Bivvy survival tips

Anyone who has followed the teachings of the renowned wilderness expert, Ray Mears will know that if you get lost in the wilds, the first thing to do is – make a spoon. But what do you do next?

Read on to discover our bivvy survival tips for the intrepid angler – just incase you lose your way.

Location location

bivvy caution

Choose your bivvy location carefully
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It’s not just prospective second home owners that need to consider the position of their bolt hole in the countryside. As a wilderness survivor, you need to give careful thought to where you site your shelter.

Steer well clear of dry river beds, gorges, low water marks and cliff edges. The prevalence of deadly snakes, sharp fanged predators and stinging insects should also be factored into the equation before making any final decision.

Be prepared

bivvy survival preparation

Always be prepared
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If your map reading skills are best described as, ‘inept’, don’t attempt to go ‘wilderness fishing’ without planning ahead for getting lost. At the very least, remember your knife, some parachute cord and a tarpaulin. You’ll probably want to take along some emergency rations and water too – and don’t forget to pack a paper and pencil.

You never know when you’ll come across a bottle in which to place your message or failing that – write your survival diary – and make millions when you return to civilisation.

Build your bivvy early

spooky forest

Build your bivvy before it gets spooky
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Don’t leave it until the last minute to erect your shelter. It gets quite scary in the woods after dark. Every shadow will make you jump and each and every time you hear a twig snap you’ll remember the Blair Witch Project.

Make sure that before night falls, you are safely tucked up in bed with a roof over your head. Tie your parachute cord tightly between two trees, drape the tarp over the top and then use your knife to make some tent pegs. Hey presto, a makeshift fisherman’s bivvy.

Insulate your bivvy

Bivvy made of Sticks

Make your bivvy warm and safe .
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Experts estimate that four fifths of the heat loss suffered by bivvy dwellers, occurs through contact with the cold ground. Cut boughs of springy spruce for a mattress and then hunt around for something soft to lay over the top. Fresh broadleaf boughs might be nice, or grass, or maybe moss.

Use leaf litter only as a last resort – it’ll be full of bugs – but do find something because lying on pine needles is fun only for people with unusual tastes. Next, seal off one end of your bivvy using saplings, branches or maybe your fishing tackle box. That way you won’t need to worry about waking up to find a wolf gnawing at your head.

Light a fire

bivvy fire

Find fuel for your fire
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Fire; it’s what separates us from the other primates, so if you want to be the true king of the jungle, remember to pack some matches or a lighter. When deciding where to build your fire, bear in mind the prevailing wind direction. Herrings benefit from a few hours in the smoker but you won’t like it.

The bigger the fire, the more fuel you’ll need and the greater the likelihood of your being discovered by cannibals. Small is beautiful and much easier to control – plus you won’t burn all the lovely fish you caught before you got lost.

In an emergency


Find yourself some fatty food .
Image: Shutterstock

If the worst comes to the worst, use the GPS on your Smartphone to locate yourself, then follow its directions to the nearest chippy.

A slow start…

My main target this spring and early summer is tench and bream, and the chosen water is a very pretty gravel pit containing big specimens of each species. Certainly, bream to 16lbs and tench just under 11lbs have been caught and verified. My biggest bream is the 15lb 2ozs specimen from Queenford Lagoon over twenty years ago and it has been 14 years since my last double figure tench; so, I’m champing at the bit!

I’m fishing the water in the company of my good friend and brilliant angler Alan Lawrence. Alan fished the water last spring and, after a slow start, amassed a staggering total of big fish of each species. He also took a handful of good carp on his tench rigs and, with the carp running to mid 30s, there’s the potential for a heart stopping battle on light feeder rods. I’m going to resist the temptation to deliberately fish for the carp, though. I have other carp waters to target; I am totally focused on the tench and bream.

I’ve just returned from my second 48 hour session on the water, and have to report that neither Alan nor I have had a bite! I do not count a 1lb pike that took a swimfeeder on the retrieve. We have been suffering the malaise of many waters up and down the country, with unseasonably cold conditions including strong east winds, heavy driving rain and water temperature more akin to February than May. I know, speaking to many friends, that most anglers are also struggling with the decidedly wintry conditions. I live in hope, though, that these cold, wet conditions will see some really heavyweight tench being caught once the weather normalises. My three double figure fish, plus a string of nine pounders as back up, were taken after the water warmed following an equally miserable spring in 1998.

Although there is no exciting fishing to report back on at the moment, I can report on some of the new TFG products. Having finally retired my battered old Armadillo bivvy, I can say that I am delighted with my new Lok Down. Finding bivvies that will do everything with enough space is hard enough. With almost two inches of rain on my first night using it this week, it could not have had a more strenuous waterproofing test, which it passed with flying colours. Also, the Armo was the Two-Man model and I did debate whether to go for a two man Lok Down as well. In the end I opted for the one man and it is very generously sized, more than big enough for a six footer like me plus a mountain of gear. The Two-Man must be like a dance hall!

The monsoon like conditions were also an extreme test for my new Dave Lane Mag Runner bite alarms. Where bite alarms are concerned, I have no patience with all the bells and whistles some anglers seem incapable of being without. All I ask is that they sound when I get a bite, they don’t give up the ghost in the cold or damp, and they don’t require a second mortgage to keep up with the battery use. I don’t need tone alteration or volume control, although the alarms are supplied with mufflers for those who insist on ultra quiet alarms. Personally, I am not a fan of remote receivers, although one is supplied with the Mag Runners. I suppose I’m a bit old fashioned, but still believe that when I have baits out I should be behind my rods. I will use the remote receiver, though, if I’m forced to sit well back from the rods in very rough weather, so it is an important addition.

I can confirm that they passed the cold and damp situation with no problems! What I particularly like is the small size, the lightness and the dumpy little 12V batteries which are so quick and easy to change. A few years ago, I had other alarms that used the same batteries, and the battery life was outstanding. The alarms themselves, though, were a nightmare in damp conditions, but that’s another story!

Lastly, I am delighted with the new Hardcore Heavy Duty Carryalls. For bivvy fishing, and for using a barrow, the traditional rucksack is hardly ideal. I wanted a tackle bag that was solidly free standing, and not always toppling over, making finding items a lot of messing about. Similarly, the rucksack is altogether the wrong shape for barrow work. I acquired two of the carryalls, one for my tackle and one for my food, stove, cooking equipment, water etc. As well as the easily accessible load carrying, the hard top makes an ideal table. I had several very favourable comments about this luggage and I predict this will become a big seller.

See you again in a couple of weeks, when hopefully I’ll have some big tench or bream to show. In the meantime, here’s a shot of a big tench from a year back to remind us all of what one looks like!