Updated: May 29, 2015

Bivy Sack Reviews:

The real name for a bivy sack is bivourac sack. When I first heard the word "bivy" I was wondering what that referred to in the climbing/hiking lingo. They sometimes are called bivi bags or just bivy. Hardcore backpackers who are on the trail for weeks on end prefer to travel as light as possible and one way to ditch 4 or 5 pounds is to get rid of the tent altogether and go with a bivy sack at night. The bivy sack doesn't offer up a lot of protection from the elements, but it will protect your sleeping bag from rain and wind. The bivy sack is very lightweight and it's waterproof, two elements that almost all hikers like to see in any equipment they own. The sack essentially slips over the sleeping bag leaving the user with very little room once the mesh/netting is placed over your head. Some people get a little claustrophobic inside these things and don't like them. More modern bivy sacks, or shelters, give the backpacker a touch more room in their head area by providing small poles that lift the mesh higher up around their head. The Big Agnes Three-Wire Bivy is one such example of this type.
bivy sack


The one important feature that any bivy sack should have is breathable fabric - something made from Gore-Tex. You want the moisture to be able to escape so that it doesn't get trapped on your sleeping bag area. Nothing like trying to dry out a down bag while on the trail all day. A bivy sack is only good for 1 person, so don't think you and your friends are sharing this product. If you are hiking with a group of people, sharing a tent is probably a decent idea since you can split up the tent weight between 2 people and still get plenty of room at night to move around if necessary. Bivy sacks are meant for those that want the ultimate in lightweight gear and trust me they pay for it. After looking into a light 1-man tent versus a bivy sack, I decided to go with a tent since it was cheaper (got it on Ebay) and provided me with more comfort at night compared to what the bivy would have given me. A bivy will cost between $100 to $300 and those with the raised tripod design around your head are the most expensive we could find. In terms of which ones provide the easiest setup and waterproof zippers, we found several reviews done by avid backpackers on sites like Gorp.away.com, Trailspace.com, Backcountry.com, and Backpackgeartest.org. The owner reviews on Gorp and Backpackergeartest.org were probably the most thorough with the best, in depth feedback on each product. Some of the leading brand names are Big Agnes, Integral Designs, Black Diamond, Oware, Outdoor Research, Bibler, and REI. If you are not sure of whether you can handle the close quarters of a bivy sack, head down to REI or your local mountaineering store and have them let you demo one for a few minutes to get a feeling of what it's like inside them at night. You can browse the top selling bivy sacks online here.

Top Rated Bivy Sack:

The Black Diamond Tripod Bivy Bag ($299) has been around for a few years now and its reputation is only gaining strength. It's much better than a conventional bivy sack because the Bibler Tripod Bivy is larger and definitely roomier. It weighs about 2 1/2 pounds, so it's light in the backpack and it does the job pretty well. The setup is easy, say almost all that reviewed this online and the big bonus is that it keeps you moisture free on your trip. The poles are made of aluminum and the material is Todd-Tex, which breathable in all climates. Some owners who were 6 foot 2 or taller mention the interior is a little tight, something to consider when purchasing this model. We found this Black Diamond bivy online at Backcountry.com, you can also read more reviews at the website if you wish.

Best Value Bivy Sack:

Not everyone needs the most expensive or lightest piece of equipment for their backpacking trips. The REI Minimalist ($90) is a basic designed bivy sack that does the job in most conditions. It's definitely a great inexpensive option compared to the higher priced Outdoor Research Advanced Bivy, Big Agnes model, or the Black Diamond listed above. The Minimalist comes in a regular and long size so those who are taller can still use this product. Some consumers say to stay away from this REI bivy sack if you plan on camping in humid conditions, but overall they say it should work just fine. The seams are sealed, the REI Elements laminate provides both windproof and waterproof features. It does come with a stuff sack and it weighs about 1 pound. The dimensions in the regular size are 82 x 31 inches and you can find the bivy online at REI.com or in their stores. RECOMMENDED - Check out the top rated bivy sacks here.

Solo Tent for 1 Person:

Not everyone is comfortable with bivy sacks, so we thought we would include a decent single man tent on this list. The Eureka Solitaire Tent ($65) is a really well ventilated solo tent with a hoop bivy style on both ends. It took me about 4 minutes to setup, just slip the poles through the sleeves and secure the edges to the ground and you have a decent looking 1 man tent. It weighs 3 lbs 4 oz and is considered a 3 season tent. The manufacturer says it's great for bike touring, backpacking, and canoe trips. I take it backpacking and find it to be big enough for my sleeping bag and backpack at my feet (I'm 5' 10" tall). The tent, poles, and stakes all fit into a single larger bag for easy carrying and storage. RECOMMENDED - Another similar model that is highly rated by owners on Amazon is the Eureka Solo Backcountry 1 Tent which sells for $130. Backpackers and campers can't say enough about this Eureka 1 person tent and having used both the Solitaire and this tent, I agree with both of these options.


Rent vs Buy:

The question always comes up - Is it better to rent a tent than buy one for a backpacking trip? Inevitably, it all depends on how often you will be doing these types of activities. We recommend buying a tent that fits your needs and assume you will get out every few years to do some hiking or camping. The cost to rent a tent for a 7 day trip is about $100 for a 2-man tent. I couldn't find a single man tent available to rent from REI, perhaps other mountaineering stores offer them. You can get a good 2-person tent for less than $200 so at that point, why not buy something. Worse comes to worse, you can sell the tent on the open market via Craigslist or Ebay and get back 1/2 your money anyways. Best case scenario, you have a good tent for future trips. Also, consider buying a used bivy sack or tent online. I was able to save about 50% off the retail price on a bivy sack that was only used once.