SOL Escape Pro Bivvy
Test Report by Coy Starnes
I will be reviewing the SOL Escape Pro Bivvy for the next few months so be sure and follow along as I update the review. But first thing first, what is the Escape Pro Bivvy. SOL (Survive Outdoors Longer) has been making survival type gear for many moons but this is actually quite a bit more than just a piece of survival gear. Honestly, at 8 oz it looks like it was made with fastpackers, adventure racers and ultralight hikers in mind. Folks who don’t want to carry anymore than is absolutely necessary to survive, or in a race situation, weight which would slow them down.
In my opinion, the Escape Pro is not all that practical as stand alone bivvy because there is really no head protection from rain other than the hood, and while the hood does cinch down, if I’m asleep on my back my face would be exposed to rain. Having said that, in a strictly survival situation this might be worked around with the use of a rain jacket or umbrella or even by sleeping on my side with my head pointed slightly down. Because of this I feel the Escape Pro is more suited for use under a tarp or inside a small shelter like a tent or even a hammock. The advantage of using it over a typical sleeping bag would be mostly weight and bulk savings since it weighs only 8 oz and packs really small. I know it’s pretty much standard to show a comparison between whatever the subject at hand is and a Nalgene bottle but in this case they really are almost the exact same size. The Escape Pro is rated at 50 F by itself or will add 15 F warmth to a sleeping bag. I should help protect the sleeping bag from rain or spills as well as dirt and grim that inevitably ends up on the bag.
When I first looked at the Escape Pro on the SOL website I noticed the almost identical looking Escape Bivvy which was priced at slightly less than half what the Escape Pro retails for ($60 vs $125). The differences were not really highlighted so I had a hard time imagining how the Escape Pro was that much of an improvement. After getting the Escape Pro the first thing I noticed was that on the packaging it said it was 5X stronger then the regular Escape. I also found on the bottom of the packaging a graph that compared the Escape Pro, Escape and Emergency. According to the graph, besides being more durable, it showed the Escape Pro is also more breathable, more heat reflective and more waterproof. Apparently this means the regular Escape Bivvy is not completely waterproof. Interestingly, the Emergence Bivvy trailed the regular Escape in all categories except for waterproofness in which it and the Escape Pro were tied. Of course the Emergence Bivvy was far behind on durability but it only cost $17, in other words, use it to get through an emergency and then replace as necessary.
So what does this all mean. I’m thinking that with a little care, the Escape Pro is durable enough to replace a regular sleeping bag. I don’t put my sleeping bag on the ground. OK, I sleep in a hammock, but back when I was a mud dweller… I always used a tent and pad. However, in an emergency situation I would not hesitate to use the Escape Pro directly on the ground. I would try my best to find a place with lots of leaves and no sharp sticks or pointy rocks underneath. But back to using the Escape Pro as a stand alone sleep system or in my case, in my hammock sleep system. A regular sleeping bag is hard to get in but I can do it by standing beside my hammock and getting in my bag beforehand. I just place a small ground cloth where I need to stand to protect the foot end of the bag. I imagine I’ll do the same thing with the Escape Pro. If the zipper was longer (it is 16 inches) I would probably use it more like a hammock top quilt which is basically a sleeping bag made more like a blanket with a sewn in footbox. On colder nights I would probably go ahead and zip it up if possible but until I get a chance to try it in the field I’m really just speculating.
I did lay the Escape Pro out on my carpeted floor (see photo below) and get in it. I found it was fairly easy to get in and zip closed but when zipped closed I felt claustrophobic. Honestly, there was not much wiggle room inside it. To be fair, I’m 5′ 11″ and weigh 250 # so I’m not your typical long distance hiker…. and for the record the Escape Pro is suppose to fit individuals up to 6′ 2″. I will add that I would love to see a few inches added to the girth of the Escape Pro. Either that or make a wider version (keep this one the same) for us folks who aren’t exactly skinny.
I’m not going to go into a lot of the technical aspects of the Escape Pro because frankly, I’m not qualified. I will say that the Sampatex Reflexion fabric feels substantially more durable than the “space blanket” material I’m familiar with. It is advertised to reflect 90% of the users body heat back to them. It is also supposed to be highly breathable. I will focus my review on how warm it keeps me and how much moisture I notice. I will also report on how or even if I am able to use in my hammock. I am currently using a synthetic 50 F top quilt that weighs 2 lb 6 oz. I am excited at the prospect of shaving substantial weight and bulk from my pack.
That’s all for now, please come back for my next update which should follow and about a month from now. My thanks to 4alloutdoors and SOL for making this test possible!