Bivy sacks and bivy tents are most well known for use by the military or during hunting, as they can camouflage so well being so close to the ground.
Bivy shelters for backpacking and camping have become hugely popular, thanks to their lightweight and super compact design.
You’ve probably seen them used a lot in winter, especially on snowy mountains, and they can be highly adaptable to lots of terrains.
They are ideal for use by one to two people, due to their small size. Plus, sitting so low to the ground makes them highly aerodynamic and weather resistant. Bivouac camping shelters are truly your own little human-sized shelter that won’t take up any additional weight in your bag.
For your next remote camping trip, how do you find the right one that’s going to suit your needs?
How to differentiate between a Bivy Sack, Bivy Tent and Bivy Bag?
We’ve got you covered.
Our thorough list of the best bivouac sacks and tents covers a broad variety across a range of brands. Additionally finding out the differences between all versions, plus a host of tips and tricks, seeing why these are considered some of the best lightweight camping tents around.
10 Best Bivy Sacks and Shelters for Camping
1. Snugpak Stratosphere Bivvi Tent
Sitting very close to the ground, this design is super aerodynamic and will keep you safe in extreme winds. As well as the materials, the structure has thick Velcro attachments across the bottom edge zippers so that no water can get through the small zipper holes.
The mosquito repellent netting can be rolled back underneath the outer cover, or connected to the cover using a zipper. It’s only a small section of mesh, but the entire back part at the top is also mesh so you’re getting some decent airflow.
With the hoop design, everything sets up effortlessly. There is no need to carry around heaps of accessories like some other styles, which makes it more lightweight and compact. In fact, it packs down to just 12” x 6”, with two nylon straps that compress it even further.
Constructed with 50D nylon ripstop material, it has a 5000mm waterproof index, plus an added PU coating. The floor section is even more protective, with a high index of 8000mm, making the entire thing 100% waterproof.
The bonus repair kit is a huge advantage, as you never know what could happen out in the wild. You’re prepared with a rope tensioner, metal pole repair sleeve, spare cord, elastic loop, and patch materials.
- Lightweight 2.5 lbs for Easy Transport
- Free Basic Repair Kit Included
- 5000mm Water Rating
2. Slumberjack Contour Bivy
This has a very slim structure, which makes a small footprint meaning you can set it up in any practically any position. It closes so tightly that it emulates a very mummy-like style.
On rain or snow-free nights, the head flap can be left open to expose the small window of mesh. This allows you to gaze at the stars, as well as get some nice airflow. This flap is inventively designed as you can fold it in a certain way and it instantly creates a large vent. This blocks condensation from building as you can leave the mesh exposed even when it rains.
Even though it is so thin, it can fit quite a heavy-duty and puffy sleeping bag inside without feeling overstuffed. Plus, it has a hooped section at the head that prevents it from falling on your face.
One of the coolest parts about this one is that you can stick your arms out, still have your head covered, and sit up as it keeps you warm and protected – it’s almost like a huge jacket.
This is done using the unique arm-ports that strap around your arms using thick Velcro. You can get up, cook food, and read a book while staying extra warm and protected. When you’re done, it packs down to a very flat circular shape that can slip right in your bag.
- Super Light 1.5 lbs
- Dual Zippers at Head & Feet
- Durable 40D Waterproof Fabric
3. Tennier Woodland Camouflage Bivy Cover
This is one of the most durable on the market. What it’s sacrificed in lightness, this is exceptionally durable. It can be installed on even the toughest and sharpest of terrains, without the need for a footprint. The weight ultimately comes from the heavy-duty canvas fabric, metal closure snap system, and beefy zipper. It’s a model that is made to last long-term and for the roughest of camping trips.
In terms of ventilation, you’re getting more than some other similar designs as you’re able to configure it to add more airflow. You can unzip the zippers whilst leaving the buttons closed, so you’re getting breathability while staying protected.
This model doesn’t need to be installed using stakes or ropes. You’ll remain secure from winds though, because the canvas is so robust, and it sits very flat on the ground. Although it’s still classified as lightweight, it is a bit heavier compared to others on our list.
Due to this reason, we recommend this one for short hikes and camping trips. It doesn’t really pack down very compact, so keep this in mind if you don’t have much room in your gear.
- Military Grade Warmth & Weather Protection
- Heat Sealed Seams Prevent Leaks & Wind
- All-Weather Protection
4. ACU Digital Bivy Cover
Another camouflage style, this has a long body of 6.7ft so you can keep your gear shielded from the elements. It packs into a small and compact size when not in use, letting you easily stuff it into your bag without taking up unnecessary space.
You can fit your own winter sleeping mat and sleeping bag without losing any of the loft, keeping you extra comfy. You can keep a super low-profile with the handy camouflage pattern.
To keep wind from entering the head area, there are tough Velcro strips that attach tightly. It is completely waterproof, so you’ll stay dry inside. There is no need to secure this one down with guylines, so this will also keep the weight of your gear down.
If you want to roll the head area down, there is no netting, so keep this in mind if you need protection from bugs. You could purchase your own mesh and sew it on as an alternative.
- 100% Waterproof & Windproof
- Self-Repairing Zippers Prevent Snagging
5. Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy
This has a very puffy design that allows room for a heavy-duty sleeping bag and sleeping pad all at once. It’s perfect for extreme cold weather conditions, as it completely zips up with virtually no holes or gaps for wind to get through.
At the head, there is a large U-shaped opening that makes getting in and out a breeze. For ventilation, there is a mesh window panel that also helps you to feel less claustrophobic. You can cover this up with a flap if the weather turns.
To increase the height further if you want a little more room, there is a guyline loop that can lift the peak and make it more spacious. The materials consist of high-grade 20D nylon ripstop fabric on the top, and a 30D nylon ripstop on the bottom.
All the seams are fully taped and are PVC free, making them stronger than regular stitching. With a thicker bottom, you can sleep on a rock ledge or tree branch for your head without worrying about rips or tears. It’s durable, yet breathable, to keep you comfy.
- 100% Waterproof Fabrics
- Exceptionally Lightweight 14 oz
- Long & Roomy for Increased Comfort
6. Black Diamond Big Wall Hooped Bivy Sack
Our first sack design on the list, this has a rather minimalist feel to it that you can take anywhere. It’s long enough to fit your shoes and backpack at the feet area, which is great as your gear can stay protected and safe.
This model can completely close, keeping you seriously secure from any harsh conditions. There doesn’t seem to be any vents when it’s fully closed, so keep this in mind if you’re going to be camping in hot weather. We think this should ideally be used in colder conditions.
This is one of the lightest in weight on the market, coming in at just over 1 pound. It’s perfect for quick camping, like weekend trips, where you don’t want to carry around a big tent.
The setup is completely streamlined. The hoop head section is already sewn-in, so there is basically no set up except for rolling it out. It’s fully waterproof, and the floor is further protected with a durable PU laminated layer.
- 100% Waterproof
- Fully Heat Taped Seams
- Extremely Lightweight 1.10 lbs
7. Winterial Single Person Bivy Tent
Another hooped model, this comes in green and orange and can be purchased at under $100. It has more headroom than most, as the hooped section comes up quite high. The rest of the structure slopes down very low though, so we think it will still do very well in strong winds.
Without the exterior tarp, the entire body is mesh. This makes it incredibly breathable, as you’re getting airflow from all angles. You can even roll and clip away the sides during the night to get even more ventilation, preventing condensation build-up.
This is definitely a 3-season tent, as the inner mesh won’t keep you very cool in extreme cold weather. It is pretty much perfect for summer though, thanks to its open-air design. For further waterproof shielding, all seams are pre-sealed, making them more durable. To withstand heavy winds, you’re provided with 3 bundles of extra strong cord and 14 heavy-duty stakes.
For easy entry and exit, the zippers are nice and large and easy to grab onto. The inner mesh pockets are a nice touch, and something you won’t find with all competitors. They allow you to store your valuables that you need quick access to, like phone, wallet, torch, and so on.
- Interior Mesh Storage Pockets
- Light 3.3 lbs When Packed
- Compact Stuff Sac Included
8. Aqua Quest Hooped Bivy Tent
With 6.6ft of length and extra wide shoulder and foot space, this is an extra comfy shelter fit for one person. It’s highly weatherproof, made from tough 70D ripstop fabric with a PU coating.
An outstanding waterproof column of 10,000mm makes it perfect for any conditions. All the seams are heat sealed to greatly prevent leaks. There is also a breathability rating of 3000gr/m2 per day, in layman’s terms it is very well circulated no matter the environment.
Its ultra lightweight body fits into a super compact bag that compresses down to just 15” x 3”. Plus, the aluminium pegs and shock-corded pole keep it secured down, but won’t weigh down your bag.
Underneath the initial layer, there is a large mesh panel that protects from bugs and gives great ventilation. Once everything is closed, there are large airflow vents at the head area that run down the sides. We love the small plastic window on the top that brings light in and lets you see outside.
The hoop shape at the head area gives spaciousness so that you don’t feel too cramped inside. You could lean up on your elbows comfortably without hitting your head.
- 10,000mm Water Rating
- Ultralight 2.4 lbs for Whole Kit
- Fast 2 Minute or Less Set Up
9. Outdoor Research Helium Bivy
This is another hooped version with increased head space at the top. It can be full closed for all-weather protection, or you can leave the top hood off to expose the mesh. This provides great ventilation so that condensation doesn’t build-up while you sleep.
Weighing just over 1 pound, this is exceptionally lightweight, more reason for the accurate “Helium” statement in the name. Despite its weight, it’s still high performing in terms of high-range protection from harsh elements. With its minimal footprint, you can install it in so many different locations, on so many different terrains, making it super adaptable.
Materials consist of tough 30D nylon ripstop for the upper body, and 40D nylon ripstop with TPU lamination on the flooring. Not only does this keep you comfortable inside, but it also prevents ripping and tearing. The fabric has a Pertex Shield which keeps it fully waterproof and breathable at the same time. The seams are all taped to keep things extra dry inside.
- Heavy-Duty 100% Nylon Materials
- Perfect for Backpacking Weighing 1.05 lbs
- Ultra-Compact Storage Pouch Included
10. Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy
Another model from the ever so popular brand, Outdoor Research, this is a more high-end edition that is intended for extreme conditions, like heavy snowfall and intense cold. Despite this, we think you can also use it comfortably on summer nights with the right accessories.
Using a thin blanket, you can utilize the upper mesh opening at the head and get some nice ventilation. You’ll also remain shielded from bugs. It does very well in gale force winds, as it’s super compact and there are stake and guyline loops for you to secure it down.
A single pole system makes set up rapid and easy. The materials are certainly high performing, as they are waterproof and extremely breathable to stop humidity build-up.
If any condensation does accumulate, the flooring is anti-fungal coated with a Hydroseal, making it long-lasting. For a little extra wiggle room while you sleep, the foot area is high-volume, so you don’t feel squished in. in fact, overall, this is rather spacious and lets you stretch out a little. The whole structure has actually been designed to fit thicker sized camping mats.
- Very Breathable GORE-TEX Fabric Body
- Removable Interior Netting
- Internal Mesh Storage Pocket
How to Choose a Bivy Tent
The size can involve both the size of the actual structure, and the packed size. First, the size of these models is usually quite similar, definitely over 6ft, and some even give extra room for storing your gear at the feet. If you find it difficult sleeping in such an enclosed space, there are versions out there with extra headroom and wider feet space.
The packed size should be small enough to fit in your backpack without taking up heaps of space. You’ll most likely be using these when you’re backpacking, hiking, and so on, so you want something compact and small.
While most are designed as ultralightweight, there are some out there can go over 2.5 lbs and may not be the best option for taking in your backpack. If you’re heading out for a day or weekend trip, this shouldn’t be a problem.
But anything longer you’ll be thankful for the lighter weight. Even the slightly heavier ones are way lighter that a standard backpacking tent, so keep this in mind if you’re trying to decide between the two.
Weather resistance is a hugely important factor when camping in remote areas, or any area really. Weather is so unpredictable, and you need to be prepared for rapid changes in conditions.
Some models have more mesh panels than others, so consider this if you’re going somewhere hot. Ones that are very low to the ground and close off at all angles are ideal for use in much colder weather.
Weather resistant fabrics are super important. Nylon Ripstop is a great choice, and canvas is even better, but it will weigh more. For super high-performance protection in extreme weather, you may have to sacrifice a little on saving weight.
With such tight and compact structures, these kinds of shelters are known for building up condensation, even in the best ones. This is always going to be expected, as almost a little price to pay with these styles, but there are ways to get around it.
If you’re worried about condensation, find a model with large mesh openings. Try and leave the zippers open a lot, and perhaps consider a synthetic sleeping bag instead of a down sleeping bag. Synthetic gives insulation even if moisture builds up inside.
Bivy Sack vs Tent
There are several main differences between these two kinds of bivvy’s, even though they are quite similar and are intended for the same low-profile type of camping:
- The sacks or bags usually sit much closer to the ground with a lower height limit. While some of them can have a pole to hoop the head section for more room, they still sit much lower.
- The tents are typically much more spacious overall. Since the head area sits higher, you have more room to sit up, stretch, and move around. Still not as much as a regular sized tent, but enough to be comfortable.
- The set up can be much easier with sacks. They usually don’t need poles, and simply get rolled out and they’re ready to go. Some versions do have stake loops, so you can choose to secure it to the ground if need be.
- If you’re looking at the differences between any bivy and a full-size lightweight tent, here are a few differences:
- Regular tents can be much heavier to carry around.
- Compared to the extremely small pack size of a personal shelter, standard tents are usually not as compact to take up as little space as possible in your bag.
- Personal shelters are very small and may need some getting used to when you’re sleeping in them.
- There is more storage space in standard sized tents.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Bivy Sack?
They are personal-sized shelters that are waterproof and overall weatherproof. They are generally used by backpackers, hikers, mountain climbers, and cyclists who love camping light. Thanks to their small nature, they create plenty of insulation, while simultaneously preventing exposure from the elements.
What is it Used For?
They are mainly used for backcountry or rough camping, especially if you’re looking to camp discreetly. The military has been known to use them, and you can find many with camouflage to add to the effect. They’re so easy to install and have a flexible structure so you can set them up in many different terrains and locations.
How to Set Up a Bivy Tent?
This depends on the style, as the sack ones can be a little simpler.
The tent versions usually come with poles to create a rigid hoop shape where the head rests. Once inserting the poles, you secure the entire structure down, both head and feet, with stakes.
The sack types simply get rolled out and can be used straight away, like a sleeping bag. Many of them come with hoops for stakes if the wind is strong.
Conclusion of Bivy Sacks
Stealth camping at its finest, the best bivy sacks and tents on our list are popular choices by many backpackers, hikers, mountaineers, and cycling campers alike. Acting as fantastic emergency shelters, they can withstand extreme conditions and keep you protected.
They’re easy to pitch, can be installed on heaps of landscapes where some tents can’t go, and their ultra lightweight nature doesn’t add any bulk to your gear.
You can choose from different designs, like hooped for extra wiggle room, and modern high-quality fabrics make them breathable and comfortable.