24 March 2012

Winter Hiking, testing Bivy

March 2012

Did a short overnighter in Nuuksio National Park, testing a new Bivy Bag.  As the planned route (around Karjakaivo region) was not too long, decided to increase its level of intensity by doing a winter hike by foot, not by snowshoes, neither by skis. Motivation for this hike was anyway to spend the night in the bivy bag, under the stars, not the distance or any particular sight.

It's nearly end of March. The length of the day was already long so that there's visibility late afternoon. Started to hike from Solvalla. The sun shined. Temperature was about +5C. Forecast promised around zero temperature, so not too cold, neither too warm for the initial night.

The sun had softened snow, even on heavily used paths. Backpack felt much lighter than usually in hiking trips. Answer was simple, instead of carrying a tent I carried a small bivy bag. Another advantage in weight was a smaller and much lighter backpack than I'd usually carried. And it did feel much ligher to hike, too!

The first couple of km's were easy, but once I headed off to a shortcut path which no one had gone this winter, it felt that the whole body drowned into snow. What's more, ground was soft below snow, i.e. it wasn't frozen as I had expected it to be. So, in addition to lifting my knees up in to my teeth, I had to be aware any ponds of water that were fully hidden under snow. Ponds under snow were not frozen. I didn't want to get my feet wet.

It took lots of sweat before I reached my target, a spot at Lake Urja. There were ready cut logs and a camping place reserved for hikers, usually staying on this site at summer time.

I cut some wood logs and made a fire. Then it was the magic moment I'd been waiting for, set up a bivy. Well, not just a bivy but mattresses and a sleeping bag, and what's more, to actually test how did my new set up feel.

First I tampered a snowy ground. Then set up an ordinary foam mattress on the tampered ground and opened a bivy on top of the foam.  Next was to fill air into an air mattress (NeoAir All-Season), which I put inside the bivy bag. Last in the process was to put the sleeping bag into the bivy bag. My sleeping bag was a 3-season bag.

The first impression was that the opening of the bivy was small, too small. It was very tight to even push stuff inside of it, not to mention myself fitting from it.  Before summer hikings, I have to do something for it, for sure the opening of it needs to be extended.

When the 'base camp' was set up, it was time for a dinner. I'd say I had quite a typical Finnish hiking dinner, grilled sausages (on open fire), followed by some dark chocolate. While enjoying dinner, I thought to stay alone in a quiet forest on the shore of the frozen lake, but suddenly noticed tens of flash lights approaching my base camp. Soon after I was surrounded by some 30 young and enthusiastic Scouts, boys and girls. They set up their camp until midnight and were planning to stay there two nights.

I eagerly waited to hear what was Scout-Talk nowadays. But all I heard was about computer games, mad teachers and horse riding, and comparison of candies. Maybe its time would come later?

When I crawled into the sleeping bag I felt a bit cold. Therefore I wore a couple of thin merino, a fleece and a down jacket. After trying to get some sleep I started to feel too warm. After 10mins I took of a jacket, then after another 10mins the fleece, until I finally stayed on t-shirt and shorts, both thin merino. It was warm inside. Bivy was spacious enough inside to move around a bit, taking of clothes etc. Inside Bivy, behind my head, was some space to store important stuff.

I woke up at 6am. Wasn't too comfortable night, but was satisfied of it. Kids at the Scout camp were still in sleep, except those who looked after the fire.

Bivy had a bit moisture inside but not much. That was just due to a condensation.

Cooked some coffee and eggs. Unloaded the stuff and started to hike, returning via another and more easier route.

Observations?  Initial Bivy experience was good. Will certainly continue using it during Spring and especially Summer time.

Hiked route, about 10km (view larger map):

Some photos

Spring's here!

Grand Pine trees

Evening sun on Lake Urja

More lighter backpack and a camera bag

Bivy, air mattress and sleeping bag on foam mattress

Where to crawl in and out

New Base Camp

Time to grill

Strange colours

Scrambled eggs with French Roast

Ice's gone

High water level


Ice sculpture

A branch


  1. You'll get used to the small opening. My summer sleeping bag (no zipper) and bivy bag both have small openings, but it doesn't bother me.

    For bivy time is fall, winter and spring. During the summer there are too much bugs for a bivy bag to be comfortable.

    1. Thanks, good to know. There's a mesh (a bug net) with zippers in my bivy. I would have thought it's been made for such conditions? One could treat bivy with Permethrin or similar to mitigate bug invasion.

    2. You are right, the bug net should allow you to sleep without problems. It is just my personal preference to use a small tent during the worst bug season, since it is nice to have a little larger bug free space than just the bivy bag.

    3. I see what you mean, good point. I think at the end my desire is pretty much the same that you described. I just need to look at more lighter tent than I have now. Or alternatively a tarp with a bug net. Thanks!

  2. Nice! Really have to do an early spring overnighter myself after reading this...

  3. Great trip report =) I love bivies, one with a Mosquito net gives a feeling of more space, and a zipper which goes down to the hip does help in getting in and out. But you'll get used to yours, no worries!

  4. I was thrilled using it. Initial experience was certainly very positive. This doesn't exclude my plans for a tarp + a bug net :) Thanks!

  5. Beautifully written, wishing I was back in the Motherland at this time of year! and of course there is nothing better than sausages on camp fire : )