Review: Vaude Bivi 1P

Vaude Bivi 1P Stanage Edge, Peak District National Park
Nights out under the stars with the Vaude Bivi 1P



“Bivouacs tend to cost a fair amount of dosh, but the Vaude Bivi offers such great value for those who wish to take up the joys of pitching wherever they wish and looking up at the stars at night from their bed!”

Ahhhh, bivouacs. I love them. Some don’t admittedly and I can see why. Essentially, you’re cocooned within a large waterproof bag and it can feel somewhat claustrophobic. But the beauty of bivvies is you can literally make your camp anywhere. If you can find a place to lie down and sleep for the night, then you’re onto a winner. No restrictions on your footprint – a la tents.

And of course if the weather turns foul, you don’t have to worry about the shelter being damaged in high winds. The downside to such scenarios is you do sacrifice the luxury of a porch to potter about in, store wet clothes, cook or even sit up in comfort admiring the sound of the rain hammering down and the winds blowing a hoolie all around.

Sure some tents out there can weigh the same as most bivouacs now. But as always there’s pros and cons to all shelters when it comes to them being used in vain.

Personally, I like the fact that bivvies pack down next to nothing, affords me a simple and easy to pitch shelter for the night – often in places I could never position a tent. I enjoy being cooped up within them and lying in bed admiring the night sky, feeling the breeze (and occasionally drizzle) flowing around my face. Of course, if the weather decides to throw all it can at me then my love for these sort of shelters diminishes somewhat! But with some practice you learn to adapt and manage such situations accordingly (dry sacs are a must for keeping gear dry if there’s no room within the bivvy!).

Which leads me to the Vaude Bivi 1P – a shelter I’ve had on test since last November.

It weighs just under a kilo (900-920g on my scales) which includes all the necessary pegs (decent long V aluminium ones) and poles and packs down tiny. Smaller than most bivouacs of this type in truth but there are some trade-offs as a consequence.

I’d describe in words how it all comes together but instead I’ll show you how the Vaude Bivi looks in this short video I put together some time ago:

The fabric isn’t your usual Gore-Tex or eVent which probably accounts for the Vaude Bivi’s excellent price (£90 upwards online) but that’s not to say it doesn’t perform in heavy and prolonged rain. The PU coated polyamide has a hydrostatic head of 7000mm for example. Essentially, it’s just a cheap waterproof nylon that’s breathable and strong.

Now, usually with such materials I’m very wary to their breathability when in actual use. More so given the small confines of a bivouac! But Vaude have cleverly designed some venting as you’ve likely noticed in the above video.

Not only do the poles help keep the shelter off and away from any lofting sleeping bag inside but also maintains airflow while you’re sleeping within creating your own microclimate and air pressure from breathing/moisture/body heat and so on. Does it work?

Yes it does indeed. I was really quite surprised in truth. Apart from the fact I liked how you gain some head room and maneuver inside thanks to the poles lifting and crossing over, it does create a gentle flow of air inside. Of course you can zip the vents shut but there’s no need to really as they’re adequately protected from  any side driven rain.

Vaude Bivi 1P
Good Morning!

Over several trips in all weathers, I can’t honestly say I’ve not encountered any significant condensation issues with the Vaude Bivi either. Despite some peoples misconceptions of using such shelters day after day after day. If there is any moisture within due to you packing it away after a drizzly morning, it rapidly dries out anyway once you’ve pitched it. Saying that, during one balmy wet evening once I zipped myself shut inside, it soon felt like a sauna! There was a fair bit of moisture build up. It was only a few minutes later I realised I hadn’t opened any of the venting options. So, it did get a little muggy at first.

I recall spending New Years Eve up on Kinder Scout with a couple of friends in horrendous wind and rain. I did look at them with envy with their 2 man tent at times. But once inside the bivvy, I didn’t encounter any issues at all.

The gale force winds hammered against their more than respectable tent, often causing it to concave to positions where we all expected the poles to snap! As for me in the bivvy? I slept sound as pound and only felt the gentle nudge of the winds thumping against my legs now and again.

Of course it was a pain in the rear to cook, get out of wet clothes and so on just to get in the bivvy but I coped and came out unscathed. And that’s the thing. You adapt. Your mentality changes when using bivouacs. You take less gear. You do consider taking food along you don’t have to cook. In which case I prefer high calorie snacks or self-heating meals, for example.

But when the weather is good? Well, what can go wrong? It’s fun!

New Years Eve, Vaude Bivi 1P
New Years Eve in the Vaude Bivi 1P up on Kinder Scout in the Peak District National Park

Another thing I particularly like about the Vaude Bivi 1 is it’s main door. A gentle curving entrance along the side of the shelter with a generous storm flap. It makes entering and exiting the bivvy a breeze. You can tie it back during fine weather and sleep out like that. If conditions are not as nice, and you have to shut up shop for the night there still is another way to peep outside and see what’s happening.

Underneath the main arc of the head of the bivouac as you lie inside looking up, there is the option of not only another vent but it also doubles up as a window too!

At first glance it looks a little small to be honest. But you’ll be surprised at the big view you get while lying in your bed and opening the window wide.

Talking of the main door, disappointingly there’s no mesh option to be found. So, if you’re caught out in a midge fest one summer evening – well, tough luck. It’s a bit of a major drawback. But then again, given the options of where you can pitch up for the night with this shelter, you shouldn’t have a problem finding somewhere breezy away from insect hell.

It’s not a problem I’ve encountered that often in truth. But it’s something I’m always mindful of.

Vaude Bivi 1P by Tor
Pitch anywhere you can.

The bivvy is very roomy around the head area and there is ample space to store some quick to hand odds and ends – but the rest of it isn’t particularly so. If you’re considering using this shelter with some of the latest thick air mattresses (a la NeoAir, Exped Synmats etc) then you may want to give it a second thought. If you’re using a lightweight summer down bag then it’s not too much of a problem but you’ll find you’ll rub against the inside of the shelter quite a lot and perhaps constrict the loft too.

It’s worst if you’re using a winter down bag. But if you choose to use a self-inflating mattress then you’ll be fine. Those extra few centimetres gained from using a thinner mat makes all the difference.

PROS

Excellent value for money
Pitch anywhere, lightweight shelter, small footprint
Strong and quick to pitch
Great entry and exit thanks to the long side door
Generous headroom
The venting options are more than adequate – even for UK use
Proven to be extremely tough and durable

CONS

Main door has no mesh panel option. Not good for evenings out with lots of midges about
Not deep enough for use with a thick air mattress and winter down bag.
Claustrophobic shelter compared to a tent
Poles can be tricky to insert in their corresponding brass eyelets

Vaude Bivi 1P view out window
View aint bad from inside, eh?

Overall, I really like the Vaude Bivi 1P despite some quibbles. I like the fact it packs so small for a hooped bivouac, along with the side entry, the venting options and the viewing window when inside. I cannot help but smile at what you get for your money too. Bivouacs tend to cost a fair amount of dosh, but the Vaude Bivi offers such great value for those who wish to take up the joys of pitching wherever they wish and looking up at the stars at night from their bed!

Vaude Bivi 1 person
Fancy taking bivvying up?
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