Wednesday, 6 November 2013

SOL bivvy bag

Winter is coming. How do we know?
Its November. Pretty simple. 

Getting colder, getting grimmer out on the tops. 
If you're anything like me, you begrudge having to wear longs when running, even when the weather closes in. To be honest, I don't even like carrying a pair of waterproof trousers on most escapades in the hills, mainly because they are heavy and I KNOW that they aren't going to get used. 

However. What if it all goes pearshaped. What if it all goes belly up? 
Imagine being out there with a mate, or all alone, in proper rubbish weather in shorts and a waterproof top, a good few miles of dodgy terrain between where you are and anything remotely like "safety" and you go over on your ankle. 

Not an "ouch, that feels nasty", or an "I'll run it off". 
I'm talking about a full on snappingly horrendous dislocation. 
What then? 
I'm not worrying for the moment about getting off the hill. That is another issue. 
Lets assume for a moment that Mountain Rescue has been called, or that it will be called- at some point when you don't actually return home.
What I'm worrying about is surviving long enough to be rescued by said volunteers. If you're anything like me, you  tend to rely on output of body heat to keep warm, and having to stop soon chills you off.

Being out in the cold, the wet, the hypothermia inducing mingingness of the mountains and moors for an unspecified period of time (we might be talking hours and hours, probably in the dark) really isn't fun. Wearing just pertex, or eVent, or a Goretex top just isn't going to cut it in terms of keeping you non-hypothermic. 

So what to do? 
Old school heavy plastic survival bags were never particularly good. The main thing about them was that if you had ever attempted to stay overnight in one of them, you would do your damndest never to experience the misery again. So having one in your bag wasn't any more of a comfort than not having one. 

Space blankets were pretty good at keeping heat in, but tended to be very fragile, and if you ever sat on a hill trying to stop one being blown away, you'll know they are a nightmare when ripped. 

Blizzard bags were a fantastic addition to the family of survival bag-esque things. 
A double skinned, baffled bag with elastic round each panel to make it compress. Brilliant. But heavy. Especially for the weight, and space conscious fellrunner. 
It would fit in a big rucksack, but I find that if I have one of those, then I'd have a Bothy Bag instead. 

So the options used to go like this - 
  • Survival bag - too big, heavy, and actually nothing more than a plastic bag
  • Space Blanket - smaller, lighter and insulative, but pretty fragile, and not the best thing to have when its flapping around you in a gale (but better than nothing)
  • Blizzard bag - blimmin brilliant, but a but heavy and bulky for runners. 
No wonder we never really carried stuff like that. 
Enter the SOL bag. 
I've had one for a couple of years now. Think of it as a heavier duty space blanket, which is a bag, and can be re-stowed if you use it and don't want to buy another one. However, at about £12 each, they are a good buy. (It does depend on where you get one from)
It is ridiculously light and fits in a 2 litre bumbag with lots of space to spare for the normal goods and chattles that you take on a run. The SOL bag is a constant in any bag that I take with me on the hill, no matter the length of the run. A good insurance policy, should I need to protect myself from the elements in a worse case scenario. 

If you run, and you like to travel light in the hills, have a think about what might happen, worst case. Would you be ok? Would twelve quid and a few grams save you? 
If you're going to buy one item to enhance your kit this year, get one of these.  


  1. You can also get bags made out of the same material as a Space Blanket. They are heavier than a Space Blanket but obviously a better option if you can't move easily. I carry one of these around in the bottom of my rucksack through winter & spring.

  2. Good shout, you can indeed. Have to say that I prefer the sol, simply because its not really any heavier, but it is significantly more robust. They do, however, do much the same thing.