Black Diamond Bipod Review
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 Helium, 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 Helium, 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 bivies in our test that had poles to keep the bivy lofted above the user, it has 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 earns 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, the heaviest bivy in our review. The Outdoor Research Alpine outperformed the BD Bipod in most 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 is one of the largest packed bivys 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 Pro Bivy, it's hard to compete. The MSR Pro 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. With options like the Outdoor Research Helium on the market for $150.00 it is incredibly hard to justify the value of the BD Bipod. At half price, the Bipod might be a bit more competitive.
After extensive testing, hiking, skiing, weathering snow and rainstorms, the Black Diamond 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 Outdoor Research Helium, OR Alpine, or even the MSR Pro over the BD Bipod.
— Brian Martin