Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Bivvy Bug, UK Cottage Industry from Way Back

Bivvy Bug 'Niche'

The cottage industry as it applies to outdoor equipment is quite often a 1st choice for many when they're looking for a new piece of gear and more often than not it involves buying from the USA. I've just aquired an interesting piece of gear made by folks in the UK but before anyone gets too excited this particular item is from way back in the late 1980's (1987 as far as I know)

I remember getting a product brochure from Bivvy Bug back then and in fact bought a Map Case from them, what set their mapcase apart was that it was double width which allowed you to view a larger area, this was back when waterproof maps were less easy to obtain. When I registered with Outdoors Magic over a year ago my 1st question was whether Bivvy Bug still existed, I had one reply saying that they didn't and that the guys behind Bivvy Bug had been instructors at an outdoor center in Cornwall. I didn't have another reply until this week when someone posted saying thay had a Bivvy Bug 'Niche', this led to a few other replies culminating in one P Dillon offering a Bivvy Bug 'Niche' for sale, asking price £30. I contacted Paddy and a deal was struck.

The Bivvy Bug Niche is similar in concept to bivvy tents such as the Big Agnes 3 Wire Bivvy or the Integral Designs Uni-Shelter as can be seen in the photos although it dies require a larger pitch. The 'Tent/Hood' part is coated ripstop nylon while the bivvy bag part is Sympatex with a coated nylon base, there's a single flexible alloy pole ('Bulldog' brand made by Hampton Works, the same company that made the poles for the Phoenix Phreeranger and from whom I purchased a new Phreeranger pole set last year) and I recieved 9 alloy skewers which works out at one for each pegging point and 1 spare although you can manage with 6 or possibly even 4 pegs.

Ripstop 'Tent/Hood', Sympatex Bivvy Bag

The bivvy bag part can be removed completely by unzipping the two zips that are used to close the tent part, the door being attached to the bivvy bag part. Un-zipping the door/disconnecting the bivvy bag makes access/egress easier, in addition to the zips there are metal hooks on the bivvy bag skirt that attach to the rings used to peg down the front/sides of the tent part.

Hook and Ring to Connect Bivvy Bag to Tent/Hood and also peg down the sides of the Tent

It seems there was a mesh door available as an option but there isn't one on mine. Inside the tent part the bivvy bag connects to the rear wall with 2 velcro straps, these need to be disconnected to actually get into the bivvy bag as it allows you to push the opening of the bag forwards but are easily reconnected once you're lying down

Door Partially Un-Zipped, Bivvy Bag connected to rear using velcro straps

Velcro Straps

Dreaming of a Silnylon Phreeranger perhaps?

There's a small area for storage or even cooking (with the utmost care) on either side of the bivvy bag and with the door un-zipped and the bag disconnected at the hook/ring on the bottom of each side of the bivvy bag the sides of the tent can be hooked back completely.

Cooking/Storage Space

Useable with Care

There's sufficient headroom for me to sit up although as the webbing tape running across the tent from each end of the pole can be adjusted via a ladder lock buckle it may be possible to sacrifice width for a little more height or vice versa. The dimensions of the tent/hood are,

Width left to right - 160cm
Max Height - 95cm
Length front to back - 85cm

Good Headroom

When considering the weight of the 'Niche' you have to remember that a lightweight solo tent back in 1987 would have been almost 2000g, the 'Niche' weighs in at 1057g packed as supplied. The individual components are as follows to which you'd need to add pegs.

Hood/Tent - 280g
Bivvy Bag - 482g
Pole - 178g

It shows how much things have moved on when you can get a very roomy double skin tent weighing the same or less, that said however the Bivvy Tents mentioned above weight in at,

Big Agnes 3 Wire Bivvy - 910g approx
Integral Designs Uni-Shelter - 1140g

Unfortunately it looks like the Sympatex bivvy has de-laminated as I had it pitched last night in the rain and there was plenty of water inside the bivvy part this morning, that of course was always a risk and I bought it on the understanding that it couldn't be guaranteed waterproof.

Of course as the bivvy bag part can be removed completely there's nothing to stop me using a different bivvy bag with the tent/hood part although I wouldn't be able to close it off as the door is part of the bivvy bag rather than part of the tent. That said the zips are standard YKK and it shouldn't be difficult to make a door with an elasticated skirt that would seal off the tent part, either way it's an interesting piece of UK cottage industry gear and nice to have.

Using the Tent/Hood with the Titanium Goat Ptarmigan Bivvy, one side panel hooked back.


  1. Hi Phil, it's pretty cool isn't it, especially given how old it is.

  2. funnily enough Matt C from OM lent me his the other day. I have been looking at various tarp/bivvy set ups and wanted to test out the bug bivvy for myself. Matt had one and kindly let me test it out for a few weeks. The intention was to take measurements and make my own. In the end I didnt but the design is really very good. With lightweight materials I reckon you could get this to less than 500g if you made your own

  3. Hi Dave, thats a coincidence, I asked if anyone could post pics of the Niche on OM, Matt sent me a link to his OM gallery and mentioned weighing it as he was sending it to someone who was thinking of making one. Did you try it out and if so what's the verdict?

  4. Now thats weird as I can remember thinking about buying something simular many many years ago. Basically a head end for a bivvy bag, although can't remember who made it. That was in the days when tents weighed a ton and I wanted to use a bivvy but hated bivvying (if that makes sense?). Perfect for being able to cook and read under cover.

  5. Hi Mac,

    I did try it out and the principle I really liked, ie an integrated hood/bivvy set up with optional bug net too. Weight was about 900g I think

  6. I bought one more less as they came out a great bit of kit weighing 2Lbs old money and I used it for years it could stand quite heavy weather but the ground sheet eventually let it down they made something on the same lines called a broach which was a bit more weight but had short poles in the end off the bivy bag to keep the rain off.Those guys were ahead of there time.

  7. Hi Baz, would that have been the Broch? there's an advertisement on for both it and the Niche on my Bivvy Bug follow up post.

  8. Hi Mac E You are right it was called the Broch I think it had small suports at the end of the bivy bag lifting the bag of your body like a small tent and it was heavier than the Niche but look ok.I have often thought the Niche with modern materials on the bivy bag part it would work as good as the modern stuff.I could get dressed in the bag if it was raining cook in the tent side (Had to be organize) and it made you camp wild you only needed a flat space the length the length of your body.Baz