/ what sleeping bag for winter bivi?

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Willismorris - on 06 Nov 2012
HI there!
Im doing lots more winter climbing this year and looking to buy a new bag for winter bivi's in scottish highlands to get an early start on the crags.
Do i get a good sleeping bag to stay warm and a good breathable bivi bag to stay dry?
Or do i Get a more expensive bag which is already waterproofed?
any suggestions/past experiences?
Mark Haward - on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to boseow25:
Firstly, I'd suggest walking up from nice, comfortable warm valley or a hut / bothie rather than bivvying. You'll probably sleep and recover better. Second best would be a suitable tent.
If you want to bivvy and stay light because you are carrying bivvy gear around then down is great if coupled with a very good breathable bivvy bag and the temperatures stays low, there is no rain ( dream on... ) or you've got extra shelter. However, in reality I'd suggest a synthetic bag plus breathable bivvy bag as it can be very hard to keep everything dry in scottish winter. The lightest bag you can get away with is ideal assuming you are eating well, drinking lots of warm drinks, use a sigg bottle as a hot water bottle and have dry clothing to put on.
The bivvy bag will ( should ) keep out the rain, but you will probably end up zipping up and so breathing into the bag. A waterproof sleeping bag can add an extra layer of defence however, it is most likely that you will be introducing damp into the sleeping bag from the inside ( your clothing and breathing inside the bag ).
To conclude: I'd suggest bivvying in good conditions, use a tent for more comfort or, better, stay somewhere cosy and walk in.
In reply to boseow25: A separate bivvy bag and s/bag is the only way to go: warmer, and more flexible (you can use the s/bag alone in bothies or indoors, and you can use the b/bag in summer with a thinner s/bag).

Choice of bivvy bag basically boils down to a simple sack (look out for a decent hood) or a hooped bivvy. The latter is likely to be more expensive and heavier, indeed in my opinion you might as well have a lightweight tent as the they don't weigh that much more and are a much less claustrophobic living experience. I would go for a simple non-hooped bag.

As for the s/bag... For best warmth-to-weight down is the way to go. It's more expensive but lasts longer. The disadvantage with down comes in damp conditions, but if it's not sub-zero and dry outside then I for one would not aim to be bivvying in winter anyway. If you pick your nights with that in mind, and don't aim to be out for extended periods of time (over several nights a down bag will probably get damp) then the damp/down thing needn't be an issue. I wouldn't spend more on a waterproof bag (if such a thing exists?); the outers of decent down bags will repel a reasonable amount of moisture anyway, and you don't need anything (a membrane, say) making it less than optimally breathable. That's what a bivvy bag is for.

Lastly I'd echo what the first poster said: if you're looking to get early starts on the crags and achieve plenty of climbing then bivvying is usually a mug's game. It's more faffy and more arduous than sleeping in the glen, and by the time you've brewed up and thawed out your fingers you could easily have walked in from a nice warm valley base.

However, if you're looking to get away from it all and treat the night out as part of the fun, and not necessarily needing to perform to your best the next day on the climb (say you're off doing easy routes somewhere remote) then bivvying has plenty to recommend it. But do pick your weather window with care, or it'll be misery at best.
UKH Forums - on 07 Nov 2012
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goatee - on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to boseow25: I'd second the other reply. Stay somewhere more comfortable. Think about being in your bag at maybe five pm and having another twelve or thirteen hours in it. Then imagine its raining etc and I guarantee that you will be wishing that you were elsewhere in short order. Use a tent. It will give you the shelter necessary and give you room to move about. A bivi is ideal for the Alps or summertime when you are looking at six or seven hours max.
Alex Slipchuk on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to boseow25: go outdoors are selling rab alpine bivi bags for 60quid. Otherwise get a cheep tent or sleep in your car. Front seats forward back seats folded down and your kit in the rear footwell to make a flat surface, jetboil hanging from sun visor. i sometimes use a voyager in sugar bowl carpark, with loops to secure with rocks.
jonnie3430 - on 07 Nov 2012
In reply to boseow25:

I started off sleeping in the car in carparks, but it's colder than a tent and saturates the vehicle, so it's hard to see when driving. I then switched to chucking a tent out the boot and sleeping in that. Bivi bags are fine for the alps when you will be planning on using them in good weather, but in Scotland it's often wet and windy on otherwise good climbing days so the bivi bag will be a miserable experience that you could only use for one night before having to go somewhere to dry out! (If you want a good cheap bivi bag, look at the Alpkit one: for £30, I've used one for the last few years and it's been great.)

So I really recommend a tent for a car (if that's an option, the tent would probably be one of the 2 second jobs from Decathlon, on my wish list for Christmas...) if you haven't a car, I still don't recommend bivvying, if you are a club member, odds on you'll have reciprocal rights to the CIC, Lagangarbh etc huts, and there is the mountain bothies association that maintain some good dosses in the hills.
almost sane on 09 Nov 2012 -
In reply to boseow25:

If you don't believe what has been said, try bivvying. But do it where you have a good escape option. Then try spending a Scottish winter's night in a bivvy bag, and see how you are the next morning.

If you want to experience the wild remoteness of the highlands in winter, then I would recommend first a bothy, then a tent, then a snow cave, and last of all would I suggest a bivvy. It just seems to be a way of asking for misery.

If you want to maximise your time and energy on a climb, then NO WAY would I bivvy in Scotland's winter. I just wouldn't. If at all possible I would walk in each day, or else stay in a nearby bothy where me and my mates have lugged in a load of coal.
almost sane on 09 Nov 2012 -
In reply to boseow25:

But to answer your original question, I would go for a synthetic bag due to the near impossibility of keeping your bag dry in a bivvy in a hoolie.
I like my Nanok, but it is old, and there may be better (lighter/cheaper) ones on the market now.

But the whole question of how you get in and out of your sleeping bag when there is blown spindrift going everywhere...

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