Gear Review: Big Agnes Three Wire Bivy Sack

This was my second test of the Big Agnes Three Wire Bivy Sack, my first time ever sleeping in it during a blizzard. Friday night called for somewhere between 18-24 inches of snowfall and blizzard conditions. I decided it would be the ultimate test of this emergency shelter as well as some other cold weather gear I wanted to try close to home before venturing out into the mountains. I made the long trek into the back yard with the Big Agnes Three Wire Bivy Sack, a 8×10 blue tarp, my LL Bean Mount Washington -20 degree sleeping bag, and my Therm-a-rest All season sleeping pad. It was snowing about 1-2 in an hour, but I got the shelter setup very quickly and settled down for the night. I woke just a few times, and used my feet to kick the roof of the shelter lightly to remove any snow that had piled up. Around 6, after what I must admit was some really good quality sleep, the sun started coming up so I convinced myself it was time to head back in. A solid 24 inches of snow fell, but I wasn’t cold at all. Even better, there was not any condensation on me, my sleeping bag, or the bivy. Opening the door I came to find that although I had setup on flat ground, I was now encased in the new snowfall, which insulated me quite well! The bivy is very easy to setup once you have the hang of it, and at 1.2 pounds, it is very light weight. I can personally attest to it being Blizzard Proof! I only have some shoddy cell phone pics but here they are:


Big Agnes Three Wire Bivy Sack

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Big Agnes Three Wire Bivy Sack 1 person, light weight solo shelter.

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After!

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Gear Review: Esbit Alcohol Burner / GSI Halulite Minimalist Cookset / Evernew Titanium Cross Stand

I’ve been wanting to try out an alcohol stove for a while, and finally decided to take the plunge. Alcohol burning stoves are one of the simplest and most popular options for cooking in the great outdoors. A simple cup shape design allows unpressurized alcohol to be burned providing an efficient source of heat. There are multiple fuel sources for an alcohol stove, the most common being methanol, like HEET, or isopropyl alcohol. Alcohol stoves are regarded as one of the most nature-friendly options for cooking in the wilderness.

For most trips my Jetboil Flash is perfect. It wasn’t until I attended a presentation by adventurer Andrew Skurka that I started wanting to try something different. It’s not an ultralight setup in my opinion, total weight is close to my Jetboil, but the size should be a bit less.  One benefit is that it is much less prone to failure, as there aren’t any moving parts that could lead to failure. Skurka uses a much simpler system, the cat food can stove, which is very wieght friendly. When I first started with the idea of a 2nd stove, I thought it would come in much lighter, but in truth, the Jetboil wins there.

This is where I am at so far, check back soon for an updated on how it packs down, and how it performs in the field. Those seeking a true ultra light-weight setup might consider: http://www.evernewamerica.com/ECA268.htm

There are some great points about alcohol stoves here:

http://www.thesodacanstove.com/alcohol-stove/myths.html

http://andrewskurka.com/how-to/how-to-make-a-fancy-feast-alcohol-stove/

The Burner:

Esbit Alcohol Burner

I chose this model because it was the only one I found that allows you to store the fuel inside the burner if you wish. The screw top lid adds very little weight, and the included simmer ring/snuffer cap with fold away handle is a nice touch. I’ve been able to light the stove with a spark from a firesteel in indoor testing. Evernew does make a titanium version, for those seriously counting ounces.

The Cooking Vessel:

 GSI Halulite Minimalist Cookset

I wanted a metal mug with a lid that I could boil water in, and also drink from, and hopefully, store most of my stove setup inside of. The GSI Halulite Minimalist Cookset does this well, and it’s unique 0.6 L pot and lid boil water for pouch meals before transforming into an insulated mug by simply inverting the lid and slipping the pot into its included sleeve. Also included are the Silicone Gripper and a spork.

The Fuel:
I bought a 32oz jug of denatured alcohol/marine stove fuel for less than $5.00. That should last a good long while. I can store 2.5 ounces in the burner itself, but I plan to carry 8oz in a squeeze type bottle.

The Stand:

I bought the burner as part of a larger kit that came with two pots and a stand, but for a true ultra lightwieght setup I leave that stuff at home and use the Evernew Titanium Cross Stand to support the GSI mug atop the burner. I haven’t yet decided if I will add something to put the burner on, in winter it may prove necessary, but for now, the closest rock or stump will do. The stand is half an ounce.

The Windscreen:
I also purchased a windscreen from Ultralight Designs.
Features:
•Edges are rolled for added strength and safety
•Made from a soft temper aluminum sheet so it can be rolled or folded many times
•Roll it around your fuel bottle for easy storage.

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The Summary:

Weight 19.5oz

Evernew Titanium Cross Stand:         0.5 oz
Esbit Alcohol Burner:                           3.2 oz
GSI Halulite Minimalist Cookset       6.3 oz
8oz of Denatured Alcohol + bottle     9.0 oz (est)
Ultralight Designs Med Windscreen  0.5oz

http://goo.gl/BiUpK