Bivy sack recommendations?

Ok…you guys did SO well with the drysuit recommendation last year (ended up with a Kokatat Dura w/socks and relief zip…thanks PeterK!) that I’m going to see what you guys think about bivy sacks. Every year I do an extended paddle and am thinking instead of using my one-man tent (Eureka Solitaire) I might just use a bivy sack.

Any suggestions on features and brands to look for? I assume they make “breathable” bivys that are waterproof, yet allow moisture to escape? Do they have temperature ratings like sleeping bags or does the sleeping bag that goes within determine the warmth?



Yes, any respectable bivy sack is going to be breathable. I can personally recommend Bibler and Outdoor research for excellent quality bivy sacks. I also hear wonderful things about Integral Designs.

All three of these manufacturers offer hooped bivies with bug netting, which helps relegate the claustrophobia associated with a traditional bivy sack.

ID and Bibler use their own proprietary laminates, Tegraltex and Toddtex, respectively. Outdoor Research uses Gore-Tex.

At any rate, I personally view Bibler, ID, and OR to be at the top of the bivy sack game. From OR check out the Advanced or Deluxe sack. From Bibler, the TriPod or Bipod, and from ID the Sola or Unishelter.

I forgot to mention that bivy sacks don’t have temp ratings, they don’t have any insulative properties to speak of. The warmth will indeed be reliant on your sleeping bag. Think of a bivy sack the same way as you think of an outer shell jacket. They keep the wet out, break the wind, and rely on your insulating layers to keep you warm.

I think a small tent is better than a bivy bag. they make some spectacularly small and lightweight tents now. North Face, despite their mass appeal has a couple of T-I-N-Y 3 season tents. Sierra Designs has always had some smaller, lightweight non free standing tents. And MSR has the zoids, which are very small too.

Personally for paddling you can get away with a big heavy shelter. It’s lazy mans backpacking, so it is really the best opportunity to get a luxurious tent. I have Marmot Swallow for a two person 3/4 season convertible tent. I just bought a Mountain Hardwear Approach as my 3-season two person tent which is 4 lbs and really tiny by comparison to the swallow anyway.

Tnf made a great bivy!

– Last Updated: Sep-04-04 12:45 AM EST –

I Do not know if they still do but it was available cheap a while back. It's all about the bucks. If you have the bucks for a Hilleberg single person tent and do not have to go stealth you'd be happy. The north face bivy has a lot better ventilation than my top of the line Outdoor research bivy. My bivy is acceptable but not much better than that. Your bag will take on some moisture goretex or no. Think twice about taking a trip longer than a couple of days with a down bag unless you use a vapor barrier liner (cold weather use only). Goretex depends on temperature differential to work well. I the New england mountains in the winter I have knocked off thin sheets of ice that condensed on the top of my bag where the bivy sack was touching it.

If you can get stakes in the ground consider a kifaru tipi or the outer fly of a tent like a TNF tadpole or any other tent that can be pitched without an inner tent.

A bivy with poles like the bibler tripod or OR's best will make a much more tolerable shelter in rain than a one hooped or no hoop bivy. and require no stakes.

I’ve used a bivy down to around -35F, and never had a problem. Likewise, I’ve use a bivy at temperatures below -10F for more than a week and had no problems. They actually rely, in my own experience, more on moisture gradients than temperature gradients. For example, in a breathable bivy or single wall tent, you’ll be fine in the desert on a 75F morning, but on a 75F morning in the South or East coast you’ll be sopping wet. It just so happens cold temperatures are generally accompanied by sharp moisture gradients, which is where the generalization that breathable barriers are best in cold comes from.

One hint: If you can, set your tent/bivy up where it won’t meet with direct sunlight in the morning. When the sun hits that fabric after a cold night, it is a major source of condensation.

The other thing that can reduce your bivies effectiveness is your sleeping bags outer layer… If you have a bag with an older laminate, or one focused more on water resistance than breathability, it can make it hard for moisture to get through the next layer of laminate, i.e. the bivy sack. This may be where peter_k ran into problems. A few years ago the emphasis with laminates like Dryloft was water resistance more than breathability. Newer alternatives like Epic are quite a bit more breathable. In truth, if you are using a bivy, you really don’t need a laminate bag at all. Pertex, Epic, Dryloft, etc. are more for relegating the need for a bivy than for using in addition to a bivy. I’ve slept in snow caves and moderate snowfall in a Pertex bag without a bivy and remained perfectly dry.

While we’re on the subject, it’s important for ventilation to always leave bivy sacks cracked open, even in a downpour.

I’ve heard some good things about the TNF bivy they made for awhile, but to my knowledge they stopped making them a few years ago. Incidentally, I’d wholeheartedly agree on the single man tent idea. Bivies are generally reserved for space/weight crunch scenarios. Even in a very low volume boat, you usually end up with many times the pack space that would necessitate a climber or hiker to carry a bivy. I agree with peter_k, Hilleberg is a wonderful tent manufacturer. There are very many ultra light tents on the market these days, and you’ll have no end of choice between sub 4lbs tents if you choose to go that way.

The tarp suggestion is also sound, depending on the conditions you intend to encounter. MSR, Dana Design, Black Diamond, etc, all have great tarp systems.

May I recomend the Oware bivy.

Dave Olsen makes them and he is great to talk to on the phone, he will set you up. Here is a review.

I think that my bivy keeps me warmer, in the summer I can travel without the sleeping bag, and just wear my Fleace in the bivy. I find there is always enough room for me and my gear in this sack, my only bitch abbout bivys, is getting in and out. I also like to use the bivy with a small sil-nylon tarp, so I can vent the sack, and stay dry.

Stephenson Warmlite tents

– Last Updated: Sep-04-04 8:12 AM EST –

Lite, quite strong and will take a blow, pack
very small and unfortunatetly VERY expensive.,Camping,Hiking/Tents/Stephenson%20s%20Warmlite/PRD_80840_2955crx.aspx#reviews

Lee’s in Kalamazoo
still has two of the north face bivies. I’ve been tempted more than once to try to buy one for winter overnights while backpacking, but have chickened out several times.

Thanks helpful

– Last Updated: Sep-06-04 12:59 AM EST –

No laminate in my down bags. Epic is great stuff though. Had a down jacket made with it. Very breathable, almost completely windproof and very light weight. Now that I'm more settled I'm more likely to have my Nallo three in my pack than my bivy.

Bivy sack recommendations
Respectfully disagree about bivy sacks not offering any warmth. A bivy sack will allow you to sleep about 10 degrees farenheit warmer than without, regardless of sleeping bag.

I use a Bibler Big Wall bivy, and find it a fantastic lightweight shelter.

For cheaper, lighter weight, disposable options, Adventure Medical Co. offers a 6-oz. bivy sack, and for emergency-use-only, mylar space bags will do in a pinch.


Appreciate all the suggestions thus far. The reason I’m thinking bivy rather than tent is definitely because of “stealth” and “escape”. :slight_smile: On many of my longer trips I (unfortunately) end up trespassing on private land if I can’t find a public area or state park to lay up in. I’d rather have a no profile shelter and something I can just scoop and throw into my kayak and push onto the water if I hear a 4-wheeler coming or something like that :slight_smile: I really like my Eureka Solitaire, but it has two distinct disadvantages: 1) It is yellow. 2) It has a poled head and foot loop which would require a bit of fumbling to get undone…and it has to be staked or guyed out to work properly.

A bivy…while certainly not as cushy as a tent, would be my choice when overnighting on a sketchy piece of land…hehe…

Thanks for the suggestions…!


My or advanced is green
but there is really no reason for that >;-).

If you wake up while most of the sky is still full of stars, and there is a tiny little light in the east you’ll usually do OK. If you are out long enough, you will fall into that pattern.

It’s stupid to tresspass and it gives other boaters a bad name.

I do most of my trespassing
in national parks, and major commercial forests. I also have done a lot of roadside camping during my hitchhiking days. Never done any camping off the boat, because I do not go backpacking much any more. When I am out in the winter I’ll be darned if I am going to camp only in a campsite. I leave nothing but pee behind and If I am on top of eight feet of snow I will not sweat it. I also will not be within sight of a trail either. No campfires, no waste, just a candle lantern if needed.

I think a kayaker should be able to kayak the coast with minimal interference. I have had rangers walk into my camp, see how minimal the impact was, and walk away.

Well I’m just a stupid kayaker…hope you can live with the consequences I bring down on you…


have seen
1 for about $40 in Sportsmans Guide . A friend uses 1 and has had no problems. Mash screen and flexable hoop head area. Best of all it comes in od green bottom ,camo wooland top.


– Last Updated: Sep-07-04 7:54 AM EST –

So you want to Go "Swedge" style now, except for the tent? What about your big Colorful boat? You see there is a reason all my stuff if low vis!! What they don’t know won’t hurt them!! *L* any way pick up a Quartermasters or US Calvary catalog, they have lots of low vis Bivy Bags & tents. Yeah it will be harder to see you in a Bivy, but, you wont be saving much time with a Bivi tent, I can set up & take down my Two person USMC combat tent in about the same time. However if you get a Bivy Bag, you can just scoop it up, however you will be sacrificing Comfort for quickness. Just camp low-impact style and have a “Good Line”, for everybody you may encounter, like you are surveying the river for DOT/ DNR what ever works for you *L*.. I just stick with the “I am with the Homeland security Defense force”!! Works for me *L* although I have been tempted to use the DNR one *L*.. Most folks don’t care if you are passing through, and if you camp below the High water line they can’t mess with you any way. Heck you could even tell folks the truth.. I would guess 99.9% would not care. But yeah I like the “Its better to beg forgiveness then to ask permission” policy also!! As some folks just like to say “NO” as it’s a power trip for them. But if you cant find me, you cant bother me!!! you know WS makes an OLIVE version of your boat!!

When I was in the east coast, I went from a single person tent to 2 person tent even for backpacking. The additional space INSIDE the shelter was essential in keeping my gear (and hence me) dry during prolong rains.

But then I moved west. In California, for most of the year, there’s no rain, no bugs and almost no reason for tents at all! Lots of backpackers and kayakers don’t even bother with tents. A bivy would be a pretty reasonable medium ground for cooler time of the year. Tents here in the summer is strictly for car camping, when you need the privacy offer by the tent.

What’s the weather going to be like?
Waterproof/breathable fabrics work best when there is a substantial difference in temp and humidity between the inside and outside of the fabric. If you’re going to be camping in warm and/or humid weather, you’ll probably find a solo tent with good circulation to be more comfortable than a bivy.