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 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
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 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
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 MSR E-Bivy Ultralight is the ultimate emergency shelter for those times when your options are running out. Double up with this and a sleeping bag and you should be able to sleep comfortably, pretty much anywhere. It’s super lightweight at just seven ounces, packs down to seven by four inches, and is 88 inches long when it’s totally unpacked. You should be able to fit it into your pack without much hassle. The silicone-coated fabric top blocks out wind, dew, and spindrift. And it has an Xtreme Shield-coated waterproof floor.
Dimensions – 88” x 36”
Packed dimensions – 7” x 4”
Made from silicone-coated fabric
Xtreme Shield-coated waterproof floor
Three-year manufacturer’s warranty
- Weight6.35 ounces
Packs down small
Protects against the elements
Suitable for tall people
Hard to pack-away and compress after use
If you don’t have much space in your pack, the Red Cloud Company Survival Bivvy is an essential item. It weighs four ounces and packs down to the size of a Coke can. When the light is fading and you’ve got nowhere to sleep, this is your survival insurance policy. It’s made from mylar polyethylene, the same material that space blankets are made from. That means it’s super durable and retains 90% of your body heat to keep you warm through the night.
Dimensions – 96” x 36”
Packed dimensions – 3” x 4”
Made from mylar polyethylene
Retains 90% of your body heat
15” nylon packing strap
- BrandRed Cloud Company
- Weight4 ounces
Retains more heat than most bivy sacks
Packs down small
Not durable enough for multiple uses
The ACU Digital Bivy Cover is one of the most popular bivy sacks on the market. Similar to the ones used by the U.S. military, this sack will keep you and your sleeping bag completely dry, even in harsh conditions. One of the best things about this bivy sack is the fact that it’s covered in digital camouflage. This will help you keep a low profile when you’re asleep. Just make sure you find a spot where you’re not going to get trampled by accident.
Dimensions – 80″ x 30″
Packed dimensions – 12” x 8”
Two-way nylon zipper
- Weight1.85 pounds
Excellent protection from the elements
Packs away easily
Some reports of used products
The Tact Bivvy 2.0 Emergency Sleeping Bag is a budget bivy sack to use as a backup. If you’re planning to use a bivy sack multiple nights in a row, this isn’t the ideal choice. It’s not durable enough and is difficult to pack away. However, if you want a bivy to keep in your pack for emergencies, this is perfect. It’s made from HeatEcho reflective polyester film that retains 90% of your body heat. Plus, it’s completely waterproof and windproof.
Dimensions – 84” x 36”
Packed dimensions – 4” x 2.5”
Made from HeatEcho reflective polyester film
Retains 90% body heat
Available in two colors
- Weight4.8 ounces
Small enough to fit in your pack
Comes with a para-tinder paracord
Difficult to pack away small
The ACVCY Emergency Sleeping Bag is the ultimate budget-friendly bivy sack. If you want emergency protection from the elements and you don’t want to spend $100+ on a high-end bivy sack, this two-pack of emergency sleeping bags will do the trick. That’s right, you get two for less than $20. Like a space blanket, they’re made from mylar, which retains and reflects 90% of your body heat back at you. They also provide adequate protection from wind, rain, and snow. Of course, it’s not going to be the most luxurious night of your life, but it will keep you alive!
Dimensions – 82” x 36”
Made from extra-thick mylar
Available in two colors
You get a spare
Perfect as a last resort
Warm and weatherproof
Not very durable
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.