A bivy sack is a great solution for camping and hiking alone: it is smaller and more convenient to use than a usual tent; it can be waterproof and light-weight, have outstanding ventilation and breathability features, and this ultralight sleeping bag can keep your rest safe and sound in any weather condition. Read on to learn more!
What do you use for a wilderness sleepover? Is it a camping tent? Or is it a lighter option survival tent? They both are great, but what if you need something still lighter and more portable? A camping tent or even a 4-season tent is quite a massive piece of equipment, especially if you’re traveling alone. There is an option you might have guessed already – it is a bivy sack.
In this post, you will learn about what bivy sacks are, why they are sometimes better than camping tents, and what the top bivy sacks are.
- But before we proceed, make sure to follow this link and bookmark our post on the 78 Item Survival Checklist. By far, this is the most detailed emergency checklist you will need to get started building a survival equipment storage of your own.
What is a Bivy Sack?
To give a definition of what a bivy sack is and to grasp the concept behind it, we will have to break it down into two separate terms:
- The term “bivy” is short for “bivouac,” which is a type of temporary open-air camp that has no tent or another shelter and is traditional for military forces, wilderness travelers, and mountain climbers;
- The term “sack” in this context means a tent for only one person.
So a bivy sack is a lightweight, portable, and waterproof sleeping shelter used in camping. Bivy sacks are specifically designed to allow you to rest in the open air with no additional cover or without a tent but still being protected against weather conditions like rain and snow.
Some of the bivy sacks are fully independent and require no additional equipment. But for some, you will need a sleeping bag or a sleeping pad to make yourself comfortable.
There are also additional features to go with certain models of bivy sacks. For instance, you can find a bivy sack with a bug net to keep the insects out. Or there are options with a carcass installed in the fabric of a sack to keep it off your face giving you more air space. This is good if you’re getting too claustrophobic in a tightly zipped bivy bag.
A bivy sack is one of those items that have been forever, especially in the military, scouting, or camping. Due to their weight and portability, they are easily carried and deployed – it takes no time to set up a bivy sack, and it is straightforward to carry it with you without compromising your comfort or speed.
Modern-day bivy sacks are even more comfortable than their predecessors. Gore-tex (a modern type of waterproof fabric) and ripstop nylon make 21-st century bivy sacks more breathable.
Bivy sacks are much smaller than tents, which gives you a whole lot more options for finding a place for rest in the wilderness without having to set up a tent.
The above makes a bivy sack a must-have for any camping and survival enthusiast or for anyone who prefers to travel light. Paired with a quality sleeping pad for extra comfort, a bivy sack is a perfect camping item you will not regret purchasing.
Read on to find out more about bivy sacks. In the following sections, you will learn if a bivy is better than a tent, what to look for in a bivy and what the top bivy sacks are.
- Want to learn about other survival items you may need? Check out our Ultimate End-of-Days Checklist – this is the most detailed list of survivalist equipment to date!
Is a Bivy Sack Better Than a Tent By All Means?
In the previous section, we praised bivy sacks for how portable and lightweight they are and how simple it is to find a place to deploy them compared to setting up a camping tent. Does that make bivy sacks better than tents in all possible aspects?
Let us run through the basic features of both to find out about the pros and сons of bivy sacks compared to tents.
1) Size & Weight. We’ll start with the package size and weight characteristics because they are especially crucial for a piece of camping gear that you have to carry with you most of the time. In other words, as they say, size matters, and so does weight. And this matter bivy sacks get the prize:
- They are much smaller and more compact than any tent out there. Of course, there are some extra compact pack size tent models on the market but not that compact – a bivy sack package may not be larger than a bottle!
- The same goes for a bivy sack weight characteristic – they do not exceed the weight of two pounds, making them the lightest option among portable outdoor shelters.
2) Comfort. As far as comfort goes, we cannot be that positive since it’s plain logic – a tent is larger than a bivy shelter, which means it has more space and thus is more comfortable. It just is. A bivy shelter is just a sack where you can sleep and maybe read a book or a map. You can’t even sit up in a bivy sack. At the same time, a tent gives you much more space and comfort.
Another thing is that you can use a tent for more than just one person. So if you’re traveling in a group of a few people, maybe a tent or two will be a better choice.
But again, because of its size, a tent will require more heat to warm it up on the inside. At the same time, a bivy sack will heat up in no time and will keep the warmth much longer due to its compact size.
So the bottom line is if you are traveling light or you don’t mind sleeping mummy-style, choose a bivy shelter. But if you need extra space and more comfort, a tent is your option.
3) Price. And finally, are bivy shelters cheaper? Well, not really and not always.
There is a great variety of bivy shelters and tent models. Some are cheaper, and some are very expensive. For instance, the price for a modern, high-quality Gore-tex bivy sack for all seasons may go up to several hundred dollars. And guess what, the same thing goes for a tent with similar specifications.
On the other hand, some options cost not more than just fifty bucks. It’s extremely affordable and extremely disposable, as well. These cheaper options will not last too long, and we do not recommend considering such models. The exception may be only if you’re looking for an affordable emergency case option.
So, as you see, the price is really not an aspect to look at if you’re comparing a bivy sack and a tent. And if you still can’t decide what to choose, use the first two points of this section comparing pack size, weight, and comfort characteristics.
Choosing a Bivy Sack
Before we move on with our list of the best bivys on the market, let’s take a look at a few simple tips on what to look for in a bivy sack.
1) Durability. When choosing a bivy, mind that you’re choosing something that should be fit for heavy use. Look for the models made from a tear-resistant and waterproof material like ripstop nylon and Gore-tex.
2) Comfort. Using a bivouac bag must be no problem, so look for the models with full-length zippers and wire hoops.
Full-length zippers are great because they provide multiple ventilation options, which is good. After all, it will prevent condensation inside the sack. Condensation is a process of collection of water on the inner side of your sack. Over time, condensation may result in moisture build-up inside a bivouac bag, leading to fungal rot. So proper ventilation is a must. Another thing that helps prevent condensation is ripstop nylon.
Wire hoops or tent poles are good because they allow you to lift the upper part of your sack and make a tent-like dome. This will create some extra space inside the bivouac shelter.
3) Brand reputation. Maybe not the most important of all aspects, but the brand reputation is also something you should consider. Check out customer reviews and other product information you can find online and try to choose among the top brands. In this case, those brands include SOL, Sierra Designs, Outdoor Research, Tennier, and RAB.
- Have you bookmarked our 78 Item Survival Checklist? Do it right now, and then come back to finish this post. Below is the list of the top bivy shelters on the market.
The Best Bivy Sack Options
So now we’re talking. It’s time to have a look at the six most popular and reputable bivy shelters on the market you can choose from. To make the task easier, we have divided our list into two simple categories:
- Emergency shelters;
- Durable models.
The key difference here, as you might have guessed, is not only the price but the quality of shelters. Emergency shelters are the simpler and more affordable bivy sacks you may consider emergency options – something you can purchase as part of your survival kit. At the same time, durable shelters are the high-end and top quality bivy sacks.
The main thing you should keep in mind when reading through the emergency section of our list is that the three options below are mostly additional camping gear pieces. They are hardly something you can rely on during harsh weather conditions. But having one of them in your backpack or your emergency kit will give you extra confidence.
1 – Mylar Emergency Blanket
We will start with the basic weather protection item – a mylar blanket. This is in no way a fully-fledged bivy shelter but an extra insulation material you can use to upgrade your sleeping bag. In fact, we would say that having a pack of mylar blankets in your camping or emergency medical kit is always a good idea. They are not only good against cold or treating shock.
A mylar bag is also a great piece of gear during sunny weather. If there is too much sunlight, you can use such a blanket to reflect it.
Considering the weight, we would say that a mylar blanket is something you should have anyway.
2 – SOL Escape Bivvy
SOL Escape bivy by Survive Outdoors Longer brand is a simple and affordable emergency shelter. It’s made of waterproof and durable material. The design provides almost 70% body heat reflection.
While not the best choice for severe weather conditions, this bivy will serve fine as an emergency shelter option. Our advice is to pair it with the previously mentioned mylar blanket for more weather protection.
3 – Tact Bivvy by Survival Frog
Tact Bivvy is one of the best products out there among quality emergency sleeping bags. It is extremely lightweight and durable, and its pack size is so small it can sit perfectly in the palm of your hand.
Its design keeps most of your body heat inside, and you won’t have to worry about rain or wind since Tact Bivv’s material is water-resistant and windproof.
While this tear-resistant bivy shelter will work fine for weather protection during freezing weather, there are still some downsides to it:
- It does not have a zipper;
- The material is not breathable.
But again, this section is for emergency option products only, and Survival Frog’s Tact Bivvy works perfectly in that matter. It keeps your body heat, it won’t let water or wind, it is durable, it’s compact, and extremely lightweight. Hands down, this emergency bivy shelter is something every prepper needs for their get home bag, bug out bag, tactical backpack. It will surely do great during emergency events.
Durable Bivy Sack
This part of our top bivy sacks list reviews high-end offers mostly from mountaineering brands. The products below will serve perfectly for long-term and heavy use in the worst weather conditions. These offers are great for climbers and other camping enthusiasts and, of course, for those deeply involved in survival preparedness.
4 – Gore-tex Military Sleep System by Tennier
Tennier’s sleep system is hands down one of the finest bivouac sleeping bags out there. This bivy sack is pretty much similar to those that Tennier has been providing the US military with.
This sleep system features a water-resistant Gore-tex design fortified with two extra layers for more comfort and weather protection. Due to this construction, this bivy setup offers -40 degrees protection. While not as lightweight as a regular bivy sack might be, Tennier’s sleep system is a high-end heavy-duty and reliable piece of outdoor gear every hardcore survivalist needs.
This pro bivy sack is perfect for all kinds of terrain and weather condition: rock ledges, snow caves. You name it.
5 – Alpine Bivy by Outdoor Research
This bivy sack by Outdoor Research is another high-end pro bivy bag that is one step closer to a perfect piece of outdoor gear. It surely makes sleeping under the stars much more comfortable.
This pro bivy features Gore-tex waterproof design. It can be tightly zipped, so not a drop of water will get inside. Thanks to its ventilation options, this sack excludes any possibility of condensation and boasts anti-fungal protection sleeping pad.
Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy sack will also allow you to get some extra space thanks to tent poles installed in its fabric. The hooped pole this sack incorporates will give more air space and lift the sack’s material further from your face. Some people have a hard time being in confined spaces like sleeping bags, so a pole system installed in the bivy sack design is what many customers look for. It gives a certain tent-like feeling to a bivy sack.
6 – Storm Spartan Bivy by RAB
And finally, last but not least is the Storm Spartan Bivy by a British brand RAB. This company is known to produce some of the finest outdoor gear for climbers. Strom Spartan bivy shelter is an example of an easy-to-use, minimalist bivy sack. It does not feature a pole system or face lifters, nothing of the sort. This bivy bag is just a durable sleeping bag with enough space inside to give you more mobility while you’re using it.
RAB’s Storm Spartan bivy sleeping bag is definitely one hardcore option for those who like to have it as minimalistic as possible.
Unfortunately, this brand is only gaining its following in the United States, so we encourage you to do your own research on RAB’s products by visiting the company’s official page. We also recommend making use of customer reviews of RAB’s and other aforementioned brand’s products.
We really hope that the information we’ve given will be useful should you decide to choose a quality bivy sleeping bag. As a wrap up to our post, we will repeat that a durable bivy sack is something every lone traveler needs. But not just this type of hikers will find bivy sacks appealing.
These bags are perfect for group camping as well because they are light in weight and regularly very compact in size when packed. Bivy bags take next to no room in haul bags or backpacks, which makes them amazing for all camping lovers who prefer sleeping right under the stars.
What is the Purpose of a Bivy Sack?
A bivy sack is a piece of camping gear that people use when they have to sleep in the wilderness terrain – rock lodges, snow caves, etc. – having no possibility to set up a tent or find any other kind of shelter. However, technically bivy sacks are sleeping bags (sleep systems, to be precise). They are not the same as regular sleeping bags that people use when sleeping in tents or during slumber parties indoors.
Bivys are usually very light in weight and extremely compact when packed. This makes them perfect outdoor equipment for campers and survival enthusiasts.
Do You Need a Sleeping Bag with a Bivy?
When you’re using a bivy sack, you have no need for a sleeping bag. Bivys are designed to replace sleeping bags during harsh weather conditions. For instance, you cannot use a sleeping bag without a tent or another cover because it will not protect you from cold, rain, or snow. That is when a bivy sack comes into play. However, some cheaper models of bivy’s may require a sleeping bag as an extra layer of protection and comfort.
Does a Bivy Sack Add Warmth?
Yes, a bivouac sack is designed to keep you warm by not letting your body heat out. Most of such sacks are also tightly zipped with full-length waterproof zippers for maximum comfort and warmth. To make yourself even more comfortable, you can use a mylar blanket – just wrap yourself in it before getting into your bivy. This measure will add an extra layer of warmth to the whole setup.
Can You Suffocate in a Bivy Sack?
Although bivy shelters are designed for sleep, people would often ask if there any chance to suffocate in a tightly zipped bivy. The question, as funny as it may sound in the first place, is still important. It is difficult to say if there were cases of suffocation in bivy’s, but people still can experience a certain amount of oxygen shortage when inside a bivy. The good news is that not all models will cause such inconveniences.
When you’re choosing a bivy, make sure that your model is made of breathable fabric and has several ventilation options. Plus, you might want to choose a bivy with a hooped pole. Such a tent-like feature gives more space for the face area since it lifts the bivy material above your face. This will also let you breathe more freely. Not to mention that a sudden claustrophobic surge when inside a zipped bivy is a problem some people may experience.