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REPOST-OWNER REVIEW Black Diamond Lightsabre bivy

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  • podin04
    Dear Editor: Thanks for the edits and sorry if I slowed you down with the revised version. I made the most text changes in the Why the Lightsabre Section
    Message 1 of 3 , Dec 2, 2005
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      Dear Editor: Thanks for the edits and sorry if I slowed you down with the revised version. I
      made the most text changes in the "Why the Lightsabre" Section and paraphrased in the
      materials section as (I think) you suggested. The other edits were made as well.
      Dan

      BLACK DIAMOND LIGHTSABRE BIVY
      Owner Review
      December 2, 2005

      Name: Dan Feldman
      Age: 28
      Height: 5'11" (180 cm)
      Weight: 170 lb (77 kg)
      email: podin04@...
      Residence: Washington, DC

      I am somewhat of a backpacking fanatic. I completed a southbound thru-hike of the AT in
      2002. I try to do one middle-distance trip a year (50-100 mi or 80-160 km) and usually
      hike in the summer. I was most recently in Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina for a
      85 mi (135 km) solo trip. I am a lightweight backpacker. My pack weight ranges 15-25 lb
      (7-12 kg). A seven-day summer trip I took recently had me at a 30lb (14 kg) pack weight
      with food and water.

      Product Specs:

      Manufacturer: Black Diamond
      Year of Purchase: 2003
      Warranty: 1 year limited
      Manufacturer URL: http://www.bdel.com
      Listed weight, with poles: 22 oz (620 g)
      Listed Dimensions: 89 x 33 x 25 in (226 x 84 x 64 cm)
      Weight and Dimensions as delivered: same
      Sleeps: 1
      Poles: 2 DAC Featherlite
      Body Material: EPIC and SilNylon
      Factory Sealed? No
      MSRP: $185 US

      TESTING CONDITIONS
      I have used the Lightsabre during the summer and early fall in the eastern United States.
      I've taken it to the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, Caribou-Speckled
      Mountain Wilderness in Maine, the Mahoosuc range/AT in Maine, Pisgah National Forest in
      North Carolina, and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia. Temperatures have ranged
      from 50-70 F (10-20 C) at night with exposure to moderate rain and clear nights.
      Moderate rain defined here is starting and stopping steady rain for the duration of the
      evening, sheltered by tree cover. (I normally seek out tree cover for camp.) I slept one
      night under gusting winds just below the summit of Tennent Mountain in North Carolina.
      This was on a grassy/rocky ledge with exposure to the south and west. I have not used
      the bivy in snow or strong winds. I've camped mostly on surfaces that are mixes of dirt,
      low roots, pine needles, and pebbles. I've spent a few nights on grass and one on a tent
      platform. I have not slept on rock.

      WHY THE LIGHTSABRE?
      I began looking for a one-person shelter in preparation for a solo summer backpacking
      trip in western Maine in 2003. I had previously used a Sierra Designs Ultra Light Year tent,
      but was unhappy with the weight and felt I could go lighter and still be comfortable. When
      researching shelters, I was interested first and foremost in a shelter that was lightweight
      and durable, with price as a secondary consideration. I needed a shelter with a pole
      structure as I do not carry trekking poles and some places I plan to hike in the future do
      not have a lot of trees (so no hammock). The Lightsabre seemed a perfect fit and I made
      the purchase over the internet at the company's website.

      DESIGN
      The Lightsabre came with two poles, a stuff sack, SilNet seam sealer with application
      syringe, and a manual. There is an optional footprint that I chose to forgo due to the
      extra weight and pack space footprints typically take up. Without the poles installed, the
      shape of the Lightsabre is rectangular. The bivy tapers slightly at the foot and forms a
      triangle at the head. It is yellow with an olive green base. The Black Diamond name and
      logo are placed tastefully on either side of the head. Two zipper tracks, each with a double
      zipper, run in parallel across the head and course along the side, ending approximately 2/
      3 down the length of the bivy. One zipper track is for an inner bug net and the other
      opens a panel situated directly above the bug net in the main fabric of the tent and allows
      access to the outside. The double zipper design allows both panels to be opened and
      closed from a variety of locations. Two small loops are attached to the body of the tent,
      allowing the user to roll up the unzipped panels. There are two nylon loops attached at the
      head and foot of the bivy for staking. There are two additional loops on each side of the
      shoulder region. One holds a single and the other a double grommet for the poles. For
      best performance, Black Diamond recommends staking the bivy at the head and foot using
      four stakes.

      The bivy requires two poles. The main pole is horseshoe shaped and runs across the
      width of the head. It attaches to metal grommets located on either side of the bivy. A
      second pole runs from a sturdy pocket inside the apex of the bivy's head up along the
      length of the bivy to a single grommet which intersects with the first pole at the bivy's
      midline. This is a little bit tricky to picture in 3D, so check out Black Diamond's website
      for a good picture: (http://www.bdel.com) Both poles fold up to a very manageable size
      and I normally carry them inside my internal frame backpack (Granite Gear Vapor Trail).
      Pitched, the tent's head is raised 25 inches (64 cm) from the ground and the material at
      the head is held stiffly by the poles. A small awning extends forward over the zippered
      panel entrance to provide additional protection from the elements. The rest of the tent is
      loose and lays on top of my sleeping bag. The interior of the tent is nondescript. Black
      Diamond saves weight by eliminating needless pouches and pockets found on many tents.

      MATERIALS
      The bivy is constructed of silnylon and EPIC fabric. The 2 poles are DAC Featherlites. The
      following descriptions have been paraphrased from Black Diamond's website:

      EPIC is constructed by encapsulating individual fibers with silicon. This type of design
      makes the material "extremely" lightweight, breathable, and resistant to washing. Black
      Diamond notes that "EPIC is excellent for use in tents when heavy condensation is an issue
      and during rain and snow showers."

      Silnylon is a silicone-coated ripstop nylon that offers an excellent strength-to-weight
      ratio. It is waterproof, resilient in its durability and is very resistant to degradation over
      time.

      DAC Featherlite tent poles also provide an excellent strength-to-weight ratio and are
      extremely durable because there are no glued inserts.

      INITIAL IMPRESSIONS
      My very first reactions to the bivy were excitement and wonder after feeling how light it
      was. EPIC fabric feels very thin. When I rubbed it between my fingers I could make out the
      contours of my fingers very well. Small, barely visible squares cross the fabric. The bivy
      can fold up as a comfy pillow if I want and doesn't have that characteristic cold crinkle
      sound that most tents have when compressed.

      SET-UP
      My initial elation quickly turned into frustration when I attempted to set up the tent for the
      first time. Possessing a Y chromosome, I first tried to set up the tent without reading the
      instructions. After a few failures, I consulted the manual. After several more failures, I
      STUDIED the manual and the rather vague pictures included. After six or seven tries, the
      bivy was up and I crawled in. (Now that I have used the bivy on several backpacking trips,
      it takes me just one or two minutes to set up.) Getting into the bivy is a bit of a trick. I
      have to unzip the double zippers (opening both the bug netting and the outer panel) and
      go in feet first, then hunker down a bit and recline into the bivy. I can't really provide a
      entry/exit comparison to other bivys here, but I'll say that this type of entry allows me to
      slide right into my sleeping bag, which I usually have set up prior to entry. Getting into
      this bivy feels more like getting into a tent than getting into a sleeping bag. Once inside,
      the Lightsabre is surprisingly spacious and doesn't feel restricting, something I feared
      when opting for a bivy. I toss and turn quite a bit at night and there's plenty of room in
      the Lightsabre to roll around without taking the bivy with me. While I can't sit fully upright
      with the bivy closed, I can come up on my elbows. With the bivy unzipped, I can sit up
      outside the bivy with my legs and feet still inside to eat or stargaze. There is enough
      space for a full-length ground pad (I normally use a 3/4 length Ridgerest), sleeping bag,
      pillow, and some small gear (camera, extra clothes, headlamp, etc). A pack will not fit
      inside. Being 5'11" (180 cm) I had plenty of extra legroom. I think anyone up to 6'4" (193
      cm) or so would be comfortable stretched out.

      SEAM SEALING
      This proved to be a half-day affair. (The bivy does not come seam-sealed, which probably
      allows it to be priced lower.) Seam-sealing is the process of applying a waterproof coating
      to the seams of the tent. I had never seam-sealed a tent before. Being a member of the
      Nintendo generation, I'm accustomed to my shelters coming factory sealed. The sealing
      process was tedious and the bivy hung in my basement for a few days when finished, but I
      felt proud of my accomplishment and "authentic".

      PERFORMANCE
      True to Black Diamond's description, the bivy is water-resistant. The few rainy nights I
      spent in the bivy (see "testing conditions"), my body stayed warm and dry. Condensation,
      however, often formed on the EPIC fabric and I have woken up with the foot portion of my
      sleeping bag damp, even when I left the zippers slightly open, as Black Diamond
      recommends. (I cannot say whether this was inside or outside condensation as EPIC is so
      thin, but the inside of the bivy felt wet to the touch.) This was not very bothersome as I
      normally carry a North Face 35 degree synthetic fill mummy bag. The insulating quality of
      my bag was unaffected. I usually leave the zipper slightly open at the foot of the bivy, not
      at the head. Black Diamond does not say where the zipper should be open, just that it
      needs to be slightly open to prevent asphyxiation. I now carry a lightweight REI tarp to tie
      over the bivy at night for extra rain protection.

      On dry nights there have been no problems with condensation. The tent is well-ventilated
      if the zipper is left slightly open as Black Diamond recommends. The one night I was
      under gusty winds on Tennent mountain I did not have the tent staked and could feel the
      head of the bivy lifting up a little. The wind did not penetrate the EPIC fabric and the bivy
      itself did not move.

      The bivy does not feel stuffy. I think this is because the EPIC fabric is thin and breathable.
      I don't feel like I'm encased in a shower curtain and there's lots of space in the head area.

      I have no complaints about the durability of the materials. I don't baby the bivy. After two
      summers of use I can see that my seam sealing job has come loose in spots. I'm planning
      on re-sealing those. The seams themselves and stitching have remained firm and intact.
      The portion of the tent that is under the most strain (the overhead/vestibule where the
      poles cross) has held up just fine. I do not use a footprint and the base of the tent is
      without rips. All zippers have performed well. There are no tears anywhere in the body of
      the tent. Even when I've caught the fabric of the tent in the zipper, no damage has
      resulted. I have not washed the Lightsabre and therefore cannot speak to what happens
      after it is washed. I take good care of the tent when it is not in use. I store the poles fully
      extended and hang the tent from a hanger.

      FINAL THOUGHTS
      Overall, the Lightsabre is just what I was hoping it would be, an ultralight solo shelter at a
      reasonable price that is durable and reasonably water resistant. It has all of the benefits
      of a traditional bivy (see "pros"), but without the claustrophobia. It takes some time to get
      good at setting the bivy up and the self-seam sealing element is a little bit of a pain, but I
      believe Black Diamond has strove to make this tent as light as possible. For that, I don't
      mind the initial inconveniences. I'll continue to use this bivy on all my solo trips and may
      try it out this winter.

      Pros:
      Very lightweight
      Durable
      Attractively Priced

      Cons:
      Need to seam seal yourself
      Not easy to set up at first
    • edwardripleyduggan
      Dan, No problem in regard to the revision. I tend to endlessly revise my reviews, which probably perplexes *my* editors, but they are too nice to say anything
      Message 2 of 3 , Dec 2, 2005
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        Dan,

        No problem in regard to the revision. I tend to endlessly revise my
        reviews, which probably perplexes *my* editors, but they are too nice
        to say anything <g>.

        Very much improved. A really good job, in fact--you have picked up
        most of the basics already. I have a small number of edits and
        suggestions below. I'd like you to put this in HTML form and upload
        the review to the Owner Reviews folder on BGT, where I'll peruse it a
        little more before giving the OK. However, please wait for my say-so
        before you do the upload. The BGT site is in the throws of being moved
        to a new server, and I'm awaiting the all-clear, which should (I hope)
        be imminent. There may be a general announcement here.

        Om a side note, I'll be curious how well the bivy works with a winter
        bag when you start your winter backpacking. I use the Bibler Winter
        Bivy over my five degree bag with no problems, but it's a tight fit
        over a -15/-20 degree bag, and there's a chance of compressing the
        down (not a good thing if I want to stay warm). However, that's a much
        less structured bivy. This is probably modelled on the Bibler bivys
        (BD owns that firm).

        Best,

        Ted

        BGT OR Editor



        A seven-day summer trip I took recently had me at a 30lb

        ### EDIT 30 lb

        (14 kg) pack weight
        > with food and water.
        >
        >
        > TESTING CONDITIONS
        > I have used the Lightsabre during the summer and early fall in the
        eastern United States.
        > I've taken it to the White Mountain National Forest in New
        Hampshire, Caribou-Speckled
        > Mountain Wilderness in Maine, the Mahoosuc range/AT in Maine, Pisgah
        National Forest in
        > North Carolina, and Shenandoah National Park in Virginia.

        ### EDIT: I think an actual elevation range would be useful here. We
        usually do provide this. It gives the reader a better idea of conditions.

        Temperatures have ranged
        > from 50-70 F (10-20 C) at night with exposure to moderate rain and
        clear nights.
        >
        > DESIGN
        > The Lightsabre came with two poles, a stuff sack, SilNet seam sealer
        with application
        > syringe, and a manual. There is an optional footprint that I chose
        to forgo due to the
        > extra weight and pack space footprints typically take up. Without
        the poles installed, the
        > shape of the Lightsabre is rectangular. The bivy tapers slightly at
        the foot and forms a
        > triangle at the head. It is yellow with an olive green base. The
        Black Diamond name and
        > logo are placed tastefully on either side of the head. Two zipper
        tracks, each with a double
        > zipper, run in parallel across the head and course along the side,
        ending approximately 2/
        > 3

        ### COMMENT: It's a bit of a stylistic point. bur I'd spell this out:
        two-thirds. Your choice.

        down the length of the bivy. One zipper track is for an inner bug
        net and the other
        > opens a panel situated directly above the bug net in the main fabric
        of the tent and allows
        > access to the outside. The double zipper design allows both panels
        to be opened and
        > closed from a variety of locations. Two small loops are attached to
        the body of the tent,
        > allowing the user to roll up the unzipped panels. There are two
        nylon loops attached at the
        > head and foot of the bivy for staking. There are two additional
        loops on each side of the
        > shoulder region. One holds a single and the other a double grommet
        for the poles. For
        > best performance, Black Diamond recommends staking the bivy at the
        head and foot using
        > four stakes.
        >
        > The bivy requires two poles. The main pole is horseshoe shaped and
        runs across the
        > width of the head. It attaches to metal grommets located on either
        side of the bivy. A
        > second pole runs from a sturdy pocket inside the apex of the bivy's
        head up along the
        > length of the bivy to a single grommet which intersects with the
        first pole at the bivy's
        > midline. This is a little bit tricky to picture in 3D, so check out
        Black Diamond's website
        > for a good picture: (http://www.bdel.com)

        ### COMMENT: This is OK. If you have a digital photo of your own of
        the bivy, that would be better still. It's not by any means required
        (many folks don't have digital cameras) but it's something to bear in
        mind.



        Both poles fold up to a very manageable size
        > and I normally carry them inside my internal frame backpack (Granite
        Gear Vapor Trail).

        ...................

        There is enough
        > space for a full-length ground pad (I normally use a 3/4

        ### COMMENT: three-quarters is better, but like the 2/3, not a big deal.


        length Ridgerest), sleeping bag,
        > pillow, and some small gear (camera, extra clothes, headlamp, etc).
        A pack will not fit
        > inside. Being 5'11" (180 cm) I had plenty of extra legroom. I
        think anyone up to 6'4" (193
        > cm) or so would be comfortable stretched out.


        >
        > PERFORMANCE
        > True to Black Diamond's description, the bivy is water-resistant.
        The few rainy nights I
        > spent in the bivy (see "testing conditions"), my body stayed warm
        and dry. Condensation,
        > however, often formed on the EPIC fabric and I have woken up with
        the foot portion of my
        > sleeping bag damp, even when I left the zippers slightly open, as
        Black Diamond
        > recommends. (I cannot say whether this was inside or outside
        condensation as EPIC is so
        > thin, but the inside of the bivy felt wet to the touch.)

        ### EDIT: Brackets not needed, I feel

        This was not very bothersome as I
        > normally carry a North Face 35 degree synthetic fill mummy bag. The
        insulating quality of
        > my bag was unaffected. I usually leave the zipper slightly open at
        the foot of the bivy, not
        > at the head. Black Diamond does not say where the zipper should be
        open, just that it
        > needs to be slightly open to prevent asphyxiation. I now carry a
        lightweight REI tarp to tie
        > over the bivy at night for extra rain protection.

        >
      • podin04
        Ted, OK, all the changes have been made. I ll await your OK to post. Dan
        Message 3 of 3 , Dec 5, 2005
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          Ted,
          OK, all the changes have been made. I'll await your OK to post.
          Dan
        Your message has been successfully submitted and would be delivered to recipients shortly.