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Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January

Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January


Postby Chael » Mon Dec 12, 2016 3:54 am

Hello,

I have gotten the idea to sleep in a bivy along the way this coming January. Does anyone have any experience of doing this or anything similar? If so, could you please share your experience?

Thank you.
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Re: Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January

Postby garyoppolis » Mon Dec 12, 2016 2:28 pm

Provided your sleeping bag is warm enough you'll be fine.

The only difficulty in bivvy bagging in really cold weather is keeping your face warm enough. I know a few people who wear balaclavas to sleep in. I usually find it effective enough to offset the hole in the bivvi bag with the one in the sleeping bag (point it to leeward) so that I'm not getting blasts of cold air on me.
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Re: Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January

Postby walkingpoles » Mon Dec 12, 2016 11:13 pm

I don't understand the nature of this project. If it's a survival trip, I'do something more adventureous than the WHW (although it has the benefit that somebody might find you before you die of hypothermia). If a tent is simply too heavy, book the bunks or BBs. Or do enough of them close during winter so that this is not possible? Would you need the bivy bag only for 1 night?

I don't like the idea of being wet all day and then sleep in a bivy bag in rain. 1 night OK, but then I am off to the next chimney fire. 5 nights or so of the cold, wet and long kind is simply out of question.
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Re: Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January

Postby Chael » Tue Dec 13, 2016 12:56 am

Thanks for your replies.

I don't think it's what would be described as a survival trip. I've been on the WHW before and know that it isn't a wilderness. Also, I'll be carrying food. All I plan on doing is walking along the way and sleeping outside, just for the fun of it.

Would you mind telling me what you would consider a more adventurous alternative to be, Mr Poles? I'm not a very experienced outdoors person.
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Re: Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January

Postby walkingpoles » Tue Dec 13, 2016 12:13 pm

I don't want to encourage tragedies. During january, under the week and somewhere remote, a broken leg and no mobile connection will be one. Also, if temperature drops below the alloted one for your sleeping bag, it's game over. If you don't know what you are in for, stay on the WHW. If you have never hiked in Scotland's winters before, also have a plan B in mind which involves heated accomodation. And when planning your mileage, take the daylight hours into account.

Check out the formidable long distance walk page here on walkhighlands for more adventurous ideas
http://www.walkhighlands.co.uk/long-distance-routes.shtml
I don't know your level of experience in the highlands, but you probably can deduce from the walk descriptions and reports whether they are within your limits. Fording rivers has to be avoided at all costs as your feet won't be able to get dry again. Personally I'd investigate Afric-Kintayl-way, Knoydart or Skye without Cuillins for a winter solo expedition that doesn't involve mountains. Solo here also means not meeting others. Walking around Arran might be an interesting winter project also. But that's me. I'm confident with navigation, I like remoteness, I don't need a path to be happy and I wouldn't sleep in a bivy bag. Not for 10 beavers. Whatever you do, stay on the safe side!
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Re: Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January

Postby Caberfeidh » Tue Dec 13, 2016 6:19 pm

Chael wrote:I have gotten the idea to sleep in a bivy along the way this coming January.


The fun never stops ~ lying in a bag on the ground. In January.

Chael wrote: I've been on the WHW before and know that it isn't a wilderness. Also, I'll be carrying food.


That'll help then. You could try practising by lying on the ground in a bag for the next few nights, on a piece of waste ground or a park near where you live.

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Bivvying. Holiday Choice For The Discerning Traveller.
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Re: Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January

Postby walkingpoles » Tue Dec 13, 2016 10:49 pm

I met a walker on the great glen way who slept in a bus shelter.

Luxury.

The four yorkshire men come to mind.
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Re: Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January

Postby Marty_JG » Wed Dec 14, 2016 12:22 am

But let's get this straight: you're not experienced and you're not adventurous? In that case I'd suggest a bivvy is not for you. Not yet. I'd say a bivvy is for someone who looks at his existing well-used lightweight hiking tent and comes to the conclusion "I've decided I'm harder than that".

The worst part of a bivvy in Scotland will be a night of unending, lashing rain. If you're in a downpour how are you going to get into and out of your bivvy without everything getting drowned? For me that's the best excuse for a tent over a bivvy, you can get in (maybe wet) then use the protection out of the rain to get in and out of your drybags kit.

You can get a fairly decent 1200-ish gram tent for under £70. That's affordable and not much more weight or price than a decently-insulating bivvy.

https://www.amazon.co.uk/NatureHike-Camping-Waterproof-Double-layer-Sleeping/dp/B016UOX0U6
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Naturehike-Camping-Outdoor-Windproof-Waterproof/dp/B01HEP7XUI
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Re: Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January

Postby Chael » Wed Dec 14, 2016 8:26 am

Marty,

I am adventurous. That's the only reason I'm doing this.

I've bought the North Face Assault bivy for a cheeky 85 quid. I couldn't find any reviews for it, so I decided I would test it out myself.

So, I'll be off with it next month, perhaps sooner. If I am still alive I will let you know how I got on.

Mr Poles, thank you for your concern. Caber, thank you for your amusing rebuke.
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Re: Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January

Postby StevenF » Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:32 am

Good decission Chael,

there are three kinds of adventures they say, type 1: fun while you are doing it, 2. no fun while you are doing it but fun to talk about afterwards and then there is type 3: no fun while doing it and no fun to talk about it afterwards.

My first bivy "adventure" was in near Spa in Belgium, usually a very quiet place but on that on that very night the 24h car race of spa-francorchamps was held. Although it was a couple of miles away there I was kept awake by the very loud racing sounds. So much for my romantic ideas about spending a quiet night in a bivy bag :-)

So at worst you are heading for type 2 fun I would say. If it becomes too cold and wet just get up and start walking (one thing I learned during a type 2 fun adventure).
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Re: Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January

Postby rabthecairnterrier » Wed Dec 14, 2016 10:53 am

I'm an enthusiast for bivvying in any season if the forecast is settled. I've been snowed on in the night, and woken up with frost coating the outside of the bivvy bag and been quite happy. A multi-day trip in uncertain weather is something else again; if it's consistently wet, as it often is in the West Highlands in January, then that could be more problematic. Other considerations aside, if it's raining/sleeting then you will - no doubt about it - get wet, and won't be able to dry out. At all.

If it's wet and windy you'll have trouble finding shelter to cook/make hot drinks which, in January, will be important. In mid-January you're also looking at (quite literally) around 14/15 hours of darkness, which can get quite tedious when zipped up in a glorified plastic bag.

Maybe try things out for a night or two closer to home before embarking on the WHW. And make sure you have a VERY good sleepmat. A tarp might be handy too, for sheltering while using the stove.
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Re: Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January

Postby Marty_JG » Wed Dec 14, 2016 11:22 am

The upside is in January will be light on the midges!

The Assault seems designed for altitude rather than lowlands: the few reviews of it online (Amazon UK, Amazon COM, Single Track World, North Face UK) keep mentioning it's not waterproof. Then again if you're willing to lose breathability spray some Nikwax on it.
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Re: Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January

Postby walkingpoles » Wed Dec 14, 2016 11:48 am

Marty_JG wrote:The upside is in January will be light on the midges!
Then again if you're willing to lose breathability spray some Nikwax on it.


Read up on that before doing it. Getting rid of the breathability might kill the sleeping bag (down and moisture is not a great combination, I heard).

Let us know, how it did go. I'd also be interested to hear about your experience with the sleeping bag and mat. The idea of bringing a tarp doesn't strike me as a bad one. You don't need to use it if you deem the conditions to be benign enough.
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Re: Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January

Postby Caberfeidh » Wed Dec 14, 2016 12:25 pm

Bivvying is an emergency measure, only resorted to with reluctance by those caught out in the hills. I myself have a bivvy bag for emergency situations - it is an old helicopter landing pad windsock.
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Re: Bivy bag along West Highland Way in January

Postby jmarkb » Wed Dec 14, 2016 12:59 pm

It does sound like a recipe for having a miserable time, unless you are very lucky with the weather. The WHW is not too serious, however, in that there are plenty of opportunities to bail out if required. There are are also plenty of woods along the way: I imagine that taking a tarp, shelter building tools and firelighting kit (and knowing how to use them) would probably improve the experience quite a lot (but I'm no expert on that kind of thing). A super-warm jacket for sitting around in might also be a good idea to save you having to spend all the hours of darkness inside the bag.
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