A week ago we had a meet up of the local Facebook Microadventures group. There was a great mix of people along with all sorts of experience. One of the common questions was “What do I need for a night out?”
Heres my system, there are a few alternatives to the kit depending on how much you will be carrying.
If I have room I will try to carry half a lightweight tarp, I think it was from B&Q, This protects the bivi bag from getting too muddy as I hate cleaning kit when I get home. The bivi bag shown here is the British Army issue GoreTex Bivi bag. They can be picked up for around £35 from army surplus stores or ebay. There is a bigger version (which this one is) which gives you a little extra room to get comfortable. Other bivi bags can be found, but for the winter months I like to have a more heavyweight bivi. My summer bivi (Alpkit Hunka XL) packs down to half the size and is great for warmer months.
Next up is the sleep (kip) mat. The one shown here is the Alpkit cloud base, which is a very lightweight inflatable mattress, its perfect for bikepacking trips, where weight and pack size is important. Other mat types are the basic foam mat, this is good for almost all trips out, its a bit thinner, so you may not be quite as comfortable, but it won’t puncture and is practically unbreakable in normal use. Foam inflatable mats are around the same pack size as the foam only, but can be manually inflated to create a thicker and more comfortable bed for the night. These are prone to puncturing, so make sure you keep a repair kit with it, just in case. I normally try to get the mat inside the bivi bag, this stops it slipping away from you in the night. You may not have room to do this (its another reason for the bigger bivi)
Finally your sleeping bag. Firstly no matter what bag you have, if your not insulated from the ground you will get cold. I use a down bag which I bought over 20 years ago, I must have done a few hundred nights in it, so its been well worth the investment. The older type of down bags don’t cope well with wet weather, the down itself gets wet, and takes an age to dry (as well as being very heavy) Modern down bags are better as they contain hydrophobic down, which does a better job at repelling water. Synthetic bags are slightly bulkier to carry but don’t suffer from the same problems as the down bags.
This is a basic sleep system, I normally carry an inflatable pillow to make things a little more comfortable, If I am travelling light you can always put a jacket or jumper into the sleeping bag stuff sack to make a pillow!