Protecting yourself from unpredictable elements is one of the biggest challenges for backcountry hiking. You have to balance wind and water resistance with weight and portability questions. Traditional tents have gotten really small, but they’re still one of the biggest items you’ll find in a hikers pack. Enter the bivy sack. These ultra-lightweight little shelter systems keep you warm and dry for a fraction of the weight of a good tent. Today we’re covering the best bivy sacks to help you pick out the best option for your needs.
- 1 Best Bivy Sacks
- 1.1 GeerTop Blazer 1 Person Lightweight Backpacking Bivy Tent
- 1.2 Paria Outdoor Products Breeze Mesh Bivy
- 1.3 Snugpak Ionosphere Bivy Tent
- 1.4 MSR AC Bivy Sleeping Bag
- 1.5 Eureka! Solitaire AL Bivy Tent
- 1.6 Tact Bivvy Compact Thermal Bivy Sack
- 1.7 S.O.L. Survive Outdoors Longer 2-Person Emergency Bivvy Sack
- 1.8 Outdoor Research Bug Bivy
- 1.9 Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy
- 1.10 Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy
- 1.11 Tennier Woodland Camouflage Waterproof Bivy Cover
- 2 Buyers Guide to Buying the Best Bivy Sack
- 3 Final Thoughts
Best Bivy Sacks
Bivy sacks fill a specific niche in the hiking and camping world. They’re small, lightweight, and easy to setup and breakdown. Despite this, they offer much the same performance and value of traditional ultralight hiking tents.
Bivy sacks only have a few real distinguishing features to help you choose.
With that in mind we put together a list of the best bivy sacks available across a range of price points, intended uses, and styles.
GeerTop Blazer 1 Person Lightweight Backpacking Bivy Tent
The GeerTop Blazer 1 is a lightweight bivy tent designed for backpackers and other campers. It uses a two layer system with an inner bug mesh plus removable rain fly.
The fly is made from PU coated polyester and rated to 5,000 mm of hydrostatic head. It uses aluminum tent poles combined with stakes and guy lines to create an impressively large footprint for its packed size and weight.
The whole tent, including poles and rain fly, weighs just 3.3 lbs. Depending on weather conditions you can set it up as either a mesh barrier or a full bivy tent.
That gives you a good bit of flexibility for heat and weather. It offers a pair of full length zippered doors. We found it really easy to get in and out of the Blazer 1 and extremely breezy when you need it.
When the rain fly is fully taut it creates a bit of an overhand. You can store your pack and other gear there to keep it out of the rain without impacting your sleep area.
These features, combined with its extremely affordable price, make the GeerTop Blazer 1 a great option for those who need a little more room than a standard bivy sack.
Paria Outdoor Products Breeze Mesh Bivy
The Paria Outdoor Products Breeze is a stripped down mesh bivy sack. It’s designed to be as light and packable as possible while still offering full protection from biting insects.
It has a silicone coated ripstop nylon floor that comes up 9 inches from the base of the tent. This provides excellent protection from moist ground conditions while still allowing for ample ventilation.
The mesh itself is no-see-um sized and able to stand up to regular use in the wilds. The whole bivy system weighs just 13 oz, barely noticeable in a properly packed bag. Because it’s a no-see-um mesh it does block more airflow than mosquito netting. Overall though we found it to be a comfortable solution to biting insects.
What’s really cool about the Breeze is how versatile it can be. It’s a completely poleless design, relying instead on two guy lines to hold up either end. This can be a problem if you’re hiking somewhere without trees, but Paria has an easy solution.
By placing your trekking poles on either end you get a sturdy setup that helps reduce the overall weight of your kit. Finish out your sleep system with a waterproof camping tarp and you’ve got a full fledged shelter at a fraction the weight of many others.
All in all we liked the Paria Outdoor Products Breeze. It was lightweight, inexpensive, and gave us lots of options as to how we set it up and used it.
Snugpak Ionosphere Bivy Tent
The Snugpak Ionosphere is a lightweight bivy tent designed for backcountry exploration. It’s made from 210t ripstop polyester with a 5,000mm PU coating.
The design of the tent incorporates a no-see-um mesh interior with a rain fly cover. This allows you to protect yourself from the elements when needed and have maximum ventilation when not.
It has a single point of entry at the top of the bivy. There’s one tent pole that creates a high arc, providing a feeling of openness not available in standard bivys.
It weighs just 3.38 lbs including the poles, tent stakes, and rain fly. Considering its rugged design and full range of features that’s pretty impressive.
We counted 10 internal storage pockets, each large enough to hold a few small items. We honestly don’t know what you’re going to stuff into 10 different pockets in a bivy, but you’ve got the chance to find out.
The entire bivy tent and accessories fit snugly into an included compression sack. With its low weight, extensive range of features, and easy to assemble design, the Snugpak Ionosphere was one of our favorite bivy tents.
MSR AC Bivy Sleeping Bag
The MSR AC Bivy is an all-condition bivy sack built for ultralight backpackers and hikers. It provides you with a highly water resistant cover that slips around your sleeping pad and bag.
The AC is made from 68D polyester coated with a 10,000 mm PU plus a DWR coating. This offers excellent water resistance even under stormy conditions. What helps it stand out from the crowd is the pains MSR took to make it fully breathable.
It keeps you doubly dry by preventing rain from entering or condensation from building up inside. When combined with the specially designed ventilation flap near your head you wind up with a very comfortable bivy sack.
The AC Bivy weighs just a single pound and rolls up into a tiny pouch. It’s a great option if you’re looking for a stripped down yet comfortable way to stay warm and dry out in the backcountry.
Eureka! Solitaire AL Bivy Tent
The Eureka Solitaire AL is a multi pole bivy tent designed as a three-season tent. It uses a pair of aluminum poles to create a roomy tunnel.
The main body of the Solitaire AL is made from no-see-um mesh with an integrated rain fly. Unlike many other bivy tents, the rain fly on the Solitaire AL is fully attached yet designed to stow away.
It rolls up into a compact bundle at the primary hoop to give you maximum ventilation in good weather. If clouds start to form it’s a simple matter to roll it down and snap it into place along the bivy tent.
It’s one of the most efficient systems we’ve seen for integrating a rain fly into a tent.
The floor and fly of the tent are both made from 68D taffeta polyester. They have a hydrostatic head of 1500 mm, enough for light rains and mists. They’re both quite sturdy and well able to stand up to regular use outdoors.
The whole system weighs 2 lbs 10 oz, one of the lightest systems we reviewed, and are generally excellent. We wouldn’t mind seeing a more capable waterproofing, but overall were impressed with the Eureka Solitaire AL.
Tact Bivvy Compact Thermal Bivy Sack
The Tact Bivvy is an emergency thermal sack designed for use in bug out bags and disaster preparedness. It’s made from the same material as mylar emergency blankets and fills double duty as both a bivy and a sleeping bag.
This allows it to reflect up to 90% of your body heat back in an emergency. The downside to mylar is lack of breathability. Condensation rapidly starts to build up inside and leaves you clammy and wet in the morning.
It comes rolled in a stuff sack about the size of a can of soda and weighs just 4.7 oz. We’ll be honest here, once you unroll the Tact Bivvy you’re going to have a real struggle getting it to fit cleanly into the sack.
Honestly though, it’s still a great product. For its intended role, keeping you alive in case of emergency, it absolutely excels. You can stow one just about anywhere and use it to stay warm.
While we definitely don’t recommend the Tact Bivvy for a planned hiking trip, it’s a great bivy to have in case of an emergency.
S.O.L. Survive Outdoors Longer 2-Person Emergency Bivvy Sack
The Survive Outdoors Longer (S.O.L.) 2-Person Emergency Bivvy Sack is an ultra lightweight bivy designed for disasters and other emergencies. It’s made from thermally reflective mylar, the same material used to make emergency blankets for decades.
It’s designed to fit two people and weighs just 5.8 oz. It comes in a small plastic stuff sack and is easy to roll out into position.
Because of its mylar construction it’s totally waterproof but completely non breathable. Water can get in from the top but won’t seep in through the mylar itself. Unfortunately this also means condensation can become a real problem.
Some things we really liked about the S.O.L. bivy were how durable and quiet it was. Most mylar blankets make a really loud crackling sound when you move with them. This bivy is a bit more supple and a lot quieter.
All in all the S.O.L. 2-Person Emergency Bivvy Sack is a great addition to a bug out bag or other emergency kit. It isn’t really useful as regular camping gear though.
Outdoor Research Bug Bivy
The Outdoor Research Bug Bivy is a lightweight bivy sack built for bug protection. It has a waterproof floor coating and no-see-um mesh main body.
The Bug Bivy uses a single arch to hold the bug netting away from your face. This helps prevent feelings of claustrophobia and gives you a physical separation between you and the bugs.
It weighs just a pound and offers ample space for one within. The design uses one tent pole and three tent stakes plus tensioning lines. It also includes sleeping pad straps to help keep it centered within the bivy.
There’s a single opening that seals closed with a zipper. This helps prevent any insects from slipping in when you’re going in and out.
If you’re looking for a good way to stay bug free it’s hard to beat the Outdoor Research Bug Bivy. It’s lightweight, well-made, and provides excellent performance.
Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy
The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy is a lightweight bivy designed for ultralight hikers. It uses a poleless design that gives you full coverage of your sleeping bag without any extras.
It’s made from 20D ripstop nylon with a hydrostatic head of 10,400 mm. When combined with the taped seams and waterproof floor this provides excellent water resistance.
When you consider that the Backcountry Bivy weighs just 14 oz you can really see the value this would provide to an ultralight enthusiast.
Comfort wise it has a single ventilation window near your head. This helps prevent condensation from building up and can vent out your warm breath.
The downside to this design is that you can’t open the vent in the rain. We found it to get overly warm pretty quickly with the window zipper closed. If you’re someone who runs cold though this can be beneficial.
Overall we really liked the Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy. It’s a true bivy sack, providing the minimum features needed to stay warm and dry in the backcountry and doing them at a very affordable price.
Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy
The Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy is a lightweight bivy shelter built for hikers and campers. It has a single arched pole and is made from waterproof yet breathable Gore-Tex fabric.
This gives it excellent durability, breathability, and water resistance. You can use the Alpine Bivy either with or without the included tent pole. With the pole you have a comfortable bivy shelter with plenty of headroom. It weighs just under two pounds.
Without you’ve got a high-performance bivy sack that breathes well and keeps you comfortable. Other really nice features include fully taped seams and a hydroseal fully waterproof floor with antifungal coating.
When taken together this mix of features makes the Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy one of the best on the market today.
Tennier Woodland Camouflage Waterproof Bivy Cover
The Tennier Woodland Camouflage Bivy Cover is a military inspired bivy sack. It’s part of the four piece Tennier comprehensive sleep system designed to keep you comfortable in any climate on Earth.
The bivy itself is just one part of this system. It provides wind and rain protection so essential for successful camping trips. You can purchase the bivy by itself or as part of the full sleep system.
As a bivy it’s actually pretty nice. It’s a bit on the bulky side for lightweight hiking gear but still a lot more useful than small tents. We really liked the durable feel of the fabrics. It’s a lot sturdier than many similarly priced bivys and sleep systems.
The total sleep system includes a base layer sleeping bag, insulating sleeping bag, the bivy itself, and a compression carry pouch for all the components. When you consider it’s low weight it’s not surprising some prefer bivy shelters over traditional bivy sacks.
Probably the only bad news about the Tennier Bivy Sack is price. It’s quite pricey, especially if you already have a sleeping bag.
For those who want to pick up a total sleep system and hit the ground running the Tennier Woodland Camo Sleep System with waterproof bivy is a good option.
Buyers Guide to Buying the Best Bivy Sack
Picking out the best bivy sack comes down to where and how you intend to use it. There are as many styles and types of bivy sack as there are people looking for them, but some really stand out from the crowd.
Bivy sacks are comparably priced with small one person tents. They start around $50 for just bug mesh and a little nylon but can go as high as several hundred.
The type of bivy you get is mainly going to be determined by how and where you intend to use it. Bivy sacks come in a variety of forms, each of which fills a different role.
Emergency shelters are the lightest and least expensive type of bivy sacks. They’re the next thing to disposable but can save your life in a pinch.
From there you need to consider weather patterns, length of trip, and other important factors. As your needs go up it’s easier to narrow down the field and find the best bivy sack for you.
Styles of Bivy
Bivy sacks describes several related types of lightweight hiking and camping shelters. By far the most common are bivy sacks, bivy shelters, and bivy bug nets with bivy tents coming in a distant 4th.
Bivy Sacks – Besides being the catch-all phrase for bivy’s in general, the bivy sack is the most basic and common version. It’s a water and wind resistant sack that’s designed to provide shelter for a single person.
They’re only a little larger than sleeping bags and come in a variety of different sizes and types. Bivy sacks can roll down smaller than even many camping tarps and represent a great option for ultralight hikers and backpackers.
The smallest ones weigh just a few ounces and are little more than sealed emergency blankets. They’re perfect to fit into a bug out bag or other emergency kit as a temporary shelter during a disaster.
The only real downside to bivy sacks are their lack of comfort enhancing features. They’re very small, and can cause a feeling of ‘sleeping in a coffin’. Most also lack space to store your hiking pack or other goods.
Bivy Shelters – If you want something with more structure than a bivy sack but don’t want to carry a tent the bivy shelter is the perfect compromise. It has the same basic design as a standard bivy sack with the addition of one or more small hoops.
The lightest bivy shelters have a single hoop made from a highly flexible tent pole. This creates a defined space near your head and can help remove the feeling of claustrophobia many fell when in a bivy sack.
Bivy shelters are slightly heavier than bivy sacks, but only by the matter of a few ounces.
Mesh Bivy Sacks – A hybrid style of bivy sack is the mesh bug net. It has the shape of a bivy shelter but is made from mosquito netting or no-see-um mesh instead of water resistant fabric.
These are great in areas where biting insects are present but rain isn’t expected. They protect you from the bugs while you sleep without limiting airflow.
Bivy Tent – A bivy tent takes the bivy shelter to the next level. It uses multiple tent poles, tent stakes, and even guy lines. It gives you noticeably more space, including space to store your essential gear inside the bivy.
The obvious downside to this design is added weight. Bivy tents are heavier than bivy shelters and significantly heavier than bivy sacks.
If you’re looking for a stripped down version of the classic one person tent, a bivy tent is a great option.
Because bivy sacks are built as the outermost layer between you and the environment they need to be as waterproof as possible. Emergency bivy sacks are totally waterproof but lack breathability.
Better quality versions are made from lightweight fabrics treated with durable water (DWR) repellent coatings and other designs. The best offer comparable water resistance to full size tents under certain conditions.
To start with, all quality bivy sacks should have a fully waterproof floor. This material doesn’t need to be breathable and should be made of a high-denier material that’s rip and tear resistant as well as waterproof.
Past that breathable materials such as Gore Tex should be used. These allow the moisture from your breath and sweat to escape without letting rain water leak in. All seams should be either taped or laser welded. This prevents ingress of pooled water around the edges of your bivy.
Depending on the bivy sack manufacturer they may list a specific waterproof rating. This is measured using the Hydrostatic Head Test (HH). It tells you how many mm of water the fabric is weighted to resist before leaking.
Bivy sacks and other tents should have at least a 5,000 mm HH rating. This is enough to consistently keep you dry in moderate to severe rainfall.
Poled or Poleless
Bivy shelters have one or more modified tent poles as part of their design. These give them a more open feeling than standard bivy sacks but do raise their weight marginally.
For the ultimate in weight reduction a poleless bivy sack is the way to go. These protect you from the rain and insects without the added weight and size of a tent pole.
Size and Weight
The whole point of a bivy sack is to provide a comfortable sleep system at a lighter and more portable weight than a traditional tent. The lightest bivy sacks are the disposable emergency style.
These are little more than mylar emergency blankets sealed into a cylinder. They weigh just a few ounces and can keep you relatively warm and dry during a disaster.
The next level up is made from tent materials but lacks poles. These zip or velcro closed around you and generally weigh at or just over a pound.
Bivy shelters with a tent pole are the heaviest, though still quite light. They start around the pound and half range and rarely weigh more than about two and a half pounds.
Breathability and Ventilation
With any outdoor shelter there’s always a battle between durability/water resistance and comfort. Heavier materials with fewer openings are stronger and hold out water more effectively but trap heat and moisture.
The best bivy sacks and bivy shelters are made from lightweight yet durable materials treated with water resistant coatings. Think Gore Tex and similar breathable yet water repellent materials.
They do a good job keeping water out while still breathing.
For ventilation the most common method on a bivy sack is a mesh opening at the head. This is where your body naturally produces most heat while sleeping. Having a ventilated opening here lets you stay more comfortable.
Bivy sacks and shelters are made from similar materials to lightweight hiking tents. They use a two layered approach made up of a heavy duty base layer and a lighter upper layer.
The bottom acts as the floor of the bivy and is most commonly made from thick nylon coated with urethane. This gives you a very sturdy and waterproof floor that can stand up to rocks and other small bits of debris.
The upper layer is lighter and made from ripstop nylon. It’s then treated with a water resistant yet breathable laminate such as Gore Tex.
Comfort and Warmth
Bivy sacks offer only basic comfort features by design. They’re the minimum shelter required when out hiking or camping.
They’re just wide enough for a sleeping pad and bag to fit snugly within. Slipping into one takes a little practice, especially if you’re used to car camping with larger tents.
The only warming benefit of most bivy sacks is wind resistance. This helps prevent loss of body heat from cold winds and blowing rain.
Bivy shelters enhance overall comfort by holding the fabric off your head, but otherwise are extremely similar.
Most bivy sacks provide very limited storage space. Generally there’s a single mesh or zippered pocket for keeping essentials but not much more.
Given their purpose and design this isn’t too big an issue.
Zippers and Closures
The vast majority of bivy sacks and shelters have just a single opening. It’s located at the head and either zips or velcros out in the same way as a sleeping bag. This allows you to slide your sleeping pad and bag down into the bivy sack while holding them firmly in place.
Ideally you want a water resistant zipper, or at the very least one that’s covered by a flap to prevent water from dripping in.
A quality bivy sack can be one of the best ways to camp while hiking or backpacking. Picking out the best bivy sack for your needs is a little harder.
So long as you balance price, material, and performance you shouldn’t have any trouble choosing the best bivy sack.