I prefer a tent to a bivy but this is the best bivy…
Source: bought it used
Price Paid: $100
I prefer a tent to a bivy but this is the best bivy I've ever used! Easy to climb into. Comfortable to read in. Light and packs small.
- Mesh stays off your face!
- Light and packs small
- Poor ventilation when all zipped up
Setup is as simple as it gets with any bivy. The one pole on this guy requires staking for it to be effective but once it's set up, the mesh stays off your face and there is plenty of room for reading comfortably. In warm, heavily mosquito'd areas you can leave the mesh open all night without walking up looking like you have small pox.
Completely waterproof — I've used it in heavy rain and light snow in -10°C weather and never had any issues except for maybe frost — makes it feel like there's a sheet of ice sitting on top of you. You'll need a good sleeping bag for these conditions.
It also has a thin lining in it that helps insulate. It gets really hot in some weather and because it isn't ventilated very well with the fly done up, things get sweaty.
Packs down fairly small and doesn't get much lighter.
Obviously there's not much room for storage, but the shorter you are the more room you get. I used it while cycle touring and stored one pannier and my shoes in the bivy with me.
The one thing I always hated about the usual bivy…
Design: Bivy sack with one pole
Ease of Setup: Very easy to set up. Best used with 5 stakes
Weight: 2 lbs 11 oz (large size)
Price Paid: $265 Can.=$180 US
The one thing I always hated about the usual bivy was that the tent and or screen always fell in my face at night. Couple that with having to crawl into the bivy (my old OR Advanced Bivy) from the top, it wasn't worth it.
Integral Designs has changed all that with its design.
It has a one pole hoop design that requires about 5 stakes (one disadvantage compared to the usual bivy).
Entrance is from the side, which zips down quite far.
The most impressive feature was the proprietary waterproof material which, in my opinion, was MUCH more breathable than standard Gore-Tex.
My friend on the latest week-long Grand Canyon trip took the latest North Face Bivy, with two pole hoop design. It rained pretty hard one day. Even though TNF bivy required no staking, I felt Integral Designs has them beat in most other aspects. ID bivy has much more head room.
This bivy is a good compromise between a bivy and a small tent. No, I wouldn't want to be stuck in it for a monsoon rain, but it certainly beats the usual heavier tent.
To sum it up, the Integral Designs Unishelter has superior breathability, easy set-up, more head room, and a decent price. On the downside, it is probably somewhat heavier than a standard (non-hoop) bivy and requires staking.
I bought the Expedition size, because it was slightly longer, though at 6 ft 1 in I could have bought the smaller, lighter, less expensive regular model.
I have no financial interest in Integral Designs, which is based in Canada. Since its product is apparently not offered by REI or CampMor, backpackers should be aware of it. Do check out the Unishelter before buying any bivy.