The Book of the Bivvy

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19 Oct 2007
14 Aug 2015
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.0cm

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A guidebook on bivvybag skills and expeditions. Accounts of bivvybag nights and expeditions, both nice and nasty, alternate with practical chapters on lightweight kit. Finally a selection of bivvybag expeditions. Hilarious (and informative) reading! An updated second edition.

Seasons Seasons
Any season.
Centres Centres
Suggested bivvybag routes in the Lake District around Skiddaw, Bruce’s Crown in the Galloway Hills, a circuit of the Pennines between Settle and Hexham, and a crossing of Pumlumon Fawr between Church Stretton, Shropshire and Aberystwyth.
Difficulty Difficulty
Suggested routes are mainly long, across hill-country.
Must See Must See
The fun of ‘doing it’.
19 Oct 2007
14 Aug 2015
17.2 x 11.6 x 1.0cm
  • Overview

    The Book of The Bivvy is a half-and-half mix of how to do it and why to do it (or how not to do it, and why not to do it). Accounts of bivvybag nights and expeditions, both nice and nasty, alternate with practical chapters about the technicalities of the breathable membrane, how little kit you really can get away with and the secrets of lightweight long distance. The book closes with a selection of bivvybag expeditions to initiate the unwary into the secrets.

    "It was the best of nights….it was the worst of nights" (Unattributed)

    Just where are the half a million bivvybags sold in Britain over recent years? Probably waiting for Ronald Turnbull to show the nervous virgin users the way forward.

    Ronald's informed, humorous, instructive, wry look at the world of the bivouac is certainly the first, and perhaps the last, word on this unexplored territory.

    Along the way Ronald shows that 1900 to 1969 was the dark age of the bivouac, how Diogenes (the Cynic) bivvied under timber, and that the Eiger was climbed only through improved bivvying technique.

    "It's not what you eat, it's where you eat it."

    One grateful reader writes "Thank you for writing the book of the bivvy. I bivvied out near Capel Curig, alone in my ex-British army bivvy bag...even though it was August Bank holiday I saw no-one between 6pm Friday and 10.30am on Saturday, and had no trouble finding accommodation. I hope to do this often - my only regret is not trying it sooner."

  • Contents

    FOREWORD by Julian Miles


    1  BASIC BIVVY   
        Peigne and suffering   
        Problems of the polybag   
        Plastic bag for pleasure purposes
        Polybag facts    

    2  BIVVY HISTORY    

        Five nights in green plastic   
        1    Overnight Ochils       
        2    Wet Wooler in November   
        3    Hoover bag   
        4    Man management   
        5    Saddle bag   
        Time, things and Miguel    

        Cave behaviour   
        Fallback bag   
        Shopping for bags    

        Wet under thorns in Belfast    
        Further suffering   
        What if it rains?   
        Look after your bivvy and your bivvy will look after you       
        The ideal site    

        Wetness and weight   
        Acharacle to Aberdeenshire   

        Bag and baggage   
        Comparative luxury   
        The fuel on the hill   
        Mountains under the moon    

    8  BAG PLANS       
        1    Bivvybagging the Wainwrights   
        2    Bag and camera       
        3    Corbett bagging    

        1    Sleeping on Skiddaw   
        2    Bruce’s Crown    

        Re-enacting Wainwright on a walk to the Roman Wall    

        A crossing of Pumlumon Fawr    



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  • Reviews
    Winner: Outdoor Writer's Guild Awards for Excellence: Best Outdoor Book 2001
    Quirky. Entertaining. Funny. Heart warming. Very well researched and stunningly presented. 

    (OWG Award judges)

    Thank you for writing The Book of the Bivvy. I bivvied out on Friday night near Capel Curig, alone in an ex-British Army bivvy bag bought for £12 from an army surplus store. Even though it was August Bank Holiday I saw no-one between 6pm Friday and 10:30am on Saturday and had no trouble finding accommodation. I hope to do this often - my only regret is not trying it sooner

    (Anthony Walmsley, via email)

    This book by a very well respected outdoors' author, is both a joy and an inspiration, sure to make you want to take off and seek out the wild places, ten-less at that! At least those of us who enjoy camping outwith just a bivvy bag have found a guide to the hobby that we can recommend to beginners.

    Ronald Turnbull's book is a gallimaufry of good things; full of sound advice, such as choosing a bivvy bag - from basic polybag to state-of-the-art expensive shelter, what to do if it rains, long-distance bivvying, all related in a humorous and informative style - making this an ideal bedside book even if you just read it in the comfort of your home…

    Ten out of ten, Mr Turnbull, but please come and bivvy on Dartmoor…
    Rating *****

    (John Bainbridge, Dartmoor News Sept/Oct 2002)

    ‘Turnbull is ultimately worth reading, not just because of the clever quirkiness of his thoughts and phrases but because his night yomps and his high bivvies and his off-beat, off-beaten-track jaunts show that he retains that most basic of outdoor-writer essentials: a simple love of being out there, somewhere, on the surface of the planet.

    (The Angry Corrie, 1999)’

    Topic - Kathmandu trekking Bivi bags by - Piglet  on - 15 Apr 2005
    They seem to be the favourite bag of the author of 'The Book of the Bivvy'. I'm not sure if this is a recommendation or not, as he seems to be a bit odd...
    In reply to captain paranoia: I hope you're not dissing Ron Turnbull. He's not odd, he's a legend!
    OK so he is pretty odd. But evidently not as odd as his mate Glynn. He's really 'out there'...
    RTs books are a constant source of inspiration to me. Especially "Across Scotland on Foot"; the combination of understated gnarl and joy in the outdoors comes across strongly.

    ( Ltd -Climbing Gear forum)

    I have never understood the point of bivvying by choice. I mean for Scots living in Scotland there is a dizzying variety of ways to be miserable, few of which are more abject than lying in a poly bag on a dank bog throughout a dreich night. When I bivvy it is because something has gone terribly wrong and it is always someone else's fault.

    There are lots of good reasons to read this wee book. The activity might appeal and you want to follow up suggested outings; you might want to upgrade your gear in case you are caught out; you might want to find out the ways you can make it more comfortable-gey few, in truth; or you might want to ask the question Ronnie was asked in Ruigh-aiteachain “but what happens if it rains?” The answer is in Chapter 5. My recommendation is that you store up the abstruse and arcane bits about Diogenes the Cynic's bivvying techniques and declaim them in the pub when your round is coming up. That should thin the crowd nicely.

    (John F Donohoe The Scottish Mountaineer)

    A Bookshelf Classic

    Being a penniless student, all my early mountain adventures meant following the black art of "dossing"; the Americans call it "dirtbagging", and in today's speak it's morphed into "bivvying". Essentially it is about travelling light, forgoing a tent and relying on not much more than a stove, some basic sleeping gear, and your wits to secure shelter. Part autobiography, part instruction book and part guidebook, The Book of the Bivvy unlocks this glorious pursuit, and once you've read it, the days of lugging round a tent, for you, may well be confined to history. Through lack of gear and/or a natural desire for self-reliance, spending a night under the stars, or tucked under a boulder is woven into the fabric of mountaineering and walking. 

    With humour and a fair degree of self-deprecation Ronald Turnbull steers us through the history, skills and possibilities. He is clearly a master of this art form; in this pocket-size tome he has managed to distil all the ups, and some of the downs, so that when you've read it you'll have the knowledge to truly travel light for overnight mountain adventures.

    Jeremy Ashcroft, Trail magazine

    "Now this pocket sized little book had me all fired up. Many of you, like me, well remember walking the South West Coast Path and being somewhat restrained by a budget, careful handling of cash was essential. Those were the days of tent, sleeping bag and all the other kit one feels one wouldn’t like to be without.
    Ronald Turnbull came too late for me. This book takes a humorous and informative look of ‘how to do it’ and sometimes ‘how not to do it!’"

    (South West Coast Path Association - NEWS, Spring 2008)

    Thinking of buying a bivvy bag? Will this book help you to choose the right one? Well yes, it certainly provides some useful advise on what to look for.
    Will this book answer those questions you’ve always wanted to ask but didn’t want to look stupid? Yes – there are some useful hints and tips on how to get the best from your bivvy bag. The ideal site, the secrets of travelling light and how to look after your bivvy bag are covered in a very down to earth way.
    The book has an informal, unstructured feel, and for me, is an enjoyable read. Tales of suffering interspersed with technical details and advise on staying dry, or not as is the case. The book ends with some of the author’s multi-day expeditions, mainly in Britain.

    The writing style is quirky, funny yet also very informative – think Jack Dee running a course at Glenmore Lodge! Now I must search out that fertiliser bag…

    (Scottish Mountaineer, May 2008)

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Ronald Turnbull

Ronald Turnbull writes regularly for TGO, Lakeland Walker, Trail and Cumbria magazines. His previous books include Across Scotland on Foot, Long Days in Lakeland and Welsh 3000ft Challenges. He has written many other Cicerone guides, including Walking in the Lowther Hills, The Book of the Bivvy and Not the West Highland Way.

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