The closest one could be to to bare sleeping bags, but with more protection, the Black Diamond Spotlight Bivy is cozy, spacious, (for a bivy) and perhaps altogether simple in the best ways, but damp in the worst; I found an wholy interesting experience, one I was not expecting.
It’s an odd feeling for me… somehow connected to the ground, slightly more vulnerable, and ever so aware of your surroundings. A recent backpacking trip came up where I drew the short straw on solo for the tent situation. I didn’t want to carry around the weight of a full tent but still wanted something to keep bears from sniffing my nose. “This will be fun,” I thought.
I’ll be honest, I was a bit nervous. I wasn’t used to bivy sacking and this would be my first experience. Needless to say, I am very glad I went with Black Diamond’s solution. The first night was awesome.
With temperatures in the 40s, I slept perfectly well in my Big Agnes 21 degree bag and an REI AirRail sleeping pad. I didn’t get too hot and had a great view of the stars as I drifted off, thanks to the front bug flap and soft outer-flap-securing-thing (pictured above) that held the outer zip up high enough to shield my face.
While I didn’t actually capture this from inside the bag, the view was VERY similar.
My second night was a different story. High winds and upper 30s were present, which made it much more damp that the night before. I woke up to a bivy internally covered in condensation. Albeit this didn’t affect my sleep at all; I still wasn’t cold, didn’t notice the dampness until I woke up and either the wind avoided our campsite, or swept over the bivy without so much as bothering me. A+ for comfort, but a C- for the condensation. I could see that being uncomfortable in very cold conditions.
I shouldn’t forget to mention how easy everything is to put together. A single tent pole gives shapes and structure to the bivy, while stakes add tension to keep everything vertical. That’s about it, maybe fives steps in all. One for the pole and four for the stakes. I did find it handy to secure the toe-tie to something higher than the tent, to expand the footroom slightly.
The Spotlight was roomy enough to not constrict my sleeping bag, shoulders, or head area. A hood encloses the pole that surrounds your face and shoulders, giving me enough room for a few items and to move around. I kept my clothes, jacket, headlamp, and pocket knife, all in the area above my head.
With the Black Diamond Spotlight, you get a four-season, $220 bag, one that’s nice and light and easy to pack in. The whole package fit into the side pocket of my backpacking sack. Condensation issues aside (I hear my bivy sacks have that) I surprised myself and ended up loving the thing. If I was doing a solo trip, I may opt for a larger tent to stuff more items in, but in a secure group, I had little gripes about being in this all night.
Disclosure: Black Diamond sent me this product for the purposes of review. All opinions are my own and truthful.