If you’re going all in on lightweight bikepacking, as opposed to the more traditional ‘loaded touring’, then you’re going to want to ditch the tent and take just a bivvy bag. Tents are great for keeping you comfortable and allowing you space to unpack your panniers, but they are incredibly heavy and make a real difference when it comes to hauling yourself and your gear up inclines.

Bivvy bags – stemming from the word ‘bivouac’, a temporary, improvised shelter – come in a lot of forms, but essentially, they’re a great big plastic bag that you climb into which keeps you dry as you sleep. You’ll ordinarily use a sleeping bag inside the bivvy for warmth – although if it’s really, really hot you might be able to forego the full bag in favour of a silk liner. As you can imagine, they’re less comfy than tents, making it all the more important that you pick a good spot.

Here are a few things to bear in mind when you’re picking a sleeping spot for your bivouacking adventure:

1. Splishy splashy – fresh water source

You’re going to want to be near some fast-flowing water if at all possible. That way you can take a dip and clean off the rigours of the day before, wash your no-doubt filthy kit and even fill your water bottles if you think it’s clean enough to drink.

The stipulation that the water is fast-flowing is an important one. If you pick a slow or even stagnant body of water, then you’re multiplying the chances of there being biting insects buzzing nearby, and you should absolutely never drink standing water.

2. Cushy for the tushy – picking the right ground for comfortable sleep

This one depends on how hardcore you are. If you’re going to lay your bivvy directly on the ground, you’ll want to choose thick grass or vegetation for your mattress, to minimize the chances of waking up sore and bruised. Lying directly in contact with the earth can also reduce the effectiveness of a down sleeping bag as the filling is compressed and its insulating properties are inhibited.

If you want a bit more comfort, then an inflatable rest to sleep on is the best way to go. They fold – or roll – down small, don’t weigh much, and will both boost your quality of sleep and increase the number of places you can sleep, as you can lay them on concrete or other hard surfaces which would otherwise be unusable for wild campers.

Bikepacker having dinner on a soft grassy spot

3. High there – elevation and temperature do correlate

It’s always handy to know how high above sea level you are when picking a spot to sleep. Handily, this is information you’ve probably already got access to on your cycling GPS computer of choice. Bear in mind that for every 100m you go up above sea level you lose between 0.5–1°C in temperature, meaning that if you begin a 400m climb at 16°C, it’ll be closer to 12°C at the summit.

What does this mean for sleeping? Well, the lower you are, the better your chances of sleeping through and not being woken up to the chattering of your own teeth at 3am when the temperature really plummets. If you have no choice but to sleep high, a sheltered area is going to be better – trees, shrubs, rocky outcrops and the like will protect you a bit from the cold night air.

how-to-pick-bivy-spot-for-bikepackers-fire-sausages

4. Under cover – protect yourself against the weather elements and annoying insects

And speaking of shelter, if you’ve gone for a lighter or cheaper bivvy bag, you may find that it lacks a full face covering. Some bivvys will zip right up and over your head, effectively sealing you in and protecting you from any rainfall – or hungry insects – overnight. Some won’t, however, and if you’ve bought one like that you’re going to have to work a little bit harder to find a suitably covered bivvy spot. Look for trees with long branches and a canopy that reaches out quite far from the trunk or hunker down beneath a pergola or gazebo in a public park.

All photos were taken by our good friend, ambassador and outstanding photographer Matt Grayson. For more great stories and cycling photography follow Matt on Instagram.

Cover for your travels, you and your kit

Since 2019, Bikmo also offers adventure sports travel insurance, to cover all possible aspects of your adventures. For all of our biking enthusiasts who are looking to cover their whole trip, including emergency medical and repatriation expenses, trip cancellation, baggage damage and so much more!

With 3 levels of travel cover to choose from, and some optional extras, your single trip or an annual multi-trip policy will give you the peace of mind to enjoy your adventure.

Whether travelling alone or with the family, in the UK, Europe or Worldwide, you can choose the level of activity cover you need to meet your holiday travel insurance requirements.

Love riding, love travelling, love Bikmo.

It’s all about getting out there and enjoying your riding more, knowing we’ve got you covered, wherever you are.

Grab your bike, your case and explore.

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