How to Choose a Bivy Sack

How to Choose a Bivy Sack
Bivy Sacks create an extra layer outside of your sleeping bag to protect against the elements when backpacking without a tent. According to "Allen and Mike's Really Cool Backpackin' Book," using a bivy sack also adds an additional 10 degrees of warmth to your sleeping bag. There are a few different styles of bivy sacks. What kind generally depends on what type of environment you intend to use it in, though the newer the material the better they fair.


Difficulty: Moderately Easy

Things You’ll Need:
  • Sleeping bag Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
Step 1
Decide what climates you will be traveling through the majority of the time. Some bivy sacks are light but not as burly, and others are heavier but will take quite a weathering. Some are only water resistant, whereas others are waterproof.
Step 2
Choose a bivy style that feels comfortable for you. Some bivy sacks are designed with a small flexible pole that is inserted into the head area to give you a bit of room to sit up and also to keep the material from laying right on your face when sleeping. Some have a built-in hoop that requires no set-up, and others don't have much headroom at all.
Step 3
Make sure you choose a bivy sack that is the right size. Most come in regular and long versions. If you have an extra-long sleeping bag and sleeping pad then you may need to measure the bivy sack you are thinking of buying.
Step 4
Consider the weight and how packable a bivy sack is. Some such as Outdoor Research's MicroNight Bivy weigh only 19 ounces and packs smaller than a Nalgene water bottle. This particular bivy sack is made with Pertex Endurance Fabric, which is highly water resistant and compressible but not waterproof. Bags like this are great all-around bivy sacks for backpacking, but if you are going to be mountaineering in a place like Patagonia then you may want something like Bibler's Big Wall Bivy. This is made of waterproof and breathable ToddTex laminate, weighs about 25 ounces and comes with a stuff sack; however, it does not compress as small as lightweight, three-season ones. Four-season, waterproof bivy sacks are, of course, more expensive.
Step 5
Choose a bivy with fine mesh netting at the opening so that you can leave the main zipper open around your head but not get eaten by insects during the warmer months. This provides ventilation and also helps keep moisture from collecting in the bivy sack.

Article Written By Naomi Judd

Naomi M. Judd is a naturalist, artist and writer. Her work has been published in various literary journals, newspapers and websites. Judd holds a self-designed Bachelor of Arts in adventure writing from Plymouth State University and is earning a Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from the University of Southern Maine.

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