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Amazing Gore-Tex waterproofing

Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy

Editor's Rating 

U-shaped head area for easy entry and exit

Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy

Editor's Rating

Simple no-fuss design

RAB Alpine Bivy

Editor's Rating

3 Top Picks

2 Reviewers

Hours of Research

21 Products Considered

Reading Time: 15 minutes

Bivy sacks are great if you are looking to go solo camping or shake it up and sleep outside instead of in a tent. They are warm, create a tight insular bubble, and are waterproof, which is great for unpredictable weather or morning dew. Additionally, they are not as bulky, heavy, or cumbersome as tents are, so bringing a bivy instead of a tent allows you to conserve energy if you are backpacking.

Short for bivouac sack, a bivy sack is not really for car camping. It functions like a more durable sleeping bag that your sleeping bag goes into and some of them seal off entirely, like miniature tents. They also often compress down for backpackers and mountaineers, but there are tons of different kinds of bivys out there. With all sorts of brands making them these days, you can find one that is right for you.

We've done the research and have picked our top ten bivy bags so you don't have to buy them all yourselves. Be sure to read the buyer's guide and frequently asked questions at the end to consider what you need in a bivy sack of your own.

Our Favorite Bivy Sack Reviews in 2020

Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy

Editor's Rating:

Our top rated bivy sack is the Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy. This revamped model of the 2019 version is even more lightweight while being just as waterproof and breathable. It weighs in at 1 pound 5.5 ounces which is great for backpackers. Furthermore, it has the option of an open-face sleeping bag for warm weather, a pole with a bug net to protect you in early summer and wetter lands, and also the option of a seal to attach to the pole so you can make a small tent out of your bivy sack. The OR Alpine Bivy is amazing due to its versatility.

Things We Liked

  • Super lightweight
  • Amazing Gore-Tex waterproofing
  • A very comfortable sleeping system in place
  • Optional bug net
  • Can seal off into a small 1-person tent
  • Good for all seasons

Things We Didn't Like

  • A little hot for mild climates and temperatures

Why We Like It

We like this bivy because its Gore-Tex waterproofing and durability make it one of the best waterproof bivy sacks. The Alpine model may be a tad less ventilated but it will keep in all conditions and is amazing for all seasons. As mentioned, its versatility in various seasons allows this bivy to be something of a multiple threat when it comes to comfort and weather protection out in the great outdoors.


Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy

Editor's Rating:

The Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy is one of top rated bivy sacks and earns the number two slot as the best bivy sack for the money. Priced much lower than other bivy sacks, this product has comparable quality. It is also very lightweight; a lot of camping and backpacking gear out there for a lower price tends to be bulkier or heavier but this is not the case with this bivy sack with a packed weight of 14 ounces. It is also waterproof, but some people have found leaks with the zippers.

Things We Liked

  • Very affordable price
  • Waterproof material and storm flap
  • Very light packed weight
  • Great on comfort
  • U-shaped head area for easy entry and exit
  • The wide sleeping area and headroom

Things We Didn't Like

  • Zippers can leak under a lot of 

Why We Like It

We like this bivy sack because of its mesh screen. It may not have a pole to keep it up into a tent structure, but this bivy sack is cozy. Overall, this Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy is a great place to start for backpackers due to its price, waterproofing, and light weight.


RAB Alpine Bivy

Editor's Rating:

The RAB Alpine Bivy is a simple and durable bivy. While costing a bit more than its competitors, it does compact more and also weighs in at 16 ounces/1 pound. Also, its waterproofing is very tough and performs better in worse conditions such as snow, not to mention beyond rain and wind. But its waterproofing does not allow as much ventilation and can also trap moisture/condensation. Furthermore, lacking poles, this bivy sack rests on your face as you sleep, which is a thing some people do not like

Things We Liked

  • Waterproof and still breathable
  • Holds up in extreme weather
  • Compact and lightweight
  • Simple no-fuss design

Things We Didn't Like

  • More expensive price than competitors
  • No internal bubble/membrane for additional comfort

Why We Like It

We like this RAB Alpine Bivy because it is simple. While people may prefer all the bells and whistles, such as poles to keep it off their bodies or tent-like seals, this bivy does the job and lasts a very long time.


MSR Pro Bivy

Editor's Rating:

The MSR Pro Bivy is also a simpler product that is the best bivy sack on this list in terms of weight. Coming in at 9 ounces, MSR has made another great piece of outdoor gear that is compact for backpacking and mountaineering. Ultimately, MSR has made this ultralight bivy an emergency shelter of sorts. It does not give quite the best comfort or weather protection from storms or snow, but it is the best ultralight bivy for its weight and compact pack size of 8 x 4 inches.

Things We Liked

  • Very, very light weight
  • Easy to set up
  • Small compact size to conserve space

Things We Didn't Like

  • Not as comfortable
  • High price

Why We Like It

We like this ultralight bivy sack because it is best suited for those short on space. Again, this functions better for a long trip and for an emergency shelter to protect your sleeping bags from unruly and surprising weather conditions.


Outdoor Research Helium Bivy

Editor's Rating:

The Outdoor Research Helium Bivy is great for weather resistance and comfort. Outdoor Research has again annually improved their outdoor gear to be lighter with a packed weight of 17 ounces and a pack size of 4 x 13 inches. It has heavy water resistant Pertex fabric that doesn't lack durability like Gore-Tex. Additionally, it has a mesh mosquito net for appreciating nature or a sealable tent wall for emergency situations and harsher conditions. The Helium Bivy is also very roomy and holds you, your sleeping bag, and sleeping pad easily.

Things We Liked

  • Mesh bug/mosquito net
  • Very comfortable bivy sack
  • Waterproof breathable Pertex fabric
  • Lighter than many models

Things We Didn't Like

  • Not as weather resistant

Why We Like It

This is bivy sack of the best ultralight bivy sacks because it performs all around very well. We ultimately prefer the OR Alpine because it performs with harsher weather conditions and seals in body heat better, but if you're looking for a waterproof and breathable bivy sack that turns into a lightweight shelter, this bivy sack is a great place to start as well for your first bivy.


REI Superlight Bivy

Editor's Rating:

Ever since REI started making products, they've always been a contender for amazing outdoor gear on any list. Their Superlight Bivy is no exception. Don't let the rectangular frame deter you; this is one of the best ultralight bivy sacks. The waterproof breathable Pertex and nylon floor keeps water out and doesn't kill you with your own condensation. Additionally, the mesh bug netting gives you extra breathability, you can also seal off into a tent-like structure.

With a pack weight 1 pound 6 ounces and a pack size 5 x 12 inches (including aluminum poles, stuff sack, and stakes), this shelter is a great addition to your gear and light in your backpack.

Things We Liked

  • Affordable low price
  • Bug netting for early summer and wetter areas
  • Extra floor space design adds to a great sleep system
  • Foot box and ventilation system to prevent moisture trapping and adds to the breathability

Things We Didn't Like

  • Not as light of weight
  • Not as waterproof as bivys

Why We Like It

We like this bivy sack because the foot box design allows for a great ventilation system throughout the floor plan and a tidbit of extra room to spread out in with some comfort like a small tent or shelter. We also love that it's not terribly expensive and you can also buy this bivy sack used and save even more dollars.


Black Diamond Spotlight Bivy

Editor's Rating:

This neon green bivy sack gives its campers a spacious sleep system. The Black Diamond Spotlight Bivy uses a pole system and design to create a bubble-like shelter, which in turn makes some vertical room for the camper. Additionally, it comes with a bug net for you to lean into summer a bit more with some ventilation while you sleep. While the fabric may be thin, the Nanoshield exterior does create enough water resistance for most seasonal temperatures.

With a packed weight of just under eighteen ounces, this bivy sack is a great contender on this list. The fabric makes it light enough to carry but its pack size of 4 x 7.5 inches is tough to beat, and the price is not terrible either!

Things We Liked

  • Great for summer months/warmer climate
  • Wide sleeping area and great headroom space
  • Highly visible for other hikers

Things We Didn't Like

  • Not as weather resistant
  • A little heavier than other models and bivys

Why We Like It

We like this bivy sack because it is a four-season piece of equipment. It is thin enough for summer and you can bring in extra insulation and layers with all that space this bivy sack provides on the inside (and maybe some extra storage too).


Snugpak Stratosphere Bivvi 1-Person Tent

Editor's Rating:

Though not as high in this article, the Snugpak Stratosphere bivy sack is certainly a contender and a great bivy sack overall. Snugpak is not as well-known a name as the others, but they have pulled out the stops on this water resistant bivy sack. With a ripstop nylon interior, nylon floor, and a polyurethane coating, this is great for drier times of the year. It is a little heavy but really channels those military vibes with its old school olive shell. Furthermore, the netting inside is great to keep insects out and allow you to enjoy those warmer months without smothering you in your adventures.

With a weight of 2.5 pounds, it is not the lightest bivy sack here. But it is quite spacious, and larger campers have found plenty of room here on their camping outings, so it may be worth hiking this bulk in their backpacks. The pole system creates a great bubble on the inside as well. It also has taped seams and stakes to keep you to the ground.

Things We Liked

  • Tent-like and military design
  • Water resistant ripstop nylon polyurethane coating interior
  • Bug net and taped seams to keep critters out

Things We Didn't Like

  • Not great waterproofing
  • Not great in lower temperatures

Why We Like It

We love this bivy sack because of its tent-like design. Though not as waterproof with its ripstop nylon and polyurethane coating, this one blends into the environment well unlike the previous bivy sack and can give you a military feel.


Tact Bivy

Editor's Rating:

The Tact Bivy by Survival Frog is an ultralight bivy sack best had in hand in case of emergencies. While all the other bivy sacks here come with a lot of features or focus areas in regards to comfort, mesh nets, or Gore-Tex weather protection, this bivy sack is a very small item that fits in your pack that you can take out and use in cases of erratic rain or other awful climate changes, but will not perform well in snow.

The nylon fabric is not as breathable and does not ventilate well, but it will carry you through a rough night. With a weight of 7 ounces, you can't complain about carrying this ultralight bivy sack around. It also spreads out to 7 x 3 feet, which is a bit of interior space for a bivy this small. Ultimately with the nylon fabric and low weight, this functions better in the realm of emergency products and good items to have in your pack overall. It also does not have any poles, which does not create that membrane or bubble inside as the bivy falls on your face.

Things We Liked

  • Very inexpensive and low price
  • Very small packed size (fits in your hand!)
  • Ultralightweight
  • A bit of space inside a bivy sack

Things We Didn't Like

  • Not the best waterproofing
  • Low breathability
  • Not very durable

Why We Like It

We like this ultralight bivy sack because the price and weight are both low. It's great for that rough night, but really not great in regard to the long-term protection and due to low breathability and durability (not for mountaineers).


Tennier Woodland Camouflage Waterproof Bivy Cover

Editor's Rating:

The Tennier Woodland Camouflage Waterproof Bivy Cover sacrifices weight for comfort. Coming in at two and a half pounds, this bivy sack is not as ultralight but provides a cozier alternative. We may not recommend this one for packed size or weight, as it is a bulkier bivy sack, but its performance is high quality. Tennier alleges that with their products, you can sleep in below -50°F temperatures, which means you can sleep through almost anything.

The canvas interior fabric paired with the Gore-Tex keeps heat in. It also has some decent breathability and ventilation for such thick fabric and material. In addition, the cost of this bivy sack is low and very affordable for someone looking into their first bivy sack. However, it does not have poles and the bivy sits on your face as you sleep.

Things We Liked

  • Dense fabric and waterproofing 
  • Good low price
  • Camouflage allows you to blend into the surroundings (forest, field, etc.) 

Things We Didn't Like

  • Heavier than other bivy sacks
  • Bulky in terms of packed size

Why We Like It

We like this bivy sack because it provides great protection against the elements with some space inside. The fabric and material are extremely durable against all kinds of terrain, rain, snow, wind, etc. This bivy sack may be last due to its bulk, but you can use it almost year-round and it will keep you cozy.


Buyer's Guide

The best bivy sack for you is one that meets all your needs. Pack weight, combatting the elements, and breathability/materials are important items, as it's largely for the trail and takes up space in your backpack. Also, it's very important to consider your price range and how often you are going to use it.

Weight and Pack Size

Weight and pack size are obvious ones, as bivy sacks are more for backpacking trails and mountaineering. You want to shoot for a bivy sack that is not larger than two pounds, though below 16 ounces is ideal. Pack size depends on your needs, but should not take up a lot of space in your bag.

Waterproofing and Seasonal Use

Since you're going without a tent, water resistance is key to fight rain or wind. Gore-Tex is the leading brand in this, and Gore-Tex has become something of a respected name on a lot of gear. While the elements can lead to a bad time while camping, make sure your bivy sack/camping shelter gives you some protection.

Gore-Tex, a storm flap, bug nets/insect protection, ripstop nylon, winter conditions, etc. are some of types of considerations to have, but we recommend sturdier bivy sacks because they have more advantages. We also believe the best bivy sacks have some kind of bug netting to give you a layer from the outside and allow you to see the stars.

Ventilation and Breathability

The best ultralight bivy sacks breathe really well with fabric that is still porous yet waterproof. Gore-Tex may trap in moisture, but other more breathable materials are great for condensation resistance. Some bivy sacks have additional room, and this roominess can lead to better ventilation around yourself. Think of investing in bivy sacks with poles too in order to create this room and space inside your bivy sack.

Price Versus Use

Money is always on your mind when it comes to outside gear. There is a lot to consider at every luxury presented to you, though it may seem necessary. Good materials and ventilation can cost more in terms of these bivy shelters. But if you're out for a day or two, an expensive bivy sack may not be the best value for you and your budget.

We recommend keeping in mind: what time of year you are going to go camping with this bivy? What's the terrain like? How often will I use this thing? How many nights? What protection do I need from the outdoors like rain?

Then you should move on to things you cannot compromise, from quality materials like ripstop nylon interiors, mesh nets, seams, etc. Do you want poles to keep the bivy off your face? Do you want a mesh screen for bugs? Stake loops? Condensation relief? Anything else? Any feature can add a few dollars, and we all are looking for the best value out there.

Remember, the best bivy sacks may not be the most expensive one for you.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the best bivy sack?

Our top bivy sack from our review is the Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy. It is lighter than its predecessor but we loved it because it has Gore-Tex waterproof material and is great for year-round protection in the great outdoors. It can also be an open air sleeping bag or seal off with a pole into a one-person tent in case of emergency or in colder climates.

Are bivy sacks worth it?

Bivvies are great if you want to be a minimalist backpacker. They function well in mild or even cold weather, but extreme weather is not ideal. However, the best bivy sacks are great against some wind and rain to compete in this intense market.

We don't recommend bivy sacks for beginners but for people trying to up their outside game. That's to say, get a tent instead of a bivy sack when you go car camping.

What is a bivy sack used for?

Bivy sacks are a very simple shelter to keep you dry and warm with an extra layer around your sleeping bag, usually for weather protection. You slide your sleeping bag in the bivy sack (like a sleeping bag cover) and then spend the night. Bivvies are great for backpacking and even mountaineering as a one-person rain/waterproof shelter. Backpackers also bring them along as an emergency bivy for random and erratic weather conditions.

Are bivy sacks warmer than tents?

Yes, they tend to be tighter on insulation and providing that extra layer around your sleeping bag allows you to be a few degrees warmer especially if it has Gore-Tex or Pertex to seal the heat in further. Many bivy sacks have thick material to keep cold air away and special high quality seams for breathability and ventilation as well. Furthermore, they keep drafts away from your body and face and keep you low to the ground.

Do you need a sleeping bag with a bivy?

Not necessarily, but it is recommended for extra comfort, especially to provide that good layer between you and the ground. However, on hotter nights and in a warmer area, you may forgo the sleeping bag or the bivy sack itself.

Conclusion

That is the end of our best bivy sack review. There are ten amazing options (and more on the market) that can complement your sleeping pad and boost your overall camping experience. Thinking of storm elements—especially wind and rain—is the big factor in determining the best bivy sack for you and in your overall camping and hiking needs.

Some great things we love in our bivy sacks are mesh screens for bugs and thicker materials for colder nights. Bivy sacks are great outdoor equipment for your next set of adventures. Poles are also great to keep the bivy off your face and make that entry a little easier into the bivy bags. Enjoy your next trail date!

While the many good luxuries and bonus features can make a difference, these camping shelters are great to add to your camping gear collection. Did we forget to mention a bivy that you love on our list? Throw it in the comments!

Expert Tip

Bivy sacks always keep a little bit of moisture from the previous night. I like to keep my bivy sack easily accessible in my pack so that when I stop during the day, I can set it out and air it out in a sunny area to remove any combination of sweat or water vapor before I head back to sleep that night.

Did You Know?

The word bivouac come from French and derives from 18th century Swiss German usage of "Beiwacht." Following use by British military troops and soldiers the term became known as "bivy" for short.

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