Sleep Soundly with the Best Bivy Sack (2020)
What is a bivy sack exactly? It is a personal-sized tent just big enough to protect a camper in a sleeping bag from the elements. You can spend the night inside your bivy sack and wake up safe and dry.
Bivy sacks are extremely useful for backpacking, especially if you prefer multi-day journeys. They’re significantly lighter than tents, after all. But how do you choose the best bivy sack?
This article will look into some of the best bivy sacks out there. We will also help you figure out what you need to look for while shopping. Our selection is sure to shield you from the elements and provide you with a good night’s sleep.
Table of Contents
Best Bivy Sack: Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy
Here is an extremely high-quality bivy sack that is perfect for long hiking adventures. Outdoor Research offers an instruction video that explains the different ways you can use this bivy sack:
If you’re hiking in warm and dry weather, your best option is to keep your bivy sack completely open around your face. After all, you want to enjoy the night air and see the stars.
However, insects are a serious concern. Hence, you can use the pole to create some extra space around your head and then close the mesh it comes with. This will leave you with plenty of fresh air but still protect you from bugs and mosquitoes. It will also keep you safe from a light drizzle.
In a heavy storm, you will want to zip your sack up completely. But it is important to leave an opening of six or seven inches for ventilation. The pole will keep you from feeling trapped.
The area around your face is 20 inches high. Additionally, this bivy comes with some extra room for your feet, as you get a 14.5-inch high space at the bottom.
So how well does it hold up against storms? It is both windproof and waterproof. As long as you don’t zip it up completely, lying in this bivy sack is a fairly pleasant experience.
This bivy has a shoulder girth of 52 inches. Additionally, it’s 84 inches long.
So what makes it our top choice? Which aspects of this bivy sack could be better?
- Fully Waterproof
The Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy is completely waterproof. The floor is made of durable nylon. The three-layered top will keep you warm and dry even in extreme weather.
- Relatively Comfortable
If you dislike confined spaces, you should opt for a tent rather than a bivy sack. However, the Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy is a lot more spacious than many other models. Once you set up the pole, you will have plenty of room to move around.
- Easy Setup
A bivy sack has to be simple. After all, you will rely on it in an emergency. This one comes with a number of easy-to-use zippers, and you can put the pole in place within a few minutes.
Packing up is simple as well. All you have to do is disassemble the poles, roll the bivy up, and place it in the carry bag.
- Straps for Extra Security
Do you tend to roll around during the night? This model has straps that hold your sleeping pad in place.
- Too Much Condensation
While there is enough ventilation to keep you comfortable, condensation can be a problem. This is because the moisture rising from your breath and body doesn’t have anywhere to go. Hence, you may wake up feeling clammy, even though the bivy sack keeps the dew and the precipitation out.
- Frustration When You Open the Top Layer
It can be a great experience to unzip your bivy, set up your pole and then relax under the protective mesh. You simply roll the top layer back and enjoy the extra ventilation.
However, there is nothing to keep the top layer fixed in position. This means that it will keep sliding down and obscuring your view. You may have to use a safety pin to solve this issue.
- This Isn’t the Lightest Bivy Sack Available
Portability is extremely important for both mountaineering and backpacking. This bivy weighs around two pounds. This is acceptable for most campers, but some prefer lighter models.
Gore-Tex is a popular choice for bivy sacks for its breathability and waterproofing.
The top part of the Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy is made of three layers of Gore-Tex. Thus, it’s extremely warm and it will shield you from the wind. But if ventilation is your top concern, three layers may be too much.
The bottom part is quality nylon. You can be sure of its durability. The pole is elastic and long-lasting as well.
Who It’s Best for:
If you want a comfortable and warm bivy sack, the Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy is a great option. It can shelter you in any weather. However, this isn’t the most breathable or lightweight bivy sack available.
To find out more about this bivy, go here:
The Runner-Up: Black Diamond Big Wall Hooped Bivy Bag
Instead of poles, this bivy sack comes with a sewn-in flexible wire. This will keep the fabric away from your face. Hence, setup is going to be even simpler.
Since there are no poles or tent canopy, this is a lightweight option. You can take this bivy sack on any type of expedition. There are external loops which will allow you to tether your bivy sack in place.
The Black Diamond is a high-quality waterproof bivy. The seams are carefully taped shut to keep you safe from moisture.
The ventilation is excellent as well. You won’t have to worry about excessive condensation. There is a mesh panel you can use to get more fresh air and keep insects away.
Furthermore, this is a good choice for people who require more space than usual. There is a regular model, which is 90 inches long, as well as a 99-inch extended version. Its width is 35 inches in both cases.
Let’s take a quick look at the upsides and downsides of this bivy.
- Very Lightweight
The Black Diamond Big Wall Hooped Bivy Bag is a great choice for backpacking or kayaking. It weighs 1 pound and 10 ounces. You can go for the longer model as well, which only weighs four ounces more.
Additionally, it is simple to pack this bivy and store it in the carry bag.
- Waterproof Design
Since the top layer is made from durable ToddTex, you won’t have to deal with leaks even in the worst weather.
- Excellent Ventilation
Because the ventilation here is excellent, you won’t have to worry about waking up damp. There are a number of zippers you can use to increase air flow.
You can anchor your bivy sack securely using the loops on the outside layer. This is particularly important for mountaineering.
- Great Insulation
All the seams are taped shut. Hence, you won’t have to worry about bugs. Dew won’t be a problem either.
- The Opening is Too Small
Getting in and out of bivy sacks can be challenging and time-consuming.
The Black Diamond Big Wall Hooped Bivy Bag has a fairly narrow entrance. Thus, you may find it frustrating to use this model. Additionally, it might not be the best choice for emergencies.
- Lack of Durability
If you want a bivy sack for regular use, this may not be the best option for you. It can get worn out with time. Furthermore, it’s not great for camping on a very rough terrain.
This bivy sack is made from breathable ToddTex. While this isn’t the warmest possible option, it is great for avoiding condensation. There are welded tie-in points around the edges.
Who It’s Best for:
We recommend the Black Diamond Big Wall Hooped Bivy Bag for campers who want a comfortable and lightweight bivy. You can be absolutely sure that you’ll wake up bone-dry if you go for this option. However, it isn’t as durable as some other bivy sacks in the price range.
For more information about this bivy, click here:
Best Affordable Option: S.O.L. Heat Reflective Escape Bivvy
Here’s an inexpensive but well-designed bivy sack. It is a great choice if you want a backup shelter.
Since there are no poles or wires, this bivy weighs around 8 ounces. However, it isn’t the most versatile option available. It has no provision to keep the fabric from covering your face.
This simple bivy sack is great for keeping warm, as it reflects 70% of your body heat. However, you will probably prefer to keep it unzipped unless there is a sudden storm or blizzard.
Using this bivy is exceedingly simple. To close the hood, you should simply pull the draw-cords shut. There is also some extra foot space at the bottom.
Its full length is 84 inches and the width is 36 inches. People with wide shoulders might want to go for the XL option instead, which has a width of 60 inches.
Furthermore, the S.O.L. Heat Reflective Escape Bivvy is a great choice if you’re worried about safety. The fabric is completely flame-resistant.
So what are the best things about this bivy sack? And what are some downsides?
- Very Lightweight and Easy to Pack
Since there aren’t any poles to worry about, you simply unroll this bivy sack before you use it. As it weighs around 8 ounces, it’s a good choice for ultralight backpacking. You can always keep it nearby without being weighed down.
- Good Ventilation
The material is breathable and there is a side zipper that can increase airflow.
- Heat Reflection
If staying warm is your main concern, the S.O.L. Heat Reflective Escape Bivvy is perfect for you. After all, it’s made from a special material that retains and reflects most of your body heat. Additionally, it is completely waterproof.
- A Variety of Options
S.O.L. stands for Survive Outdoors Longer. This company is well-known for their quality camping products for a variety of needs.
Hence, you can get the Heat Reflective Escape Bivy in an extra-large size. This version is wide enough to comfortably fit both you and your partner. It can also be a great choice for anyone who needs the extra elbow room.
Furthermore, there is a thermal option designed for camping in the autumn or winter months.
- Flame Resistance
Accidents happen during camping. But you can sleep soundly in the flame-resistant S.O.L. Heat Reflective Escape Bivvy.
- The Price
This is a very affordable bivy sack. It’s also fairly durable, which makes it a sound investment.
- The Lack of Space
If you dislike enclosed spaces, this isn’t the bivy sack for you. Some campers don’t like using bivy sacks that lack extra space around the head. Furthermore, you might find it too constricting around your shoulders.
- Zipper Problems
Unfortunately, the fabric can get stuck in the zipper if you’re not careful. The shorter than average zipper length can make it awkward to get in and out of this bivy sack.
- No Insect Protection
On warm nights, sleeping with an open bivy can be a beautiful experience. However, there is no mesh layer to keep insects away from you.
This bivy sack is made from so-called Escape Material. The manufacturer promises a heat reflection rate of 70% as well as absolute flame-resistance. Additionally, the material will add to the comfort of your sleeping bag.
Who It’s Best for:
Because it’s too constricting, this isn’t the best choice for long expeditions. But if you’re looking for an ultralight and compact backup option, we recommend the S.O.L. Heat Reflective Escape Bivvy. It’s also a nice choice for pleasant summer evenings.
Click here to learn more about this bivy sack: https://www.amazon.com/S-Survive-Outdoors-Longer-Reflective/dp/B00EZEPCB4/ref=zg_bs_3401921_4?_encoding=UTF8&refRID=25N0960T24PHMKXTTWEX&th=1
Some More Great Bivy Sacks
Bivy sacks come in various price ranges. You can choose between spacious models and close-fitting models. Some are only useful in mild weather, while others are a good choice for snowy adventures.
Here are a few more quality bivy sacks that could fit your needs.
The TACT Bivvy Emergency Survival Sleeping Bag is an extremely affordable option. It’s made from thermal blanket material and it will do a decent job of keeping you warm. But condensation is going to be a problem, so it’s best to only use this bivy sack in emergencies.
If keeping dry is your top priority, you may enjoy using the Tennier Woodland Camouflage Waterproof Bivy Cover. Since it’s made from Gore-Tex, it is both waterproof and fairly breathable. However, the weight is a serious drawback.
The Outdoor Research Advanced Bivy is similar to our top choice. It is extremely comfortable and weighs less than three pounds. Unfortunately, the price tag may be too high for some campers.
How to Decide on the Best Bivy Sack
What do you need to look out for before you select the best bivy sack for you? We have prepared a list of questions you should ask before making your purchase.
- Do You Need a Lightweight Bivy Sack?
Are you an ultralight backpacker? If so, you should go for bivy sacks that don’t come with poles. This will make your bivy much easier to carry.
- Waterproof or Water-Resistant?
When reading product descriptions, it’s important to pay attention to the details.
Some bivy sacks are merely water-resistant. This means that they can handle a light spring shower but the water will start seeping through eventually. Waterproof models will keep you bone-dry.
Although the price might be higher, we recommend going for a water-resistant bivy. After all, your bivy sack needs to give you ample protection from the elements.
- Is the Bivy Sack Well-Ventilated?
Even high-end models have issues with condensation. As a rule, the warmer your bivy is, the less ventilation it has.
However, it’s a good idea to go for models that have a number of zippers. If you can unzip your bivy in various places, you will get a better airflow.
- Does the Bivy Sack Match Your Size?
Bivy sacks come in different sizes and it’s crucial to find a model that you can use comfortably. After all, sleeping in a bivy can feel constraining even if you do have enough space for comfort.
- Do You Want a Bivy Sack That Offers Extra Room?
Some models come with wire or poles. These give you some extra room around the top of the bivy. Hence, you won’t feel as constricted.
While this type of bivy sack is usually heavier, it is much more pleasant to use. We recommend it for longer journeys.
Additionally, some bivy sacks come with extra leg room. You can also find models that are large enough to fit some equipment. If you get an extra-spacious bivy sack, you’ll be able to move around enough to eat or prepare a meal.
- Is There Protection Against Insects?
Mosquito bites can ruin your whole vacation. Thus, it’s a good idea to choose a model that has a protective mesh layer. You should also make sure that the seams of your bivy sack are solidly shut.
Do You Need a Bivy Sack?
A bivy sack is short for a bivouac sack. At first, they were mainly used in mountaineering. But they can be useful for kayaking, ultralight backpacking, and good old-fashioned camping.
Let’s look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of using a bivy sack.
Bivy sacks are significantly lighter than tents. This can make a considerable amount of difference when it comes to packing. They are much more compact as well.
Some bivy sack models require no setup. Others come with poles and you can put them up within minutes.
This is part of what makes them a good choice for emergencies. After all, you won’t have time for complex setup if there is a sudden storm. However, getting into your bivy sack can take a bit more time than simply slipping into a sleeping bag.
You can use a bivy sack in any kind of weather. It’s a great choice for winter expeditions and it will decrease your risk of hypothermia. Additionally, it provides adequate shelter from strong wind.
But some enjoy using bivy sacks for summer camping trips instead. If you feel that sleeping in a tent defeats the purpose of camping, this is the best solution for you. You get to enjoy falling asleep under the open sky and your bivy sack will protect you from insect bites.
- A Great Choice for Emergencies
Trying to outrun a storm is a bad idea. Even if your campsite is nearby, it can be a good choice to use your bivy sack and wait for the weather to clear.
- You May Feel Too Confined
Some people find the experience of using a bivy sack claustrophobic. You may feel weighted down. Bad ventilation makes this sensation even worse.
So if you’re planning a multi-day camping trip, make sure to test your bivy sack out first. Any discomfort you feel when you test your bivy sack will be even worse when there are no other options.
- Condensation Can Be a Problem
A good bivy sack will keep you dry even in the rainiest conditions. However, you still might wake up drenched. This is because your body heat creates condensation.
There are better-ventilated models where this won’t be too much of a problem. But if you can’t fall asleep while feeling clammy, you may want to go for a tent instead of a bivy.
- Doesn’t Isolate Sounds
There’s nothing wrong with feeling spooked by nature. You can’t help your reactions to outside noises.
If you’re a light sleeper, you may find sleeping in a bivy sack unnerving. After all, you will hear everything that’s going on around you. This is particularly difficult to endure if there is a strong wind.
A Final Word
It’s up to you to decide whether you would enjoy using a bivy sack. Some campers prefer them to tents. Others believe you should have a bivy sack at hand for emergencies, even if you prefer to sleep in a tent whenever possible.
If you find bivy sacks uncomfortable, there are other portable options you can look into. But if you think you could enjoy sleeping in a bivy, you should spend some time looking at your options. Never go for a bivy sack that doesn’t match your height or shoulder width.
When you find the best option for you, you will feel a great deal of relief. Having a backup option will help you navigate the wilderness without having to worry. Your bivy sack will keep you safe and make it easier for you to connect with the great outdoors.