No matter if you are out hiking or climbing and will be stopping overnight. You will need to sleep, and instead of lugging a heavy tent around with you, you may be looking for a lightweight solution.
While the best camping tents are lightweight, there is no way they can compete with a bivy bag for portability. These are super light and can deliver all the comfort you need for a good night’s sleep after a full day of hiking.
Our reviews show you the best options to meet any camping essentials list budget.
What is a Bivy Sack?
The name may appear strange, yet the real name of a Bivouac is even more bizarre. In function, these are merely a personal shelter that is sufficient for one person.
They appear very similar to a sleeping bag from the outside, yet these deliver more room for you to move around, and some come with a mesh window so you can see out.
However, with the introduction of newer breathable materials, these can now come with no window and can be fully zipped closed from the inside.
Initially used by climbers when out on multi-day climbs, Bivy camping soon became popular because of its lightweights.
The primary purpose of a Bivy is to offer a lightweight but waterproof fabric over you and your sleeping bag. These offer insulation and can stop winds and chills in bad weather.
When you search for one, you will quickly see the many different types; you can select from different fabrics, non-structured bivy’s vs. structured, sizes and weight, and various openings for ease of access.
Here, we have the top Bivy sacks you can find, so you can head off into the great outdoors and not worry about carrying a tent everywhere you go.
Top Bivy Sack Reviews
1. Tennier Woodland Camouflage Waterproof Bivy Cover
You see, with this Bivy, the camouflage pattern, which comes for a good reason. Woodland Camouflage is a US army provider of military bivy sacks. So, you know right from the start, you are getting military-grade equipment.
The Gore-Tex material is waterproof, and all the seams are sealed to prevent water seepage and wind intrusion. It is highly durable, although you may need a sleeping pad under you on rough ground.
There is fantastic weather resistance, and it can keep you very warm. The company has taken a stance to say a little extra weight is fine, as long as the bivy delivers in other areas, namely protection and durability, and being the best waterproof sleeping bag cover you can find.
- Compresses to one cubic foot
- Suitable for a broad range of temperatures
- Gore-Tex waterproofing
- Plenty of room inside
- Caters for weather extremes
- Fabric can show symptoms of wear and tear
- No Structure around the face
- Can condense inside in some conditions
- Weight: 40 Ounces
- Material: Gortex
- Length: 84 inches
- Widest Point: 33 inches
- Waterproof: Yes
Any hiker who purchases this for a guide price of just under $130 will have a bivy that can stand up to the rigors of hiking and sleeping rough overnight.
The fabric, taped seams, metal snap closures, and the chunky zipper may add a few grams, but these will last a lifetime. If you use this bivy as part of the Tennier sleeping system, which comprises Tennier sleeping bags, bivy, and intermediate bag, the company reckons you are good in temperatures as low as -50 degrees.
The material stands up to the heaviest of weather, and with slightly thicker material, you will find this bivy quiet once you are inside. Ventilation is good, although you can find a hint of moisture after a night’s sleep. Although you do find this with nearly all bivy sacks, sitting in the middle is an excellent place.
If you are after a bivy that can deal with the roughest conditions, then there is no other option, and you can find this is one of the best bivy sacks for hiking.
2. S.O.L. Survive Outdoors Longer S.O.L. 70% Reflective Escape Bivvy
If you find yourself hiking in milder climates, then the reflective escape bivvy can be just the thing. It is super light and folds up to around the size of a soda can. There is a downside to this, and it is waterproofing. It is water-resistant, yet you will sacrifice the chance to use this bivy in the rain.
Access is easy with side zippers, and there are sealed seams to keep water out, and the reflective interior re-directs 70% of your body heat back toward you. The drawstring hood can keep out wind while still allowing the inside to breathe.
- Very light
- Reflects 70% of body heat
- Uses side zippers for easy access
- Lots of fabric breathability
- Not fully waterproof
- A little on the small side
- Not the most durable outer material
- Weight: 8.5 Ounces
- Material: Proprietary
- Length: 84 inches
- Widest Point: 31 inches
- Waterproof: Water-resistant only
With a guide price of around $60, this Escape Bivvy does as intended, yet for those who venture off the beaten track a bit more, it may lack durability.
While reusable, you may need sleeping pads or sheets underneath the outside to limit the abrasion against the proprietary fabric. Keeping with portability, we found the upper part a little tight for movement to be more suitable for a smaller hiker or large children.
If the weather is on the mild side, you can forgive the sleeping bag and use the Escape Bivvy with sleeping pads for ultra-light bivy hiking. By doing this, you can make yourself that extra bit of space once you are tucked up inside.
3. Aqua Quest Hooped Bivy Tent – 100% Waterproof Shelter Ultra-Light Easy Setup Bivvy Tent for 1 Person
Aqua Best is one of the more notable names in making hiking bivvies, and this option is no different.
While it is the one-person version, you can opt for a 2 person bivy tent if you are hiking with a partner or you want all that extra space to yourself. This larger version makes it ideal to use the best double sleeping bags to preserve the warmth.
Because of the hoop design, you have more space inside without ever feeling claustrophobic, yet you sacrifice the lightness as a result.
With this aside, if you know you are hitting the worst of the weather, then you have complete protection from this ultralight bivy sack.
- Easy to setup
- Very spacious interior hoop design
- 100% waterproof
- Comes with top window for visibility
- Can suffer from condensation issues
- Heavier than counterparts
- Thin material
- Weight: 38 Ounces
- Material: 70D Ripstop Nylon and Polyurethane Coating
- Length: 90.5 inches
- Widest Point: 35.4 inches
- Height: 27.6
- Waterproof: 100% waterproof
While this bivy is on the heavier side, you do gain in other areas. With the top window, you can receive some visibility inside without artificial lighting, and you can gaze at the stars after a good day on your hike.
With a guide price of around $110, this is a great option for hikers who can sacrifice weight to add the spacious interior.
With a speedy setup time of around 2 minutes, this provides a decent bivy shelter in a sudden downpour. Packing down to a size of approximately 15 x 5 inches, it is small, though you can reduce this a little by compression.
One downside is the thickness or lack of the material. While made from Ripstop nylon, it doesn’t mean it won’t get holes as you wriggle around inside. A good external base layer is highly recommended.
4. Snugpak Stratosphere 1 Person Bivvi Tent, Waterproof
Once you erect this bivy, and it can take some erection with the aluminum poles. It is one of the few bivies one-person tent hybrids you see. You see, this is reflected in the weight, yet it delivers lots of internal space once you are inside.
With a large roll-up mosquito net, you have lots of viewing ability, and there are other mesh sections for added breathability. Erection means you need to use the seven anchor points, and it could be an issue if you are on hard ground. (Read Pop Up Canopy Tent Guide)
When hiking, this bivy folds up to a small size, albeit with a bit extra size because of the poles. You may also find the material on the thin side, and if the wind picks up, it can be a noisy solution compared to bivy bags, which use thicker material.
- Great water resistance
- Comes with roll-up mosquito net
- Spacious interior
- Rear mesh section for ventilation
- Doesn’t offer the best breathability
- Doesn’t pack down too well
- As heavy as some single tents
- Weight: 49 Ounces
- Material: 50D Ripstop Nylon and Polyurethane Coating
- Length: 91 inches
- Widest Point: 32 inches
- Height: 20 inches
- Waterproof: Yes
With a rough price of close to $170, the Snugpak Stratosphere may appear at the top end of anyone’s hiking gear budget, yet you do get some unique features. The base comes with additional waterproofing, yet it would be advisable to use some padding and insulation.
Along with this, you get a basic repair kit, which comprises pole repair sleeves, tent guide tensioners, a spare cord, elastic loops, and materials to make patches. All these come in their own bag, and while handy, it is something extra you need to carry.
If you want something that allows you to move around and see outdoors, you do get many features you may find justify the price of the Snugpak Stratosphere.
However, if you want to forgive some of the features, you can find alternative hybrid models, although ones such as the Helium Bivy are currently available, so your choice may be restricted.
5. BLACK DIAMOND Big Wall Hoope
When you look at the bivouac sack from Black Diamond, you may be forgiven, thinking the Black Diamond Twilight Bivy is the same; however, there are many differences. For one, you may not find the Twilight available any longer.
This can be a saving grace, as that was well known for draping material in your face.
The Big Wall Hoope offers more space around the shoulder area and comes with a great bug net to keep the pests on the outside. You also find this bivy has climbing-specific features, as that can be one group it is targeted against.
The construction is highly durable, being a 3-layer. While it is big and comfortable, there can still be a limited space with only a 10-inch height.
However, this bivy was designed for a particular group of individuals; who will face the worst weather rather than take home comforts.
- Great waterproofing abilities
- Good condensation management
- Good bug protection
- Small sleeping area
- Head height is low
- Can pack down bulky
- Weight: 30 Ounces
- Material: Todd-Ex 3-layer
- Length: 99 inches
- Widest Point: 35 inches
- Height: 10 inches
- Waterproof: Yes
The Hooped Bivy can be at the very top of a camping or hiking gear budget at just over $220, but you do get lots of performance and lots of durability.
Anchoring points are less, though these will make sure your bivy doesn’t fly off before you are tucked up inside. Zippers are double-sided, so it is easy to zip open from the inside, and there are taped seams to prevent leaks.
If you are seeking a bivy, you may find this option in different lengths, and for anyone over five feet in height, you will need to be sure you have the extended model in your shopping cart.
What to Look For When Buying a Bivy Sack?
A bivy sack is small, there is no question of this, and for this reason, many hikers or campers may ask why you would bother when you can find a one-person tent that does the same thing.
Before looking at what you need to know about purchasing a bivy bag, we will first try to answer this question.
Bivy Sack vs. Tent
There is no right or wrong answer in the most basic, and it is down to preference. Both have their plus sides and their downsides, so here, we will highlight these points.
Weight: Single-person tents are getting lighter, yet a superlight bivy will still offer more portability by being lighter and smaller than a tent. A tent will be, on average, double the weight of a bivy.
Comfort: Nearly every bivy suffers from some condensation issues. Tents don’t experience the same problems, and they do offer space to store all your hiking gear, such as boots and backpacks.
Cost: Tents work out cheaper than a bivy, though you may be sacrificing material features such as waterproofing.
Convenience: A bivy winds hands down here. Because these were originally for climbers, you can’t pitch a tent halfway up a mountain. Likewise, you can sleep in any area you wish when using a bivy, whereas they may not be suitable for a tent. Stealth is also another factor, especially if using a camouflage bivy.
Now, here are the factors you have to consider when buying a bivy for hiking.
You do need to consider how you will use your bivy while hiking. If you are on an overnight hike, then a bivy can be the ideal option. If you are away for a couple of days, you can use a superlight bivy with a rain tarp to deliver a superior way of weather protection.
Using this method, you can cut down on weight, and you have somewhere to stash your backpack.
Weight and Size
When you reduce weight, you begin to make compromises in some features unless you spend a fortune to ensure you have a weather-resistant bivy.
Many hikers purchase a bivy to cut down on weight. Many of the hoop models offer headspace, yet you do face a compromise in the packed size because of the poles. While something may be light, if it is cumbersome to carry, then it can be counterproductive in your maneuverability.
With the size of your bivy, you may find some models lack interior space. The outer size, in some cases, doesn’t equate to a more extensive interior. One of the most important things to be sure about is you can easily fit inside.
The models that come with hoops to deliver space around the head and shoulder are often more substantial and thus larger. But, once you move down to the area of the knees and feet, you can find they are still cramped.
Condensation & Waterproofing
Once you have tried a bivy tent compared to a tent, you will find them much warmer, but they can
come with a downside. The breathability of the outer material is vital while trying to stay water-resistant for bad weather.
It is a delicate balance, and manufacturers still struggle to find this with the construction of their bivy sacks. You tend to find high-quality materials such as Gore-Tex fabric that offer the best of both, yet they can still suffer from minimal amounts of condensation.
When searching for your bivy, you will have to consider if you are venturing out in all weathers or strictly be a dry weather hiker and bivy user.
While most of the newer bivy sacks are for hiking use, some still include features as selling points to make them stand out from the competition.
Compression sacks are one of the first so that you can pack away your bivy into the smallest possible size.
Sealed seams ought to be standard, although not every model goes to this extent to deliver waterproofing.
Straps allow you to fasten your bivy to your hiking backpack or fasten it to other areas where it is accessible if you are caught out, and you end up camping in the rain halfway down your trek.
Bug protection is one of the newer features and is most often found on hoop-designed models.
In summary, once you know the use of your bivy, you can quickly narrow down your choices. Not every variant offers what you are looking for, and when you add in your budget, it is evident which models will meet your needs and compares to the best camping tents for one person.
When looking at all these bivy sacks, they all came with different features and design components. While easy to be sidetracked and make comparisons on each element, the performance was the cost where we laid our final decision.
The Tennier Woodland Camouflage Waterproof Bivy Cover came out on top because it was seen to be the most rugged.
The Gore-Tex may show signs of use over time, yet this was purely external, and you can get plenty of service from this waterproof bivy before you even need to consider a replacement.
There is more than enough space inside without feeling cramped, and it is more than capable of making you comfortable in all weather.
Although there is no window, and it is slightly heavier than some, these are small prices to pay for a bivy you know will deliver precisely what you need. You can quickly access the sack when you face a sudden downpour and just as promptly pack it away when you want to get back on the trail.
Fending off the elements will be the number one factor, and the Tennier Woodland is the best bivy sack by far for delivering in these areas.
It is a great performer and ought to be at the top of any beginner’s guide to camping list of gear, and thus, it is a worthy winner of our bivy sack reviews.