So I have added the crazy idea of doing the Welsh Ride Thing (WRT) to my sabbatical. Also I’m planning to wildcamp during the journey sections to add flexibility (not that many campsites to choose from) and reduce cost.
Both the WRT and the Wildcamping will work best if I don’t have to put my my fairly large tent (Vango Banshee 300) which is well suited to comfortable nights on campsites.
So I am looking at a range of possibilities.
- Week long camping (eg at Lindisfarne): Vango Banshee Tent with a Tarp as a large porch
- Nice Campsite (chosen because it has showers): Vango Banshee Tent
- Wildcamping in the rain: Bivvy bag with Tarp covering kit and my head
- Wildcamping when discretion is needed: Bivvy bag. Tarp laid over bike and kit
- Wildcamping when short of time: Bivvy bag for me
It looks like I might wildcamp for 20 nights during the sabbatical. It would also open up options at other times such as I could have wildcamped on my way to Synod last month instead of starting so early in the morning (well if I hadn’t had meetings the evening before). That does mean I could save maybe £200 in campsite fees (not quite sure of the fees for a cyclist with a single tent).
As I looked at Bivvy bags one that is cheap and very popular is the Hunka, the XL version in particular seems a good option.
But (and it is a big but) the Hunka has a simple draw string at the top. That means your head is always exposed. Not a problem with rain as I’d always have a tarp to provide protection (and keeping your head out helps reduce condensation in the Bivvy bag). However, during the months of my sabbatical when camping in the UK midges are going to potentially be a big problem. I have horrible memories of them from when I walked the West Highland Way some 30 years ago.
So I asked for help on the BearBones Bikepacking Forum and have spent ages looking at the suggestions and reviews. This is what I have found so far.
Midge Protection. Seems that “The Stopper” is going to be essential when stopped and not sleeping. I could potentially sleep wearing one using a Hunka Bivvy but it does not appear a very comfortable or attractive option.
So I have been looking at other options, specifically Bivvy bags with mesh protection from midges. My preference is for a Bivvy bag that my sleeping mat (Exped UL 7 MW on order) can fit in (so it does not get dirty or punctured so I can also use it inside my tent afterwards) along with my quilt (Sestrals Quilt on order) and which will allow me to sleep on my side (cos I hate sleeping on my back).
The cheapest is the Highlander Hawk available for about £50. Not a lot of information available about it. In particular regarding how breathable the material is (critical to reducing condensation and being able to sleep with it fully closed in heavy rain). Not yet sure how much space there is in it. It does not look like it will be possible to fully enclose it so it will need a tarp when it rains.
Another option is the RAB Ascent for about £150. I like the look of how you can hold it open with the mesh protection but it looks pretty claustrophobic if you had to close the zip due to rain. The reviews are pretty positive, however, it looks like if I can sleep in it with my mat it will be tight and I might not be able to sleep on my side.
I could go slightly larger with a Terra Nova Jupiter or RAB Ridge Raider. Both get excellent reviews, but are a fair bit heavier (plus more expensive) and almost like carrying an extra tent.
Then there are a couple of nice options that just don’t seem to be in stock anywhere. That includes the RAB Sierra and the Outdoor Research Helium or Alpine.
I’m told there might be new possibilities in the pipeline that might also be made in the UK.
Meanwhile the most promising seems to be an American product. The Borah Gear Snowyside eVent Bivy. This is larger than the RAB Ascent has more mesh than the RAB Sierra and has at least one excellent review. Generally Event fabric seems to be the highest quality combination of waterproof and breathable. With the side zip option it looks like a great option.
No decision yet. More thinking to do.