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The North Face Asylum Bivy

photo: The North Face Asylum Bivy bivy sack


Price MSRP: $199.00
Historic Range: $94.95-$229.00
Reviewers Paid: $115.00-$220.00
Trail Weight 1 lb 10 oz / 0.73 kg
Floor Area 16 sq ft / 1.5 sq m
Drywall Canopy Fabric 50D Polyester Ripstop, 1.9 oz / sq yd (67 g / sq m), 1200 mm Hydrostatic Head, 869 g / sq m
Mesh Fabric 20D Polyester “No-See-Um” Mesh
Floor Fabric 50D 270T Nylon Taffeta, 2.3 oz / sq yd (78 g / sq m), 3000 mm PU Coating, Water-Resistant Finish


3 reviews
5-star:   1
4-star:   2
3-star:   0
2-star:   0
1-star:   0

Good for what it is: a super lightweight shelter; not quite a bivy, not a tent.


  • Lightweight
  • Compact package


  • Condensation

I got the Asylum "bivy" for a week-long trip along the JMT. It was between this and a Mountain Hardwear Sprite 1. I went with this because it was lighter and more compact.

They call it a bivy, but I think it's better than a bivy because it's just slightly larger and will keep you safe from the rain. It is VERY close-quarters—barely enough room to sit up. The stuff sack it came with it a lot larger than it needs to be, to accommodate the poles. I got a super small stuff sack from REI and now it packs down to the size of a softball.

The biggest con is there is so much condensation! I had to sleep each night with the door all the way open. The foot-end is all mesh, so if there is a breeze that really helped cut down on the condensation.


Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $115

Rivers or mountains it gives protection, comfort, and a small package to pack.


  • Great headroom
  • Great netting
  • Easy setup


  • If you want something free standing..this is not it.

I've owned a number of bivys over time with favorites being WESTERN MOUNTAINEERING, MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR Conduit SL, and now THE NORTH FACE Asylum Bivy. The other two I use for emergencies and backcountry skiing, but this year I gave my WM old standby to a person homeless on the streets of NYC.  

The TNF Asylum is very easy to set up and as others have noted has a small footprint. I use a MOUNTAINSMITH sub two pound down sleeping bag and have not experienced any notable condensation. I would think that in part it may be due for others on the size of the bag filling and pulling up along the waterproof floor but it has not happened to me with my setup with a THERMAREST NeoAir Trekker full length pad.  

That said, TNF Asylum Bivy is not the smallest packdown like the MOUNTAIN HARDWEAR Conduit SL with about 1/3 more in length, but it's reasonable since I am not doing an ultralight pack. TNF also has not skimped on the storage bag so I expect not to struggle trying to make it fit like I do my Mountain Hardwear just so they can claim it's as small stuffed as a NALGENE liter bottle.  

It does vent well with the long line of the ridge and the foot area mini vent flow of air and did not get that stale air feel with the buildup of your own carbon dioxide. The best features for me however were both the headspace formed by the extra DAC pole that does and extension of the roof line making the space and the extra room above my head due to the overall length.

I'm only 5'8" so it's great for me; someone closer to or over 6' might want to try it out with their full rig before coming to the same conclusion. I also like that it has an interior loop at the roof so I can hang a mini light like the one from EGEAR that I use normally as a spare cheap backup light. 

I expect it will serve me well on trips to the Grand Canyon and Southwest backpacks.

If the added weight is not a concern like in my 17 sea kayak tripping I would then go to a lightweight tent like the one-man BIG AGNES Copper Spur UL1 with another 10 oz added on. That gives me the way extra room and free standing capability and ventilation that only a tent can give and especially if multiday showers or T-storms are in the forecast.

That said, TNF did a fantastic job of providing a mini shelter bivy in a small package. If they ever want someone to test a similar product for a long period of time I am there!

Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $220

Small footprint, good headspace for a bivy, under a kilo. Hoop pole at foot end, with ventilation, nice touch.


  • Weight
  • Head space
  • Sizeable mesh panel for added ventilation in warm weather.


  • Condensation in cold, still conditions.
  • Dampness gets into down bag.

The North Face Asylum Bivy is relatively roomy, particularly in the head end. I've only used it once so far, in damp, cool weather, and the fabric seemed to cope well.

Very quick to set up, the two poles give it structure that most bivies lack. I used a small tarp fly to give me some additional shelter for cooking etc, but the weight of the Asylum is such that you can afford to carry a fly for when the weather is iffy, and it gives you more usable space than the vestibule on any one-man tent.

I won't be giving up using my MSR Zoid for most of my hiking, but when culling weight is crucial, the Asylum will be my shelter of choice. Yet to be tested in heavy rain!  

Update Aug 2012: 

Still happy with the bivy, when you need to save space and weight. Used in conditions where there is some breeze, condensation is not a problem at all. In cold (0° Celcius) but still conditions however, with main side panel zipped up, there was considerable dampness which dampened my down bag. In such conditions, taking a synthetic bag may be a better option.

Price Paid: Aust $220

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