Planning your extended adventure into the outdoors is all fun and games until the cumbersome tent takes up much of the space in your bag. Perhaps a different sleeping arrangement could take the burden off of you. The best bivy sacks add negligible load to your backpack and promise to keep you warm and cozy while sleeping under the starry skies. Wondering which shelter is the best? Check out our selection below.
The Best Bivy Sack
If you love the woods and want to blend into the context, the Tennier Woodland Camouflage could be your best bet. This waterproof bivvy is part of a modular sleep system comprising a patrol sleeping bag, a compression sack, an intermediate weather sleeping bag and a GORE-TEX fabric bivy cover. Comfort in all weathers is ensured by the moisture and vapor permeable material typically used in the manufacture of the US military sacks.
Military modular all-weather sleep system
- Weight40 ounces
Compression sack reduces the system to one cubic foot
Comfortable in temperatures ranging from -50°F to 50°F
Waterproof GORE-TEX protective layer
The fabric may present signs of wear and tear
The Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy is the best outdoor sleeping bag for those looking to travel to the harshest corners of the globe. It is built for extreme weather conditions and features a GORE-TEX fabric body enhanced by a Hydroseal-coated floor. Less cumbersome than a tent, Alpine Bivy is still heavier and bulkier than many other bivy sacks but it will certainly keep you dry and sanitary even in the toughest conditions.
GORE-TEX fabric construction
Internal mesh pocket
- BrandOutdoor Research
- Weight30 ounces
Antifungal coating on the floor.
Multiple opening configurations.
Superb weather protection.
Removable no-see-um netting cover.
The Snugpak Stratosphere is a one-man bivy shelter with features of a small tent. This outdoor camping gear erects in a breeze and presents a spacious interior with a plethora of headspace and plenty of room to accommodate even your backpacking backpack. Ideal for lightweight hiking in all seasons, the Stratosphere provides a 5-star shelter from the rain; it has a mosquito net for the warmer nights and a mesh ventilation section designed to ensure a comfortable sleep all year round.
Supplied with a set of 10 stakes
- Weight39 ounces
Easy to erect in under a minute
Steel anchor pegs and aluminum poles
Roomy interior with plenty of head clearance
Meshed ventilation section
Heavier than average
The SOL Escape Bivy is a nice treat for the outdoor enthusiasts whom travels may take them to mild climate zones. This ultra-light shelter boasts an anti-condensation construction in proprietary fabric that lets all moisture escape while keeping light rain and dew outside of your shelter. A drawstring hood closure and water-resistant seams seal out the elements while the side zipper allows you to use the shelter as a traditional sleeping bag.
70% heat reflectivity
Breathable Escape material
- BrandSurvive Outdoors Longer
- Weight8.1 ounces
Compact and lightweight bivy bag fits into a small backpack
Durable and reusable Escape fabric promotes breathability while blocking outside moisture
Low-visibility OD Green color ideal for camouflage purposes
Available in multiple styles
Water-resistant but not waterproof
The interior is quite tight
When claustrophobia hits and your usual mountaineering equipment does nothing but fueling your anxiety, switch to the Helium Bivy by Outdoor Research. This domed bivy bag opens to a height of 19.5 inches yet packs to a minimalist camping gear that fits even into a tiny backpack. Durability is guaranteed by the Pertex Shield+ fabric and 70D floor while the clamshell design can seamlessly handle whatever the seasons throw at it. For extra watmth, you can add a cool sleeping pad underneath.
Anti-fungal floor coating
19.5 inches head clearance
Waterproof and breathable
- BrandOutdoor Research
- Weight18 ounces
Breathable Pertex Shield+ fabric prevents interior moisture build-up
Featherweight bivy sack ideal for mountaineering
Luxury interior with suspended head area
Poorer condensation resistance compared to similar models
In a world full of one-person bivies, the Aqua Quest HOOPED Bivy Tent provides a breath of fresh air to all lovebirds who want to stay close. Its 2-person capacity makes the HOOPED a versatile camping equipment that packs to compact dimensions. Nevertheless, it offers outstanding foot and shoulder width and sufficient headspace for a comfortable camping experience. Praised by outdoor lovers around the world, this bivy lets you enjoy the landscape and admire the stars through the convenient TPU window. Be sure to also check out our list of the best camping cots for more great items like this.
Fast and easy setup
Extremely spacious interior
- BrandAqua Quest
- Weight38 ounces
Wide foot, shoulder, and head area ensure comfort
Superb waterproofing ability
Large TPU top window
Breathability guaranteed by a head air vent
Collapsible shock-cord pole
Poor condensation management
The Alpine Bivi by Rab is a minimalist emergency sack developed to fend off wind and rain without compromising too much on comfort. A little tighter than its heavier-duty counterparts, this outdoor equipment is constructed in eVent® DVStorm fabric and designed to resist the harshest winter conditions. Zipper and snaps are a thing of the past except for an end zipper entrance while the lightweight design won’t put a burden on your shoulders during your summit attempts and alpine expeditions. It will definitely be an essential part of your travel backpack.
Minimalist yet functional
- Weight18 ounces
Triple-layered fabric for maximum protection
Compact mummy style bag
Excellent breathability prevents condensation build-up
Restricted inner space
Addressing the hitchhiker in you, the Backcountry Bivy by Sierra Designs is built with the wanderers in mind. This is one of the best bivy sacks in terms of comfort; a roomy interior gives you plenty of space to move and turn freely. It even accommodates a 2.5 inches thick inflatable camping pad that cushions your sleep. Ideal to use in all climate zones, this outdoor bivy boasts a breathable shell and a mesh ventilation window. Add to it a comfortable camping pillow and you wont know the difference between this and your own bed.
- BrandSierra Designs
- Weight13 ounces
Ultra-portable sack folds to compact dimensions
Breathable shell prevents moisture build-up while blocking rain and dew from penetrating
Spacious enough to accommodate an inflatable camping pad
The zipper areas may leak
Made of ToddTex single-wall fabric, the Bipod Bivy by Black Diamond is the go-to camping equipment if you really want to stay dry during your expedition. The waterproof construction is enhanced by a single-pole design that sheds off weight while maximizing headroom. There is plenty of interior space to move freely and sleep comfortably throughout the night. Don’t forget to keep a nice emergency blanket always handy if you love outdoors no matter what season it is.
Seam-taped waterproof fabric
Extra-large zipper entry
Bug-free mesh ventilation
- BrandDiamond Back
- Weight35 ounces
Shock-corded Easton pole improves stability during use
Satisfactory breathability and ventilation ability
Convenient zipper entry
Outer seam is not factory-sealed
Pole has the tendency to pop out of place
The Chinook Summit Bivy Bag is lightweight and comfortable weather protection system appealing to the adventurers who’re shopping on a budget. A competitive price range and excellent protection features make Chinook Summit the go-to emergency bivy for extended expeditions in cold climate areas. All-temperature comfort is ensured by a waterproof breathable fabric top and a waterproof ripstop nylon floor designed to keep you dry even under heavy rain. With this one you wont even need a tent heater.
Convenient ventilation system
Featherweight aluminum poles
Great condensation management
- Weight32 ounces
Contoured hood and roomy foot box guarantee a comfortable sleep
Dual facial ventilation system
Included compression sack for convenient storage and transport
Completely waterproof factory-taped seams
No anchoring pegs
The AC Bivy Sleeping Bag is perfect for all adventurers who love to travel light. Compressing to a negligible size and weighing only 15 ounces, this one-person sleeper provides an all-around protection from weather and elements. Both the top and the floor are constructed in breathable and waterproof 30D ripstop nylon; the floor is also reinforced with an extra-tough DuraShield coat that prevents the rugged terrain from disturbing your sleep. Definitely a piece of survival gear you have to possess.
2-ply breathable top
Zipper mesh ventilation panel
- Weight15 ounces
Unmatched portability ensured by a lightweight and compressible construction
Breathable yet waterproof top prevents condensation
Large shoulder entry with zipper and mesh ventilation panel
The Bug Bivy by Outdoor Research is the best bivy sack for those who love gazing at the stars and don’t want to have their field of vision impaired by a tiny mesh window. More than a bivy, this is a bivy-like bug net developed to keep creepy crawlers away from your sleeping area. You won’t get any rain or cold protection from this thing but the durable Hydroseal-coated floor will still prevent ground moisture from getting in your sack. Plenty of interior space and an all-around mesh makes this bedroll ideal for camping in dry weather. Find more great products like this by checking out our guide to the top bug out bags.
Lightweight and easy to carry
Perfect for camping in dry weather
Waterproof nylon floor
Sleeping pad straps
Delrin single-pole system
- BrandOutdoor Research
- Weight16 ounces
Generous entrance area and plenty of headroom
Durable Hydroseal waterproof floor prevents the accumulation of moisture inside the sleeping area
Perfect for the warmer months
Interior mesh pocket to store your valuables
Tight in the shoulder area
Best Bivy Sack Buying Guide & FAQs
How We Chose Our Selection of Bivy Sacks
Culling the right bivy sack can puzzle even the most experienced mountaineers. It’s not a backpacking tent but needs to have some of the tent’s features. It’s not a sleeping bag but needs to be as comfortable as one. Luckily, we did the hard work for you and chose according to the following criteria.
Only the highest quality bivy sack can provide a reliable sleeping arrangement in all conditions. Among the objective criteria that define the quality of this shelter, there is the integrity of the construction and durability of the material, its breathability and impermeability, comfort to use and portability.
Assessing what is a fair price for a bivy sack is a tricky thing. A low-budget shelter may compromise on some features but still be great to use in dry weather. Likewise, an expensive bag can promise the moon but still fail to provide adequate protection. All bivy sacks that have made it to this list hold out an excellent value for money balance.
Features To Look For In Bivy Sacks
A bivy sack’s material is perhaps the most important feature to look for unless you don’t want to wake up all soaked in condensation. The most popular fabrics are:
- GORE-TEX - the most popular material used in the manufacture of camping gear and equipment. It consists of multiple layers of laminate fabric with droplet-sized pores that ward off condensation while waterproofing the outer membrane. The material is also windproofed and breathable.
- ToddTex - is a proprietary fabric very similar to GORE-TEX but better. This material developed by Bibler tents is also fireproofed and perfect to use near a bonfire in a cooler night.
- Pertex - an innovative fabric that uses capillary action to keep your shelter dry. The fabric consists of a layer of larger filaments that absorb moisture and push it towards the exterior where smaller fibers promote evaporation.
Besides these three popular options, the market offers a host of bivy sacks made of other high-quality materials including Silnylon, eVent, and Sympatex.
A compact bivy sack can make you feel like a pioneer ready to conquer the world on a calm, blissful night but if the storm happens to strike, that feeling of awe can easily vanish into the wind. In such circumstances, the protection of a domed roof over your head may provide a better sensory separation between yourself and the elements even if you’re sleeping in an extremely confined shelter.
Consider your hiking habits before deciding on a mummy-style design or a roomier domed bivy.
Portability is a vague concept to define. Ten pounds are featherweight when you don’t have to carry them on your shoulders but they can easily transform into a burden when packed into your hiking bag. Luckily, bivy sacks have been created for minimalism. There are plenty of quality options that weigh 15 ounces or under. Heavy-duty models designed for extreme weather may reach hefts up to 40 ounces, but only a few bivy sacks exceed this threshold.
Alongside weight and size, you must also consider how compact the bivy compresses. If you’re the adventurer type who hikes with nothing but his backpack, a mummy style bivy could be your best bet. Compressing more or less as a lightweight sleeping bag, it occupies a very little space in your baggage.
Domed bivies also compress compactly but the ground pegs, guy ropes, and various accessories add up to the bulk.
If you’re setting the bonfire before getting off to sleep on the warm summer months, your bivy’s heat management system may be of no concern. Yet, if you’re aiming for year-round protection, you should choose a shelter designed for all conditions and weathers. Heavy-duty all-year models act as a protective membrane that can boost your sleeping sack’s temperature resistance with up to 10°F.
The comfort of a bivy sack is a questionable matter. Are you a military accustomed to sleeping in swamps and under the clear sky? Then a bivy will feel like a 5-star luxury quarter. Do you need a thick air mattress, a cushioned pad, and fluffy blankets to feel some degree of enjoyment when sleeping outdoors? Maybe you’re better off with a tent.
Now, you needn’t despair. Most bivies are roomy enough to accommodate you in a sleeping bag plus a camping pad but don’t expect square-feet of space to wiggle around.
While the material of your bivy has to be breathable to promote condensation, it must also prevent outside moisture from getting in. DuraShield-coated floors are the contenders but you should also make sure all seams and zipper areas are fabric-sealed against leaks.
A galeproof shelter can keep you sleeping happily no matter what the weather throws at you. Besides waterproofness, make sure the material is windproof and breathable. Ventilation panels are a must in the warmer months.
The best bivy sacks are those that last years’ worth of camping. The quality of the material assesses the durability but you should also check the sturdiness of the stitches, zippers, and seams.
Besides the aforementioned factors, a great bivy sack should also have:
- Insect protection: keeps crawling creatures away from your sleeping area and lets you enjoy the breeze on the warmer nights without tasting a bug or two.
- Interior pocket: bivy sacks are typically too minimalist to accommodate anything else than the occupant. But if you want to keep your valuables close, an interior pocket may come in handy.
- Compression sack: to keep your bivy contained when not in use.
- Factory-sealed seams: because they are 100% waterproof. DIYers, you might want to hold back on this unless you’re eager to sleep in a flooded bivy.
- Straps: let you secure your sleeping pad in place, improving the camping experience.
Bivy Sack FAQs
Q: What Is A Bivy Sack?
A: A bivy - or bivouac sack on its full name - is a one-person minimalist tent replacement. It was invented to serve climbers as a sleeping bag weatherproof shell despite the first models being only a little more than waterproof.
Today’s bivies are evolved versions of the primordial concept that incorporate multiple features designed to increase comfort and to provide all-weather protection.
A modern bivy consists of a 2-tier construction with a durable, waterproof and breathable top usually made of laminate materials like GORE-TEX and a bottom tier made of ripstop nylon coated with an impermeable layer of urethane - the same material used for the tent floors.
The mummy style bivies bring few changes to the original design but are equipped with zippers and mesh ventilation systems that allow mountaineers to camp comfortably all year round. If you’re happy with carrying an extra pound but crave for wiggling space, a bivy shelter comes with an expanded headspace and roomier shoulder and leg areas.
Q: When Do I Choose A Bivy Sack Instead Of A Tent?
A: Bivy bags are less comfortable than a full-size tent, so why in the name of the Lord should you invest in one? Well, if you’re a passionate climber looking to conquer the highest summits, a lightweight and compact bivy takes off some of the burdens and helps you climb faster. It’s also faster to set up, faster to dismantle and pairs well with all-terrain instances, even when you want to camp on the Grand Canyon’s rockiest plateau.
A bivy bag can also be your best companion on longer outings that last several days by providing a minimalist shelter that can effectively protect you from weather and elements.
Q: How Do I Prevent Condensation Inside My Bivy Sack?
A: The best bivy sacks on the market come with mesh ventilation panels designed to reduce condensation while breathable fabrics help disperse any retained moisture. The best way to reduce condensation inside your sleeping area is by keeping the ventilation panels open. In instances when it rains, manually venting a zipper or flap also helps reduce condensation.
Q: How Do I Wash My Bivy Sack?
A: Outdoor expeditions are fun and exciting but they won’t make you smell of roses. Sweat and stinky feet odors are, in fact, much more associated with the adventurers than the fresh smell of the blooms. When your bivy gets soaked into emanations and dirt, it’s time to wash it.
Most bivies are made of machine washable fabrics. Just unzip the bag and bring the slider halfway up to prevent it from coming off during the cycle. Wash with mild detergent and warm water, following the indications on the product’s label. Double rinse to remove all traces of detergent.
Line dry or tumble dry your sleeping gear on a gentle cycle to prevent damaging the fabric or the shelter’s structure.