No matter if for recreational, or for duty reasons, if you have to sleep outdoors you need something that will keep you dry. Normally there are two ways to achieve this, either by using a bivvy bag or a tent. While a bivvy is lightweight and needs little storage space it doesn’t protect you 360° from the elements. A tent will give you a higher degree of protection and comfort, but takes huge amounts of space in your pack while also being a pain in the ass to assemble. So, it would be nice to have something that combines the comfort of a tent and the simplicity of a bivvy bag. Indeed, there are some products on the market that combine the best of both worlds, I call this category nano tents.
With the Stratosphere bivvy, british manufacturer Snugpak -best known for its sleeping bags and cold weather gear, offers a nano tent that got me pretty interested, especially regarding the fair price point, compared to its competitors.
Snugpak was so kind to send us two samples for product testing. As I unboxed the bivvy I first recognized that it is pretty compact and lightweight, weighting only 1130g and measuring 31x14cm in its own stuffsack. Once you open the stuffsack you get the three main components. One being the bivvy itself, which is 220cm long. The next component are two sets of telescopic, self-assembling tent rods, each connected by shock cord. The tent rods serve the purpose of giving the bivvy some structure and rising it by 40cm. Last but not least you get five aluminum ground hoggs to keep the bivvy in place during stormy weather. Hogs and poles all come with their own small bags for organization.
The bags outer Fabric is made of 50D nylon ripstop, offering a water repellence of 5000HH, achieved by applying a PU coating. So, this one is rainproof, but not a breathable laminate – maybe one of the most important factors why the Snugpak Stratospheres price is so competitive. On the bottom of the bag itself you find groundsheet material, which is sewn on with taped seams. It’s made out of a thick 210D PU nylon – offering not only more robust properties, but also an enhanced water resistance of 8000HH, this is owed to the fact that the inhabitant of the Stratosphere would otherwise force water inside the bag by his own bodyweight.
We took the Stratosphere to an exercise and an alpine hike to test out its limits. An easy assembly is a very important point for me, as well as the ability to quickly pack everything together if you have to leave your campsite in a rush.
Assembly is pretty intuitive, you just lay out the bivvy in front of you, insert the green poles through the green marked fabric tubes and do the same with the black poles on the non-marked tubes. After this you build tension by bending the poles and securing them into their respective eyelets on the outer webbing tabs. There is a small protruding triangular piece of fabric on top of the Stratosphere. This triangle serves the purpose of keeping the front mesh window dry while keeping a clear field of view, but its most important purpose is to give the Stratospheres user some ventilation, as the bag isn’t made of breathable laminate. The triangle is secured by shockcord and a groundhog.
You can now freely move your Stratosphere wherever you like to place it and fix it to the ground with the included groundhogs. One observation I had was that the included hogs aren’t really that good compared to Snugpaks otherwise exceptional quality standards, so I will replace mine with MSR groundhogs. You can now place a sleeping pad under or inside the Stratosphere.
The Stratosphere features a full length, covered side zip for entry. As I forgot to remove the label, placed right beside the zipper, before using the Stratosphere the first time I had the opportunity to see how beefy the zipper really is as it cached the label while closing it. One firm pull cleared the zipper without any damage, pretty impressing. You can now decide if you want to close the top of the bivvy completely or if you prefer to leave some breathing capabilities, if you decide to do the latter, Snugpak got you covered with a finde mosquito net.
Snugpaks Stratosphere bivvy fits exactly one person and its weapon, so your second and third line gear has to be stowed under a tarp. It’s a one size fits all product, smaller people (I prefer the term combat sized) like myself will have more freedom of movement inside it while even larger people like RB2 (1,90m tall) have a pretty decent sleep.
On the inside of the canopy you find a spacious mesh pouch. This is ingenious, as I often experienced desperately searching for my headlight or my phone during a bivvy. The mesh pouch would even fit a small tablet device or one’s headlight for illumination at night.
The Stratosphere will do its job, which keeping you dry and comfortable while protecting you from wind chill. Even in warmer weather conditions we experienced just a little wetness on the inside of the top fabric caused by condensation. During rain there were no leaks or other things that left a bad taste. Given the fact that the Stratosphere is made in Asia, the overall construction quality is pretty impressing. If you have to leave your site in a rush, breaking the stratosphere away is pretty easy. Pull out the stakes, remove the poles, put them into their respective pouches. You can even simply stuff the bivvy in its own stuffsack without applying any special folding techniques. Breakaway is done in roughly under two minutes.
With the Stratosphere Snugpak got us sold on the overall concept of having a nano tent. At the cost of being only slightly larger than a bivvy bag the Stratosphere gives you much more comfort and protection at the cost of a minimal rise in weight. Its especially useful in cold weather environments where the distance between the tent fabric and your sleeping bag is crucial in reducing wind chill.
You can get the Stratosphere directly from Snugpak.
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