10 Reasons To Pack A Bivy Sack Instead Of A Tent

Ever slept out in a bivy sack? If not, you’re missing out. Not sure what a bivy sack is, or why you should use one? Read on.

A bivy sack is sort of a cross between a sleeping back and a one-person tent. They shelter from the elements the way a tent does, but pack down smaller and lighter. They’re super popular with solo adventurers and elite mountaineers—but they can also be great for social trips and backyard sleepouts.

We've been big believers in the benefits of bivy sacks for a long time, and a group of dedicated Outdoor Research employees took our bivies out on bike camping, backpacking, and alpine climbing trips to see if they lived up to their reputation. The results were unanimous: Every one of us believes that bivy sacks are the most comfortable, easy and social way to sleep outside. So we broke it down for you. Here are our top 10 reasons why we prefer bivies over tents, and why you’ll want to consider switching up your camp style, too.

1) Spend less time setting up camp, and more time enjoying the view.

If you’re trying to cover a lot of miles, and planning long alpine-start-style days, a bivy lets you fully maximize your time on the trail. They’re easier and faster to set up after dark, as well as packing up before the sun rises, leaving you with even more daylight to enjoy your time out there.

2) Sleep virtually anywhere.

The most delightful thing about a smaller shelter footprint is the opportunity to camp where no tent could ever dream of fitting. Perched on the edge of a vertical cliff, sure... but more likely, at a popular campground on a sunny weekend, when the only sites left are too small for a tent. Or, when you’re a party of four but a pair of two-person tents can’t fit side-to-side. Tent guy lines tend to expand the size of your tent without expanding the space you’ll get to enjoy. Save room—bring a bivy instead.

3) It’s the ideal solo shelter.

Why pack an entire tent on a solo trip? If you can afford to save the pounds, ditch the heavy and bulky set up for a lightweight one-person bivy.

4) It’s also regarded as “the social shelter.”

If there are more than two people on your trip, chances are the moment you set up camp, each pair will retreat to their own tent, unlikely to be seen again until the morning. But with bivies, the party’s just begun once you get to camp.

By sleeping in bivy sacks—even if they're spaced six feet apart—you can enjoy the time with your friends without each person zipping up and zoning out into their own tent.

5) No more disturbing your partner’s sleep.

If kicking, snoring, and rolling over onto each other is a common occurrence in your tent, you should think about giving yourself some extra space. Bivies may pack small, but they have ample room inside to move around, stretch out, and even store gear.

6) Save weight and space for the fun stuff.

Streamlined bivies are ideal for adventurers looking to shed ounces and maximize performance on the trail. Whether that means going lighter to move faster over the miles—or to leave more room for whatever floats your boat out on the trail. Beer, donuts, books, whatever.

7) Waterproof protection without the stuffiness.

If your experience of sleeping in a bivy is akin to an oversized plastic bag, you’re choosing the wrong bivy. The beauty of the technology found in our bivy collection is that it’s just as breathable as it is waterproof. No stuffy condensation buildup, and no weather leaking its way in. It’s that simple.

8) Stargaze from the comfort of your shelter – without worrying about bugs.

Most of our bivy sacks feature an enlarged head space with a mesh screen to keep out bugs without sacrificing views of the Milky Way. If the weather’s nice, leave the outer layer open for star views. If it starts to deteriorate during the night, a quick zip will leave you securely sheltered from the elements. No need to scramble around to add a tent fly!

9) Bivies are more reliable in bad weather or emergency situations.

A lot of things can go wrong with a tent; like a broken pole or malfunctioning zipper. If a tent can’t stand up or keep out weather, it’s lost its purpose, which is especially dangerous in flash storms or dangerously cold temps.

On the other hand, since bivies only have one entry and exit point and don’t rely on poles to function, they’re more likely to withstand those bad situations. And if you’re looking for something designed entirely for the “worst case scenario,” you’ll want to check out the Helium Emergency Bivy.

10) Breakfast in bed.

Nothing quite beats slowly waking to sunrise, sitting up in your bivy, and firing up the stove without leaving your sleeping bag. In fact, you can perform most of your camp chores from the comfort of your shelter.

We promise that once you try a bivy out in the backcountry, you’ll never go back to a restrictive, cumbersome tent. Check out our latest Collection of Bivy Sacks to see how you can upgrade your camp set up today.

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Photos by Elise Giordano.