Q:

Will a bivy/sleeping bag combo get me through Whistler winters?

I'm a student on a budget. Every weekend I go snowboarding and figure I may as well sleep outside to save money, plus I like the outdoors. The Outdoor Research Aurora Bivy combined with a Coleman Tasman XO Hybrid seems like it would work. Would this be suitable for sleeping outdoors around Whistler B.C. and similar locations? Chris Vancouver, British Columbia

Jan 8, 2008
Outside
Outside Magazine
Outdoor Research Aurora Bivy

Aurora Bivy

A:

Why am I reminded of the scene toward the end of “Pulp Fiction" when the John Travolta character, Vincent, berates his friend Jules (Samuel L. Jackson) over Jules's plan to give up the gangster life and “walk the earth." Says Vincent disgustedly: “You’ve decided to become a bum."

Which sounds like what you’ve decided to do. You don’t even seem to be talking about “camping." It’s more like, “find a place to sleep in the woods." And I can’t begin to list all the reasons why this is a bad idea. I see you at a party, consuming vast quantities of beer, then staggering out into the snow to find a place to “save money," and freezing to death in your bivy bag. I see you getting hit by some guy on a snow machine. I see you being frisked by local police after a condo owner looks outside and sees you peeing in the woods, and decides you’re a vagrant.

As far as your choice of gear goes, well, it’s OK. The Outdoor Research Aurora Bivy ($169; outdoorresearch.com) is a perfectly decent Gore-Tex bivy bag, in which you’ll be reasonably snug and exceedingly uncomfortable because you can’t sit up, easily change clothes, read, or anything else. The Coleman Tasman XO Hybrid bag ($80; coleman.com) is a reasonably priced zero-degree bag that also is extremely heavy ( more than six pounds). That doesn’t include the other stuff you’ll need—a pad, flashlight (right now it gets dark at Whistler at 4 p.m.), extra clothing for fumbling around in the cold, boots to wear when not boarding, etc.

My advice: Get on Craigslist and start looking for a group of people your age going to Whistler and sharing accommodations. A lot more fun, much more social, vastly safer and saner. And probably cheaper. By the time you fuss around getting set up for “sleeping in the woods," you’ll have spent enough to take care of you for a few weeks in some hostel-type experience.

The 2008 Winter Outside Buyer’s Guide is now online. From snow sports to trail-running to camping, get reviews of more than 300 new gear must-haves.

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