It’s such a wonderful thing to get away from it all and head into the wilderness. But would you do that in a bivy sack? Don’t answer that question until you know exactly what it is, why you should use it, and how to choose the best one. Plus, we’ve got some of the best bivy sacks for you right here. So, the next time you head out on a camping trip, leave the tent behind and go for a bivy sack instead.
What Is a Bivy Sack?
But exactly what is a bivy sack, also known as a bivi sack or by its full name, a bivouac sack? In its simplest form, it’s a cover for your sleeping bag with a breathing hole. But this is no ordinary cover. Like a tent, it adds an extra protective layer to your bag, giving you that extra protection from the elements.
Unlike a tent, though, a bivy sack doesn’t give you added room. A tent gives you space for your backpack, space to move around, and possibly even room to stand up. A bivy sack’s only role is to wrap you up in its embrace.
It is made from waterproof or water-resistant material and is made to be just a bit bigger than your sleeping bag and sleeping pad. When all wrapped up, you might just feel like a burrito. So, if there’s no space to store anything else other than yourself, why not just use a tent for added protection from the elements?
Benefits of Using a Bivy Sack
Believe it or not, there are benefits of using a bivy sack vs. a tent. The biggest benefits are all about weight and space. A light single-person tent can weigh around two pounds, while a lightweight no-frills bivy sack can weigh only a few ounces. So, if you’re backpacking and trying to keep your pack light, a bivy sack may just be the better way to go.
Besides being less weight and taking up less space in your pack, an ultralight bivy sack can open up many possibilities for camping almost anywhere. You can go places like on the side of a mountain, on rock edges, or in narrow spaces along trails. Being much smaller than most tents, bivy sacks can trap heat efficiently and keep it warm.
Another benefit of a bivy sack vs. a tent is that setup time diminishes down to next to nothing. There are no poles to deal with, no straps to connect, or no wondering why the fly is still flapping in the wind.
But, by far, the best benefit of using a bivy sack is that you have a front row view and an up close and personal relationship with nature. You’re close to everything that you are trying to get closer to.
Pro Tip: Want to ditch the tent for good? Give Cowboy Camping a try!
Can a Bivy Sack Really Replace Your Tent?
Now you know the benefits of a bivy sack, but can it really replace a tent? If you are looking for a large space for your entire family to load in all your gear and have room to move around, then no. A bivy sack will not replace your tent.
But if you’re looking for a shelter that offers warmth, convenience, and ease of setup while still providing shelter, then yes. It can replace a tent.
Plus, there are brands of bivi sacks that act a bit like a tent. These brands will weigh more, but are still compact. They have an inner pole and full zippers, and give a bit more space to offer a more tent-like experience.
How to Choose the Best Bivy Sack
The bivy sack you choose will all depend on the type of adventurer you are or want to be. Most bivy sack users are adventurers who head out on backcountry rock climbing trips, multi-day rafting excursions, or exploring the country while backpacking.
But more people are using bivy sacks because they are lighter and offer a convenient shelter. It doesn’t matter anymore if you consider yourself an adventurer or a lazy camper. Lightweight bivy sacks are becoming quite popular.
If you do consider yourself an adventurer, hiking for several days, and spending your days on rock ledges, then an extremely compact and ultralight bivy sack may be best for you. You may rather spend your camping time lounging at camp and won’t be hiking in for miles.
You may also want the added warmth of a small shelter without the inconvenience of setting up a tent. In that case, you won’t have to worry too much about weight. Your bivouac sack could very well be the one that is tent-like, but not the entire tent.
Materials are important to consider when choosing the best bivy sacks. You’ll want to find the right balance of waterproof, durable, and lightweight materials. Gore tex bivy sacks are quite popular, as well as army-issue USMC bivy sacks that are designed for military use.
Pro Tip: Lighten your load while camping by packing a tube tent. Read more about why a tube tent is The Ultimate Compact and Portable Shelter.
8 Best Bivy Sacks For Your Next Trip
Whatever bivouac sack you choose, just know that if you choose from one of the eight below, you’ll be getting one of the best bivy sacks on the market. Using a bivy sack as a rock climber, rafter, backpacker, or lounge camper, you’ll get as close to nature as possible without sleeping directly on the ground.
1. Outdoor Research Helium Bivy
About: The Outdoor Research Helium Bivy takes outdoor adventures to another level by providing comfort and waterproofing like no other. It has an inner layer of helium fabric with diamond-fused technology, which keeps water from soaking through.
You can pack away this bivy sack quickly thanks to its size of just 12.25 inches by 3.5 inches and weight just under one pound. It also has a clamshell opening for getting in and out easily, along with a pole giving you a tent-like feel when lying down.
Our Favorite Feature(s): The clamshell opening for ease of access for getting in and out is one of our favorite features.
Best For: Not one of the lightest bivy sacks, but it still serves its purpose for short backpacking trips and shines when it comes to minimalist camping.
2. Black Diamond Twilight Bivy
About: The Black Diamond Twilight Bivy is the perfect bivy for four-season camping. This frameless shelter with water-resistant fabric and breathable NanoShield will keep the weight low. Meanwhile, it will offer protection from weathering, scorching sun, or icy cold night temperatures, no matter what you’re doing.
It’s also got a shouldered zipper entry that makes it easy for anyone to enter even while sitting up. It’s priced just under $200. It weighs 10.7 ounces and packed small, down to 3 inches by 5 inches.
Our Favorite Feature(s): The shoulder-level zipper entry for quick access is our favorite feature. Plus, you can’t dismiss it being extremely lightweight.
Best For: This is one of the best bivy sacks for all seasons with its impressive materials made for ease of access and warmth.
3. Rab Alpine Bivi
About: The Rab Alpine Bivi is made with an air-permeable fabric that reduces condensation to keep you drier and warmer.
- Sleep Anywhere | Rab’s lightest and most compact bivi shelter...
- Stay Dry | Waterproof Pertex Shield Air 3-layer fabric blocks...
- From The Ground Up | Bathtub-style floor with waterproof taped...
Priced right around $300, this ultralight bivy sack provides waterproof protection against almost anything Mother Nature can throw your way! With its bathtub-like base and wide entry area storm flap, you’ll be wanting for nothing with this useful shelter.
Its small size is another great benefit. It weighs in at 15.4 ounces and packs down into a compact size of 25 x 12 centimeters.
Our Favorite Feature(s): The waterproof bathtub base is a favorite feature, working hard to give waterproof protection.
Best For: You can use this anywhere, especially backpacking during winter camping excursions.
4. MSR E-Bivy
About: With its lightweight and durable fabric, the MSR E-Bivy is perfect for any outdoor adventure. This ultra-light shelter weighs only 6 ounces and measures only 18 x 10 centimeters. It also has a silicone-coated top to protect against windy weather or precipitation.
- Ultra-packable and ultralight emergency shelter offers warmth and...
- Measuring 88-inches long and 36-inches wide, its compact design...
- Silicone-coated fabric top blocks out wind, dew, and spindrift
Our Favorite Feature(s): Being so small, this bivy sack can easily fit into the top opening of almost any backpack. That’s a great feature!
Best For: This bivy sack is best for emergency use when backpacking because of its compact size. You can stuff it anywhere, but you can also use it for any backcountry excursion where you’d rather have a bivy than a tent.
5. Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivi
About: The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivi is a great shelter for those who like to rough it in the wilderness. It’s priced around $160 and has an easy-access U-shaped opening with a mesh window. It weighs just over 14 ounces and also has a guy rope point to allow for additional airflow.
- Designed to fit our Backcountry Bed and sleeping pad
- Large U-shaped opening to make getting in and out easy
- Mesh window panel for ventilation in good weather
Our Favorite Feature(s): Anything that allows for increased airflow and comfort is definitely going to be one of our favorite features, meaning the guy rope point is exactly that – a favorite feature.
Best For: This bivy shelter is great for backpacking in temperate climates.
6. S.O.L. Emergency Bivy
About: The S.O.L. Emergency Bivy comprises of lightweight, water-resistant material that can keep you warm and dry during an unexpected storm or wind disaster!
- Emergency bivvy measures 84 x 36 inches, and weighs approximately...
- Reflects 90% of your body heat back to you to prevent heat loss...
- Sealed seams and waterproof, windproof material keeps you dry and...
It’s smaller than most other bivy sacks, 3.5 ounces and smaller than a soda can. It can fit in any pack easily, with plenty of room left for all those essential supplies like food or your favorite beverage.
Our Favorite Feature(s): This handy bivy sack can be used as a bivy or turned over and used as an emergency blanket if you find yourself in a survival situation, making this our favorite feature.
Best For: While you can use any bivy sack in an emergency, the S.O.L. Emergency Bivy is for emergency use.
7. Mountain Equipment Ion Bivi
About: The Mountain Equipment Ion Bivi is the perfect lightweight bivy for backpacking trips. It has an oversized hood that protects you from any weather elements. Plus, it’s water-resistant yet breathable and weighs just under 10 ounces.
Our Favorite Feature(s): Our favorite feature on this outdoor equipment is the innovative toe/foot piece that gives added comfort to an already high-quality bivy sack.
Best For: This shelter is best for mountaineering, allowing you to get into tight spaces and closer to nature.
8. Snugpak Stratosphere Bivvi Shelter
About: If you’re looking for the most comfortable bivy sack, look no further than the Snugpack Stratosphere Bivvi Shelter.
- Inner dimensions are 91 inches long, 32 inches wide, and 20...
- Lightweight and compact pack size is 12 inches long by 5 inches...
- Top fabric is 50D nylon Rip-Stop with 5000 millimeter waterproof...
This lightweight and durable tent-like shelter (which includes an aluminum pole) consists of a polyurethane coating. That helps keep water from getting inside your sleeping bag while being highly breathable. Not the lightest, at 2.5 pounds, it still packs down to 12 inches by 6 inches.
Our Favorite Feature(s): We love the lightweight aluminum pole offering added space for breathability and maneuverability.
Best For: This is a great tool for minimalist camping. You may not want to pack your backpack with this two-pound bivy sack if you’re heading out on a long backpacking trip. However, for short trips, this is one of the best bivy sacks around.
Pro Tip: We uncovered How Many Types of Tents Are There & How to Choose to help you decide what camping set up is best for you!
Is a Bivy Sack Worth Buying?
Now that you know more about bivy sacks and how versatile they are, will you go out on your next adventure with one? Do you think a bivy sack is worth buying?
For the easy setup, compact size, and ability to get you close to nature, we’d say a bivy sack is worth buying. All wrapped up like a burrito and many places to go. Now that’s a great shelter, wouldn’t you say?
What bivy sack would you get for your camping trip? Tell us in the comments!
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