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.
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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.
DSC09971The 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

The weight weenie of the bunch is actually one awesome sleeping quarter all things considered. While it is more expensive than the rest, this shelter comes in at only 6.4oz. The Breez Dry-Tec UL comes with nothing but taped seams and a draw cord that cinch down around your face. no zipper, no extras, no frills. DSC09968Mont Bell uses their proprietary two layer Breeze Dry-Tec™ which is a super thin and lightweight rip stop nylon. It has kept moisture mostly outside on damp cold nights, as well as warmer desert nights. We would be hesitant to use this one in winter conditions because of the lighter fabrics, but we haven’t tried. The inside of the Breeze Dry-Tec is a white fabric that has a grippy feel. It is weird with skin contact and tends to stick to fabrics. Once you are in you don’t notice, but getting situated can be a headache in some situations. This bivvy is also relatively narrow inhibiting much movement while inside. The Breeze Dry-Tec comes with a small draw cord on the hood that allows you to cinch it down around your head with a cord lock to keep it in place. It contracts pretty well, but if the rain falls, you may need to roll over to the side. The bivy packs down extremely small and efficiently especially without the use of a zipper. This bivy has held up great over the course of last summer and it is still going strong.

Stated Weight: 6.3oz Actual: 6.4oz Price: $125.00

Alpkit – 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. DSC09969The 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. DSC09967The 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

Shape size

Pack Size

Bikepacking Bivy
Weight and pack size are different. The bivys pack down smallest from left to right – Montbell, SOL, Alpkit, MSR

22 Comments

  1. I’ll throw in the Borah Snowside (or any Borah bivy).

  2. What about the BlackDiamond Twilight bivy? That is what I have, and it is extremely light. I can get it to pack down smaller than any of those, but it is heavier and more expensive.

  3. I have to completely disagree on a fundamental component of this article. The statement that a bivy is “more versatile” is patently untrue. As I stated in a recent discussion with some NW bikepackers, the point of shelter is to provide protection and keep you comfortable, and the bivy fails at both for different reasons. They virtually always create condensation inside, leaving your bag wet. They don’t keep you or your gear dry. You can’t change clothes, cook, read, or even sleep comfortably, in my opinion. Sure, if you want to be uncomfortable for one night, use your bivy and your gear will eventually dry out when you get home. I will keep my ultralight tent (with virtually no weight penalty) and stay dry and comfortable, for as many days as I want to stay out there.

    • Neil Beltchenko
      Neil Beltchenko

      Hey Rusty,

      Thanks for reading the article and checking out our website. I think you can look at it a few ways. We tested these bivys for ultra light bikepackers, folks looking to keep weight and bulk down on the bike, while sleeping under the stars and enjoying the beautiful night sky. Also folks that are looking to try their hand a bikepacking races, where minimal nights sleep and weight over the long haul add up. Is it the perfect shelter? That depends on who you ask and what climate you live in. For me, I’ll look at the forecast and see if a bivy permits, if it does, I would way rather sleep in one then a tent. Some people really enjoy sleeping in bivys and actually find it comfortable, like me. Others enjoy the security of a tent, we understand mids are becoming more popular as it is only one pole system, and we are excited to be testing some. Where it gets interesting is when it rains as most of these are not 100% waterproof. The beauty of bikepacking as with life is that we have choices, we are all different, and so is the way bikepackers sleep. Cheers, Neil

  4. You missed a bunch of excellent cottage manufacturers:
    http://borahgear.com/ (mentioned above) claimed weight of 5.6 oz for the lightest I found
    http://www.mountainlaureldesigns.com/shop/product_info.php?products_id=30 – lightest weight is under 5 oz (cuben fiber versions). Plus, bivvies that weigh the same as items above but are much more weather proof.
    Oware – http://shop.bivysack.com/Bivysack-Standard-Zip-Regular-Length-1BivyStandardZipRegular.htm – claimed weight of 8.5 oz

  5. Katabatic Gear and Mountain Laurel Designs make the best bivys on the market, at about double the price, but still half a pound. They breath, are spacious, and just weather resistant enough, but that all comes at a cost. They are the best options, however, if going with just a bivy. Good review of the cheaper options available.

  6. Would pairing a UL tarp with a bivy make things more tolerable for the naysayers? I personally can’t decide between a bivy/tarp combo or a 1p UL tent.

    • I believe if someone comes out with a head/shoulder area Mini-Tarp with netting, your question, which is the same as mine, would be answered. Right now I am considering this 4.5 oz screen plus a very light 5 x 7 ft tarp. http://www.equinoxltd.com/the-gear/sleep-screens/mantis-sleep-screen.cfm

      • http://shop.bivysack.com/Teeny-Tarp-Ground-tarp-1TarpTeeny.htm
        So I also purchased this tarp, which I used with a bivy-tent to keep the weight at 2 lbs. The tarp weighs in at 3.3 ounces. Now I will try it with the ADVENTURE MEDICAL SOL SERIES ESCAPE BIVY at 8.5 ounces, which I use in the summer as a sleeping bag with a Borah bivy, and this screen. Need to find out how I am going to put in an inflatable pad which I need since I am a side sleeper and a pad won’t do. (3.3 tarp + 4.5 screen + 8.5 bag/bivy + 0.8 ounces for 4 vargo stakes = 17.1 ounces). But sometimes I feel this is meaningless since in my case, I could lose a good 15 lbs (I am 5’11” and 195 lbs), which more than offsets my whole pack weight for a 3day/2night AT excursion.

  7. I believe the author ignored its own statement that the SOL adds warmth. I’ve seen in many online sites where the range mentioned in the reviews is 50 to 60 F (10 to 15 C) as a standalone bag/bivy, something that cannot be said of the rest which gives the Escape a unique and major advantage. Am I wrong?

    • No you’re not wrong.
      The SOL bivy bag does indeed add warmth. Surely is not magic, as it does “reflect” the body heat and does not “retain” it like a sleeping bag/quilt does. That means that it works very well when paired with a ground insulation system, like a good sleeping pad.
      I’ve used the SOL in -1/2ºc (28/30ºf) and it made a huge difference than being only with that cheap sleeping bag I had at the moment. Please note that I was under a big tarp so I was well sheltered from the wind, still bloody cold tho!

      • Thanks! I’ve used the SOL Bivy since that posting in high 50 to low 60 degree with full medium/light underwear no problem.

  8. I combine a tigoat bivy and a zpacks pocket tarp. It’s a crazy versital set up, you can use them together or seperate. Tho the bivy can be a dab stuffy at times, but it can really add some r-value on cool nights without the need for a bulky sleeping bag….all this coming from a hammock guy.

  9. The hunka also comes in an xl version for taller forks or those looking for more room

  10. Hello Neil, thanks for the thoughtful follow-up.
    I’m certainly no racer, but I can see the use for a bivy in a race where you may only spend a couple of hours at a time for only a few nights. I still wouldn’t call that versatile, but they do have their place. I just think it’s only for fairly limited applications.
    You say given the option you would “way rather sleep in a bivy than a tent.” May I ask why? I just don’t get it. Cramped and confined, I don’t understand the preference.
    And honestly, how often do you wake up with a dry bag in your bivy? Everyone who are into bivies seems to discount the condensation thing, but I think it’s a huge negative and I don’t see how people can gloss over it.
    I appreciate a good dialog and hope I don’t come across too strong! Just like to get other perspectives.

  11. I would go with what ever works for the climate. The goal as stated was for bike touring / bike race enthusiasts to have an evaluation of a few commercially available bivy sacks. Do you have options, yes, I have practically everything, a hammock, two bivy’s, two tents, and a couple of tarp-tent setups. It all depends on what you encounter. Just realize before you criticize a bivy that it was never intended as a replacement shelter for a tent, it is what it is, and for that purpose it is awesome.

  12. Jason Brown

    Well done. Great information! Covered all the details for considering one of these fine products.

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  15. Hey Rusty, wow, this is a pretty old post, but I also prefer bivvy’s if it’s not likely to rain, mainly because if things go according to plan, I’ll be sleeping with the bivvy open, so condensation isn’t such a problem. I also tend to prefer a bit roomier bivvy (Outdoor Research Helium), which is a lot less constricting than some I’ve tried in the past. Once you get used to sleeping outside a tent, not having to worry about staking out tarps, wind in your face, stars in your eyes, etc., it’s tents that begin to feel constricting 🙂

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