Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Cuben Hybrid Bivy

Another wonderfully righteous dude who doesn’t get enough air time on my blog is Ben from Goosefeet.

Ben jumped on the scene a few years ago with a product I had been looking for over the years and never liked what the market offered – down booties.  Ben’s, unlike others, was the exact minimum I wanted for backpacking – down + lightweight fabric and nothing more.  I didn’t need a lug sole, heavy duty fabrics, or any other bells and whistles – just something to keep my feet warm.  I was one of his first customers and I still use them regularly.  In fact, he is making a pair for my wife right now.  There is nothing I’d rather have on my feet in the backcountry while sleeping than his down booties which offers more warmth for minimal weight.

Ben reminds me a lot of Brian over at Outdoor Equipment Supplier.  Both take their business very seriously, treat their customers extremely well, are willing to do custom work, and offer top notch products.  Consequently, both are Undergrads or Grad students in Engineering.  I’ve learned to value the opinion of both as each offers tremendous insight and can make nearly anything you dream of come to reality.

Ben has been kind enough to be my sounding board for a few projects and ultimately put together items that no one offered.  For example, a cuben jacket (vest + removable sleeves).  There is nothing I own which offers a better warmth to weight ratio and is as tremendously flexible.  He has also been my go-to guy to repair gear where other cottage vendors had fallen short or didn’t quite do the same kind of competent job he does.

The latest project he took on for me was a cuben hybrid bivy.  A bivy is a sack that goes over a bag or quilt.  The intent is to protect the bag/quilt from moisture, but it also adds a few degrees of warmth and can offer mosquito protection.  It is ideal for tarps and also good for groundless shelters or shelters like the Zpacks Hexamid where the ground material is mosquito netting.  For those people who use bivy’s, they love them.  Most people shy away from them though because they don’t understand them.

A bivy to me part of my sleep system and a direct result of my growing understanding of lightweight backpacking and how to best take care of my gear.  It offers me the most flexibility and greatest protection for my down quilt which I must keep dry if I want to have a successful trip.  The bivy’s I’ve owned in the past have all been made of various silnylon or Pertex products and have been fine, but they were all fairly snug.  At 6’5” and 285 with a 54” chest, I’m not your average fit.

Knowing I’d be making one bigger than average, I didn’t want that to impact weight and I also wanted to make mine more durable than sylnylon.  So, we agreed to make the bottom of waterproof 1.0 cuben with a 6.5” bathtub floor, the head and foot end of breathable waterproof cuben sold by Zpacks, and we used green Pertex Quantum on the top which is wonderfully soft, highly water resistant, and lightweight.  It has a 3/4 zipper which goes over my head so that I can fold down mosquito netting over my face if I wanted to.  All four corners have a tie-out as does the face.  It weighs slightly over 7 oz and is significantly bigger than my other bivy’s for only 1-2 ounces more.  And the best part, and the whole point to the endeavor, it fits me.  I'm confident in saying that the same kind of bivy for an "average-sized" person would likely be in the 5 oz range.

Ben has been, and continues to be, great to work with.  He’s a one-man shop which great capabilities and a real understanding of being good to deal with.  I highly recommend him for any unique projects you have in mind.

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