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12 Best Bivy Sacks in 2022 (And Why Every Adventurer Needs One)

Best bivy sacks

Bivy sack, bivvy sack or bivi sack? The outdoor world might not have decided on the preferred name and spelling just yet, but one thing we can all agree upon is that these versatile little wonders are mightily useful. From emergency shelter to substitute tent, bivy bags have a wide range of uses and for some are an absolute ‘must-bring’ item whenever leaving behind the comfort of brick and mortar for a day, night or month or two in the wild. Just as potentially confusing as the name, however, is what makes a bivy a good one and what type is best for your outdoor adventures. To help you decide and shed some light on the matter, read on for our insights of the best bivy sacks in 2022!

Summary of the best bivy sacks in 2022

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ProductsType of bivy sackWeightWaterproof?Cost
Black Diamond Twilight Bivy4-season10oz (284g)Water resistant$$$
SOL Escape Lite BivyEmergency5.5oz (156g)Water resistant$
Outdoor Research Alpine AscentShell BivyAlpine/extreme 4 season18.6oz (527g)Yes$$$$$
Mountain Equipment Ion BiviEmergency9.9oz (280g)Water resistant$$
Exped Bivybag Lite VentairMinimalist17.4oz (495g)Yes$$$
Outdoor Research Bug BivyBug net with poles16oz (454g)No$$
Ortovox Bivy UltralightEmergency5.3oz (150g)Yes$
Alpkit HunkaMinimalist11.6oz (330g)Yes$
Outdoor Research Helium BivyWith poles16.8oz (476g)Yes$$$$
Rab Alpine BiviMinimalist16oz (454g)Yes, eVent$$$$$
Snugpak Stratosphere Bivvi ShelterWith poles39 oz (1105g)Yes$$$
US Army Military Camo BivyMinimalist40oz (1133g)Yes, Gore-Tex$

The best bivy sacks in 2022

Black Diamond Twilight Bivy

Black Diamond Twilight Bivy

Ideal when backpacking as both an emergency shelter or a simple sleeping bag cover for the nights when you want only the stars for your ceiling! The Black Diamond Twilight Bivy is a ludicrously lightweight, minimalist bivy bag. The frameless construction means that as well as being ultra light, it packs down to the size of a photograph and will be barely noticeable in your pack.

The single-wall shell fabric is water resistant and breathable with zippered entry across the shoulder area. A handy mesh panel gives flexibility to stay covered while sitting upright – perfect for campfires – while the silicone nano cell shell gives night-long comfort too. (And, shhhush, but I love that the vibrant caterpillar-green colour is called Wasabi!)

Pros

  • Ultra-lightweight frameless design
  • Breathable and water resistant
  • Panel for sitting while remaining covered

Cons

  • Not fully waterproof
  • Not the cheapest

Find the latest price at:
REI


SOL Escape Lite Bivy

SOL Escape Lite Bivy

The SOL’s no-frills Escape Lite Bivy is the 21st century upgrade of that classic orange plastic bag that was all you could get for an emergency ‘bivy bag’ back in the day! It’s super cheap because it’s basic, making it for me the emergency bivy that should be a staple in everyone’s backpack all the time. Being basic doesn’t exclude functionality and whilst this isn’t a fully waterproof bivy sack, it is water resistant, wind-proof and breathable. A metalised lining reflects back 70% body heat allowing air to warm in the bag and preventing heat loss, ideal in winter snow-chill emergencies. Useful as a sleeping bag liner for warmth as well as a bivy-functional outer, the Escape Lite is versatile, lightweight and packs down small. Get one for your backpack today!

Pros

  • Excellent for emergency preparedness in every hiking pack
  • Cheap but functional
  • Lining reflects 70% body heat

Cons

  • Can be fiddly to re-pack once used
  • No head covering
  • Lining might be a little noisy

Find the latest price at:
REI


Outdoor Research Alpine AscentShell Bivy

Outdoor Research Alpine AscentShell Bivy

An excellent no-tent solution for alpine and extreme weather backpack and mountaineer enthusiasts. Outdoor Research’s Alpine AscentShell bivy makes use of cutting edge breathable fabric technology for reduced condensation, and we all know that means better sleep after a hard day on the mountain.

It is a single-pole set up with 2 stake loops and one guyline loop, weighing in fairly lightly compared to a hike tent. This also makes it speedy to erect. The step-in opening allows easy access from hiking boot removal straight in – no faffy shimmying on the ground in the cold. Other great benefits include extra headroom and toe space for storing gear and a fly fastener that exposes a mesh screen for stargazing and keeping bugs at bay. Although the most expensive on our list, the AscentShell is the best bivy bag for all season use.

Pros

  • Improved breathability reduces condensation
  • Mesh fly for stargazing/bug-proofing
  • Extra head room for gear storage

Cons

  • Takes up more room in backpack
  • Expensive

Find the latest price at:
REI


Mountain Equipment Ion Bivi

Mountain Equipment Ion Bivi

Highly water repellent to a hydrostatic head of 1500mm, Mountain Equipment’s Ion Bivy is a Mummy-style tapered bivy bag ideal for mountaineering and backpacking. Its fully taped seam construction and Drilite outer shell improve breathability although the fabric may be a little thin. A ground mat underneath is recommended by some to reduce risk of tearing.

The large cowl over-hood has velcro tabs as well as a drawcord adjustment. This creates extra space at the head end to store gear while you sleep. Lightweight and easy to pack, the Ion is a great bag as an emergency overnighter or as a sleeping bag cover within a shelter.

Pros

  • Highly water repellant
  • Velcro tabs plus drawstring hood
  • Space for gear storage

Cons

  • Not fully waterproof
  • Thin fabric potentially prone to tearing

Find the latest price at:
Alpine Trek


Exped Bivybag Lite Ventair

Exped Bivybag Lite Ventair

Similar in size and shape to the Ion Bivy, Exped’s Lite Ventair is almost twice the weight, though it still remains compact enough to stow easily in a backpack. The extra weight is worth it, coming from a sturdy PU coating exterior fabric. This in turn gives full wind- and waterproofing with an impressive hydrostatic head rating of 10,000mm, features that mean it’s one of the best bivy sacks for trekking and expeditions.

The Lite Ventair boasts an adjustable drawcord hood and is spacious enough for a sleeping mat in addition to your sleeping bag. Excellent value for money for a fully waterproof bivy bag.

Pros

  • Fully waterproof and windproof
  • Spacious but compact
  • Includes stuff sack

Cons

  • Slightly heavier than some

Find the latest price at:
Alpine Trek


Outdoor Research Bug Bivy

Outdoor Research Bug Bivy

Not a waterproof bivy sack, the Outdoor Research Bug Bivy is exactly what it says – a mossie net on a pole with a waterproof floor. There’s no waterproofing above so it’s only suitable, but perfect, for in-shelter use or for warm, guaranteed dry nights. This makes it the ideal bivy for any backpacking excursion where biting insects are a problem. It’s already on my list for our canoe expedition this summer in Scotland; the home of all God’s biting bugs!

The overhead fibreglass pole keeps the netting away from your face when the bivy sack is closed, so you can’t be bitten through the mesh. Clever! And the long zip opening means you can access the bivy at speed rather than wriggling about for ages while bugs join you unnoticed. Also cleverly thought through.

There are straps to hold your sleeping bag in place while sleeping and stake loops to secure to the ground if needed. Essential items can be kept handy in small mesh pockets and the price includes a stuff sack. Great value for money.

Pros

  • Mesh no-see-um anti-bug netting
  • Waterproof floor
  • Single pole A-frame

Cons

  • Not waterproof
  • Heaviest bivy on our list

Find the latest price at:
REI


Ortovox Bivy Ultralight

Ortovox Bivy Ultralight

This is the cheapest waterproof bivy bag on our list, and also the only one with 2-person capacity. The Ortovox Ultralight is the ideal size and weight for any backpack, specifically for emergency use in unforeseen weather, accidents or unplanned nights outside.

An exterior PU coating provides both windproofing and full waterproofing, and an interior reflective metallised lining reflects body heat. It’s a must-have lightweight emergency bivy option in snowy, Alpine conditions where hypothermia is a concern.

It does not have a hood and whilst it has 2-person capacity that’s for emergencies only, it’s not a super spacious choice for two! There’s a cheery stuff sack for storage too. Providing critical protection in mountain emergencies, this should be in every backpacker’s kit.

Pros

  • Heat reflective lining
  • Fully waterproof and windproof
  • Lightweight and compact
  • 2-person capacity
  • Emergency must-have
  • Great value

Cons

  • No hood

Find the latest price at:
Alpine Trek


Alpkit Hunka

Alpkit Hunka

If lots of awesomeness at a very, very reasonable price is your thing, it’s well worth taking a better look at the Alpkit Hunka. This no-frills, super functional and wallet-friendly little sack does everything you need a bivy bag to do. As if that wasn’t enough, it’s also the cheapest and the second lightest bivy in our review! It’s waterproof, breathable, and features a nicely tapered shape, a sculpted hood with dual drawcords and fully taped seams.

The only downsides to this sack are the lack of a side zipper for easy entry/exit and a slight lack of width and length. The first problem can be overcome with a little bit of wriggling, the second by upgrading to the Hunka XL, which weighs only 17oz and will set you back just £15/$20 more.

For more info read our full review of the Hunka.

Pros

  • Weighs a tiny 11.65oz
  • Very small pack size 5 x 6”
  • 2.5-layer Ripstop nylon fabric
  • Breathable
  • Waterproof (HH 10,000)
  • Hunka XL available for taller biviers
  • Awesome value for money
  • Wide at the shoulders (31.5”)

Cons

  • A touch narrow at the feet (20”)
  • A bit on the short side (85”)

Find the latest price at:
Alpkit


OR Helium Bivy

Outdoor Research Helium Bivy

It’s tough, it’s durable, it’s completely waterproof, and the newly improved version is also even more lightweight than ever (14% lighter, in fact!). For a poled bivy sack, 16.8oz is impressively lightweight, competing fiercely with some of the non-poled options on our list. It even features no-see-um mesh, a guy line loop and stake hoops.

A couple of minor negatives include average breathability which could be better. Plus, it’s a little bit on the short side for very tall users (82”) and a little narrow at the shoulders (26”) for broader backed biviers.

Overall, however, the OR Helium is a beaut of a sack for those who want simple and lightweight functionality on multi-day missions.

Pros

  • Very lightweight
  • Fully taped seams
  • Great weather resistance
  • Durable
  • Features a mosquito net

Cons

  • Pricey
  • Breathability could be better
  • A touch short and narrow

Find the latest price at:
Outdoor Research


Rab Alpine Bivi

Rab Alpine Bivi

When the weather’s doing its best to spoil your good time in the outdoors, the Rab Alpine Bivy comes into its own. This minimalist, 3-layer, fantastically weather-proof sack takes protection from the elements to a whole other level. Made for extreme alpine and mountaineering adventures, the Rab Alpine is very light, very tough and offers great breathability to boot. It features tough, Ripstop materials, eVent fabric, a reinforced underside for rocky surfaces, and a mummy-style design to fit technical sleeping bags. The only real downside to this bivy sack, in fact, is the cost. If you’ve got money to burn or it just happens to be payday, however, this just might be the bivy for you!

Pros

  • Outstanding weather protection
  • Great breathability
  • Light (16oz)
  • Comfortable
  • Reasonably spacious

Cons

  • Very expensive
  • Overkill for summer conditions
  • Large pack size (4.7×12”)

Find the latest price on:
Amazon | Cotswold Outdoor


Snugpak Stratosphere Bivvi Shelter

Snugpak Stratosphere Bivvi Shelter

More of a happy medium between a tent and a bivy sack, the Stratoshpere combines the features of both to form a beast of a bivi bag or a very miniature tent. Let’s start with the drawbacks – it weighs, quite frankly, a heck of a lot! At 39 oz, the Stratosphere is comparable to many one-person tents. But don’t be put off just yet! For all those added ounces, you really do get something very versatile and unique. This Bivvi Shelter is a gap-bridger between a tent and minimalist bivy bags. It’s very spacious, very robust, tough, and offers great weatherproofing. For those seeking an emergency shelter or lightweight nook for a few summer nights in the outdoors, this may well be overkill. For long-distance trekkers who fancy a bit of space at the end of the day without the weight of a tent, however, it might just be the solution you’re looking for!

Pros

  • Reasonably priced
  • Very spacious (42”W x 90”L x 37”H)
  • Roll-away mosquito net
  • Good water resistance
  • Very well made

Cons

  • Very heavy (39oz)
  • Not the most breathable
  • Large pack size (14 x 4 x 6”)
  • Did we mention that it’s heavy?!

Find the latest price on:
Amazon


US Army Military Camo Bivy

US Army Military Camo Bivy

When an item of gear carries the tag ‘military issue’, this usually suggests it’s a heavy-duty, frill-free workhorse. The Camo Bivy is just that type of bivy. It’s mightily heavy and not the most spacious sack out there, but contends with other ‘all-in’ bivies like the Stratosphere and Chinook Summit in terms of quality of build and value for money. It’s made of Gore-Tex fabrics for year-round weatherproofing, offers decent breathability and boasts some nice touches such as heat-sealed seams and a handy, bad-weather storm flap.

Pros

  • Gore-Tex materials
  • Military issue
  • Reasonably priced
  • Heat-sealed seams
  • Solid weatherproofing
  • Storm flap prevents the build up of snow or rainwater

Cons

  • Very heavy (40oz)
  • Not the most spacious (84” x 35” x 23”)

Find the latest price on:
Amazon


More about bivy sacks and why they’re great

Before we get down to our review of the best bivy sacks, let’s take a look at why you might want to get your hands on one and what to look for.

I’ve already got a tent. Why do I need a bivy sack?

Whether you have a tent or not, taking a bivy along with you on your hike, climb, cycle or kayaking adventure is never a bad idea. At the cost of very little weight, a bivy will give you – and this is perhaps their most important benefit – a very light, effective emergency shelter than can be set up in seconds in extreme weather conditions.

For those who want to travel fast and light, a bivy might not afford the same roominess as a tent, but can perform much better in very cold conditions by containing your body heat and offering better waterproofing. The only downsides to choosing a bivy over a tent are the amount of room you have inside your shelter and, in some cases, the degree of weatherproofing.

Bivy sacks are ideal for anyone who:

  • Wants a more advanced, comfy, high-performing emergency shelter
  • Wants to travel ultralight
  • Is planning alpine ascents
  • Is an extreme minimalist
  • Has no friends and/or prefers traveling solo
  • Has issues with poles (many bivy sacks are pleasingly pole-free)
  • Wants an easy-to-setup, cosy nighttime nook at the end of long days in the backcountry
  • Wants to fall asleep watching the stars

Types of bivy sacks

Bivy bags generally fall into the following three categories:

  • Bug bivy

    Bug nets

    Super light and compact but offer diddly squat in the way of weather protection. Good for the fair weather bivier venturing into terrain renowned for mosquitoes, midges or other mini, human-munching pterodactyls.

  • Minimalist bivy

    Minimalist bivies

    Pole free, ultralight and easy on the frills, these are ideal for the long-distance or three-season bivier who wants to travel light or bring along a just-in-case shelter for emergency situations.

  • Bivy tent

    Four-season bivies

    These bivies are usually much more tent-like in design and thus offer a more spacious, weatherproof shelter ideal for more extreme conditions or claustrophobic campers. They’re usually made of tougher materials but, on the downside, can weigh more than double the lighter minimalist models.


What to look for in a good bivy sack

01Waterproofing

All bivies come with a different degree of waterproofing, which is measured on the ‘hydrostatic head’ (HH) scale. The higher the HH a bivy is, the more waterproof it is. The maximum HH you’re likely to find is 20,000, which means your bivy is not dissimilar to your average house in terms of its ability to keep of the wet stuff. A 1,000 HH bivy, on the other hand, will deal with a very light shower but not a lot more. Anything from 12,000 HH and up the way will keep you dry in even the heaviest of downpours. Although not all manufacturers mention the HH of their bivy, if you find one made of Gore-tex or eVent it’s sure to be waterproof.

02Breathability and ventilation

Your bivy can become a sticky, sweaty place without good breathability and ventilation. Gore-tex, eVent and Pertex are all examples of materials that offer great breathability in stickier conditions. Cheaper fabrics are likely to compromise on either breathability of weather resistance. Bivies with poles and more space inside are usually better breathers than those that lie on top of your body. Those with zippers instead of drawstring closures, moreover, allow you to ventilate manually on dry nights.

03Poled or poleless?

Back in the good old days, a bivy bag was a $1 plastic sheet you wrapped around yourself prior to several hours of suffering in a sweaty, airtight nest with straightjacket-like comfort. These days, poleless designs follow the same principle but, thankfully, offer far greater breathability, comfort and general convenience. They offer, essentially, a weatherproof cover for your sleeping bag.

Bivies that use poles or hoops, on the other hand, offer a lot more storage and wriggle-room, shed water and snow, and essentially function like mini tents. On the downside, they usually weigh and cost a lot more and take longer to set up than their poleless cousins.

04Packed size/weight

For lightweight campers, a bivy that isn’t saving you at least a few ounces on the weight of a standard tent isn’t doing what it’s supposed to. Even if you simply want an emergency shelter to throw in the bottom of your pack, finding the lightest bivy available has to be high on the tick list. Before buying, however, make sure your would-be bivy hasn’t sacrificed any ‘musts’ (such as breathability, space, waterproofing) in order to cut down on weight. At the other end of the scale, if the bivy you’re considering is particularly heavy, then it’s time to weigh up whether or not you might be better just opting for a lightweight tent.

05Comfort

The comfort of your bivy depends on a variety of factors, some of which we’ve already covered above. In addition to waterproofing and breathability, however, size is also a key factor in making sure you don’t feel shrink-wrapped while you sleep. For taller users, aim for a sack over 90” in length. For those of a claustrophobic disposition or who do a fair amount of shifting in their sleep, a sack that it at least 30” at the shoulders and 25” at the feet will be most comfortable.


We’ve seen pretty much all the shapes, sizes, specs and features a bivy sack could possibly offer. Whether you’re looking for a bottom-of-the-pack emergency shelter or a nigh-on bombproof sack for more extreme adventures, we hope the above list has revealed your future bivy-to-be and that the pair of you spend many a happy, cosy night together out in the wild!

If you’d like to take your wild camping adventures to higher places then it’s worth exploring hammock camping. It offers all the flexibility of bivying but with more options of where to set up camp (or less, depending on where you are!)

hammock gear guide

About the author

author-kieran

Kieran Cunningham is a nuttily-passionate climber, mountaineer, trekker, trail-runner, and all-round lover of wild places. He has spent most of his life doing cool things in the Himalaya, Rockies, Dolomites and the Italian Alps, where he now lives and spends his time stomping trails, clambering up crags, ticking-off peaks and, occasionally, sleeping (with reluctance!).

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