I guess the story is the same...after so many years of fastpacking, there's some gear I'd really like to have to fill a need. But what does one do when your coveted gear is not available anywhere for the easiest route of simply purchasing it? Well, sometimes you have to suck it up and make it yourself. I finally buckled down, recruited my buddy's wife, and made my first piece of UL gear as it is nowhere to be seen on today's market.
Here's Need 1: Bugs. Last year my daughter and I were bombarded and harassed constantly by marauding blood suckers and rampant back biters all season, especially because of the late snows. The bugs were prevalent well past August, and this year is shaping up to be worse (see prior posts). This is especially bad for my daughter as she has a reaction to mosquito bites, getting a raised welt in the area that itches like crazy and lasts for hours. We can cope OK whilst under locomotion, but the rest stops were prime target time for the attackers, able to zero in on us stationary meat packets. Therefore, my first need arose....protection from bugs (beyond a simple head net) when resting during the day. Need 2: Bugs and critters (while prone). If you've read my prior post on hyperlight packing, you can see the Blizzard Tube that I plan on using this year for duo hiking. A nice toasty retreat for 2, able to sleep head to foot with it being open at both ends, cheap, durable, and an inviting atmosphere for bugs, mice, snakes, and any other mammalia and arthropoda seeking refuge or a quick snack. How to protect the entrance on each end? Need 3: Weather. I've used a bothy bag (for 2) during rest stops before, and it makes for a nice protected retreat for 2 in iffy weather. I wanted something that would provide solo minimal protection from wind, mist and light rain during rest stops to keep body heat up.
Criteria: super light, super simple. Anything more complicated and one gets to the point of just taking a tent. I looked into bug bivys for 1 and 2, but the weight and expense kept leading me back to my 1.5 lb Gossamer Gear Squall Classic tent. Enter the B4....Bivy Buddy/Bug Bothy. Made out of .51 oz cuben fiber/ .7 oz noseeum netting, this simple design comes in at under 2 ozs. Cuben is really expensive, and I could have made this out of much cheaper silnylon, but this year it's all about hyperlight so I'm going all out. We incorporated an elastic draw string at the bottom so it can hug my body while standing, either below or at waist line, and hug the bivy or tube when prone. For rest stops I simply don and enjoy a bug free snack inside my light and airy coccoon, and turn my back to the wind if it's chilly. I am especially looking forward to it's use in August when my daughter and I participate in the Olympic National Park marmot survey and spend 5 days counting furry rodents.
Granted, I haven't field tested this yet but it will get plenty of use over the next 3 months. I am extremely happy with the outcome (thanks to the sewing skill of Glynis!) and have no changes for the next 2 models (I may not incorporate the tab). You know how this sometimes goes, you concoct an idea and have high expectations and many times the result is less than satisfactory. In this case, I was thinking the opposite, cautious that in material form my B4 would lack the functionality I sought. However, trying it in it's various uses (at home), it may prove even more useful than I imagined, and my daughter is all for venturing out into the woods without being a moveable feast. And finally, look at the weight: for solo fastpacking, minimally the 12 oz tube and the 2 oz B4, plus I can add my Gossamer Gear (prototype) bivy bag at 4 ozs. My prior post explains our plans for duo hiking and it's use there. All in all, it's shaping up to be a hyperlight year!
I've had the opportunity to do some field testing of the B4, both on the trail and prone. For those wondering if this is a full length bivy, the answer is no. This product comes to the middle of the thighs, and is meant to be used alone as an active bug bivy when eating, lounging etc on the trail. For sleeping it is meant to be used in conjunction with a Blizzard tube or a minimalist bivy bag for head and critter protection. My daughter and I used it extensively on a 5 day trip to the Olympics this year, mostly in the evening so we could spend time outside the tent either eating or enjoying the waning sun (walking around). The bag easily cinches up around the waist for walking.