I usually wait a minimum time for gear reviews where I’ve had a chance to put equipment through a large sampling of conditions, but in this case I wanted to talk about Borah Gear as there are few reviews out there when one does searches for specific pieces. This company deserves a little more attention because of its excellent customer service, very reasonable prices, ability to do custom work, and quality of products. Here’s a rundown on items I have purchased over the past two years.
Snowyside eVent Bivy
I can’t help myself, I’m still a bivy user and fan under certain circumstances. This year I ordered a modified Snowyside eVent, corresponding with owner John about reducing the length from 96” to 90” and constructing it with 1.45 Cuben on the bottom. At 90” this bivy is roomy enough for me to put my pack(s) inside, use a full length 2.5 inch pad and any of my quilts or bags. My target use was for a throw down shelter (with the 1.45 cuben modification allowing for no ground sheet) for all conditions, including ski mountaineering. I was not able to use this piece of gear in the snow, as I had to postpone plans to ski Mt. Rainier’s Emmons Glacier due to low snow year and lack of back country ski opportunities in general. Witness the fact that I hiked the better part of the Wonderland in 2015 on JUNE 9/10 with August like conditions. I did, however, get to use the bivy on a few trips where it proved very effective. My daughter and I hiked Mt. St. Helens’ Loowit Trail in May, spending one night under open skies and cool temperatures on the Plains of Abraham. The eVent fabric held up very well in challenging condensation conditions, where the fabric was essentially dry on the interior but frosty and wet on the exterior. Compare this to my daughter, who was using a ZPacks Splash bivy (old design with no head and foot panels and a cumbersome netting arrangement). Hers was quite wet, basically soaked from condensation. This one night was enough to prove the efficacy of eVent. I also used the bivy on the Timberline Trail, on the Mt. Adams Round the Mountain, and on Mt. Rainier above 6,000’ with open skies, waking to frost on the exterior but once again dry inside.
I ordered the Snowyside with the longer zipper going down the side. The velcro arrangement for the netting could be considered a PITA, but it is simple enough and once in place protects from bugs and critters. In general I find this to be a minor con point. Also, in my view there’s no other manufacturer that offers this kind of quality construction and materials at such a good price point. OF NOTE: my bivy is the earlier iteration, not the one currently advertised that looks to incorporate improvements. I don’t own a scale but according to John the weight of this particular item is about a pound; also I can tell you that it doesn’t pack up to “the size of a softball” per the newer description. I usually rolled it up and used one of the side pockets on my small Zimmerbuilt pack for carrying, freeing up valuable space inside the main body of the pack. In sum, I consider this bivy bomber: it stays in my ski pack as emergency shelter and will be what I use this coming season for any higher altitude trips, especially on snow.
For fast packing trips where I am camping lower, where I want minimal weight, and where I am looking for minimal size, I picked up the Borah Gear Cuben Bivy. It’s packed size is tiny. It’s light (4.5 oz.). It offers just the right amount of protection to a sleep system. I’ll qualify that I’ve only used this bivy on two nights, when I fast packed Mt. Rainier’s Wonderland Trail (93 miles) in 3 days. I obviously wasn’t spending any time “camping”….I moved for 15 to 17 hours per day and then flopped. Despite a favorable weather forecast, I packed a ZPacks Pocket Tarp just in case (it stayed in my pack). My first night was spent sleeping under the stars, and the second I crashed on a cabin side porch, which afforded me a wood elevated floor and a roof over head. In these conditions this bivy was perfect, adding just a touch of warmth to my sleep system but with a netted head area so my breath escaped outside, but kept the roving rodents out of my warm enclosure. This piece of kit is still roomy enough for a full 2.5 inch pad, and I coupled that with an Enlightened Equipment Enigma 50 degree quilt. I always pack with entire systems in mind for anticipated conditions (plus reserve safety and weather protection), and in this case I also carried a Borah Gear.....
If I didn’t use the jacket to supplement my sleep system, I used it to stuff my pillow. It’s extremely light (5.4 ozs), stuffs incredibly small, and is well constructed. It’s a minimalist piece, with a pullover design, short zipper and not too long with no pockets. Unlike the photo on John’s site, mine came with the zipper extending all the way up the collar. I found the sleeves nice and long, providing ample coverage over my hands. All this for $180, quite the deal. Perhaps the jury is still out on the long term fundamentals of water resistant down, but this jacket is filled with 2.3 ozs of 850. I was able to fit my entire sleep system into a smallish stuff sack: quilt, down jacket, booties, and EE Hoodlum.
Even more minimalist, I pack the down vest when the trip warrants. 3.7 ozs for size L, again with no pockets and the vest has no collar. The minuscule pack size and weight make it a no brainer to bring along on summer trips where I am not packing the down jacket. Not bad for $100.
I am always happy to write reviews for a company that manufactures quality, specialized gear here in the US along with offering excellent customer service. Borah Gear also offers some of the best bargains out there. There won’t be a trip in my immediate future that won’t see one or more of these items in my bag. And yes, I gladly paid full price for everything.