Bliss or Bliss-less in a Bivouac Sack?

Sleeping in a bivouac sack in bad weather is never quite as comfy as sleeping in a tent, but I like to carry a light backpack, so despite camping in skies that looked like this…

1-chamonix skies

…I once chose only to carry a very lightweight bivouac sack for a few nights out above Chamonix in the French Alps. My backpacking companions, however, chose more wisely:

2-alpine tents

My sister carried the one-person tent pictured on the above left, and her two friends chose to carry the burly two-person mountain tent on the right. I plopped down my bivouac sac between them, hoping that their tents would provide extra shelter from the elements, but I woke up–flooded out–in the middle of the night when rain streamed off of their shelters and straight on top of me! This is how I felt the next morning:

3-alpine blahs

But, I wasn’t deterred. And I planned for a better shelter the next night. First, I set up my bivouac further away from their tents, and I also stretched a tarp across my trekking poles to deflect rain.

4-traci macnamara alpine bivy

However, I knew the comforts of that two-person tent (even with three people!), and as soon as the rain started falling, I jumped inside:

5-two or three person tent

On this trip, I had two bliss-less nights in a bivouac sack, but these lightweight shelters truly are amazing–in an emergency situation, on a rainless summer night, or anytime you don’t want to slog around with a heavy tent. But despite the benefits of going ultra-lightweight, I’d recommend a model with a pole or a moldable wire support to keep the material away from your face and to create a way for rain to slide off of the sack’s exterior while you sleep (more) soundly inside.

Want to know more about bivouac sacks and different bivy sack designs?
Read my article on the About.com Survival Skills website:

“Survival Shelter Overview: Bivouac Sacks”

Photos © Traci J. Macnamara.

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