Which bivy sacks are best?

Serious campers, hikers and long-distance athletes know that one of the best ways to stay fit and healthy as you move through the wilderness is by getting a good night’s sleep. A bivy sack (“bivy” is short for bivouac) keeps you warm and dry when conditions are suboptimal. It can be the difference between going the extra mile on the trail and calling it a day before it’s lunchtime.

Who needs a bivy sack?

A bivy sack are a specialized piece of camping gear that not everyone who spends time outdoors needs. But if you fall into one of the following groups, it might just be the most important piece of equipment in your pack:

  • You are a solo traveler who heads to the backcountry.
  • You are a rock climber who climbs big walls that require an overnight stay.
  • You take long-distance overnight biking trips.
  • You are a hiker who wants to carry as little weight as possible.
  • You camp in snow caves.

Bivy sack considerations

Design and material

When they were first invented, bivy sacks were nothing more than nylon slipcovers that went over a sleeping bag. It was great for protection from rain, but any moisture coming from the sleeper stayed trapped in the sleeping bag.

Today’s bivy sacks have two tiers of fabric.

  • Tier 1: Coated nylon on the bottom tier for protection against moisture
  • Tier 2: Ripstop nylon that is treated with a breathable, waterproof laminate (e.g., Gore-Tex)

If you can handle the extra weight, some bivy sacks add an expanded tent space that completely blocks out weather. 

Reflective rating

Bivy sacks use a reflective rating to indicate how much body heat is returned to your body from the interior of the sack. The higher the percentage, the warmer the bivy sack is. 

Size

Bivy sacks are designed to be compact. They should be large enough for you to lie down with very little extra room. However, if you find yourself feeling claustrophobic, a bivy may not be good for you. 

Bivy sack features

Waterproof

The best feature of a bivy sack is that it’s waterproof. Getting wet in cold weather in the backcountry can be dangerous and even deadly. Bivy sacks keep wet weather out.

Taped seams

Taped seams not only prevent water from seeping into the weak points of a bivy sack, but they also block the howling wind. 

Accessories

Even if weight is an issue, some accessories are worth the additional ounces in terms of safety. Look for bivy sacks that include: 

  • Compass 
  • Emergency whistle
  • Carabiners
  • Drawstrings that double as cordage

Carrying bag

It can be a challenging experience to return your bivy sack to your pack. Make it easier by selecting one that comes with its own carrying bag. 

Which bivy sacks are best?

Best Survive Outdoors Longer Store Reflective Escape Bivy

Survive Outdoors Longer Store Reflective Escape Bivy 

This bivy has a 70% reflective rating. when properly packed, it is the same size as a 12- ounce can of soda and weighs just 8.5 ounces. It has sealed seams and is waterproof. The olive green color blends in with your surroundings.

Sold by Amazon and Backcountry

Best Esky Emergency Sleeping Bag

Esky Emergency Sleeping Bag

This set of two blaze orange emergency sleeping bags also comes with a 120-decibel whistle and a compass. It has a Mylar shell that is waterproof, windproof and puncture-proof. These can also be used as a ground cloth, rain tarp, sunshade or rescue signaling cloth.

Sold by Amazon

Best Leberna Emergency Sleeping Bag Survival Bag

Leberna Emergency Sleeping Bag Survival Bag

These two emergency bivy sacks have a 90% reflective rating. The extra large size accommodates sleepers of every dimension. Bright yellow stripes on the edge increase visibility in emergencies. Each pack comes in its own carry bag and weighs just 3 ounces. These have a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Sold by Amazon

Best Go Time Gear Emergency Thermal Bivy

Go Time Gear Emergency Thermal Bivy

These are made of puncture-resistant polyethylene material with sealed seams. They have a 90% reflective rating and weigh 4.1 ounces including the carrying bag and emergency 120-decibel whistle. The stuff sack it comes in can be disassembled to access the 550-pound drawstring cord for emergency repairs. They are available in blaze orange or olive green.

Sold by Amazon

Best Survival Frog Tact Bivy

Survival Frog Tact Bivy

This is an ultralightweight thermal sleeping bag and bivy sack that weighs 4.8 ounces. It has a 90% reflective rating and is 100% waterproof. The seams are taped, and the drawstring of this stuff sack can be used to tie down gear or start a fire. It comes with a 120-decibel whistle and a carabiner. This bivy sack comes with a six-month refund guarantee.

Sold by Amazon

Best Outdoor Research Helium Bivy

Outdoor Research Helium Bivy

This is ultralight and easy to set up. It has a clamshell opening with more headroom that makes it easier to get into and out of. It uses waterproof Pertex Diamond Fuse technology. It fits a sleeping pad for more comfortable camping, but at 18 ounces it is heavier than other options.

Sold by Amazon and Backcountry

Best Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy Bag

Sierra Designs Backcountry Bivy Bag

This has a large mesh window panel to increase ventilation in good weather. A guy loop lets you raise the height of the bivy, too. It features a U-shaped opening for easy access inside. It’s large enough to fit a sleeping pad.

Sold by Amazon

Best Msr Quick-Pitch Waterproof Pro Bivy

Msr Quick-Pitch Waterproof Pro Bivy

It is lightweight and breathable. It has a compact design that can accommodate 88 inches in length. Extreme Shield waterproof coating is long-lasting. It packs down small and weighs just 12 ounces. It comes with a manufacturer’s three-year limited warranty.

Sold by Amazon

Best Snugpak Special Forces Bivvi Bag

Snugpak Special Forces Bivvi Bag

Paratex Dry fabric is waterproof and lightweight. It weighs just 12 ounces, including the stuff sack. A half-length center zip makes it easy to get in and out of. The bag is windproof and warm. It comes in three colors.

Sold by Amazon and Macy’s

 

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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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