What’s a Bivy?

MatterhornYou were on the trail last weekend and you heard a couple of intense ultralight backpackers casually refer to a bivy, or maybe you stumbled across an article online making reference to something called a bivouac sack. That got you thinking. What is a bivy, and what in the world is a bivouac sack? Even people who have been hiking and camping for years may not know what a bivy is. So we’re here to answer that question.

What is a bivy?

A bivy is a lightweight, compact, and portable one-person shelter. Bivies are also sometimes called bivy sacks, bivouac sacks, or bivouacs. These shelters are a popular choice among backpackers, ultralight thru-hikers, mountaineers, and survivalists alike. That’s because bivies are minimalist in design, but they still provide great protection from the elements.

To the untrained eye, a bivy might look like an ordinary sleeping bag. However, unlike a sleeping bag, a bivy sack is a true shelter. Most bivies are waterproof, wind-resistant, and bugproof.

Why would you want a bivy?

When it comes to a one-person shelter, bivies can’t be beat. A bivy provides the same level of protection as a tent, but it’s substantially lighter, takes up less space, and doesn’t require a large area or level ground to be used effectively. Bivy sacks require practically zero setup, and they can be used in any environment.

If you want your shelter to be as lightweight and convenient as possible without sacrificing protection, bivies are the way to go.

What are the disadvantages of a bivy?

Bivies are great when light and fast is the name of the game. That’s why they are the shelter of choice for mountaineers and minimalists. However, not everyone is out climbing mountains, and some people like to bring more than just the bare necessities.

The biggest drawback of a bivy is that is doesn’t provide much space. If you are even slightly claustrophobic, you might not be able to sleep in a bivy. You can’t sit up in a bivy, you can’t keep your gear safe and dry with you in a bivy, and you definitely can’t provide shelter for anyone other than yourself.

But if you just need a solo shelter, that’s light, fast, and reliable, you should definitely consider a bivy.

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