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10 Reasons to Pack a Bivy Over a Tent

Author: Rachel Davidson

February 11, 2019

If you’ve never tried sleeping in a bivy, you might not know what you’re missing. Sure, their light weight, small size, and easy maneuverability has appealed to more technical folks for years now. But with the introduction of our all-new bivy sack collection, these shelters aren’t just for elite mountaineers anymore.

Last summer (and fall, and winter), a group of dedicated OR employees took these bivies out on bikecamping, backpacking, and alpine climbing trips to see if they chalked 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-man 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.

Set yourselves up in a circle face-to-face for easy card games and conversation. Sit back-to-back, using each other as a human chair, while you read, write, or sketch. Cook and share meals more easily – all from the comfort of your shelter. We can confirm: The bivy testers here at OR are a lot more fun than we would be in tents.

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 yourselves 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.

This season, we’ve overhauled our entire Bivy Collection to be significantly lighter than their predecessors. Part of those weight savings come from trimming down the footprint to give you extra room in your pack. The goal was to create a line of shelters that weigh less than a single person tent, and the results are in: Streamlined bivies ideal for adventurers looking to shed ounces and maximize performance on the trail.

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 AscentShell™ technology found in our 2019 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.

In fact – we have a bivy named just for that! The Stargazer Bivy uses an enlarged head space and mesh screen to keep out bugs without sacrificing views of the Milky Way. The new mesh screen design is more taut than prior years, ensuring your bug barrier will stay securely in place.

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 new 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 when you use the new Interstellar Bivy, with its innovative zipper design that allows you to wear your shelter like a hard shell jacket. Yes, it really works, and no, your camping partners won’t think you’re a weirdo for wearing it poncho-style... especially when you’re volunteering to make the first round of coffee for the crew.

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.

Rachel Davidson

Rachel’s “dream job description” includes writing, studying, and sharing stories about human-powered outdoor adventures – which is exactly what she gets to do as the copywriter for Outdoor Research. She prefers to spend time outside on foot via hiking, climbing, and trail running. Not included on Rachel’s resume: Trail snack connoisseur, horror film enthusiast, and folk / bluegrass fangirl.