waterproof but as there was no rain forecast I decided to go ahead. I didn't use a down sleeping bag for obvious reasons instead using a cheap synthetic Gelert bag. I also wanted to see how easy it was to cook in it so packed a few essentials into an Alpkit Stealthy Gourdon drybag and settled in at around 1.00am.
It was no surprise to find that a methodical approach was required, trying to remove trousers, jacket and fleece in the confines of a bivvy bag is interesting to say the least but not impossible and I managed to avoid too much contact with the tent part. My jeans and fleece were placed in the Alpkit Goudron which was then stashed on the right hand side together with my boots and my Flux jacket was rolled into it's hood as a pillow. The stove, pot and mug together with a brew kit and a flexible water bottle were on my left.
Getting a brew required the same approach as getting undressed, stick to one task at a time and take it slowly, to avoid melting a hole in the tent after using the stove I simply placed the upturned pot over the burner.
There was quite a heavy dew but I zipped up the 'door' and closed it off using the velcro along the top edge. One thing I noticed that I'd change if I was going to use the 'Niche' as designed, i.e. with the dedicated bivvy bag would be to swap the velcro strips around, the Hook part is sewn to the hood while the loop (softer part) is sew to the door but I found that as I was wearing a wooly hat I ended up attached to the tent every time I looked out.
Thankfully it didn't rain during the night and I was warm enough, I wakened at 3.00am to answer the call of nature, 2 things are required in this situation, a Pee bottle and utmost care :-)
With that attended too I went back to sleep and didn't waken until almost 8.00am. My sleeping bag felt dry inside although there was plenty of condensation inside the tent part. I noticed that the outside of the sleeping bag felt wet when I was getting dressed but ignored it and made a brew ( I could have gone indoors but where's the fun in that?) before finally exiting the Niche.
When I removed my sleeping bag it was pretty wet down the sides and at the foot but the reason was clear once I turned the bivvy bag outside in. The membrane has delaminated quite badly and is unfortunately unusable.
Although there isn't much of a weight saving, about 300g between the Bivvy Bug and a Phreeranger Fly/ti Goat bivvy bag combination I'd still like to use it ocaisionaly so I need to decide what to do. There are 3 options that spring to mind, 1 buy an ex army Gore-Tex bivvy bag and cut it up to replace the Sympatex part on the original bivvy bag, 2 make a new door part and use a standard bivvy bag or 3 simply cut the door part off the original bivvy bag and use it with a regular bivvy bag.
To be honest when you consider that for the same weight or less you could have a choice of 2 skin tents all offering better protection and more space it does seem a bit pointless using something like the Bivvy Bug Niche but like using a Tarp/inner net combination or even one of the bivvy bags I mentioned in my previous post there's something appealing that can't easily be defined, logic certainly plays no part in it.