Barely tipping the scales at a half of a pound, the SOL Escape was one of the more impressive models we tested. Made from SOL's proprietary fabric (which feels similar to a DuPont Tyvec Lab suit) and an inner reflective coating, the SOL excelled at keeping us warm while also relatively dry on the inside. Before we go any further, it's important to note that this bivy isn't in the same ballpark as the much heavier Outdoor Research Alpine or the Outdoor Research Helium, or even the mid-range adventure models such as the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy or the MSR Pro. The Escape isn't suited for long expeditions or sleeping in snow caves unless you have tigers blood flowing through your veins; instead, it fills a niche for lightweight, durable warmth for ultralight endeavors. 2019 brought some heavy competition for the SOL Escape in the form of another ultralight bivy, the MSR Pro. While being more than three times as expensive, the MSR Pro does one up the SOL Escape in several categories.
All of this weight savings comes at a cost. The Escape is a one size fits all bivy. In the case of our 5'11"180-pound gear tester, it just barely fit. Anyone larger than this wouldn't be able to completely close the drawstring head closure and probably would be uncomfortable and constricted in both length and width. Additionally, we were using a 30 degree down Western Mountaineering bag. A loftier bag would also fill up the small space inside the Escape. Supposing you are smaller, this bivy is an excellent choice because some of the others in this review are large enough to create cold dead-space inside the bag. All in all, this bag is hard to beat for the cheap price, weight and relative durability.
It's hard to leave the relative comfort of the Escape on frosty mornings.
The Escape is a minimalist bivy. There are no attachment points to stake it down or guylines. The side zipper is a one-third zip, and the top opening cinches with a drawstring, much like a mummy sleeping bag. Because the side zipper is a basic ykk and the main closure is a drawstring, the top of the bag is vulnerable to the elements. The zipper also is very porous, and if getting directly blasted by rain, it leaks.
Having the knowledge of the SOL Escape's limits will go a long way in getting the most out of this bivy. We found excellent protection against light rain, wind, and especially cold from the SOL.
The Escape, when upside down, does a fair job of keeping the elements out.
The metalized spun-bonded olefin (popularized as Tyvek house wrap) material of the SOL Escape does an excellent job at keeping moisture and wind out while remaining breathable. Except for situations when the wind was strong enough to blow snow and rain up and inside the bivy, we remained warm and dry. The metalized spun-bonded olefin (which sounds like a folk band turned metal) performed nearly as well as the ultimately waterproof OR Alpine Bivy, which is impressive.
When compared to the Survival Frog TACT Bivy, the other minimalist/survival oriented bivy we tested, the Escape was more highly refined and suited for adding warmth and survivability in harsh weather conditions. While the Escape's Olefin material feels incredibly strong, the Frog TACT rips easily by hand, making it suitable for only a few uses. The SOL Escape also tops the Frog TACT through its zipper/drawstring closure as the Frog consists of a glued seam bag and open top that must be rolled down to keep the elements out.
If you're looking for a lightweight emergency bivy that ticks many of the same boxes of the SOL Escape but offers a bit more weather protection and comfort, the MSR Pro is probably what you're looking for.
It's important to note that universally, all of the models we tested ended up collecting condensation on the inside of the bag. The Escape is no exception. In extreme cold, when we had the bag fully zipped and cinched, we noticed moisture collecting on the inside of the bag by morning. This was enough moisture to dampen the outer shell of our sleeping bag but not enough to collect and diminish the down's ability to keep us warm. All in all, the metalized spun-bonded olefin seems optimized to breathe while retaining decent water resistance.
In conditions not requiring the bivy to be completely cinched closed, we found the venting of the zipper and head opening to be adequate. Even in colder temperatures, we remained comfortable having the top wide open. In this configuration, we experienced a nominal amount of condensation without any discomfort resulting from the moisture collection.
The SOL's reflective inner coating works well to retain body heat in the bivy.
When compared side-by-side with the rest of the models in the field, the Escape is far from the most comfortable. This bag was designed to make extremely uncomfortable situations less unbearable, and it does well in those situations. We found the one size fits all SOL to be a little bit too short and narrow for our 5'11" 180-pound frame. When we put our Z-Rest sleeping pad and 30 degree Western Mountaineering sleeping bag inside, there wasn't enough room to roll and turn as we slept.
2019 saw the introduction of the MSR Pro bivy. This bivy offers many of the same positive attributes of the SOL Escape but has a much larger footprint. We could fit a full length inflatable sleeping pad, down sleeping bag, and a 6'2" gear tester with room to spare. This is simply not possible in the SOL Escape. That said, if you're 5'11" or shorter the SOL Escape might be the more comfortable option for you as it wouldn't have an excess of dead space inside.
Another comfort issue arose when we wanted to zip or unzip our sleeping bag. When the zipper was completely undone and had to be recoupled before zipping up, we didn't have enough room to move both hands easily. The bivy had to be unzipped first to give us enough room/mobility. If you require room for sleeping, check out the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy as it has tons of space and provides fantastic comfort and weather protection in a relatively lightweight package.
The Escape is unique in this field of nylon polymer based bivy sacks. The Escape is made from the metalized spun-bonded olefin, which is basically a layer of Tyvek house wrap coated with reflective aluminum.
This unique material rings in at 2.45 oz per yard, resulting in a 8.36 oz bivy, including its stuff sack. That's half a pound for an extremely functional bivy. The weight-to-performance ratio of this bivy is arguably at or near the top of the field. We found that unless there were big storms on the horizon, this bag found its way into our pack.
At 0.52lbs, the Escape has an extremely high weight-to-performance ratio.
Except for the Frog TACT, the Escape was the most packable and portable contender we tested.
About the size of two cups of coffee, the Escape is easily stowed in any size backpack.
The no extras/minimalist approach in the design of this bag yielded an incredibly efficient and tidy package. Not only is the packed bivy, at 4" x 7.5", easy to stow, it was also one of the easiest to unpack and repack in its stuff sack.
We found the SOL Escape bivy to be best suited for lightweight, minimalist endeavors. We were conflicted at times on what model would be the best to bring along, or if we would even need the extra warmth and protection of a bivy. These situations were a perfect opportunity to throw the SOL bivy into our pack. We felt that this bivy added at least 10 degrees to our sleeping bag's rating and at half a pound it was unnoticeable in the pack.
Times when we knew there would be substantial periods of inclement weather, we didn't feel the Escape offered enough comfort and protection from the elements. In these active weather situations, we found ourselves reaching for the Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy for its extremely waterproof shell, effective pole lofting system and extra space to store shoes and a small backpack. The best case scenario for the Escape is cold, dry climates when keeping the weight down was key to our success in accomplishing an objective.
$60 might seem like a steep price upon first viewing of the Escape bivy. The first time you get caught out after dark with an unplanned bivy, you will realize the high value of this piece of kit. The SOL is much more durable than an emergency blanket or the Frog TACT emergency bivy. This thing is built to last and feels durable and puncture resistant. In addition, it easily adds 10 degrees to your sleeping bag's temperature rating. When we had a sleeping pad with us, this bivy was actually pretty comfortable, too. We feel like while this isn't the most weather resistant or the most comfortable, it is definitely worth its weight and price tag.
The Bivy was lightweight, functional and worthy as a dry cold weather bivy.
The SOL Escape is targeted to those seeking to have a lightweight but functional kit in addition to those who just need an emergency bivy. We would not only use this bivy ourselves, we would recommend it to anyone looking for a lightweight, warm moderately weather resistant bivy solution.