Bivy Sacks, Bivy Bags, Bivies
Lightweight Bivy Sacks
Older (but still relevant) Reviews of Bivy Shelters
From: Sioux Fleming
After a long search for a lighter-weight alternative to my 4lb 5oz tent, I ended up looking at bivy sacks. ..... and eventually found the OR Adv Bivy, 1lb 11oz. It has two poles to hold it up over head and shoulders as well as a clever clamshell like opening with two open positions for more air vs protection from rain and optional mosquito netting.
I just returned from an 8-day trip to Kings Canyon National Park in the Sierras and this thing was great. I never got rained on but the temperature did drop to ~32 degrees F and I was always both comfortable and warm. The poles and netting are optional if you want to save more weight although I took both because I could never sleep with a bivy that was laying on my face and the mosquitos were voracious. It's intended to be given structur by a thermarest, but worked fine with my Z-rest instead and has straps to hold the pad down inside.
It's made of Gortex, with a coated nylon bottom and I also never had a condensation problem, although my trip mates in tents did.
The only complaints I have about this are the sleeves the poles slide into. They're somewhat ackward to get the poles in and out of and slow down what should otherwise be a very fast setup and take down process.
They'd work better as poles that never come out with rings that slide to one side, as some of The North Face tents have. I communicated these suggestions to OR and they were very receptive. I strongly recommend this as a good lightweight alternative to a tent. I didn't have occasion (or the partner) to try it but they also have a double version of this thing that fits two people.
From: Joel Dobson
This is a great product. It's goretex with sealed seams. It has well designed mosquito netting so you can be snug inside the bivy and stare straight up at the starry sky while being bug-free and comfy. It weighs 1 lb, 9 oz, and cost $240.
Accomodates a 3 season bag very well occupied by a 6' 1" man (me). For sleeping pads I use a 3/4 length thermarest on top of a Cascade Designs Z-Rest so I've got both of them and my bag in the bivy.... no problem. I especially like the velcro tie-downs on the interior that hold your sleep pad(s) in place. Also the bivy is staked at head and foot so it stays put. Claustrophobia?? No. Warm?? Just fine. Here's something to think about: the bivy seems to lower the range of my sleeping bag by about 10 degrees. By adding a silk bag liner I get another 5-10 degrees.
My bag is itself a 30/40 degree bag so I can be very flexible in my heating or cooling on a trip. To bivy or not to bivy: I can't help you there... all I can say is that if you want to keep the weight down (way, way down) while remaining comfortable and bug-free, but are willing to have to go to the trouble of hanging all your gear, then this bivy is the one to buy. Is it watertight? Well, I haven't needed to find out, but does Goretex work? If so, then this bivy will be as water tight as a tent.
From: Jeff Parker
Ive been using a Soloist for several months; my search for the perfect solo shelter is over.
The bivy is easy to get into and isn't claustrophobic feeling -- the zip is on the front right & across the top at eye level (where there's also a zip net window). The cross bar (pre-curved aluminum) awning is like a small free-standing tent.
Also, there's a net vent at the top (behind the head), protected by a stakeable storm flap. It will fit most/all gear (on 2-3 day trips), during bad weather.
I had been using an O.R. Advanced bivy, and my main complaints were difficult entry, and little space for gear. It's no longer a compromise of comfort to take a bivy, vs. a tent.
I haven't weighed it, but it seems to weigh very close to what the O.R. did.
From: John Andrewjeski
The North Face and Outdoor Research better watch out. Integral Designs has a fantastic bivy called the UniShelter.
I bought the longer, roomier Expedition model, but probably would have fit nicely into the regular.
Advantages over traditional bivys (for instance, the OR Advanced)
1) side entrance (as opposed to awkward top entrance with the Or)
The only one I can think of is that the Unishelter requires stakes (5).
Excellent materials and craftmanship at a decent price. Apparently not offered by REI or Campmoor. Made in Canada.
From: Doug Hutton
Cost: New $245.00
First of all, I didn't pay full price, I bought it at a "Gear Grab". I looked for this model in particular because a couple of other Bivy Sacks I had tried rested on my face at night, which I couldn't stand! This one has 2 poles made of Fiberglass that thread in around the opening that prevent it resting on your face.
The OR Advanced Bivy is made out of Gore-Tex with a coated nylon bottom. The worksmanship and materials have proven to be first rate. It is super light, packs very easy, and sets up with little difficulty. The only set up problem involves remembering which of the 2 poles goes in which position. Once that mystery is solved (it does come with directions, but hey, I'm male!) it is very easy to get in and out of.
One of the features I like is the straps in the sack that hold your mattress in place. Also, in referenceto the pole set issue, it allows for, depending on your preference and the weather, for the opening to be left fully or partially open, with a net, or can be closed fully.
One problem, not unique to this Bivy Sack, is that in the fully closed position, condensation does occur, fairly heavily.
Other than that, I've used this for anywhere from solo summer overnighters, to winter snow camping, and it has worked very well.