This past summer was an opportunity to try new types of gear and explore different sleeping arrangements. I purchased The Outdoor Research Helium Bivy to cut weight on my paddleboard expeditions.
Pictured here is my sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow, and bivy all ready to go. Total weight: 6.68 lbs. If I took my lighter sleeping bag it would be 4.1 lbs.
The advantage of the stand-up paddleboard is you have a giant inflatable sleeping pad to use as your base. It’s easy to maneuver into an area for safe sleeping depending on water levels and weather.
Currently, I’m paddling The Badfisher by Badfish SUP; 11’ 6” L and 36” W, it provides a wide berth for my bivy. The fins are not removable, if you’re on soft ground they don’t get damaged. You can lay a log/rock under the board tail end to distribute the weight should you be on really hard ground. My paddle served as a pole for the tarp set up over my board to avoid the bivy getting wet. By
itself, the bivy is waterproof and would suffice to sleep in just as it is without added protection. I preferred to have some shelter from wind and rain while getting in and out.
First night lesson; don’t have too much of an angle to your paddleboard or you end up at the bottom of your sleeping bag/bivy/board.
Partway through the night, put my clothing bag at the foot of my bivy to bolster me up higher. The temperature overnight was around 10C but I was hot in the bivy. I went to bed with polar fleece pants on and my down jacket/sweater layered on top along with a toque. I could sleep with my arms out of the bag, my upper body was perfect however my legs overheated. The beauty of a bivy is it takes very little time to warm up, the air space is so small. Lesson learned, the next night was cooler temperatures and I slept with just leggings. I was much more comfortable. There is a small hoop frame that keeps the cloth for the most part off your face. If you’re claustrophobic it will be an uncomfortable sleep. It is tight. I’m 5’ 5” 135 lbs with lots of room to turn. Since I chose to put my NeoAir Thermarest in my bivy for extra support and as an adjustable sleeping pad it does make it tighter in there. I couldn’t zip it up completely the first night it felt too close. The next night I was far less worried and had a lot better sleep with it zipped closed.
• Ultralight weight
• Fast, easy set up without the tarp, simply climb in on or off your SUP
• Great for solo expeditions or if you don’t like to share tents
• Dries quickly
• Screen is nice to have airflow
• Warms your body up quickly (ideal for survival situations)
• Tight space
• Screen isn’t stiff enough to stay completely off your face
• Getting dressed is interesting if you’re with a group you don’t want to strip in front
of…but are they really your paddling partners then??
Next year I have some big paddle adventures ahead of me and this system will be an imperative
part of it. I have a feeling I will be tired enough that I won’t care where I sleep and the amount
of energy I have for setting up and tearing down camp will match just climbing into a bivy.
Paddle Canada Advanced Flatwater SUP Instructor