Great gear – the Bothy bag !

Group Shelters – We we’re lucky in the RAF that we had access to various trades within the Mountain Rescue Team. Our group shelters were made originally by our Safety Equipment Section of bright orange nylon. We went through a period of using big group shelters on Call outs in the early 70’s. They held about 8 team members and were mainly used for breaks on wild winter call outs. Once inside a shelter you were out the elements. You could re appraise the situation and check out how the team members were coping with the conditions. The public forget that Mountain rescue teams are only human and anyone can struggle in wild conditions. Just to be out of the elements the constant wind battering you is such a bonus. They were also wonderful for sorting out the casualty doing first aid etc and working out any changes in the search .

For some reason they went out of fashion and have only in the last 10 years have we started using them again. Things have improved rapidly we call them Bothy bags and are made in various sizes and are a wonderful piece of kit. If you have a problem on the hill they can be a lifesaver.

Bothy bag

Used by mountain leaders, rescue organisations, backcountry skiers and canoe guides all over the world, these indispensable lightweight emergency shelters allow the users to create a ‘microclimate’ that is warm and dry – perfect for map reading, group discussions or even as a morale-booster for wet lunch breaks. Bothy bags come in a range of sizes and feature clear windows, mesh vents and roof ‘sockets’ which can house walking poles for additional support. 
In 2014 they were modified with a new low temperature PU window allowing it to function in even lower temperatures.


  • Packed Size: 27 x 11cm
  • Dimensions in use: W = 117cm, H = 100cm, L = 132cm
  • Weight: 600g
  • Person: 4
  • Warm and Windproof Shelter
  • Durable Waterproof Seats
  • Roof Attachment Fits a Walking Pole Providing Support

A good thing to try is hang about on a summit for 30 minutes without a shelter it’s amazing how cold you get! Imagine if you are injured as well and waiting for a Rescue team in bad weather?

It may save your life well worth carrying in your group?

On a call out in Cairngorms

Pete Greening comment

Got caught in an overnight snowstorm, 200-300m short of the top of the Walker Spur (and at an altitude of around 4000m). Rather than do the usual thing and retreat down the route (would have been an epic), Nev Taylor and I decided to sit it out on a small ledge, inside a bothy bag.

Pete Greening Walker Spur Photo Pete Greening

We survived and managed to swim(!) our way to the top the next day. A highly rated piece of kit.

Nev Walker Spur bivy photo Pete Greening

I have got mine which will always be in my rucksack and it’s only the size of my hand so very lightweight – Dianne McLeish

Photo Dianne McLeish

Comment – A Swaddel

Not quite a bothy bag, but I always keep one of these at the bottom of my running packs. It forms part of my emergency kit for ultramarathons.

Photo A Swadel

Mike Parsons

The very first bothy bag was called the KISU, Karrimor Instructor Survival Unit, KISU. and made by Karrimor, my company at the time. Here is a link to the full story of all types of bothy bags.

Some great information from Mike and how the Zardsky sac was developed after the Cairngorm Tragedy in Nov 1971 when 6 died on the plateau.

About heavywhalley.MBE

Mountain Rescue Specialist. Environmentalist. Spent 37 years with RAF Mountain Rescue and 3 years with a civilian Team . Still an active Mountaineer when body slows, loves the wild places.
This entry was posted in Articles, Enviroment, Equipment, mountain safety, Mountaineering, People, Views Mountaineering, Weather, Well being. Bookmark the permalink.

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