About Ultralight Bivy Sacks

If you’re hitting the trail this season, then one of the most important pieces of gear you’ll need as an overnight camping shelter.

If you’re looking to go ultralight, or at least cutting weight from your pack than an ultralight bivy sack will be a great option.

Trying to find the best bivy sack for your trip can be a challenge, especially if you’ve never camped in a bivy sack before.

Although tiny, ultralight bivy sacks come in a number of different styles and sizes and there are a lot to choose from.

And don’t be fooled by their size.  A good waterproof bivy sack can be one of the most protective camping shelters you can sleep inside since most bivies are made with Gore-Tex.

A Gore-Tex bivy sack is really the industry standard at this point and we recommend always looking for this feature.

A good example of this is the Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy 

However, a bivy sack isn’t for everyone and you may be more comfortable in a one-person backpacking tent.

Be sure to check below for ratings and reviews of the best ultralight bivy sacks available today, along with a buying guide and video to help you find the best bivy sack for your next adventure!

Best Ultralight Bivy Sacks 2020

    Weight 1.4 lbs
    Packed Dimensions 15"L x 4"W
    Assembled Dimensions 84"L x 26"W
    Hooped Yes
    Current Price $187.46

    The Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy is one of the best Bivy sack on the market today. It’s 7 feet long and 2 feet wide so it should be able to fit even the tallest camper with at least some gear. At just under 2 pounds you get a lot of Bivy sack while keeping your pack weight low.

    Pros
    • Ultralight at just under 2 pounds
    • Fully taped seams for extra weather protection and warmth
    • Durable hydro seal coated waterproof nylon floor to prevent any water seepage into the bivy sack from below
    • Gore-Tex for added circulation
    Cons
    • Some condensation builds up especially in the warmer months

    Read our full review of the Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy


    Weight 2 lbs
    Packed Dimensions 22"L x 14"W
    Assembled Dimensions 80"L x 34"W
    Hooped Yes
    Current Price Price not available

    The Chinook Summit Bivy Bag is comfortable, spacious bivy sack that lightweight backpackers will love. It packs down very tightly into your pack to about the size of a football and weighs about 2 pounds, which is on the heavier side for a bivy, but more than makes up for with over 7 feet of space to lay down inside of with plenty of space at the head once you install the aluminum poles.

    Pros
    • Lightweight at 2 pounds
    • Waterproof and breathable
    • There's the option for staking for even more space
    • Lots of space for even taller campers
    • Dependable bug netting
    Cons
    • A little heavy for a bivy sack

    Read our full review of the Chinook Summit Bivy Bag


  1. Outdoor Research Helium Bivy
  2. Editors Rating:
    (4.5 / 5)
    Weight 1.1 lbs
    Packed Dimensions 15"L x 4"W
    Assembled Dimensions 84"L x 29"W
    Hooped Yes
    Current Price Price not available

    The Outdoor Research Helium Bivy comes with a lot of great features that we love about Bivy camping. The sack weighs in at around 18 ounces and offers enough size to easily fit someone over 6 feet inside or someone under 6 feet with gear.

    Pros
    • Ultralight weight of 18 ounces
    • The hooped feature for greater comfort while you sleep and bug netter.
    • Long enough for taller campers
    • Packs down to the size of a water bottle
    • Waterproof
    Cons
    • Condensation builds up

    Read our full review of the Outdoor Research Helium Bivy


  3. Military Goretex Bivy Sack
  4. Editors Rating:
    (4.2 / 5)
    Weight 9 lbs
    Packed Dimensions 12"L x 3"W
    Assembled Dimensions 80"L x 30"W
    Hooped No
    Current Price $145.99

    Military Modular Sleep System 4 Piece with Goretex Bivy Cover and Carry Sack is going to simplify your gear. This is a US military inspired total sleep system, that includes 2 separate sleeping bags, a bivy cover, and a stuff sack.

    Pros
    • Lightweight at 2 pounds
    • Military issued quality
    • Gore-Tex breathability
    Cons
    • Material resting on your face throughout the night

    Read our full review of the Military Goretex Bivy Sack


  5. Snugpak Ionosphere Dome Tent Bivy
  6. Editors Rating:
    (4.1 / 5)
    Weight 3.3 lbs
    Packed Dimensions 17"L x 5.25"W
    Assembled Dimensions 94"L x 39"W
    Hooped Yes
    Current Price $189.95

    The Snugpak Ionosphere 1 Man Dome Tent lays at the intersection of tent and bivy. Its super lightweight at 2 and a half pounds and takes very little time to setup, consisting of just two aluminum hoops to run through the attached seams.

    Pros
    • Excellent waterproofed materials
    • Ultralightweight at 2 and a half pounds
    • Fresh air freely circulated
    Cons
    • Heavy for a Bivy sack
    • Small for a tent with little headroom
    • Zippers seem to be problematic and can break easily.

    Read our full review of the Snugpak Ionosphere Dome Tent Bivy


  7. Snugpak Stratosphere Bivvi Shelter
  8. Editors Rating:
    (4.1 / 5)
    Weight 2.4 lbs
    Packed Dimensions 10"L x 6"W
    Assembled Dimensions 81"L x 34"W
    Hooped Yes
    Current Price $159.99

    The Snugpak 92860 Stratosphere is a great lightweight Bivy that works well in cold temperatures. Because it’s a little smaller it might sleep a bit warm in hotter temperatures, but the outer material is breathable and you get good protection against the rain.

    Pros
    • Good ventilation
    • 88 inches to fit even the tallest campers plus a heavy duty sleeping bag
    • Can stake down to get the full legnth and width
    Cons
    • Heavier for a Bivy
    • Not totally waterproof
    • You also may want to invest in better stakes.

    Read our full review of the Snugpak Stratosphere Bivvi Shelter


  9. Aqua Quest Hooped Bivy Tent
  10. Editors Rating:
    (4 / 5)
    Weight 1.8 lbs
    Packed Dimensions 16"L x 5"W
    Assembled Dimensions 90.6"L x 35.4"W
    Hooped Yes
    Current Price $109.99

    The Aqua Quest Hooped Bivy Tent worked great for wind and rain protection. The Bivy is good sized especially for a Bivy is about as lightweight as most at just under 2 and a half pounds.

    Pros
    • Extra coated water protection
    • Lightweight
    • Hooped headspace
    • Bug netting for circulation and bug protection
    Cons
    • Kind of heavy for a bivy sack
    • Condensation build up
    • Not well ventilated

    Read our full review of the Aqua Quest Hooped Bivy Tent


  11. MOC Woodland Gore Tex Bivy
  12. Editors Rating:
    (4 / 5)
    Weight 2 lbs
    Packed Dimensions 19"L x 5"W
    Assembled Dimensions 90.6"L x 29.5"W
    Hooped No
    Current Price $117.98

    The Military Outdoor Clothing Previously Issued U.S. G.I. Woodland Camo Gore-Tex Bivy Sleeping Bag Cover is a Genuine U.S. military-issue Bivy sack with plenty of space inside with a military quality guarantee that will keep you warm and cozy inside even in sub-freezing temps.

    Pros
    • Lightweight at 2 pounds
    • Military issued quality
    • Gore-Tex breathability
    Cons
    • Material resting on your face throughout the night

    Read our full review of the MOC Woodland Gore Tex Bivy


    Weight 2.2 lbs
    Packed Dimensions 4"L x 3.5"W
    Assembled Dimensions 84"L x 36"W
    Hooped No
    Current Price $139.99

    The Woodland Camouflage Waterproof Bivy Cover offers classic Bivy coverage that’s good enough for the US Army.

    It’s one of the most durable Bivy’s on the market today and includes Gore-Tex weather protection with ventilation that can withstand colder temperatures as well as avoiding condensation build up inside the bivy.

    Pros
    • Gore-Tex for added air circulation
    • Enough room for a sleeping pad
    • lightweight at 2.5 pounds
    • Military grade warmth and weather coverage
    Cons
    • No hoop to keep the Bivy material from resting on your face
    • You may also get some condensation build up

    Read our full review of the Woodland Camouflage Bivy


  13. SOL Escape Bivvy - Best Emergency Bivy
  14. Editors Rating:
    (3.8 / 5)
    Weight .5 lbs
    Packed Dimensions 12"L x 5"W
    Assembled Dimensions 91"L x 32"W
    Hooped No
    Current Price $59.99

    The S.O.L. (Survive Outdoors Longer) Escape bivy is an excellent cover bivy for the ultra-minimalist backpacker. It is particularly popular with the mountain biking community.

    There’s not much to it other than to slide it over your sleeping bag for rain and temperature protection. It weighs only 3.8 ounces and kept us comfortable in a short overnight trip in sub 50-degree temps.

    Pros
    • Ultralight at 3.8 ounces
    • As basic and simple setup as you'll find
    • Paired with a warm mummy sleeping bag will deliver plenty of heat
    • Good value for the basic Bivy that it is
    • Simple heating technique by using your own body heat
    Cons
    • Very small
    • Won't keep you too warm without a sleeping bag
    • Tears easily

    Read our full review of the SOL Escape Bivvy


  15. Geertop UL Bivy Tent
  16. Editors Rating:
    (3.5 / 5)
    Weight 2.8 lbs
    Packed Dimensions 12"L x 3"W
    Assembled Dimensions 91"L x 32"W
    Hooped Yes
    Current Price $89.98

    The Geertop Ultralight 1-Person Waterproof BIVY Tent is another hybrid Bivy/tent that offers the lightweight portability of a Bivy with the space of a tent.

    You get 7 feet of space inside and a three-pole frame system made from aluminum for a durable/quick setup.

    Pros
    • Big for a Bivy
    • Advanced setup still quick and easy
    • Great outside water protection
    Cons
    • Heavy for a Bivy sack at 2.8 pounds in your pack
    • Condensation build up collects at the head

    Read our full review of the Geertop UL Bivy Tent


Ultralight Bivy Sacks Buying Guide

Everything you need to know before purchasing Bivy Sacks

Ultralight Bivy Sacks

As camping trends turn more minimalist, backpackers are turning more to reliable ultralight shelters like bivy sacks.

Hikers on the trail are asking more out of their lightweight gear than ever before.

Most of all, they’re realizing that no shelter covers your lightweight backpacking needs like a bivy sack. They’re light and very compact and consequently take up very little space in your pack.

As a result, you do lose a bit of comfort compared to a tent.

Yet when your goal is to cover more ground and not to cook marshmallows and to tell ghost stories, the best bivy sack will get you through the night while easing the strain on your body from hiking.

They’re particularly easy to set up, and by and large, protect you from harsh weather conditions.

In this article, we hope to help you find the best bivy sack for your journey in addition to giving you some tips on how to shop for these lightweight shelters.

How To Choose The Right Bivy Sack

It’s probably safe to say that if you’re even entertaining the thought of sleeping in a bivy sack that you have a decent amount of camping experience and can tolerate sacrificing some modern-day luxuries.

Therefore we don’t recommend bivy sack camping for the beginning backpacker as it can require a lot of adjustment.

However, once you start checking the features you’ll notice that newer bivy sacks offer a decent amount of luxury.

What To Look For

best bivy sack, man in bivy sack outside, best bivy sack for camping, best ultralight bivy sack

The Aqua Quest Bivy Sack is loaded with great features like stakes and bug netting.

Up until recently, finding a good bivy sack was easy because there wasn’t much to them other than just merely using it as a waterproof sleeping bag cover.

The original bivouac shelters were designed by the military to provide waterproof, lightweight shelter for soldiers.

Since then, the technology has only gotten better because of companies like Gore-tex, who created their patented waterproof, breathable bivy exterior.

Nowadays, bivy sacks are built like mini 1-person tents.

While we do believe these newer specs have made bivies usable by more people, you, the backpacker, have to have an accurate gauge of what you can tolerate.

Can you stand the confined space of a bivy sack, or do you need extra space to sit up and move around?

Due to their lack of space, a lot of campers are initially turned off from camping in bivy sacks.

Yet there is more beneficial to them than meets the eye.

Bivy Sack Features

Even though the Bivy sack seems like an easy thing to shop for, there are some features that you can miss out on if you don’t do your research.

These ain’t your granddaddy’s bivy sacks!

Features to keep in mind include size, weight, headspace, bug nets, coated floor, color, insulation, Gore-Tex, internal pockets, etc.

Bivy Sack Size:

Most Bivy sacks run from 6-7 feet long and average between 34 and 38 inches in width.

Even if you’re on the larger side, you should be able to fit inside the bivy with a sleeping bag.

Bivy sacks earn their keep when packed down in your backpack.

Even the bigger sacks can compress down to the size of a small thermos.

Bivy Sack Weight:

sunset over mountains

The point of the Bivy sack is to keep weight off your back and take less space in your bag.

Consequently, they’re made with lightweight materials including lightweight polyester, thick denier RipStop nylon, high thread count polyester, laminated polyurethane coating in addition to the Gore-Tex mentioned above.

Bivy sacks run anywhere from seven ounces to just under three pounds.

Anything over 3 pounds and you might as well upgrade to a tent.

In many cases, the line dividing tent and Bivy sack is becoming more and more blurry.

Bivy Headspace

One of the biggest bivy buying decisions you’re going to have to make is whether to get a bivy sack with a hooped rod for the head or not.

This small feature can make a huge difference in comfort.

Without a hooped-dome headspace, you can’t close the bivy sack without the materials rubbing against your face while you sleep.

No matter how rugged and experienced you are, this can be a nuisance to deal with.

Nevertheless, hooped rods themselves are super lightweight and don’t add much to your pack.

Bug Netting

” This Outdoor Research Bivy Sack comes with bug netting which allows you to let fresh air circulate inside the bivy while keeping the bugs out.

The bivies with the hooped head dome rods will also come with a layer of mesh bug netting that lays over your face.

This mesh is great for those nights where you want to keep the top open but also don’t want to spend your night with mosquitos buzzing in your ear or creepy things crawling all over your face.

On a beautiful, clear night, you can stargaze yourself to sleep.

This feature really enhances the experience.

Gore-Tex (Or any other waterproof, breathable coating)

Gore-Tex is a breathable, waterproof membrane made from a thin layer of polytetrafluoroethylene that contains over 9 billion pores per square inch.

This process helps to keep moisture out while fresh air is circulated in and out of the fabric.

In addition to bivy sacks, you’ll also find Gore-Tex on ultralight backpacking tents, hammocks, and hiking boots.

We highly recommend sticking to Gore-Tex products as their level of performance is the market standard.

Although there are other great waterproof products out there.

Bivy Sack Negatives

Of course, there are a handful of negative aspects of sleeping in a Bivy sack.

If they were perfect, everyone would use them, and the tent industry would crumble.

They might not even be right for you.

The hard truth of a bivy sack is that you do sacrifice the space that you get in a tent.

As an illustration, think back to when you sat in your tent and thought about how you were cramped.

best bivy sack, man in bivy sack outside, best bivy sack for camping, best ultralight bivy sack

Many smaller bivy sacks, like the S.O.L don’t offer much space.

Now imagine not even being able to sit!

Once you’re in a bivy sack, you have to stay lying down the whole time you are inside.

Laying down can get old, fast.

That being said, if you’re like a lot of ultralight backpackers and don’t anticipate spending more than your sleep time inside, by all means, a bivy sack might be perfect for your needs.

The fact is we all have different sleeping requirements.

Some people need more space than others to sleep.

Heck, some people have specific pre-sleep rituals before they fall asleep that they bring on the trail!

But then some lie down, close their eyes and don’t open them for 8 hours.

In either case, after a long day of backpacking, even if you’re a light sleeper, you might be so wiped out that you could sleep through a tornado.

In this case, a bivy sack is all you need.

Location

tree in forestWhere are you going and what time of year is it?

How cold will it be? Is the terrain rocky or grassy?

If the terrain is a bit more hilly and rockier, a bivy sack might be the best option.

Unlike a tent that needs to find a space to fit its exact footprint, a bivy sack can provide a more flexible solution.

Generally speaking, what is the bug situation like?

If it’s more humid, you might be in store for more mosquitos, so bug netting will be a must, otherwise good luck getting any sleep at all!

Weather

Above all, no matter what kind of weather you run into a decent bivy sack can handle it.

One of the best qualities of the bivy sack is its versatility.

Especially if you’re venturing into unfamiliar territory, the bivy will serve you well since it can be set up quickly and on the fly.

If you plan on seeing a lot of rain, then a tent might serve you better as it will be more comfortable to stay inside for more extended periods.

On the other hand, why are you planning to hike somewhere only to stay inside your tent for long periods?

Bivy Sacks Keep You Warm

best bivy sack, man in bivy sack outside, best bivy sack for camping, best ultralight bivy sackTemperature can also be a deciding factor.

Bivy sacks are built for warmth, so needless to say; you won’t need one in July in Arizona.

Even when the weather dips into the 60’s and 50’s a bivy will keep you very warm.

Especially when paired with a cold-weather temperature rated sleeping bag, a bivy sack can keep you toasty in frigid weather conditions.

If you get hot quickly while sleeping, make sure your bag comes with Gore-Tex as this will keep the temperature regulated, and you’ll avoid overheating.

Sleeping with the head zipper open is also an option.

Sleeping with this open is where a hoop and bug netting comes in handy.

Once you’ve considered all these factors, you’re ready to find the best bivy sack for your lightweight adventure!