You may be tempted to bivvy out by virtue of the romance of sleeping out under the stars, or by a more clinical need to pare weight to the bare minimum. Whatever your inspiration, or if you’re just a little bit curious as to wether this is for you, then you’ll benefit from reading the Book of the Bivvy before setting out.
In light of all the magazine articles and the dearth of websites offering their tuppence worth on the subject and the outdoors in general, it’s a difficult niche for any book to break into. However, this little Book of the Bivvy is one of the few recent books I reckon will stand the test of time and an essential of the outdoor bookshelf. Now in it’s second edition, the first was published in 2001, and updated in 2007.
Ronald Turbull sets out his case for ditching the tent and taking up the bivvy in a logical and persuasive manner. Starting by explaining what it involves, the basic kit and so on; interspersed with stories and anecdotes of what it’s really like to be out on the hill in a body bag, ahem, bivvy bag. He acheives this without the preachy manner of many modern books, harking back to a bygone age where books showed some character, not shying away from making his opinion abundantly clear, if not bluntly in some cases to the reader.
No punches are pulled, and you know by the end of the book that if you go bivvying you’ll probably have a partially miserable time of it. Simply put he answers the question of what happens if it rains with the blunt, honest and plainly obvious fact that you’ll get wet. There’s no embellishing of the experience, which is as it should be. Bivvying isn’t an activity that can be compared to staying in a 5 star hotel, or even in a Youth Hostel for that matter. If you set out thinking you’ll be anywhere near comfortable the first time, then you’ll be sorely disappointed and in all likelihood sell your shiny new bivvy bag on eBay. You’ll set off with a sense of trepidation, and healthy respect for bivvying, which is as it should be.
If that was all Turnbull provide in the book, then you wouldn’t imagine it to be particularly worthwhile. Afterall, we have enough friends, family and colleagues who question our sanity in sleeping on a mountain in the wet and the cold on a dark December Friday without buying a book to pile more negativity onto us. To balance this healthy dose of realism, Turnbull adds the stories of the routes and bivvies he’s undertaken over the years in order to inspire the reader that despite the potential misery, it’s all worth it with a sunset seen from whatever summit you choose.
This is a book for those who have wild camped and fancy a bivvy or two as opposed to the absolute beginner. It’s essential for any experienced wild camper to try out a bivvy at least once, just to see what they’re missing. I’ll readily admit to being a fair weather bivvier, with the tent or hooped bivvy tent coming out for anything worse (which for me is just camping in a tiny tent, you’re not sleeping outside and this just isn’t bivvying for me). Of course, you can then whip out the tarp if there’s just a shower promised, but that just complicates things and if you’re going to get complicated you may as well bring a tent.
Overall this is the only book available about bivvying, and well worth reading. It’s a tad expensive at a tenner for 140 pages, but still cheaper than a decent guidebook and worth every penny both for the wealth of advice and as it’s a generally good bedtime read to boot. You may get it for nearer seven pounds if you shop around, which is a bargain.