I tested the Outdoor Research Advanced bivy in situations where I wanted to minimize gear and worried about having a camping spot wide enough to fit a tent. In total I used this bivy 3 months for camping on anything from trailheads to boulders sticking out at the base of glaciers, from cold clear nights to warm consistent drizzles.
When I first got this bivy I noticed it was lightweight, compact and literally covered with Gore Tex from head to toe. With a quick inspection it seemed to be both long and wide enough for me to sleep in and covered with the occasional vent for breathability purposes. Packed up and condensed it was no bigger then a rolled up sleeping pad almost as light and the fabric seemed strong with seem-less construction and the occasional vent. With a quick inspection I was finally ready to give one a try.
In the Field
I was able to cram the bivy at the base of my backpack utilizing nearly half the space that my tent would normally take up leaving more space for essentials like food and clothing. After 8 hours of skinning my energy was drained and upon scoping terrain for a camping spot I found a flat boulder the size of a car. This space wasn’t big enough to put up a tent but with a little bit of organizing it was perfect for two bivys. That night brought on a constant cold drizzle as we hunkered down fearing the possibility of getting our Down sleeping bags drenched. By morning we awoke to clear skies and were happy to find that our gear inside the bag was dry and that the first rays of sunshine dried out the bivys. Not only were we warm throughout the night we had survived a full night of rain which could have been potentially disastrous.
So what is it Bivy or Tent?
A bivy is small enough to stash in your bag for emergency situations on day long tours with a total weight of around 1.5 pounds.When I want to pack my bag as small as possible and utilze every inch of space I would go with a bivy. If you want luxury and headspace with room to turn, roll and situp I would go with a tent and if there happens to be the possibility of large quanities of snow go with a tent. Not only is a bivy a worthwhile investment it is also a great addition to your gear stash
Long story short in certain situations I would go with a bivy but for everything else I would stick with a tent.
Who: Outdoor Research.
What: Advanced Bivy.
When: Whenever space is a issue or you want to go lightweight.
What: Anything from trailheads to the deepest of expeditions.
Why: The more weight you save the more energy you have in the long run.
The ProLite 4 at Camp Muir
Every once in a while a piece of gear comes along that is unanimously considered to be indespensible. Kyle’s insulated sleeping pad of choice, the ProLite 4 from Therm-a-Rest (recently replaced in their line by the equally innovative ProLite Plus), is one such item. For years, Thermarest has led the market for backcountry sleeping pads, and their weight-to-warmth ratios remain unmatched by other manufacturers. Patented insulating technology and superior design prompt countless reviewers to tend toward the superlative, whether they’re calling Therm-a-Rest’s design team “impossibly ingenious,” or touting its products as pieces of “engineered masterpiece.” Regardless, the industry’s positive response to Therm-a-Rest’s lightest four-season mattress is born of both a tried and true comparison of warmth to weight ratios, and the pad’s simple, and classically user-friendly feel.
As with any type of gear, buying your sleeping pad is typically an exercise in tradeoffs. Generally, the warmer the pad, the heavier it will be. Enter Therm-a-Rest’s “fast and light” series, which tries to strike the perfect balance between insulating pads and feather-weight gear. Their ProLite pads tend to achieve this aim with style to spare.
Sleeping pads’ ability to retain and transfer heat is rated by an industry standard known as the “R Value.” Essentially, the higher this number, the warmer you’ll be. The ProLite 4, for example, has an R value of 3.2. For comparison’s sake, it’s successor, the ProLite Plus, boasts an R value of 3.8, and the women’s version of the same pad clocks in with an R Value of 4.6. Each of these pads weigh in at about a pound and a half, depending upon the length you purchase. The ProLite 4 was the warmest lightweight pad for taller people (like Kyle) on the market last year.
Regardless, this pad (or one of its similar successors in the ProLite series) is top of the line. If you’re short enough and a colder sleeper (people’s varrying nighttime metabolisms also contribute to their sleeping system warmth needs), you can buy the women’s version like this guy did, which has added heat retention technology in the core section, and therefore, a better warmth-to-weight ratio than the men’s. To help you sort through the available models and lengths, please see our comparison chart, below:
User friendly design details include the “self-inflating” air valve, and a very durable outer layer, not prone to leaks or breakages. In the unlikely event that your pad does break down, remember that it comes with a lifetime warranty.
Finally, people love these pads because they are incredibly comfortable. This guy perhaps goes a little bit overboard when trying to convey what a great night’s rest you’ll get, but there’s a reason these pads make people crazy in a good way. Whether its inch of insulation is the only thing between you and snow at 10,000′ or you’re sleeping on volcanic rock near sea level, this pad is astoundingly comfy, warm, and lightweight.
- Best for: Touring or adventure racing, where both weight and warmth are serious considerations. The fact that it’s super comfortable is just an added bonus!
- Specs: Please see comparison chart above. Most pads pack to about 11″ x 4,” depending on the length.
- Awards & Reviews: are countless. For a sample, check out Alpinist’s Mountain Standard Nearly Perfect Rating, Outdoor Adventure Canada’s Glowing Review, and CampSaver’s consolidation of reviews from various retailers and members of the general public.
Engineered for lightweight, breathable warmth, the GoLite Adrenaline Zero-Degree Sleeping Bag is perfect for backcountry snowtramping.
When keeping warm isn’t just a matter of comfort, it’s a matter of safety as well, having a bag that will keep you toasty and conserve your nighttime calories is essential. For Kyle, this bag has literally been a lifesaver, in whiteouts and windstorms alike.
How does this bag keep you so warm? Every detail from the inside out contributes to a maximum-warmth, efficient design. The fit itself is tailored to a mummy-style silhouette, producing an optimally thin layer of air for your body to heat and maintain between itself and the bag.
The bag keeps heat in with the help of mother nature’s very own high-efficiency heat retention device perfected over years of evolution– 100% natural goosedown. Go Lite pumped the bag with this literally feather-weight stuff at 800 fill, meaning it’s full to the brim of lightweight insulating material.
Because down doesn’t do well when you get it wet, Go Lite figured out how to both discourage water retention and maximize breathability with their own fabric that allows condensation and moisture to leave the bag (sweaty sleepers, take heed), but won’t let that morning dew on the inside of your tent compromise the bag’s performance. This PerTex fabric, also used in super lightweight rain wear, also retains the down feathers as well (some fabrics allow the tiny down feathers to easily leak). As a further measure to protect you from tent-borne condensation, the head and feet of the bag are coated with an extra layer of waterproofing.
Finally, potential escape routes for air are minimized with a shorter zipper. Much like a half zip pullover you might wear as a baselayer, the Adrenaline bag zips only half way down the center of your torso, allowing you to adjust the bag easily from a reclined position, all while preventing the zipper from accidentally unzipping too far or leaking extra air while your crazy-exhausted body snoozes blissfully unawares. This also cuts zipper weight in half.
If you’re touring somewhere with wetter snow or a high likelyhood of rain, just be sure to keep the bag dry by packing it in something water-resistant. We recommend a lightweight dry bag, such as this one by Sea to Summit (another fave).
True to its namesake, this Go Lite bag weighs a measly 2 lbs, 10 oz, even with all its toasty features.
- Best for: Staying plenty warm, but carrying the least amount of weight.
- Specs: Weight: 2 lbs, 10 oz (men’s regular), Temp. rating: comfortable to zero degrees F, Packs to: size of two nalgene bottles (men’s regular); Male-specific and female-specific models cut to form-fit anatomy in various lengths.
- Awards for the Adrenaline Series Bags: Gear of the Year Award from Outside, Editor’s Choice from Backpacker Magazine (2008)
- Reviews & Articles: Seattle Times article on 20-degree version, Backpack Gear Test Test Report.
It’s lightweight, it’s small, it’s fast… It’s the JetBoil PCS!
Simple and easy to use, JetBoil’s “Personal Cooking System” is Kyle’s go-to backcountry meal maker and hydration machine. In 2004, JetBoil blew people away with its revolutionary combination of both the stove and pot components of most backcountry cooking systems, and eliminated the demand for a number of heavier, and often more finicky stoves on the market. It’s been a few years since JetBoil revolutionized the world of backcountry cooking with this compact little scheme, but nonetheless it remains a backcountry staple.
Free of superfluous parts, this streamlined device is great for splitboarding tours. It’s simple to use (you just push a button to get the fire started), fast (you can convert snow to a rolling boil in 2 minutes), and the flame is well-protected from the elements. Kyle won’t leave home without it because it’s bomber for use on the trail, in the snow, in a tent, or in a windy downpour.
For really fancy-schmancy travel, JetBoil offers you a couple of options. First, check out their website for a schmorgasbord of one-pot recipes, or if you want to step your cooking up a notch (careful, this will mean added ounces), you can purchase larger pots and pans like the one in the picture. Also of note for all you Seattle coffee snobs: JetBoil makes a frenchpress kit for backcountry brews to die for. Bon A Petit!
- Best for: Tours where weight matters and you’ll need to boil water.
- Specs: Weight: 15 oz., Boil Rate: 2 cups in 2 min., Pot Capacity: 1 Liter, Packs to: About the size of a Nalgene bottle.
- More Reviews: User Reviews on Backcountry.com, User Reviews and Purchasing Info from CampSaver.com, TGR Thread on how much these rock
- Awards: 2004 Gear Award from Outside Magazine, Backpacker Magazine’s Editor’s Choice Award
- How To Use: Though it’s “stupid easy,” Epinions.com has some stuff on how to use here, and there’s a biker forum that’s got the basics spelled out in more detail than you could ever want.