Would I recommend this piece of kit? Yes I would!
In this review I will be looking at an item of kit that can be seen as more of a ‘luxury’ item for cadet usage rather than a ‘must have’ item.
That said, it is a great piece of kit and I am thoroughly pleased I took the plunge and bought one!
I am a big believer in using a bivi bag with a sleeping bag when sleeping outside, even under a basha, as you never know when it’s going to rain. Having experienced a weekend exercise back in the 1990’s with a wet sleeping bag I can say it was an experience I vowed never to repeat!
Many people will use various ex issue surplus bivi bags but I decided to opt for a new civilian bag and after a bit of a search I settled on the Snugpak Stratosphere Hooped Bivi Bag.
As the name suggests the main difference between this and a ‘normal’ bivi bag is the hooped part, which essentially turns you bivi bag into a very small tent.
I have found this feature totally invaluable on a number of occasions and have used the open area as a work place for some quick paperwork and have even watched a movie on my iPad while it was raining outside!
Access is via a storm proof zip along the side which can be opened from inside as well, although with the velcro storm flap on the outside closed this can be a bit fiddly.
The bag itself has six eyelets to allow the bag to be pegged down like a tent and to stop it moving around when your inside. All of the seams are tape sealed to keep the weather out.
The poles for the hoops are elasticated and fold up to about 30cm long. They are pushed through nylon sleeves on the outside and secure into metal eyelets to give the hooped section its rigidity.
Inside the hooped section there are two options for closing it up, the first is to just zip it up fully like a tent to ‘seal’ yourself in – ideal if its raining or cold outside. The second option is to close it with a mesh screen, ideal for summer use and to keep insects out as well!
In the top of the hooped section there is also a small mesh pocket, ideal for a torch or even your phone if you're allowed to take one into the field!
The whole thing can be packed into its own stuff sack which measures about 31cm x 14cm and weighs a total of 1.3kg.
Now it is heavier than a bivi bag but it does have more features and will allow you settle down in your own ‘private’ space at night.
I’ve used this during the summer and the winter and have slept in it without a basha over head and with one as well. It’s kept me dry in the rain and kept the snow off me as well (yes I’ve slept out in the snow with it!) and I have had no issues with it at all.
As for downsides, well the biggest is the cost, they retail at around the £100 mark which is expensive, but it is a well made piece of kit. I would also say if you are over six feet tall that you may find it a bit cramped, length wise but at 5’10” tall I’ve had no issues in this regard.
So, at the end of the day would I recommend this piece of kit? Yes I would, however as I said at the start it is more of a nice to have rather than need to have item but if you do take the plunge and invest in one (and I would see this as an investment!) you wouldn’t be disappointed!