The SOL Emergency Bivvy bag is pretty much a required part of any survival or camping kit. These little things take up such little space in your pack or car that there really is no excuse to not have one with you. I actually carry one with me in my EDC bag (my ‘murse’) every day. Unlike those generic space blankets, these things actually work. Made of heat-reflective polyethylene, they can reflect 90% of your body heat back to you. Thanks to its obnoxious orange colour, you could also use it as a distress signal.
I recently tried it out during my ‘Winter Stranded in a Car for 24hrs’ exercise (the post right below this one on the right) and I can tell you first hand that it really made a difference and helped save my bacon. Now SOL makes several versions of this bag ranging from very thin (like the one I have) to rather chunky for some serious cold weather survival. Most people aren’t likely to find themselves sleeping near the summit of Mount Everest, so the lower level ones are probably sufficient for most people’s needs. In my case, I needed a sleeping bag also because the temps just got too cold and dropped below the limits of the bag. At minus 11 Celsius, the entry level bag (for $15) just wasn’t cutting it. In hindsight, I would have fared better with the $33 one, which can handle much colder temperatures (and which is now on my shopping list).
The ‘Emergency’ bag I tried was very thin and flimsy and the seams are pretty weak so you will have to take your shoes or boots off before trying to slide into it (keep the rest of your clothes on though). The bags also rip easily so a lot of caution is required when getting into the bag and while inside. Once you blow a seam or rip a hole in the bag, it’s not going to be able to reflect your heat anymore. You could always use some trusty duct tape to patch it up but that’s assuming you have some with you. It’s also important to note that these are to help keep you warm by retaining your body heat. They are not for warming up once you get cold. So the key with these things is to slide into them before you get cold…not afterward.
If you usually camp with another person, you can actually fit two of these bags into the pouch that they come with. Although, packing these bags up again isn’t easy, so getting two bags back into the pouch will be difficult and you may find that you will have to pack them separately. That’s ok though because they are really only designed to be used in emergencies…not every night.
These little bags are certainly worth more than they cost and are ideal for an emergency car kit (especially in the winter), hikers, campers and minimalist campers (combine this with a tarp, a ground sheet and a nice fire and you may have a winning formula).