User Review: Integral Designs Salathe
Another Good, Bad and Ugly review - for the Integral Designs Salathe Bivy Sack.
.: Size and weight. Of the two, the weight is less important - at around 1kg packed, there are 1 man tents that come in around the same. But lighter is always better than heavier, and it is certainly lightweight and compact. The small size, and the flexibility it gives, is hard to beat however. If you can find space to lie down (or even sit down) then you can bivy in the Salathe. True freedom in the hills.
.: Access. The downside to bivy bags is usually that once you are in them, then you are done for the night - no reaching out to cook or grab gear without unzipping along one chilly side. The Salathe however has 3 zippers on each size zip (which go half-way down the bag) allowing you to poke your arms out and do things while effectively "wearing" the bag. Very useful. You can also feed a rope through the zipper holes as well and remain clipped in should you need it.
.: Breathability. The top of the bag is tough Telgraltex, backed with an interesting papery material which wicks away the damp - I've found it to be highly effective, and have not yet found any moisture collecting within the body of the bag. The hood is a spacious half-dome, around 35cm high at peak, held up by a flexible hoop which so far has proven immune to being crushed into the stuff sack and straightened out again on numerous occasions. I have noticed some dampness in the hood in the mornings, but not much. Given the closer proximity of your face to the vent and the smaller volume of moisture bearing air, the bag is maybe less prone to condensation build-up than most tents.
.: Construction. The base of the bag is tough waterproof nylon, and has so far resisted my best efforts to put a hole in it. The mesh bug screen on top ties back out of the way if you don't need it. The bag comes with seams unsealed, so you need to seal them manually - they supply a tube of seam sealer, which is just about enough to do the job.
.: Internal space. I find the bag quite large enough - I'm 180cm, 77kg with (according to my wife, at least) wide-ish shoulders. My -15 degrees centigrade bag and 3/4 Therm-a-rest go in fine, and leave plenty of room for the sleeping bag to loft and for me to move around - I'm a kicky sleeper. I've found no problem stashing various pieces of kit in there with me as well.
.: Speed of setup. I use the bag as a stuffsack for my sleeping bag too - setup is literally a 10 second process that consists of taking it out of my backpack and shaking it a little before putting it down.
.: The side zippers only go half way. While this saves on weight, it does mean that getting in and out of the bag is more of a chore than it might otherwise be. And if something slips to the bottom of the bag then you are faced with the equally unpleasant choices of diving in head-first to retrieve it, or shaking the bag out.
.: Closure. There is a bag-wide velcro strip which seals the opening between the lip of the hood and the body of the bag. This can be sealed from the inside, and has a fold-over flap which provides a small airvent, but it is not an easy closure. In the dark or with gloves on, it's not impossible but comes pretty close.
.: Non-sealed seams. Not a show-stopper, but I'd prefer to have the seams sealed at the factory rather than trust my own sealing skills, or lack thereof.
.: Generic bivy problem - getting in and out when it rains. That's what tents are for. If it rains a lot where you are, then get a tent - or at least a tarp to keep things reasonably dry.
.: Nothing to report. No "What were they thinking?" moments. Clearly a lot of thought has gone into this product.
Overall, the Integral Designs Salathe bivy is a great lightweight option and built to last. I'd call it a 3.5 season shelter - great for most seasons, and a good emergency shelter in winter too (certainly combined with a tarp or in a snow hole). It's certainly become my first choice in all but the worst of conditions. The hills have never felt so free.