There has been a lot of talk about the Survive Outdoors Longer (SOL) Escape Bivvy. I spent a decent amount of time in the lightweight bivvy sac this summer and felt like I should give my two cents on a staple in my bikepacking gear list for 2014. The SOL Escape Bivvy is categorized as an emergency bivvy, with the usability for an ultra light sleep system. The bag is made out of a thin water resistant fabric with microporous to give it its breathable capabilities. It comes with a reflective interior that helps retain 70% of your body heat, and the seams are waterproof, ensuring heat stays in and the elements stay out. a9da7708c66469d4179bb6b3ef53a838658b4a9c The bivvy comes with a pull cord and cord lock around the hood to cinch around your head. It comes in orange for high visibility, or the OD green to blend into the backcountry environment. The Escape bivvy fits nicely into the provided stuff sack or it can be manipulated in your saddle or handlebar bag. It measures 84” x 31” and weighs in at 8.5oz. So whats the big deal? A piece of gear that can be a part of your sleep system that weighs under a pound is very intriguing. Oh, and it’s only $50, a cheap price compared to some other lightweight bivvys on the market. The real questions are, does it work? Is it durable? Can it be use as your standard bivvy?
IMG_6088
The fabric almost has a paper feel to it.
  Arizona Trail Race I first heard of the bivvy right before the Arizona Trail Race last year. A friend convinced me to use his as my entire sleep system (no pad or bag) since the weather was looking appropriate to do so. My attempt to race the 300 miles sleepless failed after nearly falling asleep on my bike. The smart decision was to lay down, and rest for 20 minutes. Although it would cost me 2nd place, rest helped and the bivvy kept me warm in 60 degrees with nothing but my bike kit on. DSC_1153 The warmth my body was creating remained in the bag, keeping me comfortable, but temperatures seemed to be perfect for that. I had to nap again after riding along the Gila River. Once I reached Martinez Canyon, my eyes were again astray and I needed sleep. At the very least it gave me an extra kick for the finish. Worked for intended Purpose? Yes, absolutely.    Colorado Trail Race The real test came on the Colorado Trail where weather, mostly rain, was a big part of my ride. I used a Marmot Atom 40* sleeping bag with the SOL Escape Bivvy and no sleeping pad. Overall temperatures ranged from the 50’s to upper 30’s at night. The first 3 nights were relatively warm but damp. The ground was wet, the bivvy stayed dry, and I remained comfortable and warm. DSC_1163 The last night I stopped for an hour or so to nap. The rain was pouring and I was looking for a good tree to sleep under. After finding a somewhat protected area, I shut my eyes for an hour. I did my best to pull the bivvy hood over my sleeping bag hood, but the bivvy was too short to completely cover me without scrunching up inside my bag. Water would enter from the top of the bivvy, which got my sleeping bag wet. If I were to be out there all night, I would have been very soggy. Worked for intended Purpose? Marginally.   Fall My final test was a few fall trips where temperatures were cooler on average than both my above experiences. These trips would involve a sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and a full nights sleep. All but one of the trip nights I would wake up shivering. It did not rain, but I did experience frost on the top of the bivvy, and woke up with a significant amount of moisture built up inside. Keep in mind that the temperatures may have reached as low as 28 degrees. I tested out the Klymit Inertia X-wave and X-lite pads inside my bivvy but outside my sleeping bag. The X-lite gave me much more maneuverability as it is 18” wide, where as the X-Wave is 25”wide. The wider the pad the more the bag stretches out, thus giving me less room to move. Worked for intended Purpose: For the most part.  IMG_6752   IMG_6196 So what does this all mean? In all the above instances, the bivvy laid directly on the ground – dirt, rock, grass, and lots of pine needles. After inspecting the extremely thin bivvy, I have yet to puncture any holes in the bag. I have noticed there are white scuff marks where it has seen more wear, this will continue, and can only assume it will eventually see enough use to create a hole. DSC_1171 Yes the bivvy itself is waterproof, and yes the seams are waterproof, but because of the hood/closure system, it’s unlikely that you will be able to create a 100% waterproof situation. I am 5’10” and I was never able to comfortably fit in the bivvy without part of my head sticking out. The more loft your bag has, the more area it will take up in the bivvy, making it more difficult to move and have full coverage. The bivvy material is windproof, and works well in that regard. The material showed extremely promising waterproof capabilities, but on the others side, it does not breathe all that well. For the short naps it was not an issue, but after a full nights sleep, I woke up with moisture that was trapped inside the bivvy. DSC_1155 With my 40 degree Marmot Atom and the SOL Escape Bivvy, I would say I had an extra 5 degrees to work with. Pretty much when it hit 35 or below, I was shivering. I would say if you plan to use this bivvy in colder conditions, you should consider a sleeping bag with a lower temperature rating. Note: I don’t have much meat on my bones.  Light and cheap. For my race purposes, this thing worked great. If it ripped I could tape it with Gorilla tape, and not feel bad for spending $50. The weight and pack down size alone was a major positive. This will remain in my light weight kit for years to come. DSC_1168 Overall, would I recommend this bivvy for a month long tour in rugged terrain? No. It is bound to fall apart. Would I recommend it for a warm weather overnighter? Yes. The bottom line is that the SOL Escape Bivvy is only $50. If you have the money to spend, I would recommend trying it out, and if you don’t like it sell it. Someone will make use of it.

20 Comments

  1. Helpful review. Thanks for the info.

  2. In that price range the Alpkit Hunka seems like it may be a better choice. It weighs in a bit heavier (about 140g extra) but is still very lightweight, waterpoof, windproof, and sounds like it breathes quite a bit better than the Sol (i’ve never had condensation issues).

    Crucially it solves the issue you were having with the size of hood on the Sol – the Hunka has a really nice big hood to hunker down under in the rain. I’ve spent a few nights out in PNW Fall rain and staying cosy and dry.

    https://www.alpkit.com/products/hunka

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      Dan,

      I think I am going to test that out this year, It should create a good comparison. Thanks for the recommendation. I think it is important to stay dry, and if I can do that with keeping weight down, I will.

      Cheers,

      Neil

    • Yes, but the Alpkit (which does great stuff) is not heat-reflective.

      I’ve used the SOL Escape on a -2ºc night with a cheap +10ºc summer bag; in the morning I looked outside my tarp-shelter and I was well toastie warm, and laughing at the frosty grass outside 🙂
      So, yes it does indeed work, and it does breathe.
      The downside, is that is a bit narrow, and I won’t expect it to last forever

  3. Sounds pretty good, until your comment about length… I’m just shy of 6’2″, which would make the shortness even more of an issue.

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      Yeah, that would be a tight fit. Maybe they should consider a long version…

      • Is a longer version available? I seem to only find one size. I”ve been looking into getting one of these for months, but your latest review of how short it is makes me re-consider. I am 6’1′”.

  4. Thanks for this review. I am transitioning from bike “touring” to “bikepacking” so that means no more 4lb sleeping bag that can barely fit strapped to my handlebars. For $50 dollars too that should fit my budget pretty well. Thanks again!

  5. This is all I carry in summer. I’ve lived outside 15 of last 20 years and there isn’t a better summer bag out there. Nothing compares. I usually cover my head completely inside, and only in high humidity is condensation a problem.

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  9. Nice and helpful review!
    Just a thought: Have you ever considered the Terra Nova Moonlite? The price tag is different from the Alpkit of course, but still fairly affordable compared to, e.g., eVent bivys. From the specs, it is significantly lighter (but therefore a bit more fragile), and even more breathable, than the Alpkit Hunka. If the Moonlite is too flimsy, they also have the Survival Bivy, although then the Hunka is the more reasonable choice IMHO…

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  12. Michael Blosser

    Well written and informative. Thank you!

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