Friday, May 29, 2015

Gear Review: Sea to Summit UL and Comfort Mats


    Last November, I took both the Sea to Summit UltraLight Sleeping Mat and the Sea to Summit ComfortLight Sleeping Mat on a trip to the Smoky Mountains for five days and four nights.

    Both mattresses are great technical pieces that take up very little space when packed and offer a great night's sleep, but their differences are worth noting.

    Weighing in at 12.5 oz this 2” air mattress is a great go-to piece for the weight conscious user more than someone who is concerned about ultimate comfort on the trail. Unlike most air mats that have channels of air the Sea to Summit mats look more like inflated egg crates with “air sprung cells”. With 181 of these cells in the UL Mat body weight is distributed more evenly than with standard baffled sleep systems.

    Only 3.5 oz heavier than the UL, the Comfort Light boasts nearly twice the air sprung cells giving you a sleep experience much like being in your own bed. Its extra half an inch in thickness really contributed to my overall comfort. Only taking 35 breaths to fully inflate it did not leave light headed even after 10+ mile hikes day after day.

    Both mats use a 40D (referring to the Denier, or thickness of the individual fibers that make up the fabric) ripstop nylon which seems durable enough to deal with most rocks and roots without having to worry too much about where you left your (included) repair kit.

    Additionally, the multi-function valve worked flawlessly to retain air overnight on both mats, and allowed me to deflate the mats quickly to minimize time spent packing them away. The insulated versions would have probably made my late season hike more comfortable, and using I'm certain the optional hand pump or stuff sack inflation devices would have saved me from having to huff cold air over and over to fill them up.

    Overall, the way the air cells distributed my body weight and the springy feel under my body regardless of how I moved was amazingly comfortable. Bedding down for the night on these air mattresses with a cozy pillow and a cup of hot tea felt like finding myself in a 5 star hotel in the middle of the woods.

~David L. - Men's Technical Apparel, Footwear


Gear head? Us too. Indulge your passion for technology by reading our breakdown of waterproof jackets, or, click here to back to the Bivouac Blog. 

Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Fashion.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Men's Fashion: Curated Looks for Spring/Summer 2015, pt. II

The Deckhand
Pants: AG Lux Khaki
Belt: Vineyard Vines Club Belt (in store only)
Watch: Luminox Sea Anu 4221.CW “Navy Seal” (in store only)

The Deckhand combines fashion with function to thwart even the worst sea sprays – and look good doing it. A Fjallraven anorak cuts wind and rain alike with a durable blend of polyamide and organic cotton. A Luminox “Authorized for Navy Use” series watch (waterproof to 20 AMU, or ~680ft of water) mounted on a secure nylon band resists the elements much more ably than its steel or leather-strapped cousins. The cotton shirt and chino pants? Ok, they’re not water-resistant - but if they worked for JFK, they’re good enough for any afternoon on the waves. A muted color palette on top of simple lines, technical details, and classic pieces make The Deckhand look first class.

The Beach Bum
Sandals: Chaco Men's Fontas 
Sunglasses: Maui Jim Kahuna
Watch: Timex Weekender (in store only)

The Beach Bum works to live, not lives to work. His laidback, care-free lifestyle dominates this look without trying to: a Reef short-sleeve button-up in a funky print effortlessly slubs over a J. Williams crew neck tee. Patagonia’s quick-drying board shorts mean you can hit the waves early, tan all day, and still look good at the cantina later all in the same pair. And that tried-and-true pair of Chaco sandals? Slip on, slip off, all in a comfortable rough out leather. Throw on some Maui Jim sunglasses and a simple Timex Weekender to pull it all together, and get ready to look your best all day without even trying.   

The Academic
Jacket: Marc New York Field Jacket (in store only)
Shirt: Vineyard Vines Seascape Gingham Tucker Shirt (in store only)

A perfectly-pressed shirt, tucked into premium indigo jeans on top of suede boots the quintessential shade of brown to complement a vintage field jacket: the Academic presents well, in more ways than one. The Academic has an impression to make, but without the traditional navy sport coat to restrict his clothing choices. Instead, Marc New York’s modern take on the timeless M65 military jacket allows smart casual staples like Citizens of Humanity jeans to add interesting texture to this outfit, while also keeping this look fresh and multi-seasonal. School may be out in early spring, but the Academic is never out of class.   


This is Part II of our "Men's Curated Looks" collection for Spring/Summer 2015.

Want to see more from this season ? Make sure to check out Parts One, Three, and Four, or a gallery of all 12 looks.

Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Fashion.

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Women's Fashion: How to Look Good (and still eat dessert, too)

    In honor of my sister’s high school graduation (congrats, sis!), I was lucky enough to venture home  to celebrate her accomplishments. While my sister will misguidedly venture to East Lansing next year and enter Michigan State University, I still found myself extremely proud in a way that only a big sister can be! In my family, any big achievement means a meal out. After the ceremony, we had a delicious celebratory post-graduation meal at Mangiamo’s, an Italian restaurant in Grand Rapids.


    For the event, I needed apparel that could look out together in the inevitable countless group photos, so I chose to wear a Splendid zebra print zip dress purchased at Bivouac. The dress, a comfortable shift design, not only let me look cute but also extremely comfortable while eating more than my fair share of carbohydrates. Double duty that still looks good? Smart decision, me.

    Anyways, on to the good stuff: my meal was absolutely delicious. Being the stereotypical “poor college student,” I know how to capitalize on any opportunity for free food. In my typical fashion, I went ahead and ordered the most dramatic item on the menu: spaghetti with a "baseball" meatball. Mangiamo's wasn't messing around - it was massive. In the words of my 15-year-old cousin, I could have hit the meatball “out of Fenway Park.” 

A Mangiamo's "baseball meatball" (spoon for scale)

    Large? Yes. Absolutely divine? Yes! But of course, no meal is truly complete without dessert. Italian restaurants are well known for their selection of gelato and it has always been a personal favorite of mine as well. Although I had completely outdid myself with the pasta celebration, I ordered coffee and a bowl of vanilla bean gelato as a finishing touch to my stellar meal.

Gelato e caffè!

I learned two valuable lessons from this meal: 

    One, always order the most elaborate meal possible when you're not paying for it. Mangiamo's makes for a spectacular daydream when I find myself stranded in student housing with only a pack of string cheese and a slice of pizza to my name.

    Two, there is really no better clothing choice for a large meal than a breezy dress. Traditional Italian is big, starchy, and delicious, so anything else means no room for seconds. But a light, airy dress with a cute summer print? It’s perfetto.

-Carly N., Women's Fashion


Passion for fashion? Read about Carly's romper obsession, then check out more stylish content on the Bivouac Blog

Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Fashion.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Bivouac Community: Memorial Day Weekend

    Memorial Day Weekend: the traditional start of the great American summer. Here at Bivouac, this means all manner of grillin', chillin', and enjoying the outdoors. Enjoy this collection of pictures our staff and friends took during their long weekends! Want to see your photos here? Tweet or Instagram them with #bivstagram!

 Ben S., Men's Tech, kayaking in Port Austin, MI.
A photo posted by Nate Arringdale (@n_arringdale) on

Heather K., Women's Tech, and Alex R., Men's Fashion, complete the "Murph" workout with Crossfit Treetown at 8:30am Monday, in honor of the late Lt. Michael Murphy, US Navy Seal.

The Stars and Stripes over the Michigan Diag.

Alex R., Men's Fashion, grills up some MDW bison burgers and pretzel buns. 

Spring flowers in bloom by the Michigan Union.


We here at Bivouac are forever grateful for the sacrifices made by our men and women in uniform that allow us to enjoy our way of life. To all active and retired military members, especially those who have passed: thank you.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Women's Fashion: An Ode to Rompers and Open-Mindedness

    As a self-proclaimed giant, I have always stayed away from any clothing item that I don’t feel 100% confident in. Specifically, I make a conscious effort to wear anything that makes me look taller. Heels and baby-doll dresses, I’m talking to you.

    However, since I began working in the Women’s Fashion section of Bivouac, I've tried on everything, even new articles of clothing that I previously filed under the “Never Wear” category. At the top of that list: the romper.

    A romper (for anyone who doesn't know) is essentially shortened jumpsuit. There's that word I hate: "shortened". Rompers first appeared in the United States in the early 1900s and were worn originally as playwear for young children. Since roughly 2006, rompers have spiked in popularity among older girls and women as a warm weather staple piece.

    What appeals to me about the romper is its comfort value. My mother is not a fashionista by any means (love you, Mom!), but for as long as I can remember, she lamented the importance of clothing being comfortable before anything else. In a world of skin-tight haute couture and leather leggings, I've taken her perspective to heart.

    With her advice in mind, I want to now introduce my new clothing obsession and one that I am SO happy I was convinced to try on: The Rails Romper by Lily Denim.

   Made of a lightweight denim, this romper is not only insanely cute and practical for any sort of summer rendez-vous you could possibly imagine, but it’s also comfortable! With a drawstring waist and a breezy cut paired with the original "play wear" focus of the romper, this specific piece allows its wearer to fully experience as much fun and adventure (and plates of pasta) as they desire.

    Moral of the story? The next time you dismiss an article of clothing because you have a preconceived notion that it will not work on you, try to keep an open mind. The more time you spend around things you previously shut out, the closer you are to branching out and discovering your new obsession! The best aspect of shopping is the unknown possibility and promise one article of clothing can have. Even if rompers weren't your thing in the past, give them a try!

-Carly N., Women's Fashion


Style obsessed? Check out even more Women's Fashion posts on the Bivouac Blog!

Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Fashion.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Gear Review: Waterproof Jackets, or, "Keeping you covered in the Mitten"

The Mountain Hardware Plasmic, Marmot Precip, Arc'teryx Beta AR, Patagonia Torrentshell, The North Face Venture, and the Outdoor Research Foray (left to right)

    April showers bring May flowers is more than just a fun saying to Michiganders. Whether you are just in the area for a vacation or you've been living in the Mitten for your entire life you should know to not leave the house without a light raincoat. It is a staple piece of gear/clothing that weighs next to nothing and packs down smaller than your water bottle. In an array of colors, prices, and styles we have light weight waterproof jackets that will keep you dry in any event from an evening walk in downtown Ann Arbor to a rigorous hiking trip in the Great Smoky Mountains.

Maize and Blue Steel on the left
 Adam R. in The North Face Venture jacket. Hannah G. in the Marmot Precip jacket.

    If you are a student or commuter like most of us at Bivouac then something light and on the less expensive end of the spectrum is probably just what you need. Jackets such as The North Face Venture and Marmot PreCip jackets ring in at a very approachable $99 and they even come in U of M colors!

Kate B. in the Mountain Hardware Plasmic jacket. Alex R. in the Patagonia Torrentshell.

     Maybe you’re going to be out in the elements for several hours at a time or you’re going to need exceptional breathability? The Patagonia Torrent Shell, and the Plasmic Jacket from Mountain Hardware will keep you dry and goose bump free on your way to work or on the trail all day all for less than $140.  

    The nice part is that when you spontaneously get invited on a weekend trip, outdoor sporting event, or anything else under the dreary clouds waging elemental warfare on our Vitamin D intake, you will find yourself cool and comfortable screaming like Lieutenant Dan to the skies, “Come on! You call this a storm?”

    Now we all know with great power comes great responsibility, however, for the enthusiast, the peak grabbers, and gear junkies’, it tends to be more like, “With greater technology comes higher price tags!”  The best advice I can give is to not be discouraged by the higher price point of the elite pro style shells. Work with our staff members to make sure you get what you need but don’t pay any more than you have to.  

Me in the Outdoor Research Foray (peep that picturesque State St. background). 
Beniece L. in the Arc'teryx Beta AR.

    The higher end shells (like the Outdoor Research Foray or the Arc'teryx Beta AR) run from $199-$575 but you really do get what you pay for. In these jackets you will find waterproof membranes that will last through decades of regular use, minimize any felt moisture buildup on the inside and take a beating in rocky, icy, or back country terrain.

    Would you prefer to be soggy, saturated, damp, and dreary or delighted and dry with no reasons to worry?  Do not let Mother Nature depress you this season. Come into Bivouac and let our technical apparel specialists help you find the right waterproof jacket for your next adventure whether it be across campus or around the world.

~Matt B. - Men's Technical Apparel 


Gearhead? We know exactly what you need. Read all about the right sleeping mat for your trip, or check out more outdoors content on the Bivouac Blog

Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Fashion.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

SHEI x Bivouac Summer Fit Session

SHEI x Bivouac Summer Fit Session

    On Sunday, May 17, Bivouac hosted members of SHEI Magazine’s leadership board for an exclusive fit session. The fashion magazine’s editors and coordinators got a free run of the store to pull clothes and assemble outfits.

    All this week on our Instagram (@bivouacannarbor), we’ve been featuring their expertly-selected choices along with links to their own personal Instagrams (for all sorts of amazing inspiration/artful pictures of brunch) and the clothes themselves. Get ready for a week of superb fit selections courtesy of SHEI Magazine, the University of Michigan’s own Fashion and Lifestyle Magazine.

Special shout out to MackenzieCourtneyMiriam, and Sylvia from SHEI!

Style-obsessed? Check out more fashion content on the Bivouac Blog!

Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Passion.

Friday, May 15, 2015

Men's Fashion: Curated Looks for Spring/Summer 2015, pt. I

The Jet-Setter

    The Jet-Setter looks to the past to influence their future. The same grandiose nostalgia that makes Don Draper the coolest thing since the other side of the pillow dictates this vintage, resort-inspired look. The only thing left in the past is the boxy, billowy fits of yesteryear: a Woolrich short sleeve button-up provides just enough refined style to hide the fact that it’s comfortable in the heat, and AG’s Lux Khakis, a straight leg fit with minor taper, are both tailored and timeless. Leather boat shoes and Ray-Ban’s eternal Tortoiseshell Wayfarers complete the ensemble. The Jet-Setter would be right at home in a Hawaiian beach bungalow or a first class cabin. Pair this look with your favorite carry-on, and please keep that tray table up – your flight is leaving soon.

The Wolf of Long Island
Shirt: Vineyard Vines Oxford Party Tucker Shirt (in store only)
Shorts: Vineyard Vines Club Short in Stone (in store only)
Belt: Vineyard Vines Signal Flag Club Belt (in store only)

    The Wolf of Long Island lets their voice do the talking, but a shirt that says “Party” on more than just the tag is a bonus. It takes confidence to wear a shirt and belt combination that covers ROY G to BIV, but then again, that’s exactly what you’re going for. This color combination – pastels, light khaki, rich brown leathers – is as traditional Prep as can be, and only further enhances the Northeastern, nautical-inspired look associated with everyone from Presidents to golfers the world over. The fits and materials harken back to classical 1960’s patterns, so expect less taper than modern cuts and adjust sizes accordingly. Whether you’re an “old sport” or a junior analyst, you’ll feel your best when you’ve become the Wolf.

The Modernist
Jacket: Marc New York “Bryan” Jacket in Black (in store only)
Watch: Luminox Sea Anu 4221.CW “Navy Seal” (in store only)

    The Modernist is minimal. The Modernist is clean. Above all, the Modernist is functional. Monochrome yet prominent, understated but bold, the Modernist is an urbane urbanite who combines a mastery of style basics with their own personal touch. A Marc New York bomber stylishly resists the elements while a Patagonia tech fabric long-sleeve keeps you comfortable all day long. The camo hat and milspec Luminox watch compliment the jacket’s technical details in addition to diversifying the otherwise flat color palette. White sneakers round out the look, and are the single most versatile shoe a man can own. The Modernist is the perfect blend of utility, style, and contemporary fit: a jacket, jeans, and sneakers have never looked so clean.


This is Part II of our "Men's Curated Looks" collection for Spring/Summer 2015.

Want to see more from this season? Make sure to check out Parts Two, Three and Four, or a gallery of all 12 looks.

Bivouac: Where Outdoor Passion Meets Indoor Fashion.