We tested the Lifesystems Hooped Bivi, hoping it’s the affordable shelter so many backpackers want

Hooped bivvy bags can be priced to rival tents but the Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi has an attractive price of just over £100. We find out how this bargain hooped bivvy performs.

from Lifesystems
RRP  £120.00
James Forrest camping with Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi with LFTO star rating

by James Forrest |
Published on

Hooped bivvy bags can be amazingly expensive, competing directly with some backpacking tents, and can burn a serious hole in your pocket – costing upwards of £250 or even over £400 in some cases. But there are a few affordable options when it comes to hooped bivvy bags. One of these is the Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi, which hit the shop shelves for this first time in January 2024.

It’s a hooped bivvy bag with a design very reminiscent of the popular Outdoor Research Helium Bivy. You get good headroom thanks to the arched pole, and all-round comfort levels are high. It’s waterproof (11,000mm HH), breathable (15,000g/m2/24hr) and very durable, courtesy of the sturdy 70-denier ripstop nylon fabric, and you even get a mesh face covering and four pegging-out points. All of this for £120 (at the time of writing) is impressive.

James Forrest camping with Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped BiviLFTO
Price: £104.95 (RRP £120)

www.outdooraction.co.uk

Pros

  • Great value for a hooped bivvy bag
  • Fully featured
  • Weatherproof and breathable
  • Durable fabric

Cons

  • Heavier than premium Outdoor Research Helium Bivy

Design

Closeup of top of Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi
©LFTO

This bivvy bag has a near-identical design to the Outdoor Research Helium Bivy – a hooped bivvy with a single arched pole around the head, integrated mesh covering and pegging-out points. There are a few key differences, though.

The OR Helium is 187g lighter; has better a hydrostatic head (waterproof) and breathability ratings; offers 5cm extra headroom; and features more premium materials such as Pertex. Conversely the Lifesystems Venture Solo is £130 cheaper, slightly longer and wider, and has four pegging-out points, compared the Helium’s two.

Ultimately they are very similar bivvy bags. Pricing aside, the Helium is definitely better, with a higher quality construction, enhanced all-round performance, a better opening/zipper design, and a lighter weight. But the Venture Solo is amazing value at £120. Perhaps think of the Helium as the M&S Colin The Caterpillar cake (indulgent, high quality, the original) and the Venture Solo as the Aldi Cuthbert The Caterpillar (a tasty copycat, but not quite as good).

Size, weight, and packability

Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi stuffsack
©LFTO

On our scales, the Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi weighs 681g. This is made up of the bivvy bag itself (602g), a single pole (56g) and the carry bag (23g). This is impressively light for a hooped bivvy, offering a noticeable weight saving compared to rivals such as the Rab Ridge Raider Bivi (890g), OEX Salamanda Bivi Bag (1,240g) and the Alpkit Elan (900g). But Venture Solo isn't quite a class leader – it’s still 187g heavier heavier than the ultralight Outdoor Research Helium Bivy.

In terms of its size, the Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi has official dimensions as follows: 225cm long, 68cm wide at the shoulder and 59cm wide at the footbox (although by our measurements it’s a tad wider at the foot, more like 70cm). These dimensation are marginally roomier – both in length and width – than the Outdoor Research Helium Bivy, but it’s smaller than over-sized bivvy bags such as the Alpkit Hunka XL, Mountain Warehouse Waterproof Bivvy Bag and Rab Trailhead Bivi.

The Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi packs down compactly to about 33 x 10cm (according to our measurements), with a tall and thin shape. It can be stored in the storage sack provided, which has a drawstring closure. The narrow opening to the storage sack means the bivvy bag has to be rolled quite tightly and precisely to fit inside.

Waterproofing and breathability

Branding and logo on Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi
©LFTO

The Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi has a hydrostatic head rating of 11,000mm and an MVTR breathability rating of 15,000g/m²/24hr, as well as fully taped seams and a PU coating. These are very good stats and ensure high levels of waterproofing and breathability. The breathability stat in particular is better than many others bivvy bags (commonly graded 10,000g/m²/24hr), although how noticeable this is in more humid conditions is debatable. The waterproofing stat is more standard – lots of bivvy bags have a 10,000mm grade.

For comparison, the Outdoor Research Helium Bivy has a hydrostatic head rating of 20,000mm and a corresponding 20,000 g/m²/24hr MVTR breathability rating. The Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi is one level below this premium fabric, therefore, but its waterproofing and breathability stats are still impressive for the pricetag.

Waterproofing is further improved by the hooped structure. The arched pole in the Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi creates steeper, sloping walls over the head, which sheds rain very effectively. Conversely non-hooped bivvies are just flat and thus rain has a tendency to pool on top of their fabrics.

Features

Side view of James Forrest using Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi
©LFTO

The Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi is (as the name suggests) a hooped bivvy bag. A single, black-and-orange pole is used to create the arched structure around the head. Similar to a tent pole, this flexible pole is linked via shock-chord and folds down into five segments with a compact 29cm length. Once connected the pole is 130cm long. Underneath a Velcro strap on one side of the bivvy, the pole slides into a sleeve to create a looping, semi-circular canopy with a 45cm height, according to our measurements. Each end of the pole has a little rubber tip and is housed inside a tab of reinforced fabric. Sliding the pole into the sleeve is smooth and easy.

In order to give the bivvy shape and structure, you get four pegging-out points – two at the head end and two at the foot end. These work well and help to keep the footprint reasonably taut. Pegs are not provided or included in the weight of the bag, so remember to take this into consideration.

The end result of all of this is that you get extra headroom, greater internal volume and better all-round comfort. The canopy is only 45cm high (5cm lower than the Outdoor Research Helium Bivy), but it’s nice to not have the bivvy fabric resting atop your head or face, and for bivvy nights in poor weather it’s an absolute godsend. The inside of the bivvy doesn’t feel as restrictive or claustrophobic as non-hooped bivvies, and that extra bit of headroom is useful when checking your phone or map, or organising some of your kit.

James Forrest inside Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi with mesh screen closed
©LFTO

Access to the Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi is from the top via a wide opening. The opening is very versatile too, with the same design (again) as the Outdoor Research Helium Bivy. In good weather you can opt for an open structure, by not closing any of the zippers and sleeping with your head exposed. The main waterproof flap can be rolled away and clipped away neatly using toggles. If bugs and midges are a concern, you can zip up just the mesh covering across your head, which may be a life-saver on still nights in the Scottish Highlands, for example.

Or, finally, for full waterproofing you can close the main zipper in order to 100% seal up the bivvy bag’s opening. This covering has Velcro stormflap for enhanced protection. All of the zippers are easy to operate when you’re inside the bivvy bag.

Verdict

James Forrest camping with Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi with LFTO star rating
©LFTO

The Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi is a superbly-priced hooped bivvy with a proven design, impressive comfort, and decent stats. But it’s not the lightest or most premium option on the market.

How we tested

James Forrest testing gear for Live for the Outdoors
©LFTO

The task of testing and reviewing the Lifesystems Venture Solo Hooped Bivi for LFTO rested on the shoulders of James Forrest. James is one of our main freelance gear testers who writes reviews and features for LFTO and our magazine, Trail.

As an author and avid backpacker in Britain, James is one of the most authortitative voices when it comes to wild camping and trekking in the UK.

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