The Survival Zone LITE is a new, ultra light bivi bag, made with Pertex Endurance fabric and manufactured by Rab.
I’ve been using one over the last month and will shortly be taking it on a 12-month cycle around the world. This review gives my first impressions. No doubt in a year’s time I will be able to expand.
Rab Survival Zone Lite Review
A well made, tiny, ultralight, shower proof bivi bag. Ideal for alpine bivouacing, ultra light camping, emergency back up and mild weather bivvying. Probably the lightest bivi bag in the world.
[Disclosure: I was sent two of these bivi bags by Rab to take on my round-the-world cycling trip and review]
The Survival Zone Lite weighs just 200 grams making it a great piece of ultralight outdoor gear. That’s less than an orange survival bag (300-400 grams) and your standard ex-army Goretex bivi (800-1,000 grams), and beats the previous lightweight champion, its predecessor the regular Rab Survival Zone (320g).
It packs down to the size of a cotton sleeping bag liner, not much larger than a tennis ball.
Size & Shape
Rab describe Survival Zone Lite as a “sleeping bag cover” rather than a bivvy bag. It’s long and wide enough to fit anyone and their sleeping bag inside – and you can stuff a few things down the sides – but it is clearly not designed to stash your rucksack and boots in like the cavernous army bivis.
For example, if you put a mat inside the bag and sit with your knees up then expect the bag to be taut across the top (so, better to sleep with the mat outside the bag).
The Survival Zone Lite has a hood into which you can tuck your sleeping bag, pillow or a bit of kit, and a drawcord to tighten it. If you want your face covered then you either need to lie on your side and pull the hood over, or turn it upside down.
For 200 grams you could get either tough but not waterproof/breathable or vice versa. The Survival Zone Lite is the latter. If you slept outside on rocky ground and wriggled about then I suspect it wouldn’t be long before it got torn or worn through.
But then there are already plenty of tough bivi bags on the market and they all weigh more than the Survival Zone Lite. This is pro lite gear designed for ultra lightweight use and/or as an extra backup.
Sleeping on top of a roll mat or inside a tent, this bag is durable enough.
Waterproofing (Pertex Endurance)
Pertex Endurance is a comparatively new fabric from Pertex. Like all Pertex fabrics, it’s very light. But unlike most of the others, it also has some waterproof properties.
For the technically inclined, Pertex Endurance has a hydrostatic head rating of 1,000mm*. And, for comparison, the legal minimum score for a material to be described as “100% waterproof” is 1,500mm and your average Goretex jacket is rated at 28,000mm.
(*Check back in two weeks’ time for a full comparison of different waterproof materials including an explanation of hydrostatic head ratings)
What this means is that the Survival Zone Lite will easily shed a spilled drink, protect your sleeping bag from morning dew and keep you dry through a little light drizzle. However, if it rains hard or for a sustained period, or you lie in a puddle, then you’ll get wet.
On the plus side, Pertex fabrics are invariably far more breathable than Goretex and other waterproof materials which means the Survival Zone Lite will feel less clammy and suffer less from condensation inside.
Best Bivi Bag for…
The two key features of this bag are: a) it’s really light, and b) it’s not fully waterproof. That should inform most of your decisions about its use.
As such, this bag would be perfect for:
- Alpine climbing: probably what Rab had in mind. Bivvying above the snowline where there’s no chance of rain but you still want some protection from snow and wind.
- Ultralight walking/running: when every gram counts, you just need a little bit of shelter and you can suck up a little discomfort if it rains hard because – as an ultra light minimalist – you’re used to it.
- Fair weather bivouacing: It’s light enough to be carried in addition to a tent and other camping essentials to give you the option of sleeping outside if the weather looks nice. That’s why we’re taking two on our cycle to Australia.
- Sleeping bag cover: Rab describe this as a sleeping bag cover rather than a bivi. If you want a bit of protection from wear, spillages and condensation, and a bit of extra warmth, 200-grams is a small price to pay.
Survival Zone vs Survival Zone Lite
The original Survival Zone bivi bag (no “Lite” at the end) has been a classic of the Rab brand for many years. It is exactly the same design as the Lite, the only difference is that original Survival Zone uses Pertex Shield fabric rather than Pertex Endurance.
The difference? The original Survival Zone bivy has a hydrostatic head of 10,000mm (i.e. properly waterproof) rather than 1,000mm for the Lite and feels a bit tougher. The Survival Zone weighs 320g and Survival Zone Lite weighs 200g.