Monday, 12 July 2010

First Look: Katabatic Gear Bristlecone bivy

Katabatic Gear may be a relatively new company in the UL world but they already seem to building a loyal following for producing some excellent hand-crafted and innovative gear. Roman recently took a peek at their Palisade quilt and seemed to like it. To find out more about Katabatic Gear and it's owner, Aaron Martray, I suggest you read Hendrik's excellent interview here. In the market for another bivy I ordered a Bristlecone bivy which will be going with me on my trip across the Hardangervidda.

Katabatic Gear offer their bivys in '6 foot' and '6 foot 6 inch' versions, with right or left hand zips. Being on the cusp at a smidge over 6 feet I went for the longer version and being right handed I ordered the left hand zip option. My Bristlecone weighed in at 205g in this configuration. Trying the bivy out in the wilds of my apartment I found that there is easily enough room for my NeoAir, 3-season quilt, BPL dual chamber pillow and me. The bivy has a nicely fitted cut that helps to reduce weight and the flapping, excess material that bugged me about one of my other bivys.

Constructed with a 1.4oz sil-nylon 'bathtub' base for waterproofness and a highly breathable Pertex Quantum top, the Bristlecone will hopefully offer enough water and wind resistance to keep my down quilt protected from any elements sneaking their way in under my tarp.

One of the key design features of the Katabatic Gear sleep system is the patent pending Cord Clip method of securing their quilts to your sleeping pad.  Katabatic Gear supply lengths of 2mm cord for this purpose and there are four corresponding triangle-shaped plastic loops stitched into the floor the bivy. Unfortunately my GoLite Ultra quilt isn't fitted with the necessary Cord Clips so I'll be using two lengths of 3mm shock-cord to anchor my NeoAir as I do in my MLD Soul bivy.

Anyone who uses a bivy without a zip knows about the 'Bivy Wiggle', the shuffling contortionist's dance performed when you're trying to get in and out of the bivy. I switched to zipped bivys to make this task a lot easier. Sure there is a slight weight penalty but I'll take it. The Bristlecone's smooth-running YKK zipper runs across the top of the bug netting opening, across and down to the hip area making entering and exiting the bivy a breeze.

The simple bug netting opening protects you from blood sucking insects while you sleep and should offer plenty of ventilation. In the picture above I've pulled my GoLite Ultra quilt up inside the bivy to increase the contrast and allow you to see the size of the netting. Also in the picture you can see the overhead hanging loop, allowing you to attach a cord from the bivy to the clips/loops inside many tarps/shelters, holding the bug netting off your face. I use 3mm shock-cord to reduce any stress on the bivy or the shelter when I'm moving around.

The craftsmanship is very high, easily on a par with my MLD Soul bivy. The stitching is uniform and straight and the materials used are first class. I've got high hopes that this bivy lives up to my expectations on my upcoming Hardanger trip and I will let you know how it performed.


Thomas W. Gauperaa said...

Looks great! :). The mesh will protect you from bugs as long as you don't put your face next to it during the night, which I did (ptarmigan bivy) ;)

Nielsen Brown said...

A nice looking bivy and I love the idea of the loops in the base of the bivy, certainly will stop the mattress slide so common on silnylon.

Will be interested to hear how it goes.

Unknown said...

Nice one, Joe. Still trying to make my decision.

Was there any particular reason you wanted to get this - seeing as you have the MLD Soul? Or were you just trying to avoid the 'zip wiggle'?

Joe Newton said...

Thomas - I always clip the bug netting of my bivys up off my face! Not only to stop me getting nailed by blood sucking insects but to stop the feeling when I wake up that I'm wearing a wedding veil ;-)

Roger - I have similar loops in my Soul bivy. They're a godsend.

Mark - after discussions with Ron at MLD I went for a large Soul bivy but have since found it just too big during '3 season'' conditions. It's too wide and bulky. I know I could have had any custom sizing done by MLD but I went for the standard Large after taking advice so I'll now use the Soul for winter trips when I'll be using a big fat Exped Synmat mat and fat winter sleeping bag. When it came to getting a lighter, more fitted but still long bivy for this summer the Bristlecone looked the best option and as discussed previously with you, is available from stock, not with a two month waiting list.

My Soul is also a side-zip version. I have another, waterproof/breathable bivy that doesn't have a zip and find it a pain in the ass to get in and out!

Thomas W. Gauperaa said...

Joe: me too, I use the loop on the hood with a bungee cord to hang it from the tarp, but I still managed to get bitten once ;). They're eager little creatures. Did you btw know that mosquitoes can bite through a single layer hammock? that's one of the bonuses of having one with a double layer bottom :)

Unknown said...

We used a mossie net when we were backpacking in SE Asia. Sadly, how ever much Mrs M and I snuggled up, we'd have a leg splayed onto the netting, or an arm, and they'd just land on it and poke that proboscis through the hole in the net and drink. Buggers.

Joe Newton said...

Thomas & Maz - so far so good, I used the Bristlecone bivy on our recent canoe trip and despite being inundated with winged mini blood suckers I managed to stay bite free apart from one bite on the back of the knee that I suffered in camp. Sneaky bastards...