What are the Benefits?
The idea behind the bivy or bivouac tent is to give backpackers a lighter alternative to regular tents, one that can be used as an emergency shelter if the circumstances demand it. The early bivy tents and sacks were just simple sleeping bags, but the newer ones have durable and more modern materials that don’t compromise condensation and breathability.
The early bivy sacks were a hit with mountaineers, but eventually backpackers realized how useful they can be and have started relying on them. Here are some of the benefits:
- Light: they’re lighter than your typical tent
- Small pack: a bivy can be compressed to a small size, critical if you have to carry a lot of gear
- Portable: you can set a bivy practically anywhere whether it’s a small clearing or some other spot where pitching a regular tent is impossible
- A bivy can keep you warm, making it possible for you to use a lighter sleeping bag and shave off a pound or two from what you carry
- Bivy sacks and tents are suitable for all seasons including winter
Aside from these benefits you also need to consider where and when you will be using the bivy as that can affect its dependability. However the nice thing about the bivy is you can use it in widely different settings such as a summer meadow or on cold mountains as it’s lighter than a typical tent.
Bivy Types and Variants
Here’s a quick look at the various bivy shelters available and what they can do for you:
- Bug Net Models: these shelters are meant to protect you more from insects and bugs than the weather (not that they don’t provide weather protection). These are more compact and lighter than regular bivy models, but there’s not much protection from strong wind gusts or precipitation.
For these reasons it’s best to use this bivy in warm, dry weather. They can be utilized with a tarp or pitched onto a shelter, and one benefit of this bivy is the minimalist construction, making them affordable. You can also enhance a bug net using a tarp and receive protection from bugs and weather resistance as well.
- Minimalist Bivy Models: as the name implies these are lightweight and built without additional features like poles that just add to the bulk and weight. In most cases the three season bivy models will suffice.
If you only backpack on occasion, like to travel light and don’t go hiking when it is winter or there’s a thunderstorm, these are the bivy products you should look at. Apart from providing weaver protection they’re also good at keeping insects away while being light.
- Four Season Models: these are the most durable types and usually have a pole or wire so the fabric doesn’t get in your face. They are often made from durable materials that enable them to deal with heavy duty use and increases durability.
You can use these regardless of the season, but they are especially useful during the winter or in areas where protection from the elements are a must. These bivy models are more expensive than the regular, but you do get extra protection if the temperature is very low.
What about Accessories?
The whole point of using a bivy is to cut back on the weight of the stuff you are carrying. Having said that, there are some items and accessories you may consider adding if you’re doing any sort of overnight camping. The following are among the must-haves for backpackers and hikers, but in the end it’s going to be your call:
- Sleeping pad: various styles are available, but you’ll likely be most comfortable with the bigger, inflatable types that provide insulation and comfort. If you’re headed to desert or rocky locations, closed cell foam pads that are non-inflatable will do a decent job.
- Pillow: light pillows will do just fine, but if you prefer something more luxurious, there are pillows with fleece which you can turn inside out, and there are also camp pillows filled with an inflatable bladder or goose down. Keep in mind that the larger the pillow the more you’re going to carry on your back.
- Sleeping bag: sleeping bags are ether filled with synthetic insulation (fitted with weather resistance and durability features) or the lightweight type. If you are expecting heavy rain then you should buy the synthetic bag because they will retain their loft even if it is wet. If your concern is to reduce weight, get a down sleeping bag as the compression is good and have superior warmth to weight ratio.
Tips and Reminders
Check the environment around you, in particular where the water is going to pool if the weather goes bad. When you are searching for a location to rest for the evening, look for potential hazards side to side, left, right, up and down, and be wary of dying or loose tree branches.
You should also compare the various types of bivy models from the various manufacturers before picking out one. The cost will always be a factor but it is better to invest in a high quality piece than worry about getting a replacement after just a few weeks of use. The Internet is the best place to look and there are a lot of options, so take your time and find the appropriate one.
Wrapping Up Our In-Depth Look Into Bivy Tents
Buying a bivy tent is a practical solution to the problem of weight, and you’re not giving up a lot in terms of sleeping comfort and keeping yourself dry. It might take a bit of getting used to especially if you have been using traditional camping tents, but for convenience and portability the bivy is tough to match.