If you’ve been following the story of the Dan Durston X-Mid tent on Trek Lite forum, you will know that while the tent has received very positive reviews, there has been some frustration that a solid inner has not been made available, despite strong lobbying from its designer, Dan Durston and members of the backpacking community, particularly from Europe.
A little while ago, Valley & Peak came onto the backpacking scene with a mix of their own gear and third party specialist products. The Ultra Bivy looked an interesting product to pair with the X-Mid especially in the solid wall, double J-Zip version. After a few emails, I decided to order one and here it is!
It has three D rings (two at the head end and one at the foot) to secure the shock cord for support. I sewed a linelok onto the webbing at either end to give some easy adjustment. At the apexes of the X-Mid I added a loop of cord to make it easier to clip in with the supplied mitten hooks. It was very easy to setup.
I added some cord with mitten hook attachments so I could secure the corners to the X-Mid to avoid pegging out the Ultra Bivy corners separately. While this worked, you get a better pitch by using dedicated pegs at each corner, so that’s probably the setup I will go with in the future. As you can see the interior fits a full length Neo Air X-Lite. with a little bit of room at each end.
When fully zipped, there’s a reasonable amount of room, although obviously you can’t sit up. At the foot end your sleeping bag might push gently against the end as it slopes but it’s a long way from the fly sheet so shouldn’t be an issue. I’m 175cm (5ft 9in) tall and there was a decent amount of length for me. if you’re over 185cm, it might start to feel a bit cramped.
One other worthwhile tweak was to add a tie back for the roof panel so I could hitch it out of the way. I used some grosgrain and kamsnaps and it worked really well. With the roof tied back, there’s a huge amount of space in the X-Mid for gear storage and cooking. There’s very little storage space inside the Ultra Bivy, so the X-Mid is an ideal companion. I will take a section of groundsheet to put in the porch to protect stuff sacks from wet and dirt.
The groundsheet is silnylon and quite slippy, so I’ll add some SilNet stripes to it. At the head end, I specified the some ripstop mesh for the rectangular panels and ordinary mesh for the ends. I asked for a small ridge line pocket and I thought the ripstop mesh would be more robust. It also might be more resistant to and stray drops of water and when the hood is attached, it is the only part of the mesh that is exposed.
While the hood is not very elegant, it is effective in shielding the mesh from breezes and water droplets (not the X-Mid seems to be prone to much condensation with its excellent vents). I need to play about with it to pitch it better.
Weight as supplied is 226g for the main bivy and 44g for the hood. The shock cord, lineloks, mitten hooks and tie back added 25g, for a total of 295g. For comparison, the X-Mid mesh inner is 285g. Both the workmanship and the materials appear to be top quality. Indeed Mary’s sewing is fantastic. It’s up with the best I’ve seen. Total cost was £188, which is good value for a high quality product.
If you have an X-Mid and want a solid inner for the colder months or as protection against cold winds, the Ultra Bivy provides a good solution, given that it’s unlikely a solid inner option will be offered by Drop. The Ultra Bivy is probably slightly lighter than a solid inner version would be. With the roof panel rolled back, it provides access to both the enormous porches and a wonderful feeling of space.
Disclaimer: I bought the Ultra Bivy and the X-Mid with my own money and have no relationship with Valley & Peak or Drop other than as a customer.
Video from Valley & Peak: