When the clouds were building, and it was time to hunker down, we felt secure and protected from the elements in the Black Diamond Bipod bivy. It wasn't the most weather resistant, but it was a worthy adversary for ranging wind, rain, and snow. Our main frustration with the BD Bipod was the door opening and closing system. It wasn't freestanding, even with the pole installed. It would flop open with the pole laying flush on the ground. We also disliked that it had to be opened entirely, waterproof shell and screen, to install the pole. This meant that when the storms were already raging, we had to open our bivy and allow the elements in while we set it up. If this sounds frustrating to you, we like the Outdoor Research Alpine, our Editor's Choice, as it remains closed and sealed with an extra slip for the pole on the outside (a much better design, in our opinion).
Black Diamond Bipod Review
Compare prices at 2 resellers Pros: Durable, weather resistance, warm
Cons: Strange venting system, heavy, not free standing when unzipped
Manufacturer: Black Diamond
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The Black Diamond Bipod bivy has many noteworthy features. While we didn't find it to be the easiest to pitch or best design for weather protection, it did a pretty good job overall. While it has good weather protection once deployed, it was difficult to set up in a storm without getting moisture inside. Along the same design issue lines, we didn't like that to get the maximum space and usability the bivy needed to be staked out. Our philosophy is that when taking a bivy sack, we are putting ourselves in an environment where staking out might not be possible, and we expect our gear to work well regardless.
One of our most significant concerns with this design is the fact that you have to have the inner sanctum of the bivy open and exposed to insert the single pole. This causes two problems. The first is exposing the inside to the elements in the case you are pitching in a storm, and secondly, the pole fit is exceptionally tight. Because the pole is held in with tension, this process is challenging when wearing gloves. These may seem like nitpicky details, but when thinking about the ease of setup between the BD Bipod and the Outdoor Research Alpine, along with the ability to keep the inside dry under any circumstances with the OR bag, we must be ruthless.
Once the Bipod was deployed, we felt safe and sound inside. There was ample space to store extra gear at the head and foot to keep everything out of the elements. The taped seams functioned fantastically, keeping water from creeping through joints and seams between the floor and ceiling of the bivy. On the negative side, the entrance of the bivy requires you to open the top and side of the bivy. This causes problems if you're setting the bivy up during a storm or have to get in and out for any reason. If you're ultimately concerned with superior weather protection even before you get in the bivy, we like the Outdoor Research Alpine, as it has incredible weather protection, weighs a similar amount as the BD Bipod, and has a clever opening/venting and pole system.
Once inside the BD Bipod we found comfort in a variety of temperatures. The massive zippered screen allowed us to dial in the temperature and ventilation. Not only did the massive screen help us dial in the ventilation, but the "ToddTex" material did a decent job keeping us dry when the bivy shell was sealed shut, even in frigid climates, when condensation can be extreme. Ventilating was an issue during rain and snow storms, however. The screen is on top of the bivy, allowing water in if you unzip during storms; this was a bit of a frustration.
The BD Bipod bivy had ample space inside to accommodate a person and a fair amount of gear. We even had space to read inside the bivy as a storm raged on outside. As one of the two bivies in our test that had poles to keep the bivy lofted above the user, it had a huge advantage over the rest of the field as far as comfort.
The extra room to maneuver/toss and turn was appreciated after being crammed in some of the ultralight bivies such as the SOL Escape Bivvy or the Frog TACT. The BD Bipod earned high marks for comfort compared to the rest of the field.
Weighing in for the fight at 1.77 pounds or 802 grams, this isn't exactly a boat anchor, it was, however, one of the heavier bivies in our review. Outweighed only by the Tennier Woodland Camouflage Waterproof Bivy, a thick canvas bag, the BD Bipod was on the edge of being a little too heavy. The Outdoor Research Alpine outperformed the BD Bipod in almost every category and weighs about the same. For these reasons, we had to bump the BD Bipod down a peg or two.
The BD Bipod was one of the largest packed bivies we tested. While it isn't so big you can't pack it along on your next adventure, it is quite large compared to similarly performing bivies. When we look at the size to performance ratio of the MSR AC Bivy, it's hard to compete. The MSR AC gave us similar but slightly less weather protection in a package that could fit inside the BD Bipod's stuff sack multiple times. Overall it wasn't too excessive, but it is getting close to the size of the Black Diamond Firstlight Tent, which is a two person four season tent.
The best applications are for backpacking, or similarly planned excursions, when we knew we'd be stopping and deploying our bivy. Unexpected storms, emergency bivys, and being cold and stressed when setting this bivy up was not ideal. When we were calm and setting up a planned bivy in dry environments, we had time to wrestle the BD Bipod's single pole inside the tight-as-a-drum enclosure. When we were cold and pushing a storm deadline, wrestling with the pole wasn't what we wanted to be doing.
At $320, this bag is pricey. If our testing had revealed this to be superior in all metrics, the price could almost be justified. As it stands now, its hard to justify purchasing the BD Bipod when the OR Alpine is fifty bucks cheaper and outperforms the BD Bipod in every category. If you want to pinch your pennies, even more, check out the MSR AC Bivy or the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy, as they both provide similar performance as the BD Bipod and a much lower cost.
After extensive testing, hiking, skiing, weathering snow and rainstorms, the BD Bipod offered decent performance and proved itself to be quite durable. Ultimately, if the price was a bit lower, we would recommend this to a friend who was venturing out on a backpacking trip in a stable climate. When it comes down to making a choice between the two alpine bivies with poles in this review we would have to recommend the OR Alpine over the BD Bipod.
— Brian Martin