Lets get something out the way first. Sleeping in a bivi does require a special type of person. Either you are very hardy and able to cope with claustrophobia. Or someone who is foolhardy enough to cope with rolling around in the dark while accidentally trapped inside their bivi because they cannot find the zip in the dark. Here is our review and field test of the Rab Ridge Raider Bivi.
The bivi experience is dark, cramped and probably a bit damp so why do I use them?
Sleeping out on top of a hill with nothing but stars above you is something you simply don’t get inside a tent. You are connected to the land in a greater way because you are outside as opposed to confined within a tent. I guess that may only make sense to people who have slept in a bivi.
The Rab Ridge Raider
The Rab Ridge Raider Bivi is a waterproof groundsheet and breathable eVent upper. As well as having a layer of midge netting to keep bugs out and a single hooped pole to keep the whole thing off your face when sleeping.
Quality and packsize are two of the reasons I keep coming back to this bivi over others time and again.
The performance of the fabrics is exceptional. The eVent breaths as it should and I seldom have any condensation on the inside of the upper. For instance due to the use on a non breathable groundsheet there is sometimes condensation that can build up there. It’s something I have sadly noticed many times. It sounds pretty bad but this is a side effect of using non breathable fabrics for the groundsheet but the advantage is that its less likely to tear and break because its stronger than the eVent. To get around this issue try to air your sleeping bag and bivi inside out any chance you get.
I also have an issue with its internal dimensions as you can only get a Thermarest Size Regular in there. If you try to use a Large size it puts the whole feet section under tension. Consequently your feet are bent when you are sleeping. When you are spending two weeks solid in one this certainly gets on your nerves.
The upper has never let the water in and because of the midge layer you can sleep bug free without having to close the whole thing. On this subject the eVent is labeled as an exchange fabric. This is supposed to mean it will let enough gases pass through to allow the user to zip the whole thing up and not asphyxiate. Definite bonus there.
I am no stranger to using a bivi and having been in many other models where rolling over half asleep have accidently closed off the air hole. Only to suddenly wake up hyper ventilating. This has never happened in the Rab Ridge Raider. No matter what fabric manufactures claim I would always leave a fair size gap in the zip open. The Rab Ridge Raider has a great big storm flap over the zip so you can safely leave a large opening in the zip without water getting in. Fresh air is great to have!
The whole piece packs down to a tiny size. Adding to the versatility as you can just stuff it into your pack and off you go!
If you are after more protection then you could add a tarp as well. This provides you more space to move around under cover but the Ridge Raider is more than waterproof enough on its own. However if it’s already raining you have to get into it first before you are protected. Also not having a place to store your kit beside you out of the rain is an issue with all bivis when used without a tarp over your head.
The Rab Ridge Raider has four tent peg holes, two on each end. You can keep it place in high winds and this also prevents the material shifting around too much when rolling around at night. This is especially useful if you are a side sleeper.
Life inside the Rab Ridge Raider is pretty cramped but this is something you have to get used to. There are 4 zips so you can fine tune the amount of air circulation. Two zips control the bug net and two for the outer. It’s a great decision that Rab has made these glow in the dark which is fantastic as in some bivis you can literally be trapped inside until you figure out where the zips are.
Overall its a great bit of kit and has stood up to the test of time with only one seam starting to come away on the inside which can be easily repaired. One very noteworthy point is that at least two pegs should be used to create some tension at the head end to keep the midge net taught and therefore against your face. So pack at least two tent pegs!