One of the best pieces of "bargain" bushcraft syle camping kit available at the moment is the British army issue Gore-tex bivvy bag.
If you're wondering what a bivvy bag is it's simply a windproof and waterproof sleeping bag cover, designed to be used instead of a tent/groundsheet. They work brilliantly in conjunction with a lightweight tarp to keep any dampness from travelling up into your sleeping bag and add a little bit of extra warmth too.
I like the army issue bivvy bags as they're incredibly hard wearing and really cheap, if you shop around you can get pick up good used examples for £20-£30, an equivalent Gore-tex bivvy from a manufacturer like Rab or The North Face would set you back at least £100.
One of the things I'm not so keen on is the design of the bag, they're made to be as waterproof, and squaddie proof, as possible, and as such they have no zips or openings other than the main opening at the hood end. This means that they can be a bit of a struggle to get in and out of, especially when it's cold and wet and you're tired, exactly when you need it most. I decided to try and remedy this problem by fitting a zip to my bivvy bag, hopefully this will make it a bit easier for me to get in and out of my bivvy bag and therefore make the thing a little bit more practical to use.
The zip and the pieces of webbing that I used to reinforce/neaten up the ends of the zip, came from an old tent that was way past it's best, as did the toggle that I fitted simply to stop the zip from coming undone in the night. I'm quite pleased with how this has turned out, although I'm not sure if it's finished yet, I may end up fitting a flap to cover the zip, a few trial nights out will make that decision for me.
The zip is about half the length of the bivvy bag, plenty long enough to make it nice and easy to get in and out of the bag and short enough to leave the bottom portion of the bag still completely sealed against the elements.
A couple of pieces of old webbing were used to reinforce the bottom end of the zip......
....and to tidy up the top end ends too. I also added a toggle and elastic loop to the inside to stop the zip from coming undone during the night.
The original drawstring closure stays in place at the top of the bag but I've made it a little neater by using a cord lock in place of the original bead.
All in all quite an enjoyable and simple project that will hopefully improve an already great piece of kit for a total cost of, well nothing really, just a the cost of the thread and the electricity to run the sewing machine. Best of of all, I managed to recycle some bits of old tent that would otherwise have been thrown away, win win all round.
Bye for now,