Gear Review: Macpac Bush Cocoon

Brett “Bretto” Long is a self-confessed outdoor gear junkie from Melbourne Australia. Brett runs the website ‘The World of Bretto‘ where he reviews gear and trips, sharing his love of the outdoors with his followers. He recently tested out the Macpac Bush Cocoon in the Victorian High Country.

Here are his first impressions: 

cocoon

This is the first instalment of a long-term test of the Macpac Bush Cocoon. I have only used it for one night so far but I will update this review after I have tested it out in a range of conditions.

Why bivvy?

When you want a lightweight solo shelter there are 3 main options:

  1. Tarp
  2. Lightweight 1 man tent (normally double walled)
  3. Bivy bag

If you want it to be tough, provide shelter in nasty weather, be easy to setup and offer protection from bugs and critters you might find yourself considering a bivy bag. It is sort of a high tech, lightweight version of the Aussie swag.

Emergency Bivy vs Hooped Bivy

The most basic bivy bags are little more than a waterproof bag that should keep you alive if things turn pear-shaped. They are cheap, lightweight and you will probably wake up in a pool of condensation.

Then you move into basic bivvys made from waterproof/breathable fabrics that offer reduced condensation, higher weight but still a fairly uncomfortable shelter experience. These don’t always offer insect protection and you will have fabric resting on your face when its closed up. These are best suited for emergency, military or occasional use or hard core hikers trying to keep the weight down.

At the top end of the bivy spectrum you get hooped bivvys that feature a pole to give you some headroom, insect protection, ventilation and high quality waterproof/breathable fabrics. I am happy to carry a few more grams for a higher level of comfort (and a better night’s sleep) so a hooped bivy is the way to go for me – and it certainly beats carrying my 3kg two person tent on solo trips.

 

The Competition

There are a number of hooped bivvys on the market – but arguably the 4 best and most readily available in Australia are:

Product Claimed Weight Top Fabric Pole Access Insect Mesh
Outdoor Research Advanced Bivy 1106g Gore-Tex Respiration Positive 3L Dual Delrin (plastic) Head end Yes
Rab Ridge Raider 1033g eVent 3L DAC 8mm Alum Head end Yes
Macpac Bush Cocoon 970g eVent 3L DAC 9mm Alum Left side Yes
Black Diamond Bipod Bivy 892g ToddTex Easton Alum Top/Right Yes

 

Is the Bush Cocoon the best hooped bivy out there? I couldn’t say without using the other bags but it seems to tick all the boxes for me.

Key features of the Bush Cocoon

The key features of the Bush Cocoon that are important to me are:

  • Side entry – I haven’t tried the head end entry versions but I expect it is more awkward to get in and out
  • High quality waterproof breathable fabric – you can’t go wrong with eVent.
  • Generous size – this has plenty of room.
  • Low weight
  • Ventilation even when fully zipped up
The foot of the bag has a clever socket/mini-sleeve where you can insert a stick to provide some height for your feet when used in conjunction with the attached guy line. I am not sure it’s essential but it is a nice feature.

The foot of the bag has a clever socket/mini-sleeve where you can insert a stick to provide some height for your feet when used in conjunction with the attached guy line. I am not sure it’s essential but it is a nice feature.

You don’t need to peg it down in most conditions, but if you do I recommend that you don’t peg out the foot end too tightly as it could impact the height available for your feet inside. So keep it loose.

There is a vent at the head end which is well designed and won’t allow rain to get in – even if it’s blowing in sideways. You need to peg it out if you want it to be fully effective.

There is a vent at the head end which is well designed and won’t allow rain to get in – even if it’s blowing in sideways. You need to peg it out if you want it to be fully effective.

 

What you get

It comes with fabric repair patches and a pole repair sleeve.

It comes with fabric repair patches and a pole repair sleeve.

 

7 aluminium pegs. Nothing fancy but they do the job.

7 aluminium pegs. Nothing fancy but they do the job.

 

One pre-bent 9mm DAC Featherlite NSL Green pole. It makes the hooped section of the bivy very sturdy – which is not surprising when you consider that 9mm poles are widely used to hold up normal tents but are probably 3 times longer.

One pre-bent 9mm DAC Featherlite NSL Green pole. It makes the hooped section of the bivy very sturdy – which is not surprising when you consider that 9mm poles are widely used to hold up normal tents but are probably 3 times longer.

Size

Shown next to a 1 litre drink bottle for scale. The compression sack is quite large and you would have no problems stuffing away the bivy bag if you didn’t have the time or conditions to roll it up.

Shown next to a 1 litre drink bottle for scale. The compression sack is quite large and you would have no problems stuffing away the bivy bag if you didn’t have the time or conditions to roll it up.

 

Shown next to a 1 litre drink bottle for scale. The compression sack is quite large and you would have no problems stuffing away the bivy bag if you didn’t have the time or conditions to roll it up.

Shown next to a 1 litre drink bottle for scale. The compression sack is quite large and you would have no problems stuffing away the bivy bag if you didn’t have the time or conditions to roll it up.

You can fit a larger mat in here such as the Exped LW mats [197 x 65 x 9cm] but the width of the mat reduces the height available for your feet. I did a home test with my winter sleeping bag and found it was a bit tight and impacted the loft at my feet. If you wanted to pair the Bush Cocoon with a large mat you couldn’t go wrong with the new Exped DownMat Winterlite LW or SynMat Hyperlite LW which are both 197cm long, 9cm high and 65cm wide at the shoulders and tapers to 40cm at the foot end. But most people will be happy with a standard size Thermarest or inflatable mat like Macpac’s Insulated Air Core Standard as a 50ish cm wide mat will give you plenty of foot room even with a big sleeping bag.

I am 6ft tall and wear Large and XL clothes and I have plenty of room inside. My feet and head weren’t touching the ends and you can sleep on your side without the bag getting tight.

I am 6ft tall and wear Large and XL clothes and I have plenty of room inside. My feet and head weren’t touching the ends and you can sleep on your side without the bag getting tight.

There is enough room to read a book or play on your phone – but don’t think about doing any cooking inside or entertaining friends.

Weight

 

Macpac claim a weight of 970g but I found it to be a bit lighter. Total trail weight of 934g on my uncalibrated kitchen scales includes:

  • Bivy bag 700g
  • 1 pole in bag 103g
  • 7 pegs in bag 75g
  • Compression sack 56g

If you are serious about shaving grams I would take the bivy rolled up with a lightweight strap, the pole and 3 pegs for a total of only 836g.

If you were only carrying the bivy bag in case you don’t make it to  a hut – you could also ditch the pole and either tie it up to a tree for some headroom or harden up and deal with the fabric on your face/head. But if you are actually planning to sleep in it I would recommend taking the pole.

Nice Details

The zips are YKK and smooth running. I didn’t experience any snags (so far). The cord zip pulls might not seem very exciting -but if you have ever spent a night listening to metal zip pulls jingling together in the wind you will appreciate these bits of cord.

The zips are YKK and smooth running. I didn’t experience any snags (so far). The cord zip pulls might not seem very exciting -but if you have ever spent a night listening to metal zip pulls jingling together in the wind you will appreciate these bits of cord.

There is a few discrete reflective details on the bag – just enough to help you find your camp in the dark – hopefully not enough to give away your position if you are camping somewhere you shouldn’t be.

The bag is fully seam sealed, and looks just like the inside of an eVent rain jacket. You can also see the mesh of the vent and a loop for securing a small item above your head.

The bag is fully seam sealed, and looks just like the inside of an eVent rain jacket. You can also see the mesh of the vent and a loop for securing a small item above your head.

Test – Night One

Conditions: No wind. No rain. About 5-10 degrees C. Ground very wet. Location: Victorian High Country.

I set up the bivy bag in the rain which only took a few minutes and then it rained steadily for a couple of hours while I was in a hut. By the time I went to bed (if you can call it that) the rain had stopped. It was completely dry inside the bag.

I slept with the insect mesh closed and the door 80% open. I had a pretty decent sleep and had plenty of room to roll around and sleep on my side. At no stage did I feel claustrophobic.

In the morning the inside of the eVent was completely dry from about my knees up. Where there was less airflow down near my feet there was a very small amount of condensation on the eVent- but not enough to dampen the outside of my sleeping bag which was only partly touching the eVent due to the stick holding up the foot of the bivy bag. No water had seeped through the floor.

Maybe it’s a dumb idea but I thought it might be better if the insect mesh was on the outside and the solid eVent door panel was on the inside. Then you can adjust airflow and rain protection during the night without having to unzip the insect mesh?

The shape of the bag is asymmetric and the pole is diagonal. It might look a bit unusual but it maximises the internal space in the places you want it (shoulders and above your head).

The shape of the bag is asymmetric and the pole is diagonal. It might look a bit unusual but it maximises the internal space in the places you want it (shoulders and above your head).

 

You could sit up and cook some bacon for breakfast while keeping warm in your sleeping bag.

You could sit up and cook some bacon for breakfast while keeping warm in your sleeping bag.

The Verdict

I will reserve judgement until I have tried it out a few more times – but my initial thoughts are that this is a cleverly designed piece of gear that is well suited for solo trips. I am looking forward to seeing how it handles snow and rain and will be updating this gear review over the next year or so.

For the official specs, you can check out the Bush Cocoon product page.

You can check out the original article, and Brett’s website Bretto.com.au.