Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Review – A Great Ultralight Bivy | Average Hiker
Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Review
This Katabatic Brislecone Bivy review describes a well made, ultralight backpacking bivy, and another quality product from Katabatic. My last bivy was from Mountain Laurel Designs (MLD), and although their Solo is a good bivy, I wanted a larger mesh panel.
I did some research, and Katabatic makes quality gear, so after reviewing specifications and reviews, I bought a Bristlecone Bivy on White-blaze.
I was pretty excited when I saw the bivy for sale on White-blaze. Katabatic was out of stock, and it was exactly the size and specifications I wanted. It was brand new, and never used, so I jumped on it!
To date I have used the Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy on the east coast, in late spring/early summer. Trails like the Appalachian Trail and the New England Trail are in my backyard, and great trails for equipment testing on short hikes.
My Bivy Requirements
My Bivy Requirements for long distance hiking remain the same.
- Light Weight – Light weight is important on long distance hikes, but not as much for section hikes. I don’t usually take a lot of time off when I hike long distances, so to combat fatigue I work to reduce weight.
- Room – I want a bivy that is long enough to allow me to store gear in the foot when it is cold. I also want enough room on the sides to keep small items like a battery, hiking poles, etc. I keep my poles inside of whatever shelter I use. I’m tired of small animals eating the cork handles.
- Water Proof/Resistant – The bottom of the bivy needs to be waterproof, and the top shell should be water resistant. I used to have a fully waterproof bivy, but could not use it in warm weather due to heat and condensation.
- Net Window – I don’t want a net bivy, but would like a large net over my face.
Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Review – Quick Specifications
- 8.1 ounces
- Fits: 6’6″
- Weight: 8.1 ounces
- Length: 91 inches
- Shoulder Girth: 76 inches
- Foot Girth: 54 inches
- Price: $155
- 8″ length, 5″ wide – it is packed in a waterproof stuff sack and could pack down to about 6″ x 5.”
- Upper Shell: Pertex Quantum Nano Ripstop .9oz/yd
- Bottom: CORDURA® Silnylon 1.4oz/yd
When Do I Use a Bivy
My intent with the Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy is to use it in colder seasons – early spring and late fall. I also use a bivy in dry climates where rain is limited, like desert hiking or high altitude hiking.
Cowboy camping is not my thing, although I enjoy sleeping under the open skies. Too many creepy crawlies have given me a nip or two, and waking up with a spider or tarantula perched on my face is not much fun.
In recent years, single person tarp-tent shelters have gotten lighter and lighter, coming in at 13-15 ounces now. This is about the same weight as a bivy and tarp, so I use a bivy less. The Bristlecone Bivy will still have it’s place on certain hikes.
When Do I NOT Use a Bivy
I typically don’t use a bivy on long distance hikes, and this bivy is not in my current Arizona Gear List, but I’m thinking about taking it on my Arizona Trail thru-hike in September/October. The weather appears perfect for a bivy/tarp system, and desert night skies are beautiful.
Wet, warm, humid environments are not ideal due to condensation. A bivy adds about 5-10 degrees to your sleep system, so colder weather works best with a bivy.
I don’t use a bivy much on the east coast unless I know the weather and the trips are short. The east coast is sometimes buggy, and I like to cook on short trips. It is tough to cook and eat from inside a bivy. The last thing I want to do is spill food in the bivy and become a bear burrito.
Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Review – First Glance
The Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy reminds me of the MLD Solo Bivy. The biggest standout for me, and one of the reasons I bought the Bristlecone Bivy, is the large mesh panel across the top of the bivy.
The Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy is well made, and the quality is obvious when I roll the bivy out and take a close look at it. All the seams and stitching are neat and tight. The #3 YKK zipper is easy to use and the dual zippers do not snag. There are many small details that indicate this is a well made bivy.
Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Set Up/Pack Up
There really is not much involved in setting up a bivy. Roll it out and put your sleeping pad and sleeping bag inside of it and crawl in to sleep. I often set up my bivy like a small tent. This allows more room, and no net is left resting on my face.
Using my hiking pole, I tie three lines to anchor the pole, and connect one of the lines to the small loop at the top of the bivy. This keeps the netting up off my face, and gives me more room to move around, read, write, etc. If there is a tree near-by, I tie a line from the same loop to a branch above the bivy.
The three lines I use for the Bristlecone Bivy are pre-cut and I roll them up and toss them in the bivy before packing it up in the morning.
One note on the hiking pole. I used to put the handle down and tie the lines around the tip. The small basket kept the lines in place at the top. Since the cork gets eaten by animals, I now put the tip on the ground and place a zip-lock bag around the handle before tying the lines around it.
So far, nothing has chewed on the handle – knock on wood.
Staking Out the Bristlecone Bivy
The bivy has a silnylon floor, and unless you want to slide around all night you had better sake out the bivy. There are four stake out loops provided so this is done quickly and easily.
I also need to stake out the Bivy if I’m going to tie up the hood
Packing Up the Bristlecone Bivy
The bivy packs up small. If weather is nice then I pack it in the mesh pouch on the back of my backpack. It is packed in a silnylon bag if it is raining, and I turn it upside down before packing it in the same mesh pouch. This keeps water from leaking into it.
Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy – Components
The bivy’s main components are simple and easy to use. They provide four stake out loops, sleeping pad attachments, and a large mesh panel across the hood of the bivy.
The mesh panel is large, allowing for good air flow. I don’t sleep with my bivy open, so having a large mesh panel to reduce condensation is key, and the Bristlecone Bivy performs well. Condensation has not been an issue.
Tie Out Loops
The Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy has four tie out loops, one at each corner. These have a few uses.
- They anchor the bivy so I can tie up the hood for more space.
- They keep the bivy from sliding all over the place.
- They pull the bathtub floor tight in heavy rain when there may be water running or pooling under the bivy.
Sleeping Pad Attachments
The Bristlecone Bivy has four sleeping pad attachments sewn onto the bottom of the silnylon floor. I don’t use them much since the bivy itself holds the sleeping pad in place, especially with the things I put between the edges of the bivy and the pad.
If you do use the attachments, and you have a Katabatic quilt, the attachments are great. The cord attachment system you use to attach the quilt to the pad also lines up with the attachments on the bottom of the Katabatic Bristlecone bivy.
You secure everything you have with one cord system. In the morning when you pack up the bivy, leave the cords in place so they are ready to go when you stop for the night.
Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Review – Materials/Construction
The Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy uses quality materials, and is well made. You can see the quality in the workmanship, such as stitching, seams, etc. The Bivy is roomy, and provides plenty of space for my 20 inch wide, 2 inch tall Neoair Sleeping Pad, and my 10 Degree Feathered Friends Lark Sleeping Bag.
The Bristlecone Bivy uses Pertex Quantum for it’s shell. The material is breathable and resistant to tears and abrasions
I’ve always had good experience with Pertex Quantum, and the material on this Bivy is no exception. Condensation has not been an issue as long as I make sure I breath out of the mesh window and don’t let the bivy slide up over my face.
The Bristlecone has also had no issues with tears or scratches yet.
Bathtub Floor Material
As I’ve mentioned, the bathtub floor is made of silnylon. The floor on the Bivy is double coated with silicone and resists moisture well. I’ve not used it in any downpours, but I’ve used other shelters with the same floor material. Leaking water has never been an issue. This bivy has held up well in spray and light rain.
I’m 5’11 and this Bristlecone bivy is 6’6″ with a zipper on the left side. When it is cold I like to store my electronics, and sometimes my shoes if it is freezing outside. I am careful about storing wet clothes due to condensation. If it is wet enough to have wet clothes, I usually set up my tarp and hang the clothes.
As you can see in the pictures above, even with my 10 degree sleeping bag and inflatable sleeping pad the Bristlecone Bivy has plenty of room in the hood and foot sections. There is also room to tuck in small items beside the sleeping pad, such as my phone, headlamp, battery pack, etc.
Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Review – Final Thoughts
The Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy is a quality ultralight bivy that is well made and provides a solid light weight alternative for fast and light hikers. The bivy has plenty of room, and a large mesh panel that is exactly the right size for me.
The Bristlecone Bivy is great in cold weather. The bivy adds 5-10 degrees to my sleep system so I can carry a lighter weight quilt or sleeping bag. One of my favorite things about a bivy is that I can toss and turn with no drafts. This is a big plus for me when using a quilt.
I would recommend the Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy for anyone that enjoys backpacking with a tarp, and wants to keep their weight low. This is a solid bivy for a tarp/bivy system.
Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Availability
I reached out to Katabatic at the time I wrote this review. The Bristlecone Bivy is currently out of stock. They expect the Bivy to be back in stock at the end of 2020, or the beginning of 2021. They also stated that there may be some minor changes to the Bivy’s construction once back in stock.