If you’re looking for a lightweight and portable backpacking solution, you need a good bivy sack. Since it’s not feasible to lug around a massive tent wherever you go, you need something more compact.
Bivy sacks come in different shapes and sizes, and terms are often thrown around interchangeably. We’ve split the bivies into three groups:
- Bivy tents are a body shaped one person tent with a solid frame made of tent poles.
- Bivy sacks or bags are similar to bivy tents, but without the frame.
- Emergency bivy sacks are made of thinner materials with a reflective coating and should only be used in … you guessed it – an emergency!
Since a bivy sack is an essential part of the backpacking experience, you need to choose the right model. Fortunately, we’ve compiled a list of the top 12 bivy bags, tents, and emergency bivvies available. Let’s get packing!
The best bivy sacks are:
- Snugpak Stratosphere Bivy Sack – Best Overall
- Snugpak Ionosphere Bivy Tent – Best Bivy Tent Style
- Black Diamond Twilight Bivy Sack – Best Lightweight Bivy
- LytHarvest Bivy Tent – Most Affordable Bivy Tent
- Don’t Die In The Woods Emergency Survival Bivy – Best Emergency Bivy
- Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy Sack
- Survive Outdoors Longer (SOL) Emergency Bivy
- Outdoor Research Helium Bivy Sack
- Winterial Personal Lightweight Bivy Tent
- Geertop 3 Season Ultralight Bivy Tent
- REI Co-op Shell Bivy Sack
- Outdoor Research Bug Bivy Sack
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Best Bivy Tent Style
Best Lightweight Bivy
Most Affordable Bivy Tent
Best Emergency Bivy
|Bivy Type||Bivy Sack||Bivy Tent||Bivy Sack||Bivy Tent||Emergency Bivy Bag||Bivy Sack||Emergency Bivy Bag||Bivy Sack||Bivy Tent||Bivy Tent||Bivy Sack||Bivy Sack|
|Value for Money||4.8/5||4.7/5||4.7/5||4.8/5||4.8/5||4.3/5||4.3/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.5/5||4.2/5|
A great all rounder with easy access into and out of the bivy.
The best of the bivy tents - choose the Ionosphere if you want a bivy with a frame.
Very lightweight and a good choice for ultralight backpackers, but be wary of heavy rain.
Cramped compared to the Ionosphere but provides excellent value for money.
Bivy Sacks Compared
- Four-season weatherproofing
- Extra-long dimensions for better comfort
- Durable ripstop waterproof nylon material
- Spacious head canopy with mosquito net
- Full-length side zipper for easier in and out
- Repair kit included
- Heavier than other bivy bags
- May leak at the seams during heavy rain
When choosing a bivy, you’ll notice that most models are perfect for specific elements but not ideal for others. For example, some bags are excellent for winter weather, but they’re pretty small and hard to get in and out.
Fortunately, the Stratosphere model from Snugpak checks off the most boxes. The only area where it loses points is with its weight and portability. At 2.5 pounds, this bag is a bit heavier than most. So, it can take up more room in your backpack than you might want, especially while hiking long distances. Otherwise, this product holds up well to most weather conditions, and it offers more space inside to accommodate your body and your head. At 91 inches, this bag is much longer than most others.
We also like that the Stratosphere comes with a full-length side zipper. So, you don’t have to shimmy yourself in and out when you’re ready to go to sleep, especially when using sleeping bags. The downside of this zipper, though, is that it might leak water during heavy rains. Otherwise, this pack is rated for all seasons.
- Extra-wide dimensions
- Four-season weather resistance
- Waterproof and windproof rainfly
- Built-in mosquito net
- Repair kit included
- Heavier than other models
- Must use stakes to keep the tent shape upright
Although a bivy tent and a bivy bag are designed for one person, there are some significant differences, such as:
- Weight – Bivy tents will always be heavier than bags because they include poles, guy lines, and stakes.
- Size – A bivy tent is more accommodating since you have room for both your sleeping bag and other gear. Bivy sacks are only designed to hold your body.
- Weather Resistance – Bivy tents come with a rainfly, making them better at wind and water resistance.
Overall, if you like the idea of bringing a tent but don’t want anything too bulky, we highly recommend buying a bivy tent. These models are compact and light enough to work for backpacking, but they’re much more accommodating than a standard bivy sack. This comfortable model from Snugpak has all the same highlights of the Stratosphere, and it includes all of the elements we listed above.
- Weighs just 10 ounces
- NanoShield fabric is durable yet breathable
- Wide opening to help you get in and out
- Packs down to just 3 x 5 inches
- Mesh panel at the entrance for extra airflow
- Four-season design
- Can be hard to get in and out for larger campers
- Fabric may leak in heavy rain
For many backpackers, the primary selling point of a high-quality bivy sack or tent is its weight. Since every ounce counts in your pack, you need products that won’t weigh you down. Fortunately, the Black Diamond Bivy Bag weighs just 10 ounces. The secret is the lack of an internal skeleton of tent poles. Also, the bag uses proprietary NanoShield technology that is both water-resistant and breathable.
Overall, if you’re trying to keep your camping gear as light as possible, the Black Diamond shelter is pretty much the best option. Best of all, its packed size is only three inches by five inches.
While it doesn’t prevent water from seeping in during heavy rain, it will work in most situations. Thanks to its warm and cozy interior, the bag is rated for all-season use. During the summer, you can use the mesh opening to let air in and keep bugs out of the shelter. The lack of rain and wind protection is why we like the Snugpak Stratosphere and Ionosphere models better. Realistically, the Black Diamond Twilight is ideal for fair-weather adventures.
- Lightweight for a bivy tent (1.6 pounds)
- One pole frame system for easy setup and tear down
- Rain-resistant material
- Affordable model
- Condensation can be an issue
- May feel cramped compared to other bivy tents
Although you can find some cheap bivy bags, it’s much harder to find a bivy tent on a tight budget. This model from Lytharvest is a bit cheaper than most, making it an excellent option for budget-conscious backpackers.
One element we like about this shelter is that it’s super lightweight for its class. At just 1.6 pounds for everything, you can pack this tent in your bag pretty easily without getting bogged down. We also appreciate the fast setup time, thanks to the single-pole frame. Since you don’t need to connect multiple joints, you can be ready to go in minutes.
Compared to our top pick, this bivy tent does have an issue with condensation. There’s only one ventilation opening, so water can collect inside pretty quickly. If you’re camping in cold temperatures, this problem will get worse since your body heat is much warmer than outside. Other than that, this shelter works well for spring and summer camping.
- One of the cheapest bivy sacks available
- Reflective Mylar interior for extra warmth
- Fast and easy setup
- Ultra-compact and lightweight
- Durable material can withstand most situations
- Opening does not seal, so bugs and water can get inside
- Not as breathable as other models
As we mentioned, choosing a good bivy sack means valuing some features over others. For example, while our top pick is roomy and easy to get into, it’s a bit heavier than most other products. At the opposite end of the spectrum is this survival bivy bag, which weighs just seven ounces.
Because this is a survival bag, you shouldn’t use it as a standard bivy sack. Instead, it works well as a “just in case” product to keep in your car or backpack. The most significant issue with the bag is that it doesn’t seal closed. While you can wrap your head with a form-fitting hood, your face will be exposed to the elements all night long. So, rain, bugs, and snow can be a big problem if you have no other protection.
We appreciate the durability and warmth of this bag – the shelter should last a long time. The Mylar material reflects your body heat and withstands most rips and tears. Overall, if you’re in a survival situation and need something small and lightweight, you can’t do much better than this bivy sack.
- Built-in guy line loop
- Sealed U-shaped opening
- Waterproof and breathable top material
- Mesh panel for airflow
- Wide opening for easier in and out
- Wide interior allows you to use a sleeping bag and pad if necessary
- Bag can feel claustrophobic without using the loop
- Not ideal for heavy rain
If you’re not used to bivy bags, be aware that some models like this one can feel a bit like a tomb when you’re sealed inside. On the one hand, you want to be able to close the top to prevent pests and rain from getting in. On the other hand, if the bag feels too small, it’s easy to get claustrophobic and uncomfortable.
This model from Sierra Designs helps alleviate this issue by providing a guy line loop on the top. You can run a paracord through the loop to hold the bag up, providing more space inside. This option also makes it easier to slide in and out since you have more room for your body. However, if you can’t use the loop, you may not like the feeling of this bag. For that reason, we prefer the Snugpak Stratosphere because it has a built-in frame to keep the opening wide.
- Reflects up to 70 percent of body heat
- Camouflage design works well for hunting
- Repels interior condensation and rain
- Durable tear-resistant material
- Packs tightly with a drawstring bag
- Doesn’t seal at the opening
- Can feel tight, especially for larger campers
In the SOL escape we have another “survival” bivy bag that packs tightly and offers excellent warmth and heat retention. The reflective interior surface ensures that your body heat will stay well regulated all night long. Some users have reported using the bag in subfreezing temperatures and not getting too cold at night. While this sack won’t feel as warm and cozy as others, it does an excellent job at repelling frigid weather.
As with the Don’t Die in the Woods bag, this model doesn’t seal at the top. So, you have to worry more about rain and pests getting inside. However, the hood area is a bit larger, which helps you get inside and out more quickly. That said, some users report that the bag feels pretty tight overall, meaning you can’t move around much once you’re inside.
- Wide opening for easier in and out
- Waterproof material
- Mesh cover for better breathability
- Bottom frame keeps the bag elevated
- Durable construction
- Heavier than other bags
- Not suitable for wet weather
One of the best ways to ensure that your bivy sack is more accommodating is to buy a model with an internal skeleton made of tent poles. This unit from Outdoor Research has a half-circle frame at the top and the bottom. So it’s pretty easy to get in and out. Plus, since the foot area is elevated, you can move around and shift your body while you sleep.
Although the shape of this bag is similar to the Snugpak Stratosphere, it’s not nearly as weatherproof. According to the manufacturer, this bag is rated for spring and summer weather. The outer fabric is technically waterproof, but rain can seep in through the seams and the zipper. If you’re planning for rain, we recommend bringing a tarp or rainfly to cover the bag.
- Waterproof rainfly
- Interior storage pocket
- Durable aluminum poles
- Tall frame for better interior movement
- Not as long as other tents
- In some cases, rain can seep in through the rainfly zipper
Ironically, although this tent is made by “Winterial,” the product itself is not rated for winter use. Instead, this is a three-season tent, which should work well for spring, summer, and fall backpacking.
The height of this shelter is pretty good, allowing you to sleep on your side or back with no issues. However, if you’re tall, the tent is relatively short, so you’ll have to sleep with your legs tucked in, which can be a significant problem.
This shelter comes with a rainfly, but some users have reported water leaking through the zipper. This model should hold up in light wind and rain, but we don’t recommend it for stormy weather.
- Camouflage design
- Waterproof rainfly
- Dual vents for better airflow
- Fast setup and tear down
- Durable materials and construction
- Relatively heavy at four pounds
- Interior space is not as accommodating as other models
Our final bivy tent model is this one from Geertop. With a striking camouflage design, you can take this tent while hunting or just on a regular backpacking excursion. That said, because this shelter weighs four pounds, it might be a bit too heavy for backpacking enthusiasts.
The rainfly setup on this shelter is pretty good and will do a lot to prevent wind and rain from getting inside. Since this is a three-season tent, we don’t recommend taking it on a winter camping trip. Also, the fly won’t keep water out during a heavy storm, so plan accordingly.
Overall, this bivy tent works well if you’re looking for something simple to set up and tear down.
- Seam-sealed ripstop nylon material
- Clamshell opening with a mesh cover for better airflow
- Guy line loops to secure your bag to the ground
- Interior straps keep your sleeping bag in place
- Bag is 87 inches long and 25.5 inches wide at the opening
- Bag can cling to you while you sleep
- Can be hard to get in and out
If you’re going to buy bivy sacks without an internal frame, you should practice getting in and out a few times before taking the bag on your next backpacking adventures. Models like this one from REI can be a challenge, especially if you run hot at night. Condensation can make the bag stick to your body, so getting out of it in the morning will be something of a chore.
The elements we like about the bag include its durable nylon material and its overall size. At 87 inches, this is one of the larger models, and the opening is a bit wider than most. However, without a frame, the mesh opening will lay on your face as you sleep, so keep that in mind. Overall, if you’re used to floppy bivy bags, this one should be a decent option for spring, summer, and fall camping. Otherwise, we recommend a model with a frame.
- Excellent ventilation
- Interior frame for easier in and out
- Waterproof and durable floor material
- Extra lightweight design
- Interior straps keep your sleeping bag in place
- Doesn’t work in wet conditions at all
- Mesh covering can rip more quickly than other materials
Looking at this bivy bag, you can tell that it’s much different from anything else on this list. Since the entire top portion is mesh, this bag works well for hot climates where you need as much airflow as possible. However, if rain is in the forecast at all, you’ll get wet no matter what – there’s nowhere to hide.
As with the Helium Bivy Bag from Outdoor Research, this model has an internal structure to keep the bag off your body while you sleep. The area around the feet is also accommodating so that you can sleep on your side if you prefer.
Since the bottom material is waterproof and durable, you should be able to set this ultralight bivy sack anywhere without it getting damaged. However, the mesh of this Outdoor Research bivi bag can rip more easily, so be careful about overhanging branches or anything similar that can tear into the bag.
Bivy Sacks Rating Criteria
As we’ve seen, Bivies come in one of three varieties:
- Bivy Bag – A warm camping bag that often replaces the need for a tent.
- Bivy Tent – A small, one-person tent that will fit a sleeping bag and some gear.
- Emergency Bivy Bag – These models should only be used for survival situations when possible.
One issue that many bivy sack users report is condensation. Since the bag can cling to your body, water will collect on the inside, particularly when camping in cold weather.
To alleviate this issue, you need a bag (or shelter) with sufficient ventilation. Better airflow allows the condensation to dry faster so that you don’t wake up with a soaking wet sleeping bag.
Related: If you live in a damp climate and condensation is a major concern for you, you’ll likely be better equipped with a backpacking tent. Find out more in our review of the best 2 person backpacking tents.
Most bivy sacks and tents are not built to withstand heavy storms. Since you’re totally exposed, we wouldn’t recommend sleeping outside with nothing covering your bag anyway.
That said, waterproof bivy sacks will keep you drier than one that aren’t waterproof. Look for bags with a sealed enclosure since they will block water much better than those with an unsealed opening.
Another primary issue with bivy bags is that they’re pretty form-fitting. So, if you like to shift or move around in your shelter while you sleep, you might feel a bit like you’re in a straight jacket.
We like models that have some extra depth and width so that you can sleep on your side if you prefer. However, there’s a bit of a trade-off. To get more space in your shelter, you need an internal frame, which will add weight. As we’ve mentioned, you have to determine which features are most important for your next trip.
As a rule, lightweight, minimalist bivy bags won’t have an internal frame. However, since these ultralight models weigh less than a pound, they’re perfect for lightweight backpacking.
That said, the heaviest bivy bag won’t be more than a couple of pounds, so the variation isn’t extreme. Ultralight or not, you want to pick a bag that comes with decent features and won’t take up too much space inside your backpack.
If you’re using bivy sacks or tents, chances are that you’re sleeping on rough terrain. These bags are built for adventure, so you’re not likely to stay on flat concrete or soft, comfortable grass.
So, you need a bag that won’t tear or rip open easily. You also have to worry about putting too much stress on the seams if the bag is a bit tight. One wrong move while you’re sleeping could punch a hole pretty easily.
Value for Money
Some bivy sacks can be pretty expensive, even though they usually use great, higher-quality materials. Overall, you want to ensure that the bag has all the best features for your needs without breaking the bank.
Great Bivy Sacks For Each Situation
The best overall bivy sack may not work for each camping trip. Here are some situations where some gear will hold up better than others.
Which Model Works Best for Backpacking?
As a rule, the best backpacking equipment is the lightest. However, you can’t necessarily sacrifice durability and weather resistance in gear either. Fortunately, the Black Diamond Twilight Bivy is super light and will hold up great under most conditions.
Which Bivy Sacks are good for Hunting?
The goal of hunting equipment is to help you blend in with your surroundings so that you can make a quick and efficient kill. To that end, the Geertop Bivy Shelter works great, thanks to the camouflage patterns of this gear.
Which outdoor Bivy Bags are Suitable for Emergencies?
Well, it’s all in the name. We like the nylon Don’t Die in the Woods Survival emergency shelter for these situations because the gear is easy to bring along, no matter where you are. We also appreciate how easy this minimalist gear is to use and its durability.
Best Bivy Sack for Those on a Budget
Just because you’re trying to pack lightly doesn’t mean you need to break the bank. The most affordable bivy model is the Lytharvest Bivy Shelter.
Best Features of a Bivy Sack
As we mentioned initially, the best bivy sacks will favor some features over others. It’s pretty hard to find a great model that checks off all the boxes. So, here are our top picks for the different features available.
Which is the Lightest Bivy Bag?
For the ultralight crowd, at just 10 ounces, you can’t get much lighter than the Black Diamond Twilight Bivy. However, the minimalist Don’t Die in the Woods Survival Bivy weighs just seven ounces, so it is possible. Both models are as ultralight as you can get.
What is the Smallest Bivy Bag Available?
Being lightweight also means that the bag packs pretty tightly as well. So, our top light bag pick, the Black Diamond Twilight Bivy, holds the titles in this category too.
Which Bivy Sack is the Easiest to Set Up?
Technically, any bivy sacks that don’t have an internal structure are the easiest to set up. For this feature, we recommend the Black Diamond Twilight Bivy, the Don’t Die in the Woods Survival Bivy, and the S.O.L. Reflective Bivy shelters.
The Best Bivy Bag for Those Who Need Extra Space
If you like to move around at night or sleep on your side, you need bivy sacks with some extra shoulder space. Our overall top pick, the Snugpak Stratosphere, fits this description to a T. If you want a great bivy tent, the other model from Snugpak also works well.
Best Bivy for Different Weather Conditions
Before heading into the woods, you need to know what to expect from Mother Nature. So here is our review of which bivy sacks will keep you warm, dry, and cozy.
Which Bivy Sack Prevents Condensation the Most?
All bivy sacks will experience condensation, but the Snugpack Stratosphere bivouac sacks are one of the best at drying the inside as quickly as possible.
The Top Waterproof Bivy Sack
Even though all bivy sacks say they’re waterproof, rain can sometimes seep in through zippers and other openings. Fortunately, the Snugpack Stratosphere or Ionosphere bivys are both quite water-repellent gear.
Which Bivy Sack Will Hold Up the Best in the Wind?
The Top Bivy Bag for Hot and Muggy Summer Weather
Since the Outdoor Research Shelter is nothing but net, the Outdoor Research Bug Bivy is perfect for warm weather. We also like the breathable fabric of the Sierra Designs Bivy Sack if you need something a bit more sturdy.
Related: If you’re just after a great small tent for a camping trip, consider a tent instead of a bivy. Read our review of the best cheap 2 person tents.
The Top Bivy for Frigid Winter Weather
Although the interior isn’t reflective, the Snugpack Stratosphere offers excellent heat retention.
What Is A Bivy Sack?
A bivy sack is a small waterproof tent that is designed to cover a person in a sleeping bag in order to protect them from the elements while they sleep. It is sometimes called a “bivy tent” or a “bivy shelter”.
Is a bivy warmer than a tent?
The warmth of a bivy vs a tent varies based on materials and design. Bivies provide less space but better insulation for cold conditions, while tents offer more space but may be draftier. The choice between the two depends on personal preference and intended use.
Overall, when picking the best bivy sacks or shelter, you need to review which features you value the most.
Our top bivouac pick in this review, the Snugpak Stratosphere, works well for most camping conditions. However, these bivies might be a turn-off for some backpackers since they’re relatively heavy. When it comes to how light, minimalist and durable they are, the Black Diamond Twilight Bivy Sack is the best shelter in this review.