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Emergency shelter / Bothy Bag

I have been looking at Bothy Bags for a while. When I saw this one on eBay at under €50 from what I thought was a local supplier (it turned out to be a supplier in Denmark, not Germany but all support for this comes out of the UK in any case - where it can be found for about 20% cheaper).

I have the Lifesystems Survival Shelter 2.

The fact is as I get older, on some of my winter activations I am feeling the cold and where there is only limited shelter from the wind, I needed something to give me protection.

I’m sure many of you will have your own choice of Bothy Bag or other emergency shelters, what has impressed me about this one is the simplicity of putting it up - well actually you don’t put it up, it’s more that you wear it.

Here’s a video from YouTube of a young lady demostrating its set-up - she claims not to be sponsored by the manufacturer:

I have taken it out of the bag now and will probably spend the rest of the afternoon trying to pack it back in, but it’s small and light when packed and is about to be fastened to the outside of my rucksack, so that it is always there in case I need it - even on non-winter activations of summits.

Do any of you use emergency shelters or bothy bags on a regular basis - do you operate from inside them, if so does bringing in the coax antenna lead under the bottom of the bag cause any issues.

I’m not so much interested in the larger supported tent structures, just these really simply protective shelters.

73 Ed.

UPDATE: The whole thing went back into its (permanently attached - doubles as an air vent) bag remarkedly easily.

Additional question: Do any of you use a groundsheet in addition to the shelter as there is only a very small piece of material at each end to park your back-side on! a larger seat section would be an improvement to this model I think.

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Hi Ed,
I don’t pretend to be a regular user, but I always carry a bothy bag. I have used it in rain and snow, and found it very effective (mine is a two man bothy, but about right for me, rucksack, radio etc).
I have tried it in windy conditions too, but it flaps around quite fiercly, making a great noise and slapping at me in a distracting and sometimes painful manner!

The winter bonus season has been very windy for me this year, rather than wet or snowy. I have improved my ability to get out of the wind even when there is no obvious shelter. This involves walking around looking for a “dead spot”, which is often a few metres or tens of metres back from a steep slope facing into the wind, and then settling down into the best location I can find nearby.
This technique failed me on Pen y Fan gw/sw-001, where the wind was veering wildly through more than 90 degrees, and I packed up and headed down after a very cold half hour or so!

I’ll watch this thread to see other comments, and how you get on - good luck!

Adrian

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I have a Terra Nova Bothy 2 - ignore the “2”, it’s really a one-person bothy, one man and his (small) dog if you’re lucky. It’s small enough and light enough (370g) that I don’t resent including it in my crowded rucksack, so I carry it probably more than half the year.

I’ve never had an emergency needing to use it nor have I operated inside it but have used it as a wrap-around-me wind break a few times in adverse weather where there was no shelter at the summit.

I’m in a similar (maybe worse) situation [i.e. old (70), need more protection than in my youth (<55)]. Checking the Wx forecast I’ll take extra layers if need be - I don’t always judge this right.

I’ve done a ‘mock’ activation at home pretending to operate the radio from inside my bothy bag and it’s unpleasant and not what I walk up mountains to do, Frankly, if weather conditions are that bad, I would rather do a quick activation (maybe only 2m with a HT) and get off the summit.

For me, a bothy bag is strictly for emergencies.

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I find that bothy bags follow the same principles of life rafts - a “2-man (person?)” version is very uncomfortable if you try to fill it to capacity. And the longer you have to endure other people’s company, the more uncomfortable it gets! Having said that, fortunately I have never been in a true survival situation on the hill (or at sea) - I’m sure I would be more grateful under those circumstances!

I carry a 2-man bothy as an emergency shelter. I have used it once by myself and it’s ok - warm and dry, but noisy (in the wind) and cramped. I have used a 4-man with a friend and my back started to hurt and my legs got cramp. We managed to share it with a 3rd colleague for a while and that was even more cosy.

Leading the antenna wire under the bothy to your radio is not an issue and the longer you sit there, the more other distractions you will find to take your mind off such fripperies :wink:

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I use a bothy bag when needed. A little cramped but better than being stuck outside in bad wx.

Dear Ed,
I also have a Terra Nova Bothy 2 which I have sometimes used for operating during winter conditions. It is only large enough for one person with legs outstretched seated on flat ground with gear along the edge. It repels blowing snow or sleet and maintains warmth, but tends to fog the windows on the inside. I typically use my walking stick as a center pole.
Stay well & 73!
Mike, WB2FUV

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I’ve used bothy bags for years.

My first bothy bag was an Outdoor Designs 2 person shelter, the stuff stack is permanently attached by a webbing strap. The stuff sack has compression straps built in which promotes a small packing size.

When the membrane material started to delaminate from my Outdoor Designs BB, my wife bought me another BB as a gift; a Lomo branded one. The Lomo branded one has been OK but the stuff sack is separate, I’m amazed that I haven’t lost it!

I treated myself to a new BB last year but I haven’t had it out of the stuff sack yet. My new BB is a UK made one from Summit Gear. https://www.summitgear.co.uk/

Most often I just use the bothy bag as a ground sheet to sit on.

73, Colin

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I’ve. been taking groups of people into the hills for over 12 years now. I discovered bothy bags / shelters on my first Winter Mountaineering course and was hooked ever since.

I use the Terra Nova range which comes in 2,4,8, and 12 man.

Personally I use a 4 man for up to 2 people with bags, and my 8 man for up to 5 people with their bags. Great for getting warm and out of the wind. I use mine almost every time out (if I’m not putting up a beach shelter). They are a superb piece of kit… even if it’s just to take a break and eat some food / take some fluids or have a rest.

P.M. if you need a video of us using one on a wild weather activation.

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Colin, Does that mean you’ve stopped operating the radio from inside your BB since well-intentioned people kept kicking you?

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For more than 40 years I carried an orange bivi “polly bag”. Although I did use it for planned bivis, I never had to use it in anger. Then in 2015, I migrated to a “2 man” Bothy bag, this is now part of my standard rucksack contents along with an emergency pack.
As to its use, twice I have used it on Sota during driving rain. I agree with others the experience is unpleasant, very sweaty, wet and the flapping fabric is very annoying and noisy.

My tack is to carry a bothy bag for emergency use, your life may depend on it, and rely on good waterproofs and clothing systems that work even when wet for Sota activations. Also to honker down in the wind recirculation point downwind of the summit.

In summary, if the WX is so bad as to require the use of bothy bag to activate, then abort and try again when MWIS gives the green light.

Regards
David
G0EVV

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I have a 4 man OEX bothy bag from Go Outdoors. It’s about the right size to fit me, my large rucksack and all my radio gear and operate. But I’ve only used it twice towards the end of an activation when I was getting cold. I now have a DD SuperLight tarp which offers great shelter from the wind or rain. I still carry the bothy bag for emergency use. The bag certainly keeps you warm but it’s a bit claustrophobic - I don’t like the way you can’t see what’s happening outside or if your aerial is still up.

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I always carry a bothy bag (I’m old enough to remember them originally being called a KISU… Karrimor International Survival Unit). Mostly for emergency use (so it stays in the bag), but I have used it to eat lunch and to activate.

Strongly recommend carrying one, it could save your life.

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I’ve carried a 2p Bothy (room for 1 as was called out above) for about 6 years now, and I have deployed it maybe 3 times. More a side effect of being an activator in California/W6. I expect I’ll be needing it a lot over the next few months as I start activating in some more weather prone areas. The few times I have used it, once was to get out of a freak snow storm on a summit, twice was to deal with cold winds.

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Hi Ed,

I just got a Bothy Bag about 3 weeks ago and have used it on two winter activations with 25-30mph wind and temps of 30 degrees F. I really like it. It sets up in seconds and is very warm. I am a backcountry skier and am used to being outside all day in the winter, but I have very poor circulation in my hands and my fingers and found that after twenty minutes of operating on a summit in 25-30 degree F weather, my hands are numb and I have to QRT.

I can easily sit in the Bothy Bag for 90 minutes and stay completely warm and comfortable. I use a CrazyCreek chair so sitting is comfortable and it insulates from the snow beneath me.

As others have mentioned, the Bothy Bag is VERY noisy when it’s windy. On my first activation with it, the wind was blowing at 25mph and I could barely hear to copy CW. I was using the cheap Apple plastic earbuds and they do not block outside noise. After that, I ordered a cheap pair of Panasonic earbuds from Amazon and they have rubber tips that fit tightly in my ear and block the wind noise so I can hear the radio.

For me, it’s the only way to go on winter activations. Our summits are usually in the 10-30 F degree range. Also, I think I will start carrying it on backcountry ski tours: it could be a life saver. With two people in it, you could probably stay warm all night if you got caught out. Wouldn’t be comfortable, but in an emergency, it’s better than freezing.

I have a 6’ coax that I run from my End Fed into the bag and have not seen any increase in SWR or any other issues. I find it very comfortable to operate in there. If sitting on snow, it can get a bit steamy, but if you use a ski pole to hold up the roof, it helps the air vent air flow. Also, I lean my pack against the other end and I don’t have any issues with the sides or top bothering me.

Re repacking it. At home it’s easy to get it back in the stuff sack, but in the field, when it’s cold and windy, I just stuff it directly into the bottom of my pack. I can do that in seconds and then put all my radio gear on top of it.

Here’s a pic on my operating on W7I/ER-066.

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Don’t forget they make a good groundsheet too. I bring a tarp as well, they’re a lot more comfortable for longer activations. Everything just gets too steamed up in the bothy bag.

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I also carry a bothy in winter months, and used it once on a summit in a blizzard. I always carry a small insulated pad, and sat on that (no groundsheet). It was not a great experience: cramped, humid, noisy. But it was VERY cold and windy with driving snow on the summit, so life in the bothy was most definitely better than outside.

The worst part was the condensation dripping all over me - it was like my own personal rain shower!

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Hi Ed.
I have used it in case of need, with one or two people. It has always been a rewarding experience. If it is very cold, it is advisable to open your chimney to avoid condensation that occurs inside. I can configure it in many ways. Even using hiking poles and ropes. To form a fixed structure (camping tent).
I attach a video that was a rainy and windy day. It is low quality. But it gives an idea of the situation.
I always run the coaxial cable underneath. I never had any discomfort.
In some situations, if I hadn’t brought my Bothy Bag. I wouldn’t have been able to activate the summit.
Luck!!!




73 de Dani EA5M

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I carry and use a Supalite Bothy Bag 2 in my pack. I have used it about 4-5 times in 3 years now.
For ground insulation I also carry and use as a seat is a windsheild reflector. It would double as splinting material if needed. Only downfall is that it is slippery as hell on snow. They are light, cheap and most have light insulation between the two layers of reflective material.

Malen
VE6VID

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Hi Ed,

I carry a Terra Nova equipment Bothy 4 emergency survival shelter. The brand might be Wild Country now. It is heavier fabric than the Lifesystem (and other) models which I used to carry and was essential for my activation yesterday. It is a faded turquoise colour and if there is direct sunlight it actually feels warm inside, well maybe not warm but comfortable!

I carry a section of thick camping mat (Decathlon cheapest) to sit on, but have lost many of them as they often blow away when you stand up. You have been warned!

Ciao

Colwyn

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Hi Colwyn,

At the moment my base for winter and summer activations is a piece of thick plastic painter’s sheet - it doesn’t blow away easily - especially not with the rucksack stood on it. It also gives no protection when the weather turns bad, however, so the combination of that and the Bothy Bag may work well. The Lifesystems 2 man emergency shelter is now tied into the rucksack but hopefully, I won’t need it on my activation tomorrow.

73 Ed.

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