Selecting the right bivy sack can be daunting, especially if it’s your first, as the variety is wide and confusing. Each company claims theirs are the best but are they really what you need for your purposes? You need an above-average understanding of your outdoor environment so that you can determine the best fit for your kind of excursions.
This article features a diverse selection of some of the best bivy sacks on the market, highlighting what makes them perform according to testimonies from our outdoor enthusiasts.
The Best Bivy Sacks of 2023
1. Best Overall Bivy Sacks: Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy
- Shoulder Width: 36” regular, 40” long
- Length: 80” regular, 86” long
- Weight: 14oz regular, 16oz long
- Material: Ripstop nylon, PeU, DWR treated
The Backcountry Bivy is our overall best because it captures professional craftsmanship and combines it with a balance of comfort and practicality. It applies to a wide spectrum of circumstances.
You will not feel confined in this sleeping bag as the interior space was designed to fit Sierra’s proprietary Backcountry bed along with a 2.5-inch inflatable pad. If a 36-inch shoulder width on an 80-inch long regular sack will not suffice, you can choose the longer 86-inch sack with a 40-inch shoulder width. It is also compatible with many other sleeping bags.
A large mesh window extends your comfort, allowing you to breathe easily as you watch the sky and enjoy the night, even when fully immersed, to keep the bugs away from your face. Use the large u-shaped opening for sitting up and getting out conveniently.
There is even a guy out point slightly below the secondary opening that allows you to lift the top part of the bivy off your face. This makes the inside roomier and allows more air circulation.
The top fabric with an 18,300 grams per day MVTR is sufficiently breathable to mitigate condensation inside the sack, which enhances comfort. Its ripstop nylon material is DWR (durable water repellent) treated with PeU, so water will drop off easily and dries instantly. It will hold up to the weight of 1,200mm of water, which is a lot of allowance unless you are scuba diving in it.
The floor is made of a tougher 30D ripstop nylon, which is more prone to abrasion. It also has the DWR PeU treatment for weather resistance and has the CPA184 flammability rating for fire retardation, so you are less likely to wake up in a hot bed because of a camping fire incident. The layers have been seam-sealed together for better insulation and weather resistance.
It is lightweight and easily portable as it fits snugly into its petite 10 by 4-inch storage bag, allowing you to enjoy the minimalist bivy sack experience. Sierra Designs offer a limited lifetime warranty for added peace of mind.
What We Like:
- Breathable fabric
- The floor is made of 30D ripstop nylon
- Large mesh window
What We Don’t Like:
- Limited lifetime warranty
2. Best Bivy Sacks for the Money: MSR Pro Bivy
- Shoulder Width: 36”
- Length: 88”
- Weight: 10oz
- Material: Ripstop nylon, polyurethane, DWR treated
MSR’s Pro bivy sack is lighter and taller than other bivy sacks in its category at a more affordable price. It still delivers the functions of a quality bivy sack which earns it a mention in our books.
The breathable rainfly top is a two-ply 20-denier ripstop nylon fabric capable of holding up to 1,000mm of water. It allows internal moisture to permeate through, easing some of the dampness from the inside so that you can stay dry and comfortable.
The floor is less dense at 15D, but the ripstop nylon has gone through MSRs patented Xtreme Shield treatment with polyurethane and DWR enhancements. The result is a tough and water-resistant base that doesn’t bulk up the bivy sack and allows it to stay light.
This portable, superlight bivy folds into an eight-by-four-inch package that is more compact than a water bottle. It is, therefore, ideal for alpinists (they had a lot of input on its design), fast hikers and adventurers who prioritize limberness.
What We Like:
- It’s considerably light
- Breathable rainfly top
- Easy to deploy
What We Don’t Like:
- The floor isn’t as dense and comfortable as it could be
3. Best Bivy Sacks for Year-Round Application: Winterial Single-Person Bivy Tent
- Shoulder Width: 38”
- Length: 90”
- Weight: 3lbs 3oz
- Material: Polyester
It has been touted as a tent for three hiking and camping seasons for a good reason. It also comes with a reinforced rainfly when the weather becomes harsher than anticipated. The seams are pre-sealed, further enhancing their ability to block the rain.
This bivy tent is applicable on a hot calm summer night without the fly and on rainy, windy and chilly nights with the rainfly attached. You have a life bivy that will serve you through fall, summer and spring. It ensures ventilation when there is heat and insulation in the cold and rainy seasons.
The package has 14 sturdy stakes which can penetrate hard ground without bending to secure it in place as and when required. It is free-standing, so you don’t need to find an anchor when setting it up. Oversized zippers come in handy when you get in and out once it is set up.
Its overall weight, including all these useful accessories, is a measly three pounds, so it doesn’t defy the nimbleness associated with a bivy sack.
What We Like:
- Open air netting
- Easy-to-use oversized zippers
- Sturdy stakes
What We Don’t Like:
- Not ideal for all seasons
4. Best Bivy Sacks to Counter Bugs: Outdoor Research Bug Bivy
- Shoulder Width: 25”
- Length: 89”
- Weight: 1lb
- Material: Nylon, polyester
The entire top cover is a 100% polyester netting that the folks at Outdoor Research have branded the no-see-um mesh. It keeps the bugs at bay as you sleep outside, which is the whole idea behind it. This, unfortunately, turns into a shortcoming when you consider weather protection.
It will not shelter against cold weather, rain, snow or the wind. On the flip side, it is the most breathable bivy sack and beats the rest on a still, warm summer night. You have the perfect view of your surroundings and the serene night as you drift off to sleep. The mesh is supported at a distance above your face by a pole, so you don’t feel confined or irritated.
Its clamshell opening makes it easy to get in from the top of the bivy sack without giving the pesky bugs an access point and time to get in with you. The zipper keeps out the crawlers as the mesh deters the flying insects. The bug bivy’s plain weave taffeta floor is 100% seam-taped nylon, rendering it water-resistant and resilient. You don’t have to worry about groundwater soaking into your bag.
There are miniature mesh pockets on the sides of the bivy sack to hold your meds, torches and any other nighttime essentials for those used to bedside drawers.
What We Like:
- Mesh netting
- Sturdy zippers
- Miniature mesh pockets on the inside
What We Don’t Like:
- Nylon floor is a little light
5. Best Bivy Sacks for Emergencies: Survival Frog Tact Bivvy 2.0 Emergency Sleeping Bag
- Shoulder Width: 20”
- Length: 80”
- Weight: 4.7oz
- Material: Polyester/nylon
The Tact Bivvy is an advanced survival tool. It is made of a superlight bivy material that Frog and Company have christened HeatEcho, enabling it to protect you from the elements. It was developed to regulate astronauts’ body temperatures amidst sub-zero temperatures in space, so terrestrial conditions don’t faze the space blanket.
The material can reflect up to 90% of your heat back to you and is one of the best insulators in the field. It is also stretchy, tear-resistant and highly durable, so you can use it multiple times. It is waterproof, windproof and tear-resistant. Taped seams enhance their effectiveness in shielding you from the weather as it is better shielded from the rain and wind.
In an emergency, immediate needs like freezing to death might overshadow the prospects of dehydration and starvation. Exposure to the elements might get to you faster than a lack of food and water.
The Tact Bivvy will allow you to focus on other necessities as it has a carabiner to hang the package on your bag, backpack, belt or any other convenient place so that it is always within reach for those emergencies. The thin polyester material is also super lightweight; the entire sack is only 4.8 ounces and can fit in the palm of your hand.
The compact package comes with an arsenal of survival tools that we will list to show why we listed it as the best bivy sack for emergencies.
- A Para-tinder paracord with more than ten inches of drawstring capable of lighting fires if you expose its inner core doubles as fire tinder when you need it.
- A 120-decibel survival whistle with which you can seek help or draw rescuers to your location.
It functions both as a bivy sack or a liner in your actual sleeping bag or main bivy sack. It is a critical component of your survival kit. Its convenient stuff sack will keep everything intact until the next emergency.
The bright orange color of the bivy ensures it is easy to spot for emergencies, as people tend to misplace things when under threat. Its stuff sack is convenient as it keeps the reusable bivy safe until the next emergency regardless of whether you are hiking, camping, suck during winter or handling a car emergency.
What We Like:
- Convenient stuff sack
- Comes with a survival whistle
- Money back guarantee
- Bright color for emergency location
What We Don’t Like:
- It gets really stuffy sometimes
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Factors to Consider When Buying the Best Bivy Sacks on the Market
The key purpose of a bivy sack is to provide shelter in the outdoors for individuals who prefer to travel light and fast. It should be a portable and lightweight alternative to regular tents that is easy to set up, functional and comfortable, with a significantly smaller footprint.
The goal is to protect you and your sleeping bag from environmental elements, including rain, precipitation, strong winds, cold, snow and a hoard of pesky critters.
The requirements will overlap, but some are unique to specific circumstances, so the same bivy sack from which one backpacker derives maximum utility will not work for a different backpacker. Begin by ascertaining your outdoor requirements before analyzing the features so that you will be on the lookout for the correct features.
The ideal material should strike the perfect balance between weight, durability, breathability and weather resistance (referring to its insulating capability, water, snow and wind resistance).
An ultralight bivy sack is every backpacker’s dream, so the material should be as light as possible. Unfortunately, the lighter it is, the more susceptible to wear it becomes, so it can’t be infinitely light. That’s where the denier count comes in; 20D fabrics, for instance, are sturdier than, say, 10D fabrics, albeit heavier.
The thicker the fabric, the less breathable it also becomes, which is why some bivy sacks will have a denser bottom fabric than top fabric. This arrangement enhances breathability and reduces weight without significantly compromising durability.
While some fabrics need to be thicker than others to be equally sturdy, tear and water-resistant. Polyester, on the other hand, has to be thicker than nylon to achieve the same waterproof index. Overall, this means it will make a heavier bivy sack for the same benefits.
Weather resistance ratings are also indicated on the labels. But research further to see how this has been achieved and if it makes sense.
For instance, a 1200mm waterproof rating means the fabric can sustain up to 1200mm of water on top of it before the pressure forces some water through. This is sufficient for most natural camping conditions. CFM (cubic feet per minute) rating refers to how much wind the material can resist.
MVTR (moisture vapor transmission rate) measures the rate at which moisture permeates through the garment, translating to how breathable it is. The higher it is, the more breathable the fabric is
Many other indexes may be confusing, and it is more important to know how the material has been treated than the manufacturer’s rating.
DWR stands for durable water-repellent treatment, which enhances the fabric’s ability to shed water and dry fast when wet.
Fully taped seams enhance the fabric’s resistance to water and display the manufacturer’s attention to detail. The material may be of good quality, yet there are leakages between seams and weak zipper trails. Weak zippers also tend to get stuck. It’s annoying and also it’s time that you can dedicate to enjoying the outdoors. Pay close attention to details such as stitching.
Bivy Sack Design
Traditional bivy bags were designed to be lightweight. They were simple and minimalist, typically weighing less than the average one-person tent. A good number of modern brands stick to this tradition.
On the other extreme, you will find your fully specked-out bivy shelter, complete with an internal pole or spreader blocks to mimic the tent experience and expand your head space. Others have overwraps or skull caps for additional insulation.
When choosing the design, you should consider the nature of your terrain and the kind of cover you need. The simpler it is, the easier it will be to deploy, yet some terrain requires heavy-duty gear.
The weather might also be inconsistent with time, so it pays to be prepared for bad weather. Even then, you can be your usual minimalist camper. You aren’t obliged to carry the entire bivy tent on every excursion once you own it.
What Is Included in the Package?
Confirm the extras, whether there are overwraps, ground sheets, skull caps, a front panel, and any other accessories you feel will add value to your outdoor adventures. You may have to get them at an additional fee; the value for money depends on how much you will actually use these accessories and whether you need them in the first place.
Generally, the more bells and whistles come with the bivy bag, the more versatile its plausible applications are. Rod clips and/ or bands are excellent for storing your fishing rods if it’s a fishing expedition, for instance.
Weight of the Bivy Sack
All these extras factor into the final weight of the bivy sack. You might fare well without some accessories as the load will be reduced. The weight should also be considered compared to how far you will be going regularly and what else you will be carrying.
Value for Your Money
Ensure you understand what you are paying for. You don’t have to splurge on accessories that you may never use, especially if you are on a budget or you are a committed minimalist who makes do with the bare essentials.
On the other hand, some entry-level bivy bags may look decent at a glance, but when you pay close attention, you realize that the manufacturer skimped on the quality of the material or you are required to add a significant amount to get a critical accessory. Take time to learn what makes it more affordable before committing.
You should also consider all the above features so that you clearly understand what you are sacrificing and what you are getting in return. It’s the only way to determine which bivy sack has the potential to provide the most bang for your buck. It may have an abundance of some elements and lack others completely, yet it will still be the most practical for your needs.
The selection process is the same regardless of whether you are backpacking, bike packing, scouting, mountain climbing or engaging in any activity that involves sleeping in the open.
If you ace the selection and land the right bivy sack for the prevailing conditions, you can travel light and fast on expeditions like a true master of the backcountry. Those cramped and miserable nights will be a thing of the past.
Backpacking Hammock vs Bivy Sack
If you’re asking yourself the age-old question of bivy sack vs hammock for outdoor sleeping, you should probably take a seat. Or hang it, if you know what we mean!
Bivy sacks offer an ultra lightweight sleeping option for campers, without the use of poles or need for trees, which can be great under certain circumstances.
However, when it comes to comfort and getting a really great night’s sleep out in nature, hammocks are hard to beat. They not only provide more space, with the ability to move around, facilitating better blood circulation and longer rest periods; but they also provide wonderful views of your natural surroundings.
If you want to make sure that bivy sack or backpacking hammock is right for you, check out our article on how to choose a backpacking hammock — so you can enjoy a good night’s sleep every night of your next adventure!
The insulating properties of the bivy sack bring about this inconvenience. Your body temperature will often make the inside warmer than the outside. The humidity inside will condense on the interior of the sack, making it and its occupant uncomfortably moist, which also hampers the effectiveness of insulation. The simple solution is to avoid zipping it to the face area, so there is breathing space.
Yes, you can sleep in just a bivy sack, especially on warm summer nights. However, it is advisable to use extra covers such as a tarp or mosquito net for added comfort.
Yes, bivvy sacks are designed to add about 8 degrees of warmth to your sleeping system.
Last update on 2023-01-30 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API