Saturday, May 18, 2013

Section Hike and Bivy Modification Updates

I recently completed a two and a half day section hike on Bohusleden and will soon write trip reports/trail guides to six full sections of the trail.  The trip was originally planned as a five day trip, but when I called to say goodnight to my children and check up with my wife on news back home, I was unfortunately given some rather bad news that forced me to cut my trip short.  

A couple that my wife and I are good friends with, and that our kids are also friends with their kids, had to rush to the hospital with one of their children in a serious life-or-death medical situation.  The next morning I packed up my gear and then hitchhiked my way to the nearest train station so that my family and I could visit our friends in the hospital.  The child has been stabilized and seems to be on the road to recovery, thankfully, by the time we got to see her and her mother.  I was glad to coincidentally have been close to the end of a section of trail that also ended directly next to a highway, and didn't even think twice about getting back to be there in a time of need.

Yet before all this drama, I was able to document a solid portion of the trail on my quest to complete a full companion trail guide.  

I noticed in planning my trip before I hit the trail that two sections (18 and 17) entirely follow paved or dirt roads, fully accessible by car.  After taking a look at some of the locations of this part of Bohusleden on Google maps, and also being told by a few backpackers I met doing other parts of the trail, I became convinced that these two sections were not exactly the most scenic or fun ones to hike.  So I decided to have my wife drive me out there and follow these trails to take some pictures, and if I was wrong and things seemed good to hike, I could always just stop the car and enjoy the hike.

My speculations were proven accurate, however, and I am happy that I chose to effectively skip over these two boring and inconvenient parts of the trail.  I will still include them in my trail guide of course, and offer advice on how to skip over these sections.  When the trail finally went back through the woods, I was dropped off and began an excellent 55km hike over two days.

If you read my last post that covered my updated gear list for the late spring to early fall of my backpacking season, you noticed a lot of issues surrounding my shelter system.  At first I had intended to use a tarp/bivy combination, but after testing my new Cuben Borah bivy out, I found that it created too much condensation inside the bivy for me to include it in my gear list.  I tentatively replaced it with a Zpacks bug net that goes with my Zpacks solo tarp, but the whole time debated myself back and fourth about somehow sticking to the tarp/bivy combo--I simply like what this combo has to offer so much, that I was determined to somehow work out a solution.  

As luck would have it, visiting a family member, I noticed they had some net fabric laying around their home: a synthetic window curtain they didn't need.  This family member was nice enough to give me this curtain, which I then handed over along with my bivy to a friend of mine that is a professional seamstress who was nice enough to offer her help in modifying this key piece of gear.

Here is the end result:

I was concerned that perhaps the vent didn't go far enough down the bivy, as in the past I with another bivy I noticed the most condensation was in the foot box.  However I am happy to report after two nights of testing on the trail, there was not a single drop of condensation inside my bivy after either night of full, very cozy and comfortable sleep.  The M50 material does breath, just very poorly, so by adding this vent, I think I have effectively nullified the issue of condensation.  Granted more testing should be done to see how effective this vent is--and I plan on putting this bivy to the test plenty, as I am very pleased with it after this modification.  

Here's a few more pictures of it in action inside of a really nice trail shelter I had all to myself on my second night out:

No bugs, no critters, wind protection (most trail shelters I have encountered here have 3 walls or a large doorway), and no need to set up my tarp.  Final weight after the mod and with stuff sack is 133g, which brings my total fully enclosed shelter system up to only 353g for tarp, guy lines, tent stakes, bivy, and ground cover.  :)

Coming soon will be the section trip reports, and on this trip I took lots of pictures.  Overall very impressed with the sections I actually hiked, though it is a shame that a few sections are pretty much just walking on roads for long time.  Over the summer I plan on going back to where I left off and hiking the rest of the trail, and really looking forward to it.

Thanks for reading and hope that you are having adventures of your own this season.


  1. Still got no condensation issues after modding your bivy?

  2. Not yet. I have a section hike coming up this month and will use my bivy again, and will report back if any condensation issues present themselves. I recently wrote about this on a thread on BPL after my last section hike:

    "I opted to sleep on the tip of a peninsula of a big lake, and with pretty clear skies I decided to cowboy camp it. It was awesome. As the sun went down the midges and mosquitoes came out in full force, but I lay safe and cozy in my bivy after a nice swim. I could see a small cloud of bugs over my face as I slipped into sleep, behind them several stars peeking through the dusk.

    In the morning there was a fog over the water, and I had expected this location to be the place to give me condensation issues, but there was hardly any. At first as I inspected the inside of the bivy near my torso I thought that there was none at all, but when I got up and turned the bivy inside out, there was just a touch of dampness at the very tip of the foot box. Not enough to form drops of water, more like a fine mist, and again--this was only in the very tip of the foot box and no where else. It was dry in a matter of minutes.

    So still very happy with the mod, and my bivy/tarp combo is still my go-to shelter for trail hikes. I think that all bivy sellers should have an option to add a vent like this as a standard option."

    I love my bivy, though in the future I may buy one that is custom made with some minor improvements.

    1. I have the same bivy as you, the Borah Gear with M50 top. I have only used it on 2 trips here in Norway and I havent had any condensation yet, but I have read alot about peolple having this issue with the M50.
      I really like your mod and I`m thinking about doing it myself.
      Do you have less wind protection with the mod?
      What minor improvements do you have in mind if you buy a custom made bivy?

    2. Heja Norge! I love backpacking and traveling in Norway, nice to hear from someone else living in Scandinavia :)

      Wind protection is hardly an issue. The most important places are the sides of the bivy in keeping wind out, so I have not noticed much of a difference. Felt no drafts.

      The minor improvements I would get are a bathtub bottom, more like the Zpacks bivy. I would also have nano-net rather than the fabric I found. The fabric I found works well, but I am pretty sure that nano-net is stronger and more durable, and I like the black color--not just for the looks, but also if it gets wet, it can dry in the sun faster. I would also extend the net vent down further towards my feet. I would keep the .75 Cuben floor and M50 top. Great combo for a bivy so long as a vent is in place, if you ask me.

      Glad you like my mod. Let me know how it goes if you decide to go for it.

  3. Im pretty sure I will mod my bivy, I have some nanoseeum leftovers from a DIY project I can use. I will make the went longer than yours if you think thats the way to go.

    Great Blog by the way, lots of interesting reading ;)

    1. Good luck with it, and I hope it turns out better! And thanks for your kind words, I appreciate the feedback. :)

    2. I did it!!! :)

      Can`t wait to try it out :)
      I stopped the netting 30cm from the foot end

    3. Wow, that looks really good! Now to go out and test it, which is the best part! I hope it works better for you. Keep us all posted. I will also do a mini-update on my bivy after using it on my section hike in a few weeks.

  4. How does the mod work for you?
    Still no sign of condensation?

    1. The mod continues to work great. I have used it plenty since I modded it and only had very light condensation, and this is using it in ideal conditions for condensation (sleeping in a clearing next to a lake in the spring, for example).

      Most of the time I only have very, very light or no moisture in the foot box.

      Thanks for the questions!