bivi bag or tent for a long trip

9:50 a.m. on July 18, 2018 (EDT)
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ok has anyone used a bivy bag instead of tent on a long trip ,or what are you're thought on this

2:16 p.m. on July 18, 2018 (EDT)
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I prefer a tent for all trips. I used a bivy bag on one week long hike in the Grand Canyon in winter when I knew it was not going to be raining or snowing much.

But for comfort, I think a tent, even a light as possible one, is better. You have more room to move around, sit up to eat and do other things in bad weather. With a bivy bag you are stuck sleeping in a waterproof sleeping bag shelter.

I like to have my gear inside with me, like my pack, camera,binoculars and other things instead of having to leave them outside a bivy, having to reach out to get things in a downpour is not fun!

I have carried a 4.5 lb tent now for 12 years. Its a two person tent, with a vestibule. I am always alone in it, so plenty room for my gear and a place to cook (the vestibule).

I have been camping over 12,000 nights since June 1977. I have lived in my tent at least 294 days a year when I am not working. I bicycle tour and backpack both.

7:26 a.m. on July 19, 2018 (EDT)
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Bivy is short for bivouac - an improvised shelter.  The name alone should indicate that perhaps you will want to look into shelters that are intentional, and more accommodating of human comfort, like being able to sit up.  If worried about weight, there are full size tents for under two pounds.


9:29 a.m. on July 19, 2018 (EDT)
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I use both and each has its advantages.,   A bivy bag is simple and quick, doesn't flap in the wind.  It gives an unexcelled view of the night sky and puts you more in touch with your surroundings.  A tent works much better in rainy weather and gives more privacy.

Some bivouac sacks come with poles and are essentially minimalist tents.  I prefer bivvys that are just plain sacks, waterproof and breathable, and light in weight.  They are the only way to go if you spend the night on a mountain ledge.

9:39 a.m. on July 19, 2018 (EDT)
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I agree with the responses above...for a longer trip I would opt for a better living space over a bivy. Especially if you are in a wetter climate like the UK. A decent vestibule on a tent is really nice to dump wet stuff and/or cook in (with care)...two doors are even better to maintain an exit on the other side. A double walled tent that can be set up and broken down in the rain and keep everything dry except the fly is worth extra weight in my opinion. I am still loving my Tarptent Stratospire 1 for those reasons and it comes in right around 2 lbs.

10:07 a.m. on July 19, 2018 (EDT)
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A tarp is the best compromise.  A tent is warranted for cold or wet weather. 

A bivy traps too much moisture. 

5:55 a.m. on July 21, 2018 (EDT)
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I sleep cowboy style under the stars on a ground cloth, and only set a tent when the weather threatens.  Mine happens to be a huge 2P cuben tarp pyramid.  Bugs are kept at bay with a personal sleep net.  Tarp, guy lines, ground cloth and netting come in at about 2 1/2 pounds.


10:44 a.m. on July 21, 2018 (EDT)
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I learned to sleep in the open from mule packers.  Finding a spot under the trees for thermal cover and still being able to see the stars is important in the mountains.  Nothing like the Milky Way at 10,000 feet and waking up first thing and seeing deer and elk at 20 feet. 

5:19 p.m. on July 27, 2018 (EDT)
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If you mean a bivy BAG or SACK (waterproof sleeping bag cover) over a bivy shelter (very small tent), definitely go with the shelter. I’ve slept months of nights in a GI Gore-Tex bivy sack and while they’re functional in that they keep you dry, that’s all they are. Good luck if the weather is so bad that you have to shelter in place, because you’re stuck in your sleeping bag. I suppose you could squirm out of it while still in the bivy and sort of push the bag off to the side or foot of the bivy. You can’t get into or out of it in the rain or snow without getting the inside of your sleeping bag wet. There’s no room to put any gear other than in your sleeping bag. The GI bivy sack has no way to keep the flap off your face, so if you’re claustrophobic have fun! But I’ve never gotten wet inside it, whether waking up in a puddle or with 6“ of snow on top of me. 

6:02 p.m. on July 30, 2018 (EDT)
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I bring a military bivouac bag on longer trips but consider it to be emergency shelter only. it is a big gore tex bag, no poles or structure, and fits over a winter sleeping bag. I have actually used it twice, early spring and late fall in moderately cold weather. it keeps the wind out, it retains a nice amount of warmth, and it keeps an unfortunate amount of condensation in. some rain gets in through the face opening.  

If i'm not using a tent, i'm happiest with a lightweight hammock and tarp strung overhead in appropriate (mild 3 season, not a windstorm or very hard rain) weather.  

12:49 a.m. on August 1, 2018 (EDT)
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I use both...which I prefer depends on the trip. I typically only use tents in the summer when trees aren't available...or I am looking for more comfort...I prefer tents to everything in winter conditions. I don't much like bivies in the summer as high night temps in buggy and humid conditions tend to make for a poor night of sleep (matters A LOT less if you're doing big miles and collapsing from exhaustion at the end of the day). If you lack experience go with a tent (unless you plan to get some experience before a longer trip). I have used bivies in very rainy conditions (typically in conjunction with a poncho-tarp). Bivies are great (for the reasons stated above...and I made mine for $40) the right hands they are just the right amount of shelter all the time...but you do need to be mindful of weather conditions (you should be anyways)..and having some practice locating sheltered locations (by map and on foot) is helpful.


5:44 p.m. on August 3, 2018 (EDT)
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I think you would need to be really comfortable with a bivy to go that route for a long trip. The longer the trip the more likely you'll have one or more stretches of bad weather where you'll want to hunker down in your shelter. Takes a certain kind of person to not mind a bivy for that.

3:13 a.m. on August 4, 2018 (EDT)
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I have both and have used both this summer.

Bivy sack 



Weight mine is 18 oz

Size the size of a 1 Lt water bottle

Negatives ,

Not useful in the rain you have to keep it open in order to breathe ( important) and to keep condensation from building up inside ( our lungs expel 400ml of water vapour per day )

Also very warm when combined with a sleeping bag  

There is no where to put your gear/ boots , you almost have to carry an additional tarp .

So what is the point now with the technology that the new tents have. 

I will only use my bivy if I am in a high Mountian lake and need to grab a few zzzz between the evening and morning hatches. 

Go with a 2 person tent and you will think your in the Ritz. 

8:46 p.m. on August 6, 2018 (EDT)
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As the various responses indicate, choosing among -

1. tent

2. tarp

3. Bivy

4. hammock

5. ground cloth

6. snow cave

is dependent on what conditions you are going into and your skills and experience. I have used all of these at various times, usually perfect for the situation, but sometimes really miserable.

When I was young and our family living in Central America, we slept in tents all the time (yes, in town). That had a lot to do with the weather in Honduras (humid and hot, but sleep in the hammock inside the building if it was raining and on the porch on clear but muggy nights.

Since I was born and bred in the middle of the Sonora Desert, we did what Ed said, ground cloth on the ground, maybe a blanket, sleeping bag, light bivy, and enjoy the stars in the heavens. However, ya gotta know how to set the "snake fence" (something you place around the edges of the ground cloth to hinder the snakes from joining you.

For one of my mountaineering expeditions, 1st choice was a tent appropriate to the likely weather - expedition tent for Denali, a tarp lean-to in mid-summer in the Sierra, or alternatively a very light-weight tent like my Hilleberg Suolo if I expect rain and am by myself (ok in a snowstorm as well).

An alternative for a super-lite trek often is a bivy. My bivies are light and they do have a hoop to allow room at the head. BUT this depends on the time of year. If it is in an area that is fairly calm, some rain is ok, but there is a challenge in some areas where you have to dive into the bivy to keep the flying critters out (standing in the bivy and pulling it on from ground to head often works if you pull the bivy while standing and pulling fast enough from ground to head and use a boot-bag to store your footgear.

Snow caves work well to keep your sleeping bag dry (use a ground cloth on the floor of the cave).

Tents work well for groups or close friends.

These all work well IF you plan, get familiar with the techniques, etc.

There is an alternative called "Car Camping" (sleep in your car). Years ago when we had our airplane, we slept a couple times at a little airstrip parked off the runway, of course.

12:28 a.m. on August 8, 2018 (EDT)
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There is no need for an extra tarp when using a bivy (technically speaking I don't use a tarp at all). I use a trashbag to store everything (including my pack)...just like I do when I hammock.

My bivy weighs about 1/4 the weight of my ultralight tent. On long trips with big miles weight is my biggest consideration since I will be plenty tired to sleep as long as it is not too warm at night.

One of the advantages of making your own bivy is you can make it a little larger to accommodate extra clothing/lighting/hygiene...but this is definitely a luxury not a necessity.

I have never had a problem with rain using a bivy. For cover I use a poncho-tarp (Golite) I cut about half of the length and width from. After the modifications the poncho is basically a sleeveless Cagoule with snaps down the sides...and still usually overkill with the abundance of karst and forests I play in.

JR is correct about hanging out in a bivy (that sounds terrible)...but I don't take zero days (outside of town) if I am not base-camping. It would have to be crazy dangerous weather for me to hunker down in my shelter all day (like raging tornadoes crazy). In such a case a bivy would probably just add drama to the story later :-)

Probably the best reason to use a bivy is it changes things up a bit...adds new skills and challenges to your "tool-box". Using a bivy will improve your sheltering repertoire and create different $40 dollars mine was a steal!

8:39 p.m. on August 9, 2018 (EDT)
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Joseph. I am curious. Would you have any pics of the rain fly set up ?

3:17 a.m. on August 10, 2018 (EDT)
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I'm not 100% on what you mean by rain-fly...but there are a couple of pictures where I use a tarp (the white one) in two different pitches on an old trip report here:

I am not sure what pictures I have of the poncho in use (or if I do since it feels a lot like selfies to me)...but for demonstration purposes in wooded areas I pitch it like this: in karst (limestone bluffs) I pitch it like this:

The bivy pictured above is 1.7oz coated nylon on the bottom and a 2.5 WPB fabric very similar to Pertex Shield (probably the same stuff just no license)...which tent floors and rain gear are made of. The opening is just a little larger than a square under any cover at all I stay dry in the bivy. In fact...I used a rain-jacket over the opening once because I was too lazy to get out of the bivy and pitch the poncho when it started raining (that was dumb...but it was a short I got away with it).

It is probably important to note that I wouldn't choose a bivy-poncho combo for rainy conditions...I prefer a hammock and tarp for soloing in rainy conditions (until it gets cold)...but if I was doing big miles for several days at a time a poncho-bivy combo is a lighter option that is totally doable with a little skill as long as I don't expect a lot of rain.

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