Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Borah Gear – Side Zip Bivy: Initial Impressions

I was at home one lunchtime with Lolli when the package arrived. It spelled good things the moment I saw the stupidly small (and seemingly empty) box land on the door mat. John from Borah Gear had emailed a week earlier to confirm it had been dispatched and I was pleased it had taken less than the 10 days John had estimated to arrive.
I’ve been on the look out for a ultralight bivy for some time but the expense of the most popular options coupled with the lack of a real need for one held off the purchase – until now.
Since Lolli’s arrival I’ve been thinking a lot about how my shelter needs will need to change, which, has seen me move over to an MLD Trailstar. I knew I’d need some sort of inner/bivy as a result but considering how I envisage using it I couldn’t decide which. The Oookstar from Oookworks would be ideal but it was a bit more of an investment than I wanted to commit initially and the inner is then also specific to the Trailstar. I needed more flexibility and went with the Bivy. I got hold of some decent fabric to make two of my own (one is for Paul but don’t tell him) but then lost motivation and decided that having one would probably how I would design and make my own.
I came across Borah Gear whilst perusing the interweb one night and was immediately drawn in. This was clearly a cottage manufacturer and the site itself was set up as a blog as opposed to a full custom website. I searched a bit more and found that the blog’s owner was John West who hung about the BPL forums quite a bit. From the off I had read that John was making very small numbers of his bivies and so I wasn’t even certain that I could get my hands on one even if I wanted to.
There wasn’t much around in terms of reviews of John’s products but on finding a few images and considering the prices I felt compelled to give him a try. This was particularly true when I found out that he’ll make you a bivy to spec - “sign me up”…..
John sells a small range of very reasonably priced products but primarily these consist of ultralight bivy bags and sil-nylon tarps. The range has recently been updated to include a cuben bivy  for the ultra-light aficionados' out there, specifically those with big pockets.
I’m a bit less excited about cuben (for the time being) and primarily I wanted a custom bivy for the right price and so opted for a Side Zip Bivy, in M50, wide to accommodate a regular Neoair and with a hood modification. The standard side zip comes with a full net hood and a zip that goes across the face and then down to around the abdomen area (depending on your size). I wanted something with less netting for UK use and better suited to horizontal rain/spray.
I emailed John with my request and he quickly provided an image of a previous job for me to compare. The whole process was hassle-free and the modifications cost me a teenie weenie $5!
Two weeks later my bivy was ready to shipped and here she is:
Borah gear side zipThe base is silnylon and the top is M50 fabric. You can opt for M90 or 1.1DWR if you wish and the prices drop whilst the weight increases accordingly. The all up weight (including the stuff sack) is 171g. With a Trailstar this will bring the weight carried for my shelter (not including walking poles) in at around 700g – peg choice pending.
Borah gear zip 2My first impressions of the bag are good. Its a simple design that is well made and offers ample room for a regular Neoair with a –6 sleeping bag. Having climbed in with the Neoair and my sleeping bag there is almost too much fabric and if I was being anal I’d probably remove some.
Borah gear zipThe seams aren’t sealed but I think the M50  fabric would give far before I got to the stage of worrying about the seams!
Borah gear bivy tie-out
There is a small pull-out sewn into the mesh to allow the hood to be pulled away from the face and the zip is a high quality YKK. This is sewn in perfectly to give a smooth curve as not to over-stress teeth. All in all its nicely and simply done and will be perfect in theory for what I need.
Borah gear bivy unzipped I plan on doing a thorough review once I’ve had chance to use it but all accounts from I what I’m seeing out of the box, this should be an excellent alternative to the more obvious options.
Watch this space….