Monday 10 July 2023

Bivouac Thoughts

With Larry Lake in the High Sierra on the Pacific Crest Trail

My last bivouac was seven years ago, Every camp since then - and there have been hundreds - I've slept in a tent or under a tarp.This isn't because I hate bivouacs. In fact I love them. Sleeping under the stars without a shelter is my favourite way to spend a night in the outdoors. That is, as long as it's dry and calm, there are no biting insects around, and it looks like staying that way. Otherwise I prefer the comfort and protection of a shelter. That means I rarely bivouac in the Scottish Highlands. In fact I can't remember the last time I did so.  I have great admiration for those like the amazing Hazel Strachan who bivi in the Highlands regularly and are adept at finding superb sheltered bivi sites. Maybe it's laziness but I just find it easier and simpler to use a shelter.

In the Superstition Mountains on the Arizona Trail

Over the years I've bivvied hundreds of time. On the Arizona Trail I did so all bar a few nights. Deserts are, I think, the perfect place for bivouacs along with dry mountain ranges with settled climates like the High Sierra in California.

I've been thinking about these bivouacs again due to a post by sidetrackedmag on Threads asking for people to  show their favourite bivi photos. Alex Roddie then posted some superb images - including one that showed why I don't bivi unless it's dry! I followed with some of mine and decided I'd put them on my blog with a few comments.

In the New Mexico desert on the Continental Divide Trail

Bivvying regularly night after night meant I developed a system for organising my gear so everything I needed was to hand while I was in my sleeping bag. I do that in a tent or tarp as well of course but stuff does tend to get scattered around sometimes as I know it can't stray far. Gear needs to be kept under more control when bivouacking!

In the Grand Canyon on the Arizona Trail

One advantage of a bivi is being able to use my pack as a backrest by propping it up with trekking poles. I love just sitting there watching the world fade into darkness and the stars come out. The bivi in the Grand Canyon pictured above is one of my very favourites. It was amazing to have the canyon to myself and to see it come to life as the sun rose.

San Lucas Canyon, Death Valley National Park

My last bivi was on the final night of a walk from Yosemite Valley to Death Valley. I'd descended from 11,050 foot (3368 metre) Telescope Peak to sleep on the edge of the vast flats of Death Valley, a superb spot and a tremendous place to wake for the last day of the walk. A perfect bivouac!

On the edge of Death Valley


  1. Excellent, have you got a link to the forum thread w/ Roddie's photos?

  2. Thanks. I don't have a link I'm afraid.I'm not sure how to give one for a Threads thread (or even if its possible). If you find sidetrackedmag on Threads and scroll down their posts you'll find it.