When choosing the right bikepacking sleep system you might run into one problem… too many choices. There is such a large spectrum in types of shelters and companies to choose from. One increasingly popular type of shelter in the bikepacking community is the bivy sac. They are generally more packable, lighter weight and more versatile than a tent with poles. Below are four lightweight bikepacking bivys to take a look at during your product search.
When thinking about minimalist shelters the MSR E-Bivy falls right into place with the rest. This is one of the lightest weight bivys on the market while maintaining it’s commitment to weather resistance. The E-Bivy packs very well, and gives you the most wiggle room out of the four bivys we tested. It fits easily in a compact saddle bag with a sleeping bag and full length pad.
The upper material is a silicone coated nylon which is said to block wind, dew and light precipitation. While we feel that holds true for the element of wind, we did wake up with a significant amount of moisture on the inside of the bivy between that and the sleeping bag. In most cases, this happened during nights of sleeping and breathing with our heads fully in the sleeping bag all night in a desert climate. The bottom is made of Durashield™ polyurethane & DWR treated nylon, which ensures you and your bag stay dry in the event that the ground is wet.
The closure of the E-Bivy was one characteristic that we really loved. No zipper, no velcro, no fuss. With a simple fold-over closure you don’t have to worry about broken zippers. The bivy is wide enough around the top where you don’t feel like you have to snake your way in or feel claustrophobic while you sleep. The dreaded bivy knee bend was not an issue. We have used this bivy in conjunction with a 35 degree Nemo Equipment Quilt and full length pad, as well as a Big Agnes Insulated Air Core 3/4 pad, and both have been extremely warm with the bivy as the only outer shelter. This is the only bivy on our list that truly allows you to fit almost any sleeping pad inside.
Stated Weight: 8oz Actual Weight: 10.05oz Price: $99.95
Stated Weight: 6.3oz Actual: 6.4oz Price: $125.00Alpkit – Hunka Alpkit is the provider of many adventure products including plenty of different bikepacking bags, so making tents and bivy sacks fits right in their brand. The Hunka is the heaviest bivy of the bunch coming in at over 12 oz. While it may be heavy, it will certainly keep you dry and warm. The Hunka’s outer membrane acts more like a tent fly with a thick and beefy feel to it. This material allows for elements including rain, snow, and wind to stay outside of the bag. The downside of this beefy membrane is the fabric breathability. When temperatures and dew points are close together, the bag feels more like a claim tube, creating hot and moist conditions. In drier conditions, we have had better luck with it’s breathability. Like the Montbell Bivy, it has a similar shape but with a wider opening on top and a more drastic taper as the bag reaches the toe box. The Hunka comes with a draw cord on each side of the hood to keep you a bit more protected, but it will still leave you exposed. In an attempt to save some weight, the bivy does not come with a zipper which makes entering and situating into the bivy a bit uncomfortable. The Hunka is too narrow to fit a sleeping pad inside. This bivy is burly in comparison to the others on this list, one that will last you for years to come no matter the season.
Stated Weight: 11.6oz Actual Weight: 12.6oz Price: £35.00 ($49.09)Survive Outdoors Longer (SOL) – Escape Bivy Many of you know the SOL as the ultra light go-to for bikepacking racers, but as you have now read, there are plenty of other light weight options to choose from. The Escape Bivy packs very well in a saddle bag or handlebar bag and weighs next to nothing. We took a closer look at this bivy a while back here. The SOL is made out of a lightweight material that comes with a heat reflective interior. While it is meant to keep warmth in while you produce heat from your body, the fabric design they use is also supposed to allow moisture to “escape” the bag, making sure you don’t wake up with condensation all over your sleeping bag. Furthermore, the bivy is designed is to keep the wind and elements out. As we have found out, it does indeed breath very well – maybe the best out of all the items on this list. There are some downsides to the SOL, including less then adequate water resistance, especially after it has seen some use. The bivy is also tight, which does not make it very conducive to using a sleeping pad inside, even the skinny ones in the Klymit lineup. To follow in the ultra light theme, the SOL Escape comes with a super small cinch chord that is supposed to collapse down around your head. This does not work especially if you are around 6 feet tall. Cinching down the cord drastically shortens up the length of the bivy. Installed on the right side of the bag is a zipper, a nice feature especially when entering and exiting. We have survived some pretty horrible conditions in the mountains of Colorado but it has proved to be a better desert shelter. If you are looking for something more robust, that will help keep the elements out. You might want to look else where.
Stated Weight: 8.5oz Actual Weight: 8.05oz Price: $60