I am smitten with a...well, not a dream really, or even a vision. But I have this odd desire, that whenever I see a storm moving over the distant mountains, I want to be bivvied up in a shelter on that mountain, watching it all happen. Not in a tent where I cannot see anything happen.
So there it is. And that may be part of the reason that I find a tent kinda' isolating from the outdoors that I am working so hard to bikepack in. I have been going back and forth in my mind on how to come to the best balance of shelter for bikepacking trips. The UL one man tent I have from REI is really very good and it would take several hundred dollars to improve on it in a full shelter and, even then it would be a minimal improvement in weight and pack-a-bility.
So back to the thought of a tarp shelter like the one in the pic and a lightweight ground cloth. The appeal of a more open shelter, yet still having reasonable cover, and gaining a smaller and lighter load in the seatbag makes me go "hmmmm". I really want to like it. One bad part about tarps is lack of bug and creepy crawly protection. And, once you get into a tarp and bug screen combo, you might as well just go with a tent cuz you are really only saving tent pole weight and gaining a bit of openness.
Along with that, I am thinking I may be compatible with a bivvy sack like this one at REI. The bivvy can be a real claustrophobic experience for some. It basically is a fabric shell that looks like a soft version of a sarcophagus. This one has a mesh netting over the face area and is pretty waterproof everywhere else. I was not sure how I would like the feeling, so I went down to REI and laid in one for a bit. Not too bad, actually, and even the mesh against the side of my face did not bother me. I think I could like it. The down side is that they can gather condensation, especially if you breathe inside the bivvy. The mesh of this one helps there and it has side zips to vent it. I figure that in the desert and mountain areas I typically ride in, I have little humidity to deal with, so condensation may be tolerable. I also use synthetic bags.
If it all works out like I think it might, I would have a rain tight shelter combo with tarp and bivvy that would be reasonably wind fast, bug proof, water resistant, and right at 2 lbs total weight, less a ground tarp and cording/stakes for about $200.00 or so. I also could go with just the tarp in less buggy trips and warm climes, and just the bivvy if I really wanted to travel fast and easy.
My UL , 1 pound bag is good down to the 50s temp-wise. That is fine for summer in So Cal. But spring, fall, winter, and elevation can bring that waaaay down into the chilly zone for my wimpy bag. The tarp makes that worse if the wind is up, so I hear that a bivvy like this is good for another 10 degrees or so of warmth. If I add a liner like the Thermal Reactor one I have (or steal a Snuggie from the family couch), I can go even colder and wearing clothing with that may get me into the 30s. Maybe. Any colder than that and I don't wanna' be there (although stuff happens).
So, now that I know I will not freak out in the bivvy sack and slip into madness with the wrapped up feeling it provides, I feel like I may actually have a good plan for the future. I can always bring the tent if I am expecting truly wild weather or want a lot of privacy.
Who knows. Maybe I will finally get that odd desire of mine to come true. There is a storm a brewin' and the mountains beckon. Time to cocoon up.