Best Bivy Sack/Tent Reviews by Rangermade
Who needs a bivy sack or tent?
You may consider getting one if you’re someone who:
- Does solo trips in the backcountry.
- Does long big-wall climbs that can’t be covered in a day.
- Takes long biking trips and needs a light shelter to camp at night.
- Is a die-hard minimalist who’s trying to eliminate every possible ounce off their loads.
- Goes winter camping in snow caves.
Bivy sack is short for “bivouac sack”. It was first used by climbers who wanted a lightweight night shelter that was also weather protective. Initially they were waterproofed nylon sacks used to protect the sleeping bag from rain, and had no vapor ventilating properties. With the advent of breathable materials, this function was included into bivies, and then the hooped models appeared, marking the transition from bivy sack to bivy tent or shelter. A bivy sack includes 2 layers of fabric:
- The bottom layer is made from a stronger waterproofed nylon fabric whose function is to insulate from the damp or wet ground.
- The top layer is made of a ripstop nylon coated with a breathable laminate such as GoreTex. Its role is form a waterproof barrier but at the same time to allow inside vapors to pass through to the outside.
Why get a bivy?
The main reason – besides lightening up your load – to get a bivy bag/tent is insulation and waterproofing in extreme weather conditions. These days you can get a one or two-person tent that weighs as much as a bivy tent but gives you a lot more space for you and your gear, as well as it does not have the condensation issues of a bivy, nor does it make you feel claustrophobic. In warm weather it makes more sense to carry a tent. A bivy however is better suited in colder and/or more humid conditions, since it will give you a few extra degrees inside, and better waterproofing.
What to look for when choosing a bivy sack or tent
Condensation. You will get condensation in any bivy tent, so make sure to use a sleeping bag with a waterproof outer shell, to keep the bag dry. Sleeping bags can get seriously wet from condensation, especially on longer trips where the bag can’t get dry from one night to the next. In rainy weather, the bivy’s outer membrane stops being breathable which results in yet more condensation buildup. Condensation will only keep accumulating in prolonged rain, and in such conditions it becomes vital that you have a waterproof sleeping bag to keep you dry and warm. To prevent condensation, choose a bivy that has good ventilation, preferably with vents at the head and other(s) at the feet.
Waterproofing. A good bivy will have no problem keeping moisture away. However, water puddles or snow may accumulate on top of the bivy especially around the feet area and actually press down to lean against your body. If your sleeping bag is thin, you will get cold. That’s why it’s a good idea to hang a tarp sheet over the bivy that would cover both you and your other gear. It will keep heavy rain and hail from hammering you, and will let you get out of the bivy easier in bad weather.
I’m including a selection and brief description of some of the best bivy tents out there:
|Aqua-Quest 'Single Pole' Waterproof & Breathable Ultra Light Bivy Bivouac||One Person Multi Season Shelter - Orange Model||Extremely Lightweight - 39.5 oz / 1.1kg packed weight. Fast & Easy Single Pole Set-Up. Pole is Made from Lightweight Aluminum. Fixed Rear Panel Mesh For Added Circulation and Condensation Prevention. Clear TPU Window Allows for a Clear View of the Night Sky! Dimensions (Approx): Set-Up: 91" L X 36" W X 28" H. Packed: 16" x 6" x 5". Comfortable Fit For Virtually Anyone (2.3 meters Long).||$$||4.2|
|Chinook Summit Bivy Bag (Blue)||Advanced bivy sack system for multi-day wilderness trips, snow-camping and emergency situations.||Waterproof/breathable fabric top and waterproof ripstop nylon bottom fabric. Factory-taped seams are completely waterproof. Facial ventilation system for better breathability. Contured hood and comfortable roomy footbox. Includes a stuff sack. Size: 91" x 32" x 22"/H 17" (230 x 80 x 55 cm/H 42 cm) - Total Weight: 2 lbs (0.92 kg)||$$||4.8|
|Military Modular Sleep System 4 Piece with Goretex Bivy Cover and Carry Sack||4 Piece Military Modular Sleep System with 2x sleeping bags, bivy bag and carry sack||Comfort in Temperatures Ranging from 50°F to -50°F. Made in the USA. Military Issue. Includes: Patrol Bag, ICW bag, Bivy Cover and Stuff Sack. Weight: 11 lb.||$$$||4.7|
|Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy (Mojo Blue, One Size)||All-weather hooped bivy shelter||3 Layer Gore-Tex Respiration Positive fabric Single overhead shock corded Delrin pole, no-see-um netting covers High volume foot section and small internal mesh pocket Avg weight 30.3oz/859g, Packed size: 15 1/4"x 4"x4"/39cm x 10cm x 10cm, Length: 84in/221cm, Max width: 26"/66cm, Peak heigth: 20"/50cm||$$$$||4.5|
|SnugPak Stratosphere Bivvi Shelter- Olive||All-season Ultra Compact 1-Person Shelter||Bivvi Shelter Dimensions: 90in x 37in x 42in / Pack Size: 14in x 4in x 6in / Weighs: 2.875 lbs or 46 oz. Including Poles, Pegs (Seven L-shaped Steel Anchor Pegs/ Six and One Spare) and Compression Sack Ultra Compact 1-Person Shelter||$$$||4.6|
|Sierra Designs Navassa Bivy||One-person bivy bag||Drizone single wall construction with PVC-free seam taping Oversized cut with U Shape zipper that opens either on the left or right. Waterproof: 18,000mm / Breathability: 28,000mm Packed Weight: 1lb 3oz Dimensions (L x W): 86 x 28"||$$||4.0|
|Woodland Camouflage Waterproof Bivy Cover||Waterproof Gore-Tex Bivy Cover||NSN: 8465-01-416-8517. Waterproof. Woodland Camouflage. Made in the USA. 81-83" Long, 34-36" Wide (top) 27-29" Wide (foot) Less than 3 pounds||$||4.7|
|4 Piece Modular Sleep System with Sleeping Pad||All-season 4-piece military sleeping system with sleeping pad||With proper ECWCS clothing layers, this system can keep you comfortable in temperatures from 50 to -50! The entire system is under 11 pounds and can be compressed into one cubic foot inside of the stuff sack. The Patrol Bag is independently rated for 50-30 Degrees; the Intermediate Cold Weather Bag is 30 to -10. The bivy (outer) cover is wind and water resistant. The Polyethylene Foam Sleeping Mat is moisture resistant, unrolls to 24x74 inches, rolls into 6" diameter and is secured with two attached nylon straps.||$$$$||4.9|
Here are the Top 4 Bivy tent reviews:
Chinook Summit Bivy Bag
- Waterproof/breathable fabric top and waterproof ripstop nylon bottom fabric
- Factory-taped seams are completely waterproof
- Facial ventilation system for better breathability
- Contured hood and comfortable roomy footbox
- Includes a stuff sack
- 2 x DAC Featherlite aluminum poles
- Size: 91″ x 32″ x 22″/H 17″ (230 x 80 x 55 cm/H 42 cm)
- Total Weight: 2 lbs (0.92 kg)
The Chinook Summit Bivy is fit for weather ranging from sub-zero to hot, is heavy-duty and will last through many trips. The two poles create a large amount of head space that can fit some gear. If you’re up to 6 feet tall, there’ll be room to stuff gear at the feet. But you’ll most likely need an extra waterproof bag to store your other gear overnight. However there’s plenty of room for your body. You can turn from side to side in this tent, or even read a book laying on your belly.
The waterproofing is reported to hold up well, with no leaking through the fabric or seams. Unlike other waterproof bivy tents, condensation and ventilation are well handled by the Chinook Summit. There are two windows: a mesh flap behind the head and one on the face under the pole that can be opened to allow airflow in the upper area. There will be some condensation below the waist and around the feet, but that is to be expected with any waterproof bivy. The floor is solid and will stand up to rough terrain, which is particularly useful if you do climbing. There’s also room for a sleeping mat.
The stuff sack helps compress the tent down to the size of a water bottle.
Remember to bring 2-4 tent stakes of your own, as they’re not included with the bivy. These are needed to anchor the bivy and prevent it to twist when you turn inside it.
Setup is quick. The poles are the same size and interchangeable, which is an advantage when installing in the dark.
This bivy is on a par with bivies that cost up to $100 more. Recommended very good value for the money.
4 Piece Goretex Military Modular Sleep System
- Includes: Patrol Bag, ICW/winter bag, Bivy Cover and Stuff Sack
- Comfort in Temperatures Ranging from 50°F to -50°F
- Made in the USA
- Military Issue
- Weight: 9 pounds (heavy but warm)
- Can fit a 6.2 foot, 250 lb. person.
- One of the highest ratings on Amazon
This is a very durable all-season military-issued sleeping system. To make it clear, this is not just a bivy tent, but also includes the sleeping bag, or rather sleeping bags. This makes a great year-round bag because the two bags can be combined. In warm weather, you may take only the Patrol bag and the bivy with you, while in cold weather you carry along the whole system. This is however when, even in the compression sack, the package becomes rather bulky and heavy compared to “civilian” bivy+bag systems. The packed size is 22”x14”. You may want to split the pieces, for instance put the warmer (black) sleeping bag in the compression sack, and the rest of the pieces in your backpack, or in a second compression sack.
This bag will not disappoint. If you wear warm clothing as recommended, you can sleep comfortably in extremely low temperatures. For extra warmth, you can insert a pad underneath the sleeping bag.
The filling in the sleeping bags is synthetic, but the military uses synthetic for the reason that if it gets wet, it dries out faster than down. However, the outer sack will withstand pouring rain and mud underneath, and you’ll emerge in the morning dry. This is a sack+bag for austere conditions.
If you need to get out quickly of the bag and bivy, let’s say if an animal is near, the estimated exit time is about 11 seconds. There are 3 zips to undo in order to get out, but the zippers are large and slide apart smoothly. Alternatively, if you really need the protection, you can keep a firearm handy inside the bivy.
This bivy+bag system comes in new condition, but you can also get it in good used condition. At its weight, it’s a product that will probably appeal most to ex-military folks who want to own gear they’re familiar with. But it may appeal to anyone who wants to own a system that delivers and this one does just that.
Check out the version that includes a sleeping mat here.
Outdoor Research Alpine BivySee Current Pricing and More Reviews on Amazon
- 3 Layer Gore-Tex Respiration Positive fabric, durable hydroseal coated waterproof nylon floor, fully taped seams.
- Single overhead shock corded Delrin pole, no-see-um netting covers opening and end opening zipper with wide storm flap.
- Sleeping pad straps, sized to fit thicker mats, five stake loops, one guy line loop
- High volume foot section and small internal mesh pocket.
- Avg weight 30.3oz/859g, Packed size: 15 1/4″x4″x4″/39cm x 10cm x 10cm, Length: 84in/221cm, Max width: 26″/66cm, Peak heigth: 20″/50cm.
The Outdoor Research Alpine is the middle model of OR’s line of hooped bivy bags, and best suited for mountaineering and cold weather. The Alpine comes with a very high build quality and lots of attention to detail. The hoop creates about 20 inches of headroom, which is more than offered in most other bivies. It can also be used without a pole, bringing the total weight down by a couple ounces. The bivy opening can be sealed with the no-see-um mesh or with the storm flap as required. The rim of the storm flap is reinforced with a flexible rod that can be flipped over the hoop pole, leaving the bag open when using the mesh. At night, leave the opening partially unzipped for air flow and to reduce condensation.
The bivy stakes at five points, and provides a loop on the top for a guy line, for firmer anchorage in strong wind. The inside of the Alpine bivy is spacious and, besides the sleeping bag, it can accommodate a thick sleeping mat, held in place by two Velcro straps.
The bag is quick to set up, but taking it down requires some practice. You can’t just stuff the bivy in its bag, since the rod from the storm flap needs to be folded in a certain way. A tri-fold and a roll does the trick. The manufacturer does not provide any instructions on how to do that, so pay attention when you unpack the bivy for the first time. The packed size is 5x5x12 inches, tight enough even for a quick trip.
For 50% less in price, the Alpine has the same amount of insulation and the same GoreTex water barrier as the Outdoor Research Advanced model. What the Advanced has in addition, is a second pole, a footbox vent, and a system to prop the entry panel in a semi-open position. If you can live without these features, go for the Alpine and enjoy the best bang for the buck. If you’re after a warm weather bivy, have a look at its brother, the Highland model.
SnugPak Stratosphere Bivvi Shelter
- Bivy Shelter Dimensions: 90in x 37in x 42in / Pack Size: 14in x 4in x 6in / Weighs: 2.875 lbs or 46 oz. Including Poles, Pegs (Seven L-shaped Steel Anchor Pegs/ Six and One Spare) and Compression Sack
- Ultra Compact 1-Person Shelter
- Fabric Top: Waterproof and Moisture Permeable / 40 D Nylon Ripstop
- Fabric Bottom: 70 D Nylon Tafeta with PU Coating
- Poles: Aluminum with Screw Lock Tips
This is a lightweight bivy shelter made of strong nylon. It is perfect for warm climates due to its two ventilation screens (meshed), one at the head and one at the feet. But this doesn’t mean it won’t work very well in cold weather, with a good thermal sleeping bag.
The rearward facing screen has a waterproof flap that can be staked in place in rainy weather, or can be rolled up in good weather for increased ventilation. In order to do either of these actions, one has to get out of the bivy. The screen in the footbox can be opened or sealed from inside.
The zippers are well made and strong and there’s excess material everywhere that covers them to protect from water leaks.
The Stratosphere uses two poles to hold up the area from around the upper waist to head. The lifted height is about 2 feet. This provides more room than non-hooped and military bivies. There is room to fit a small pack inside. It is easy and quick to set up and take down, with the poles and stakes going in their separate bags, and then together with the folded shelter into the main compression bag. The stakes are included, but the bivy can be used freestanding when staking is not really necessary.
Overall a very high-rated bivy tent, good quality, and at an affordable price.