Tag Archives: bivy pad

Class 22/140 – The Plastic Meltin’, Bivy Pad Sleepin’, Pennsylvania Game Wardens..


It didn’t take a genius to figure out something was up when a couple military vets and a bushcrafter at the Pennsylvania Game Commission Academy asked me what was the highest temp I had recorded in a super shelter.

“100 degrees when I tried to cook my buddy Jake” I replied

“We’re gonna break that” said the foursome that would be sharing a fire with me later that night

“I believe you” is all I replied

And break it they did… Roasting themselves at 140 degrees for un-explainable reasons that only other Type A’s jacked up on testosterone would understand. Maybe they missed the heat of the desert, but for the first time ever, I witnessed the plastic melt from the inferno they created in front of their shelter. And while the 22 degree night should make hypothermia a concern, hyperthermia was on my mind.

This class also had a couple other firsts for me..

It was the first time teaching with renowned tracker Rob Spieden of http://trackingschool.com/. Rob is so good with tracks, he eats them for lunch..



First time instructing inside for the lecture part…

Andrew teaching survival class (1)

And first time having 32 students that would need shelter and bedding material…


When Rob told me how many cadets and members of the PA tracking team we would have, I thought  “Damn, that is a lot of bedding material”

I knew we could manage the fires by building group shelters and a couple singles for samples, but to build a good bed that insulates you from the ground you need a lot of natural bedding.



But I didn’t worry too much, because I had a trick up my sleeve… well, really it was in my pack.

Experienced in the workload of making natural beds, years ago I started using cut down foam pads to replace the framesheet in my packs. I later found out that alpine climbers had been doing the same thing for years and they called them “bivy pads”.

Fast forward to my LE Ranger years and you would find me sitting on mine for every poaching detail or surveillance op, something that the game warden cadets will soon understand.

If you are injured, all the natural bedding is wet or absent, or you don’t have time to build a bed, a bivy pad is a great lightweight option to supplement your natural bedding or as a stand alone pad in dire straits. This multi-use pad can also provide flotation in your pack if crossing bodies of water or it can be used for a host of improvised splinting options.


Bivy pad in use by cadets, supplementing natural bedding..


So here is a quick tutorial on how to make a bivy pad for your day or patrol pack.

First, measure your pack to find the inside dimensions. The example I will be making is  for a pack 10″ wide and 19″ long.

Buy an army surplus pad. If you are in my area, go see Eva at Foothills Army & Navy https://bigpigblog.com/2014/12/06/foothills-army-navy/ One pad costs $11 and will make two bivy pads.

Measure, cut, and score (partially cut) your pad so it folds flat into three sections.


Seam showing 2/3 partial cut (score)



Cut off the extra width..


At this point, you are good to go. I have used a scored, partially cut pad, for years, but if you want extra security, you can gorilla tape the seams. Make sure to tape the open cut while folded, allowing it to fold and lay flat when opened.


So that gives me a torso length pad in my patrol pack at all times. Once my pack is empty, I can throw in under my legs or under worst case conditions, all 200 pounds of me can  curl up and fit on it.



“Wait a minute.. that pad in your pack is different than the one you just made” you say

You are correct. The game wardens could get the military pads for $1 through government channels.  The folded pad you see in my pack is a $24 Gossamer Gear Nightlight  http://gossamergear.com/sleeping/nightlight-sleeping-pad-torso-length.html

Fifteen years ago, my prototype pad was a cut down Ridgerest that folded length wise. It is out in the shed somewhere, but here are a few other options. L to R – BPO pad, Gossamer Gear, pad from CCW pack, Z-rest cut to 6 panels. You will also see the size, square inches, and square inches per ounce.


Here you can see their folded size, weight, and R-value. (Those are straps on the BPO pad to keep it flat for the picture)


Folded thicknesses..


And pad thickness..


You can see why the GG pad is riding in my pack. Thicker, lighter, and a higher R-value. While the Z-rest folds better and has a marginally higher R-value, the denser foam on the GG has held up better.

I always say, “Once you know how to make a friction fire, you won’t ever go into the woods without a lighter”

Natural beds are the same. When you understand the importance of sleep, the workload of gathering enough bedding, the heat robbing effects of conduction and merge them with the realization that you may be injured or unable to build a sufficient bed, you will be hard pressed to argue against carrying four and a half ounces of lightweight “life insurance”.

Whether is is a commercial product or a homemade version, a bivy pad in your day pack helps fight against conduction and can make an awkward “Big Spoon, Big Spoon” night tolerable.


Congrats to the soon to be graduates of the 30th class of the Pennsylvania Game Commission!!

May your careers be full of action, your bivy pads serve you well, and I pray you don’t get assigned to the same county as Rosie-Vic!!


One Pack to Rule Them All – Part I…


We don’t have TV…

And I have an hour commute…

And maybe one day my body will fuse with my pack, so I better make sure I like it….

These are all reasons I use to justify my obsession with finding the perfect pack and the insane amount of time I have spent thinking about them. To my knowledge, there is no known cure for Packophilia, unless you own a company that builds them.

I still remember my first. She was a blue, Coleman Peak 1 that I bought used when I was fourteen. She didn’t care that it was my first time or that I was a little pudgy, She was there for me in the good times and the bad.  The gentle, curves of her plastic frame and the summer escapade we shared at Philmont are still etched in my mind.


She was faithful and true, but we grew apart as technology and my body changed. Though I will never forget her, I had to move on.

My late teens and college years saw a series of short, failed relationships, with a heartbraking theft during a trip to the Smokies. After that, I bounced from one to another, never really connecting.

I rebelled at one point, running around with a Roycraft pack frame, three sticks lashed together, until my boss caught me on the job with her. I even ran around with an “all natural” barkpack that shows back up in my foraging classes.


When I started carrying a pack for a living, things got real. I was now influenced by my environment and lifestyle. My desires changed and no longer did I seek the robustness or novelty of my earlier years, but I now yearned for something sleeker, lighter, and tougher.  One that could handle the ups and downs of a tumultuous relationship, that would border on abuse.

I had a wandering eye and started lusting after some of the lightweight packs the thru hikers carried on the annual hippie migration north. Their packs wouldn’t be able to handle the briars, but I stole the concepts and started pulling out the frame and adding a cut down sleeping pad for emergency use.

Lightweight, tough, with a sleeping pad as part of a “virtual” frame, I though I had a pioneering love story until one day a store owner said…

“Dude… do you not know about Alpine packs?”

All those years spent modifying and tweaking, and right under my nose ice climbers had perfected the concept of a lightweight, tough frameless pack with a bivy pad. Damn… I really thought I had something special.

So I had a custom one built 5 years ago that I carried up until last week, with a brief Andininsta interlude. I will showcase those in another episode, but wanted to start with the Flash 45 because it is on a sale that may end this weekend. It’s not an alpine pack, but the result of the ultralight influence on backpacking.

At 50 liters(~ 3000 cubic inches), only 2 pounds 4 ounces, and $89, it is a smoking hot deal. http://www.rei.com/product/863031/rei-flash-45-pack-special-buy

While the Flash 45 is not the perfect pack for me, it is the perfect deal for someone looking for a lightweight, medium volume pack.

So for a tough, 2 pound, 50 liter pack $89 can’t be beat. In fact, I have been waiting for a year for it to go on sale. Pictured to the right of the pack is the 4 ounces of stuff I have cut off so far.


I gained that back when I added my bivy pad, but I won’t hit the woods without it.


I dropped the weight down below 2 again by pulling out the aluminum/delrin frame, but with only one compression strap on each side, it does not have the rigidity to work well frameless, based upon my one day experiment.


I usually don’t review a piece of gear so soon after buying it, but I believe the sale will end soon and you could get stuck with the $130, lime green version.

With only a week on my back, it has already seen  off trail use, been submerged, hauled 20 pounds of corn along with my load, been rained on, snowed on, sleeted on, through briars, and a couple rhodo thicket. So far, so good, but I will give you my initial impressions.


  • Lightweight for it’s volume. Same weight as my CCW, but 10 more liters
  • Longer torso length than my CCW, which was my major complaint.
  • Comfortable
  • Eighty nine dollars!!


  • Only one side compression strap
  • Elastic mesh on sides will probably may not make the cut
  • Water bottle pockets and back pocket are all interconnected
  • Black is a sucky color for the woods. It stands out. Lime green accent too. I will be spray painting it at some point.

I will do a review here in a couple months of how she is standing up under the abuse of Team 20mile.

I know she is not the “one”, and she understands that. We can still enjoy our time together and she will get to see stuff most packs only dream about. When I move on, she will be guaranteed to stay in my life as she has already proved worthy.