Comfort requirements increase with the duration of an excursion, which translates to increased bulk, weight or expenditure. Bivouac equipment has three main functions, shelter from the elements, protection from ground heat conduction and insulation from ambient temperature. Protection from bugs may also be a concern. The kit is generally minimalist in nature and suitable for mobile outdoor activities in temperatures above 32 F/00 C.
The Plash Palatka is a Russian rain cape with lightweight shelter capability. It is constructed from waxed cotton with four corner grommets. Compared to western nylon ponchos, the Plash has a slightly smaller shelter footprint but is much tougher, quieter and comfortable. Bivouac configurations are diamond shelter, tarp tent and bedroll. A blanket cape can be worn under the Plash for added warmth. This military design has a slot on the right in order to carry a rifle, though the Plash is typically worn unbuttoned.
The hood is formed by pulling two cords. Releasing the buttoned rear flap extends coverage when carrying a backpack. The Plash is designed to be worn like a bandoleer, by folding into a strip and tying two ends together via the hood cord. Throw in a jungle blanket or buffalo shirt and you have a proven portable shelter. A canteen cook set worn on a web belt compliments this shelter system. Check out the improved USGI canteen system in the field equipment section. The Lavvu cape is an improved Scandinavian variant with two hand holes and three different sizes.
The Swiss military developed a lighter, nylon variant of the Lavvu rain cape. However, it remains heavy duty, in comparison to typical ponchos. The lowest snaps are used to connect the cape to each leg. Ponchos and rain caps will double as under sized bivvy bags. The cape lacks corner grommets. A knotted hood and sheet bend knots will secure tarp guy lines.
If a larger shelter footprint is required, Aqua-Quest's camo tarp (10'x7') is constructed from PU coated 70 denier nylon with corner pockets and fifteen webbing tie outs. The tie outs enable multiple configurations of lean to, diamond shelter, basha, tunnel tent, dome tent and tepee. The corner pockets accept poles, when trees or boulders aren't available. Tent pegs and paracord are the minimum hardware required.
Carabiners aid quick set up. Have some cord tied on in advance. Throw the carabiner over a tree branch,
then around the tree trunk. Clip the carabiner onto its cord to form a noose and pull taught. Stripped down
climbing nuts will connect tarps to boulders. Standard grommeted tarps rip apart in bad weather. Hooked bungee cords
used to be popular for quick set up but they can walk free in bad weather and take out an eye.
2: Ground Insulation
There are several means of ground insulation suitable for hiking, backpacking or motorcycle adventuring. The All Weather Blanket is a rugged compact ground sheet suitable for casual overnight stays. Place it silver side down for best effect. It complements rain capes and jungle blankets. In an emergency, it can also substitute them.
Re-enforced corner grommets enable it to be staked down or suspended. It works as a blanket, sit mat, ground sheet, tarp, wind break, fire reflector, hammock, hammock chair and casualty litter. It's multiple layer construction is significantly more robust than a nylon poncho or mylar emergency blanket.
The Ridge Rest is a sleep pad constructed from closed cell foam that does not absorb moisture. The ridges are designed to trap air. It offers superior insulation and comfort than the All Weather Blanket at the expense of significantly increased bulk. Suitable for weekend camps; it needs to be lashed to the outside of a pack with 42" straps.
The UltraLite Cot is suitable for extended bivouac,
providing ultimate comfort and portability. It's compact and elevates the user from the ground, offering flood protection. The design
eliminates cross members, delivering hammock like comfort.
3: Heat Insulation
Wool blankets and USGI poncho liners converted the USGI ponchos into a blanket rolls. However, wool blankets and USGI poncho liners were not windproof. Cold wind could enter the gaps between the poncho snaps and penetrate the thermal layers. The poncho liners' thinsulate wasn't breathable.
The alternative Snugpak jungle blanket is a lightweight, windproof, breathable, insulation covering for temperate conditions (45F/07C). It packs down to the size of a football. Fine tuning insulation with multiple clothing layers, is a better strategy than employing a single heavy blanket or bag, which can be a frustrating all or nothing experience.
Unlike cotton, mid weight wool base layers won't host bacteria. Combine the base layer with a Buffalo Special 6 shirt for temps down 32F/00C.
Temps below freezing will require sleeping bags, double walled tents or fire building. Variations in acclimation, body mass, metabolism and
circulation, make people feel the cold differently. It's advisable to do some back yard testing, before relying on minimal kit.
Questions & Feedback.
Well, that's about it guys. I hope you found this guide useful. If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to contact me through the welcome page.
Ian ST John.
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