Used and tested by Trek Scotland in the Scottish Highlands whilst Multi Day Trekking through Spring to early Winter 2019.
A bivy adventure for us is all about feeling connected to the environment you wish to lay in. Tents are great and offer a lot of comfort and safety, but once you close the doors you miss that immersive experience with what’s going on outside. Bivying also avoids many of the issues surrounding pitching a tent for example, due to unsuitable ground or finding a large enough area, especially whilst out with a large group of people. You simply just need to find a good spot, lay yourself down, watch the sunset or simply open your eyes throughout the night to gaze up at a star-filled sky. Sounds idyllic, and quite often a night like this in a bivy will be remembered much more than those spent between the walls of a tent. However, we live in Scotland, and it’s not that often we get to experience such perfect nights as described. This is why we are big fans of the hooped bivy. Just bridging the gap between a hardcore open faced bivy with a few of the comforts of a tent, without taking away all the adventure of such a simple shelter. A common fault associated with a hooped bivy is the weight and pack size. With the increased material used and the addition of a small pole some may argue that with modern shelters increasingly getting smaller and lighter, why not just opt for a regular tent with all the added space to eat, get dressed, etc? We are big believers in the benefits surrounding a bivy adventure so let’s see if the OR Stargazer can reaffirm this…
First off let’s start with the name. I know a label shouldn’t get in the way of how the product performs but ‘Stargazer’ just had us instantly hooked. As described earlier it captures most of what you associate being a major benefit from this type of shelter. The Stargazer thankfully does live up to its tag and with a very large zippered side entry you can open it up to enjoy your surroundings from the comfort of your sleeping bag. The side opening also makes life much easier when getting in or out of the shelter. Gone are the troubles of getting out of your bivy only to have dragged with you a large majority of your sleep system.
A great addition to the entry is the No-See-Em mesh screen. Life in the Scottish hills can be tough without decent bug protection, especially in a bivy bag where the only other option would be to fully close the opening taking away the essence of what a bivy is all about. We commend Outdoor Research for including this extra fabric as it could have been an easy area to cut back weight.
The pole system is interesting. Rather than being placed commonly around the shoulders, similar to the OR Helium, the pole is placed at the head. This offers an impressive amount of space at the top end of the Stargazer with plenty of room to store items you may need throughout the night, whilst the extra height makes reading a book or working on a route with a map easy. The rest of the bivy is generous in length but could be regarded as restrictive in width. Our shorter guide enjoyed the Stargazers extra space with room for a pack at the head end. With a reduction in width there is still ample space for an air mat and sleeping bag but not much space to cram gear down the sides. For the taller adventures amongst us it would be wise to take a dry bag to store extra items outside or a small tarp to keep gear dry.
The Derlin Single-Pole System is set on an angle to improve stability and will sit in place without the need to use the pegging points. Whilst sleeping in more open and exposed environments the pegging points at each end of the Stargazer offer better shape and rigidity. The guyline from just above the door further improves the height and can be set up easily with a walking pole. Unfortunately, the loops are very weak and after 7 months use each loop has torn off with a home repair taking its place. This could be an issue with being pegged out too taught or movement throughout the night, but we would like to see an updated model in which an alternative solution is incorporated.
Ascentshell 3L, 20D mechanical stretch ripstop face with 100% polyester 12D backer makes up the majority of the Stargazer and is the same fabric used on Outdoor Research’s Interstellar Jacket. Well regarded as providing great protection against the elements whilst also offering excellent breathability the Stargazer works to the same standards. This has truly been one of the best bivy bags we have used in terms of breathability with very little signs of condensation apart from a very cold night on the Mamores at -9 degrees. Condensation on a single skin shelter is always going to be a compromise but due to the Ascentshell 3L fabric we had full confidence in the Stargazer and started using it for multi-day expeditions. A little airing out in the morning was all that was needed and made for quick getaways from camp. Heavy downpours and snowfall just simply ran off and with the option to simply close the entry when the weather takes a turn for the worse whilst having ample head room, made sleeping inside a pleasure compared to a basic bivy. The fabric is also very tough and can take a bit of abuse against rock and foliage, the increased 40D ripstop with TPU lamination floor also providing a solid base.
As a complete set including the stuff bag and 3 lightweight stakes comes in at 568 grams. We aim to work with 3-season shelters that can handle life in Scotland at under 1kg so this is almost half that weight. Obviously adding a tarp and extra dry bag will take that up a notch if you wish to make life more luxurious. The overall size is very packable and when paired with a lightweight sleeping mat and sleeping bag so it can make for very compact set up. This is one of the main advantages we found using the Stargazer and found it a very good companion whilst bike-packing.
Anyone who is used to spending nights in a bivy will instantly appreciate the added benefits of the Stargazer, for those thinking about getting into bivying but don’t want to lose all the comforts of a tent will not go far wrong with this choice. Not only has it gained confidence with our guides as a dependable bivy for life in the Scottish outdoors it also offers fantastic breathability with very little condensation noticeable in the morning. This is testament to Outdoor Research’s Ascentshell 3l fabric which is also tough and packs down small. Quick to pitch and equally to pack up, the Stargazer can be used throughout a multitude of outdoor activities with multi-day high mountain wild-camping and bike-packing becoming a favourite use amongst our guides. Hooped bivys have often been regarded as too heavy or unnecessary when compared to modern lightweight tents. We found the Strargazer to bridge the gap providing the best elements of bivy life whilst also offering extra protection and space inside without tipping the scales. At 568 grams with all the extra features including a mesh door and long length we found it be very comfortable. Even with the added weight of a tarp to add a dry space to eat and work when the weather takes a turn, we found everything to tuck away into our pack at under 1kg.
Trek Scotland is a small family business based in the picturesque village of Tomintoul in the North East region of the Cairngorms National Park. They provide bespoke Mountain Guiding for Single Day Walks and Lightweight Multiday Trekking experiences, including wild camping, in the stunning Cairngorms wilderness and surrounding areas. Whether in the high mountains or lower valleys, their Multiday Treks are equipped with high quality, lightweight camping and trekking gear. They only work with small groups and, whatever your ability, pride themselves on designing your outdoor experience completely to your needs and with professional guidance and expertise. Adventure is waiting...