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Reviews > Shelters > Tarps and Bivys > Outdoor Research Advanced Bivy > Test Report by Ralph Ditton

                                                   OUTDOOR RESEARCH ADVANCED BIVY
                                                                           TEST SERIES BY: RALPH DITTON
                                                                       INITIAL REPORT: 21st November, 2008
                                                                       FIELD REPORT: 15th February, 2009
                                                                       LONG TERM REPORT: 18TH APRIL,2009

                                                             OR Advanced Bivy
                                                               (Photo courtesy of Outdoor Research)

Personal Information

Name: Ralph Ditton
Age: 57
Weight: 71 kg (156 lb)
Height: 1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)
Email: rdassetts at optusnet dot com dot au
Location: Perth, Western Australia

Bushwalking Background
I have been bushwalking for over nine years. My playgrounds are the Darling Range, Bibbulmun Track and the Coastal Plain Trail. I aim to become an end-to-end walker of the Bibbulmun Track. I am nearly there as it is 964 km (603 mi) long. Just on 200 km (124 mi) to go. My pack weight including food and water tends to hover around 18 kg (40 lb) but I am trying to get lighter. My trips range from overnighters to five days duration. My shelter of choice is normally a tent.

Product Information
Manufacturer: Outdoor Research
Manufacturer's URL:
Year of Manufacturer: 2008
Country of manufacturer: China
Listed Average Weight: 1106 g (39 oz)
Listed Average Weight w/o poles: 964 g (34 oz)
Listed Length: 221 cm (87 in)
Listed Peak Height: 50 cm (20 in)
Listed Width at Shoulders: 66 cm (26 in)
Listed Width at Feet: 49 cm (19 in)
Packed Size: 39 x 10 x 10 cm (15 x 4 x 4 in)
Pole Material: Delrin
Fabric: Waterproof/breathable 3-layer Gore-Tex Respiration Positive top.
           :  Hydroseal coated waterproof nylon floor
Mesh: No-see-um
Model: Advanced Bivy
Colour: Mojo Blue
MSRP: USD289.00

Measured Information
Measured Weight: 1042g (36.7 oz)
Measured Weight w/o poles and pole ends: 894 g (31.5 oz)
Measured Weight of poles and pole ends: 148 g (5.2 oz)
Measured Weight of stuff sack: 34 g (1.2 oz)
Measured Weight of pole end: 6 g (0.2 oz)
Total Measured Weight in my backpack with all components: 1082 g (38 oz)
Measured Length: 2.2 m (86.6 in)
Measured Peak Height: 55 cm (21.6 in)
Measured Height at Foot: 24.6 cm (10 in)
Measured Width at Shoulders: 63 cm ( 24.8 in)
Measured Width at Feet: 50 cm (19.6 in)
Measured Packed Size: 38 x 12 x 12 cm (15 x  4.7  x 4.7 in)

Product Description
The Outdoor Research Advanced Bivy (hereinafter known as "bivy") is a one person shelter system that is fully-featured and is an all-conditions shelter.
The bivy comes in one size and colour only.
The technology in the bivy is that it has a chemical free bug protection, tightly woven, removable no-see-um netting at the opening where the body enters. In addition, there is the Gore-Tex Respiration Positive + Fabric which is a three ply waterproof membrane that allows the exchange of carbon dioxide and oxygen to pass through the breathable respirant and membrane whilst keeping moisture outside.


At the head end of the bivy on the top section, there is a stiffened piping to give shape to the top. The bottom section also has a wire inside the piping but it feels thinner and is not as stiff as the top.

Right in the centre where the top of the head nearly rest against the side wall of the bottom section of the bivy there is a little internal mesh pocket. It has a little zipper on it to keep small items inside it, such as a torch or glasses. It is 150 mm long x 75 mm wide (6 in x  3 in).

The interior colour of the bivy is white. The edging of the mesh has a green trim where the zip operates. The mesh zipper is also green and has a reflective cord attached to it for easier gripping. The main zipper for the bivy bag is black in colour and has YKK stamped on it. There are two finger pulls on this zipper. One for the inside operation and one for the outside operation. In addition, there are reflective cords attached.

The internal seams are taped seam sealed.

At the foot of the bivy bag there is a zippered foot vent to allow moist air to vent. It is crescent shaped and roughly measures 33 cm (13 in) long and at the centre the height is 7.5 cm (3 in) wide. Access to the zipper is from the outside under the storm flap. Again, the trim is green.

The last internal feature of note is the two sleeping pad straps that prevent the mat from sliding about inside the bivy. Not that there is too much room for that activity. The straps are closed by way of a hook and loop system. To allow for different size mats, the actual hook and loop pad is 15 cm (6 in) long.

The top of the bag is Mojo blue in colour whilst the base is grey.
On the grey base along the sewn edge at the head end are three black taped loops. At the foot end are two black taped loops. These loops are for the use of guying/staking out of the bivy.
There are three of these loops for guying out on the top of the bivy, spread at intervals, located along the external grey pole sleeve.

In front of this external grey pole sleeve are two reflective triangle patches. They are on opposite sides of the bivy so that one would show up at night when approached from either side. OR is emblazed at the internal base of the triangles.
At the foot end there is the manufacturer's logo "OUTDOOR OR RESEARCH".

The Poles
There are two poles, overhead and circumferential and they are made out of Delrin which is a polyoxymethylene. This is a metal substitute. It is low weight, wear and fatigue resistant.
Both poles are different. One has five sections and the other four sections. The five section pole goes in the white pole sleeve just inside the zippers of the storm flap. The four pole section goes in the grey sleeve on the outside of the bivy.

The two poles fit into a pole end at each end. These pole ends have male snaps that clip into female snaps attached to the bivy. This allows for the adjustment of the angle of the poles to create different bivy positions such as closed, storm vent, full vent or fully open.

Initial Impression
When I took the stuff sack out of the box it came in, I was surprised at how small and light the bivy was. I then proceeded to try and extract the bivy from the stuff sack and had a difficult task in achieving this. The stuff sack is a tad too small to allow an easy extraction of the bivy bag.
Inside the stuff bag was a set of instructions. I was most interested in the pole information as I saw that I had a five and four piece pole set with five little pole pieces ending with a clip.
It turns out that there is a spare pole end in case of breakage.
There was also a strong plastic/formalin odour when I took the package out of the protective plastic bag. The Chinese do have a bad habit of coating fabric products with formalin to prevent insects from eating it when in storage straight after manufacturer. I will be washing the bivy with cold water and powder detergent using a damp sponge as a precaution to remove any formalin should it be present prior to use. The odour is prevalent on the inside of the bivy.

I then unzipped the bivy to expose the internal mesh. The next logical thing to do was to unzip the mesh to expose the pole sleeve so that I could insert the pole. There was a problem. The zipper only has one finger pull on it and it is on the inside of the bivy behind the mesh. I could not get to it to open the zip. After much fingernail scraping to try and move the zipper body along the zip track I finally succeeded in moving it far enough to get hold of the finger pull. This finger pull does not move around the head of the zip so that it can be operated from either side. It is fixed on one side only. So, I had to move the zip further along the track and insert my hand inside the bivy to operate the zipper. Not a good design.
I estimate that it took me a good eight minutes of trying to coax the zipper head to move enough so that I could get my hand inside to operate the zipper.

I then had some difficulty in inserting the poles into their respective pole sleeves because they curve. The pole tip end wanted to dig into the fabric when it started to curve. It was a matter of slowly, slowly catch the monkey by feeding, bunching the fabric and more shoving to get the poles correctly inserted. Once done, I attached the pole ends and clipped them into place.
It started to look like the image on the manufacturer's web.
In fact, there were no surprises from what I expected to see to what I received.

I then pushed the poles into various positions trying to achieve the storm vent, full vent and open/pushed back look.
As there is no ratchet system for the poles to lock into a position, the hood just flopped either forward or backwards, depending where the five section pole was in orientation to the vertical.

When the mesh is fully zippered up, the hood will not flop too far forward as the mesh acts as a brace against falling too far forward.

For fit, I placed my OR Exped Synmat LT7 inside the bivy. It was fully inflated. The measurements of the sleeping mat are 178 x 52 cm (70 x 20 in) and has a glorious height of 7 cm (2.8 in) that ensures maximum comfort for my hips and shoulders when I lay on my side.
The manufacturer states that the bivy is sized to accept thicker mats like mine and it is definitely true.

To enter the bivy I found that the best method was to open up the hood and push it back onto the body of the bivy and slide into my sleeping bag from the head end. Then it is just a matter of wriggling into the sleeping bag. This is where the pad straps come in handy. The give some assistance in stopping the mat sliding forward to the other end of the bivy, blocking up the vent at the other end.

With regards to the foot vent, there is no means to spread the flap out into the open position to allow a good vent. There should be a brace that has a hook and loop on its foot to prop open the vent to maximize the ventilation like tent vents have.

After a few days of having the bivy set up, I dismantled the poles and found that they had developed a memory. They both have a lovely curve and it does make it easier to insert them into the pole sleeves.

I then proceeded to roll up the bivy and replace it, with the poles back into the stuff sack. I had a terrible time trying to fit it back in. The stuff sack is in my opinion a tad too small. It should be a lot easier to insert the bivy and poles back into a stuff sack and not have to work millimetre by millimeter trying to get it to fit. The circumference of the stuff sack should be at least another 25 mm (1 in) bigger. With the larger stuff sack, the bivy would be easy to get in and out.

Bonzer Points
  • Lightweight
  • Light poles
  • Accepts my thick sleeping mat
  • Good head space with the poles in place
  • Compact
Rhubarb Points
  • Stuff sack too small
  • Mesh zipper only has a finger pull that does not swing to both sides
  • No prop for the foot vent
  • Strong plastic/formalin smell
  • Floppy pole configuration

Thanks to Outdoor Research and BackPackGearTest for the opportunity to test this item.

15th FEBRUARY, 2009

My first outing was to the Coastal Plain Trail north of Perth. The campsite sits at an elevation of 83m (272 ft) amongst Banksia trees on top of a large sand dune that has shrubs, grass and wildflowers. On arrival at 4.45 pm the temperature was 38.6 C (101.5 F) and the wind was SSE at 10 knots and the Relative Humidity was 17% according to my Kestrel 3500 weather unit.

I proceeded to set up camp and looked for the shadiest spot as to where I could set up the bivy as I did not want a warm oven to hop into later on.

Assembling the pole structure went without a hitch and the poles now have a memory (staying curved). This memory made it easier to thread the poles through the curved pole sleeves.
During the Initial Report stage I was aware of the difficulty in operating the zipper for the mesh, so I did not have it pulled completely shut when I stowed it away last time. I left enough room to get two of my fingers inside the mesh to operate the zipper. I reiterate here again, the zipper really needs either a one way  zipper finger pull that swings from side to side or a zipper head with a finger pull on each side.

                                                         hood closed

I had no difficulty in inserting my self inflating Exped SynMat into the bivy. Then I pushed the sleeping bag in on top of the mat. Into the pocket went my little LED torch, tissues and insect spray just in case a mozzie got inside when I was getting into or out of the bivy.

The evening cooled down gradually and when I eventually turned in, it was 11.20 pm. The temperature was  24.4 C (76 F) with the wind coming from the south at 6 knots blowing directly into the bivy through the entry end. Relative Humidity was 62% and the Dew Point 16.2 C (61 F). The sky was clear and I initially had a very good view of the stars.
One thing became apparent very quickly. The poles do not stay in position when I tried to have it at Full Vent. The hood kept collapsing down to the Storm Vent position. I also had the foot vent open.

                                                      hood open

To try an overcome the collapsing hood, I resorted to gathering some of the hood material and tucking it between my elbow and side and clamping it with my elbow whilst trying to get to sleep. I finally did drop off to sleep and when I woke at 3.30 am due to the very strong wind that had swung around to the east which was gusting at32 knots and an average speed of 17 knots. The wind was buffeting the side of the bivy and of course the hood had closed down to the Storm Vent position. The tree above me started to have wild gyrations so I decided to abandon the spot and move the bivy to another spot away from trees.

I did not do up the mesh zipper and when I went to gather up the bivy out fell my watch, glasses and torch. Luckily I saw them in my headlamp beam. I quickly found another spot and then proceeded to spend the rest of the night there.

As the day was starting to get warm very early, I was out of bed by 5 am. The temperature was 22 C (71 F).
There was no condensation at all inside the bivy due to the strong wind throughout the night. I only used a summer synthetic sleeping bag so that I would not be too hot inside the bivy.
All in all, I had a comfortable sleep but the collapsing hood did annoy me.

Over the Australia Day long weekend I went to the Bullaring area in the central wheat belt where the terrain is rolling plains of wheat with patches of scrub.
We stayed at an abandoned house that had no facilities or furniture in it.
Temperatures during the nights averaged 19 C (66 F), coming down from daytime highs of 38 - 40 C (100 - 104 F).

The first night I used the bivy with the poles and experienced the hood falling back down over my head. I got fed up with this, so I laid the hood down onto my chest with the insect mesh unzipped as there were no mosquitoes.
In the morning, I noticed that both poles had one end come out of the clip on stem but on opposite sides. This probably happened when I pushed the hood down flat and my tossing and turning in the bivy during the night.

For the next night, I removed the poles and stems and used it in the open position again.
On the second night I had a far better longer and deeper sleep than the first night. Probably because of the cumulation of tiredness and not having to worry about a collapsing hood.

Early in the morning when the sun started to pop up, I threw the hood over my face to block out the light. It was partially successful and I gained a few more hours of rest.

On both nights, I laid on top of my sleeping bag because it was too hot to get inside it inside the bivy. I did not experience any sweaty legs at all. When I normally get hot in a bed or sleeping bag, my legs start to perspire.

My next field outing was to the Nuyts Wilderness in early February where evening temperatures averaged 18 C (64 F). The campsite at Thompson Cove sits at 10 m (33 ft) above sea level and is some 500 m (1,640 ft) from the ocean.

                                                      bivy at Thompson Cove

I was at this campsite for three nights.
To overcome the collapsing poles I tied a guy line to the bivy and pegged it out. In the earlier hours of the morning it got colder so I unzipped the mesh, sat up and undid the guy line so that the hood could lay over me to keep warmth inside the bivy. I was only using my Thermolite Reactor liner as a sleeping bag.
Later on I had to get out of the bivy for a nature call, so I fully opened up the hood. Upon my return I closed up the hood again and wondered why it seemed a lot closer to me. An examination found that one of the poles on the outside of the bivy had come out of the pole end so I placed it back into position.

This happened on the other nights also. It would appear that fully opening up the hood to exit causes the pole to slip out of the pole end.

I did not experience any condensation inside the bivy as it was quite breezy during the night. In fact, we were all a bit concerned about the trees above us dropping limbs as they were swaying and creaking during the night. All they did was drop leaves on us.

During the Field Testing phase I slept in the bivy a total of six nights. I have learnt not to fully zip up the insect mesh when I am out of it as it is very difficult to operate the zipper to unzip the mesh when I want to get back in. To prevent ants and any other bugs that may have an inclination to gain entry in my absence, I pull a bit of my sleeping bag into the gap to plug the opening. It is just a matter of poking my finger into the sleeping bag to remove it and then operate the zipper.

The strong plastic/formalin smell has abated somewhat so I do not find it offensive when I am inside the bivy.
The other good and bad points still remain the same.

Date: 18th April, 2009

I was able to use the bivy bag a further three times during this test period.

It was all at the same location of Prickly Bark on the Coastal Plain Trail, north of Perth.
The campsite sits at an elevation of 83 m (272 ft) amongst Banksia trees on top of a large sand dune that has shrubs, grass and wildflowers.
On the first occasion the weather was hot and dry around 28 C (82 F) on arrival around 4 pm with the wind coming from the ESE at 13 knots. For the first night the temperature ranged from a high of 21 C (69 F) when I went to bed about 10 pm, to a low of 15 C (59 F) when I got up around 6 am.
The wind was not very strong during the night. It was around 5 to 6 knots coming from the SSE and swung around to the ESE in the early hours of the morning.
I had the bivy pitched in a East West direction with my head at the West end. I left it in this direction for the two nights and the temperature and wind did not change very much over the two nights.

                                              bivy at Prickly Bark

I used a very lightweight groundsheet from my tent to keep the base of the bivy clean as the sand has a lot of dirt and dried leaf litter mixed with it. The groundsheet needed a good wash when I got home as the underside was black.

During the course of both nights I opened up the sleeping bag as I was starting to perspire on my legs. I could feel the wind blowing on the outside of the bivy but I was quite warm inside.
Initially I had the bivy hood open in the Full Vent position but it kept collapsing back down to a nearly closed position. In frustration, I tucked a part of the bivy roof at the junction where the poles attach, under my elbow to stop the hood from falling down.

Eventually I fell asleep and when I was asleep my elbow must have let the material go because later on when I woke to attend to a nature call, the hood was back down.
Upon returning to bed, I fully opened the hood up so that the hood was laying open on my stomach. The mesh was unzipped from the top of the hood. Luckily there were no mosquitoes about and I was not bitten by any other insects.

In the morning I examined the bivy and found that one end of both poles had come out of the snap-on pole ends, but on opposite sides to one another. This outcome was experienced again the next night. I put it down to the changing positions of the hood during the night whereby the poles work themselves out of the pole ends.

I had no condensation inside the bivy at all but there must have been some perspiration that got onto my  OR Exped SynMat from
the last night because I just rolled it up and packed it away the next morning knowing that I was coming back in a week's time.
The day before I was to come out to Prickly Bark again I unpacked and took the sleeping mat out of its stuff sack to check on it and I found mildew on the top at the foot end. Luckily I found it and got rid of it before going camping again.
This made me check the inside of the bivy at the foot end, so I turned it all inside out and examined it for mould. None was found. I have put that down to the anti-fungal, Hydroseal coated taffeta floor section.

The final trip was back to Prickly Bark on Easter Monday, a week later for an overnighter.
As we arrived it started to rain lightly so when setting up I inserted the poles, sleeping mat and sleeping bag under the protection of the shelter.
When set up I took it out to the place where I last used it. I did not want to get my sleeping bag wet.
I had the bivy fully zippered up in the Closed position.
An examination before it got dark showed that no moisture had got inside the bivy, but I got a bit wet examining it.

                                             rain on bivy

By the time I went to bed around 11 pm it had stopped raining about an hour before, so I was able to get into the bivy without dripping water inside but I gave the hood a good whack with my hand to shake off as much rain drops as possible.
For ease of entry, I made sure that I had unzipped the internal mesh panel from the base of the bivy. All I had to do was unzip the zipper that thankfully has a finger pull on the outside at the base of the hood, push the hood back into the fully open position and slip in. I then brought the hood back into the Storm vent position, zippered up the internal mesh, sandwiched the fabric at the junction where the poles attach to the bivy between my elbow and side and went to sleep.

Again the hood fell down during when I was asleep. I also got up during the night.
In the morning I found that both ends of the four section pole had come out of the pole ends and none on the five section pole.
When packing up, I took the pillow, sleeping mat and sleeping bag out so that it was empty and gave it a number of flicks to shed the raindrops. They came off very easily.
Going by the Weather Bureau statistics, the location had 6.4 mm ( in) of rain over a seven hour period.

When I got home I hung the bivy on the clothes line to dry and when the outside was dry, I then turned it inside out and made sure that the inside was dry also.

My initial concerns that the bivy may be too hot for use in our summer proved false. At no time did I feel too hot inside the bivy when laying on top of my sleeping bag. I did feel too hot inside my sleeping bag.

I had great frustration in trying to keep the hood in the Full Vent and Storm Vent positions. The hood would not stay in place. There
is no ratcheting system to lock the poles into a desired position.
The other bugbear which I mentioned in the Field Report is the zipper issue with the internal mesh. The zipper needs to have finger pulls on both sides so that it is easy to open from the outside. I had to leave a small gap and plug it with a cloth to stop ants and other insects from getting in.  Through this gap I would insert my finger and try and operate the zipper from the other side of the mesh to where I was. It was very difficult to get it started to unzip. Once I got it moved  and open about 5 cm (2 in) then it became easy to operate.

Thank you Outdoor Research for making this bivy available for testing.

This report concluded my series of reports.

Read more reviews of Outdoor Research gear
Read more gear reviews by Ralph Ditton

Reviews > Shelters > Tarps and Bivys > Outdoor Research Advanced Bivy > Test Report by Ralph Ditton

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