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Bivy sacks are extremely small shelters which were invented as an alternative solution to heavier tents. They fit only one person and are a more minimalist option than most outdoor survival shelters. This makes them a great option for backpackers who need to travel as lightly as possible while remaining warm and dry at night.

This article will review the following five products, which are some of the best bivy sacks for backpacking.

Best Bivy Sacks for Backpacking Buying Guide

Weight

Choose a product that is lightweight. Bivy sacks are already lightweight because, unlike tents, they don’t include many hard structural components. Look for a bivy that weighs under 2 lbs. and can be packed down extremely small to save on space and make traveling easier.

Waterproof

Choose a product that is waterproof. You don’t want to be waking up in the middle of the night freezing cold and wet. Look for waterproof materials like polyurethane-coated nylon. This will protect you from harsh weather throughout the night.

Structure

Choose a product that is low to the ground. If a bivy sack features structural components that are too high, they may be affected by strong winds and collapse. The shorter a structure, the less likely it is to be affected by a storm that may head your way.

Ease of Setup

Choose a product that is easy to setup. Backpackers know that bad weather can often hit without much warning at all. Choosing a bivy sack that is simple to setup allows you to have immediate shelter in case of emergencies.

Durability

Choose a product that is durable. Looking for materials such as nylon or anything that is resistant to rips will save you money in the long-run and ensure your bivy sack remains warm and dry for years to come.

Ventilation

Choose a product that is breathable. Make sure that the bivy sack you’re buying is well-ventilated with breathable fabrics. If it isn’t you may find yourself dealing with uncomfortable condensation build-up.

Benefits and Advantages of Using a Bivy Sack

Man holding a bivy like a cape
Bivy sacks are a great option for backpackers. They are more compact and lightweight than an entire tent but provide far more warmth and protection than a hammock.

One great advantage of traveling so lightweight is that you’ll be able to hike a greater distance in a day than you would if you were carrying around an entire tent. Additionally, the small packed down size affords you much more room for other useful gear that you may have otherwise been forced to leave behind.

Despite their size, bivy sacks offer comfort, warmth, and protection from weather that is comparable to and often superior to what’s offered from an entire tent. They are specifically designed to remain dry and wind-proof. The compact size actually helps keep your body heat close to you throughout the night, unlike tents.

Bivy sacks also have their advantages in warmer weather. Instead of sleeping in a closed-off tent, bivy sacks allow you to sleep right beneath the stars. They can be unzipped if you want more fresh air and give you the full sleeping outdoors experience.

Best Application for a Bivy Sack

Camper sleeping in a bivy in winter
Like it was mentioned above, bivy sacks are best suited for lightweight and minimalistic backpackers. However, they are also great to have on-hand in emergency situations or as a backup to your tent or other shelter.

Hikers or campers who are only going to be outdoors for a day or two can probably use a full-size tent without being held back by the shelter’s weight. Bivy sacks are intended for those who have long distances to travel over longer periods of time.

What to Avoid in a Bivy Sack

Don’t ever buy a bivy sack that isn’t durable and waterproof, unless you plan on using a tarp as a makeshift shelter as well. If water gets into your bivy, it will stop effectively holding in your body heat.

Additionally, an overly wet bivy sack can begin to mildew and smell over time. Keep in mind that a bivy typically lays directly on the ground, so materials like cloth or untreated fabrics may rip on rocky terrain.

It is also a good idea to avoid bivy sacks that don’t feature a sizable zipper. If a bivy cannot be opened partially, then you’ll have a difficult time airing it out between uses. This allows for moisture build-up due to condensation and can render your bivy useless in cold weather.

Lightweight Tarp And Bivvy Set Up

Slumberjack Contour Bivy

Our Rating:

The Slumberjack Contour Bivy Sack has been constructed with extremely durable and waterproof materials. The bottom of the sack is made with 70D polyester taffeta, which won’t rip on rough ground. Additionally, this material has been coated to ensure that no ground moisture can enter the bivy.

All seams on the sack are reinforced and waterproof, so no rain is going to make it through. All of this bivy’s materials are fire retardant, making it safe near fires and while cooking.

The hooded design keeps you warm all night long, while multiple separate zippers allow for ventilation of nearly all areas. You can even poke your arms out of the sack to perform tasks while keeping your head and body covered.

A visor and mesh screen is built into the hood so that you can look at the stars while remaining protected from bugs.

Pros
  • Durable
  • Tough material make it feel safe in all weather and around fires
  • Allows for use of arms and hands
Cons
  • Enclosed hood may lead to condensation issues

Woodland Camouflage Waterproof Bivy

Our Rating:

The Woodland Camouflage is a military issue bivy sack, so you know that you’re buying a product made with high-quality materials. The bivy is constructed with extremely strong Gore Tex material, which is both waterproof and breathable for an ideal level of comfort.

All the seams are hot-sealed to keep the inside of the sack dry.

This bivy offers plenty of room for even large sleeping bags, so you can layer up and make sure that you stay warm throughout the night.

Zippers on both sides allow for the bivy to be easily aired out in the morning.

Pros
  • Military approved durability
  • Spacious
  • Minimal condensation build-up
Cons
  • Slightly heavier than other options
  • Larger packed-down size

Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy

Our Rating:

This Alpine bivy sack from Outdoor Research manages to be both spacious and lightweight at 2 lbs. The top of the bivy features an overhead Delrin pole, lifting the fabric away from your face and offering better breathing room. Small mesh pockets throughout the bivy allow you to store important items away from the rain and wind.

Constructed with Gore Tex fabric, this bivy is both waterproof and well-ventilated. The nylon floor features a hydroseal coating against moisture. Additionally, the floor has been treated with an anti-fungal coating that will prevent mildew and mold from growing. All seams are sealed tightly.

Pros
  • Very spacious
  • Resistant to mold and mildew
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Delrin pole may collapse in heavy winds

Aqua Quest Mummy Bivy Sack

Our Rating:

Aqua Quest is known for their waterproof gear, so it’s no surprise that their Mummy Bivy Sack is one of the most waterproof options you can get. All seams are heat-sealed with tape, and even the heaviest rain won’t penetrate the materials.

This bivy has been constructed with durable 70D RipStop fabric that has been coated with polyurethane. It can be placed on rough terrain with no worries about puncturing the fabric.

Additionally, this bivy is extremely lightweight at only 1.26 lbs., and it packs down into a stuff sack smaller than all other options on this list. With no complicated poles or attachments, this product is simple to setup in absolutely no time at all.

Pros
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Simple to setup
  • Durable in all conditions
Cons
  • Condensation issues in warmer temperatures

Snugpak 92860 Stratosphere One Person Bivy Shelter

Our Rating:

The Snugpak 92860 Stratosphere One Person Bivy Shelter is a waterproof bivy designed to withstand harsh weather conditions. Waterproof coating and seals keep you warm and dry, while roll-away mesh covers allow breathability, vision, and protection from bugs in the heat.

Several loops are featured on the bottom of the bivy sack, giving you the option to stake it down in windy environments.

Lightweight aluminum poles are features in the top of the bivy. These form a canopy around your head at night, holding the fabric away from your face so that you can move and breathe freely. The poles and sack are both lightweight, and the entire bivy packs down into a compact stuff sack for easy travel.

Pros
  • Spacious with breathing room
  • Good for all weather
  • Lightweight
Cons
  • Canopy may collapse in wind or heavy snow

Conclusion

Out of all of the best bivy sacks for backpacking, the very best option is the Slumberjack Contour Bivy. It has all of the features recommended in the buying guide. It is lightweight while remaining exceptionally durable and waterproof, so it is an ideal product for backpackers in all types of climates and facing any rough terrain.

With no included poles, canopies, or stakes, this bivy is easy to setup even for beginners. It is a great option for serious adventurists as well as those who just enjoy sleeping under the stars.