Review. Wild camping with a Rab Ridge Raider Bivi
What is a bivi?
A bivi, bivy, bivvy, bivouac, bivybag – they are all the same thing – is a waterproof cover for your sleeping bag. To sleep in a one man bivi is to go wild camping without a tent.
Summary of main features:
- Bug net
- Single hoop – creates head and storage space
- Double stitched and taped seems
- Can be pegged out
- Luminous guy lines and zip pulls
- Tunnel design. Enter by wriggling in through the door at the head.
What are the advantages of a bivy over a tent?
- Speed of set up
- Small pack size
So what do I like about Rab Ridge Raider Bivi?
It is a one person bivi and it’s great for wild camping. I have been using one for over a year and love camping next to waterfalls, in forests and on mountain ledges. I even had fun sleeping in it in the garden during the coronavirus lockdown. My partner, Neil, gave me this bivi as a present and bought one for himself too. Thanks Neil 🙂
Spacious – for a bivi
For a bivi it’s very spacious as it has one single hoop around the head area, keeping the fabric away from your face. Unlike most other bivi’s, you can put your boots, wash kit, map, waterproofs, camera and a pillow inside the head area. While lying on your front there is even room to eat (but not cook), read a book and plan for the day ahead. Tall people will not struggle fitting into this bivibag as it’s 2.5 meters long. Once zipped up inside, it does feel very warm and cosy, more like a very tiny tent than a traditional bivy.
It has a mesh net to keep out bugs so on a warm, dry, midge filled night you can leave the door unzipped and enjoy fresh air while keeping the bugs out.
I have found the Rab Ridge Raider bivi to be very breathable with little or no condensation inside. There was one exception to this. While in France around Easter time last year, I was bivvying amongst long grass near a river during a cold, damp night. In the morning condensation had formed on the inside of the bivi making my sleeping bag slightly damp on the outside. This is the only time that this has happened. Most bivi bags suffer from condensation but this one is much better than most.
As a comparison; a few years ago I bought a really cheap bivibag as I wanted to see what sleeping in a bivi was like. Within four hours I had to get out as there was so much condensation inside that my sleeping bag was wet and cold. That bivi had no breathability at all, I might as well have just put my sleeping bag in a large plastic bin liner.
Quick to set up and waterproof
The Rab Ridge Raider bivi is very quick to set up and has so far been totally waterproof. It weighs about a kilo and packs down to 6 by 12 inches. You can buy bivis, which are smaller and lighter than this one, but I think the advantages it provides are worth the increase in size and weight.
As the bivi is waterproof it doesn’t need a tarp over the top of it, but if you need to get in or out of it while it is raining, having a tarp is really helpful. The tarp will also keep the rest of your gear dry too. You will see from the pictures here, that most of the time, we use a tarp.
Being green and low to the ground, this bivi is ideal for solo wild camping, where being discrete is often necessary. It gives you the freedom to hike, paddle, climb, cycle as far as you want in a day, find a spot to set up a quick camp for the night and continue your journey the following morning.
If you don’t use a tarp, you can be tucked up for the night within minutes, on almost any flat surface that’s not much bigger than a sleeping bag, and be invisible if you choose your spot thoughtfully.
This bivy will keep you dry and surprisingly warm. It traps air inside that your body heats up and so does provide thermal insulation when zipped up. This is very noticable on a cold night when you undo the zip and cold air pours in. You still need a good quality sleeping bag and sleeping mat, which are appropriate for the conditions though, or you’ll still get cold.
Luminous guy lines and zip pulls
In daylight the guy lines, if you decide to use them, are almost invisible, but at night they are luminous and really catch the light of a torch, which is useful when returning after a pee in the middle of the night! But if you really need to be stealthy, you might want to change them for non luminous ones.
The Rab Ridge Raider bivi can be pegged out, so if you tend to wriggle around like I do, this will keep you in one place and on your sleeping mat. This is a free standing design though and you don’t need to peg it out, so it can be used on hard flat surfaces such as rock ledges if needed.
Tip. When camping on a hard surface, put something heavy (I use my camera bag) right at the top end of the bivi, next to the zips, and the hoop will be supported and stay vertical without the use of any pegs or guy lines. Alternatively, find a large stone or rock to tie one guy line to and that will also keep the hoop in place.
What do I not like about it?
At 1 kilo it’s a little heavier than most bivis
It’s too dark inside
Some of you reading this, might like a bivy that is dark inside as it makes having a lie-in easy. But personally, I like to wake up with the early morning light, especially if it’s a clear sky. Being a photographer, this can be a great time of day to get pictures and I just enjoy being up early when out in the wild. But when sleeping in this bivy I have to set an alarm if I want to get up early!
The zips occasionally snag
Crawling in through the head end.
Actually I’m totally happy with this now, but there are bivi bags which unzip along the length, which some of you may prefer.
Is sleeping in a bivi for everyone?
Well sleeping in a bivi is a very different experience to sleeping in a tent. If you like to spread out while camping and have room to store all your kit with you, with plenty of space to get changed inside your sleeping area, then a bivi might not be for you.
Having said that, the first few times I used my Rab Ridge Raider bivi, I hated it. It was awkward to get into; I felt like a caterpillar wriggling into a dark coffin. I couldn’t sleep in it and just lay awake all night wishing I was in a tent. I got tangled up trying to get into my sleeping bag and had difficulty changing my clothes and keeping my things dry and tidy. It just took time to learn the art of stealthy camping – and I’m still learning 🙂
But after a few nights, I got the hang of how to arrange myself and my things inside and started to enjoy it. I found that if you kneel at the head end, put your hands inside your boots to keep your hands out of any mud or dirt, you can crawl backwards into the bivi really easily. I think what I’m trying to say here is that if you haven’t tried bivvying before, the experience and freedom if gives you is worth persevering with, even if it doesn’t feel right at first.
Where to buy
To me the main advantage with using a bivi rather than a tent is the sense of closeness to the environment and being able to hide amongst long grass or tuck into a ledge on the top of a mountain, where there simply wouldn’t be room to set up a tent. This makes bivvying a wild and fun experience. It gives you freedom to explore wilder locations with a very minimalist and stealthy sleeping system.
The Rab Ridge Raider bivi is expensive but well made, breathable, spacious and will shelter you from the elements, for me, it has proved to be a great choice of bivi. If you want a bivi for multi day, wild-camping trips in less than perfect weather conditions, to go camping in mountains, or for solo expeditions by bike, foot or kayak in more remote locations, this bivi is really worth considering.
For contacts and links to help you plan and organise your next camping trip, do check out the Resources pages
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About the Author
Annette Price. I am a wild places and adventure sports photographer, which means that I am passionate about getting outdoors, camping, caving, getting wet and muddy and photographing the landscapes and people that I find. Water is a big attraction for me and I love being in, on and under it and am a serial kayak paddler. I hope you enjoy the articles, kit reviews and photography on this website and that they help you to get outdoors exploring new places and activities.