Need advice on bivvies first time user

Posted by: Bike_packer

Need advice on bivvies first time user - 09/24/17 07:55 PM

Hi guys I'm new to the Forum. I signed up because I needed a place to ask a serious question about bivys. First of all I am not a Backpacker. I do enjoy hiking with my wife once in awhile though. My primary sport is bikepacking where we load all of our gear on our bicycles and we ride to a spot to camp out. It is essentially the same as backpacking only you're using two wheels instead of your feet to get there. I am going minimalist and learning how to go with as little gear as possible. Some of my friends carry full setups with pannier bags and they really carry a ton of weight. I myself prefer to just take a tarp, sleeping bag, and sleeping pad. But I need something to keep the bugs off of me in Iowa. So I'm looking into a very lightweight bivy to sleep under my tarp with. My inexperience on bivies is why I am here. I was wondering do a lot of year-round Backpackers buy an ultra-light bivy with a net over the face and then use that year-round, or do they buy a bivy for every season? The other question is can you get by with just a bug bivy during the warmer months to keep mosquitoes and creepy crawlies off of your face and in the colder months not use a bivy at all? I do not know enough about bivies to know if they also help keep you warm? I'm looking at an ultra-light bivy from a company called Borah.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Need advice on bivvies first time user - 09/24/17 08:03 PM

Bivys were popular years back when tents were bulky and heavy. You can now buy an light tent for just a pound or so heavier than a bivy. The tent is much more comfortable and definitly better in poor weather. A good bivy is about $200 and a good light tent about $300-$400. I have two bivies and three tents, and I mostly use the tents now. The basic bivy is 1# 6 oz and the tents are about 2# 7oz. A bivy is very different to sleep in- some people simply cannot tolerate the restricted space. By the time you add a small tarp to the bivy, you essentially are the same weight and bulk as a tent.

If I were you, I would look into 1-person light tents instead.
Posted by: Franco

Re: Need advice on bivvies first time user - 09/24/17 08:16 PM

I am with Tarptent, so keep this in mind.
We have a 26oz shelter called the ProTrail.
It is pretty much a shaped tarp but fully enclosed (if you zip the mesh inner door up).
If you add the weight and size of the tarp and a bivvy you will find the Pro Trail to be very competitive and does allow you to move, get changed, read inside and be bug protected.
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Need advice on bivvies first time user - 09/24/17 09:45 PM

I happily used a tarp and bivy combo for years - until I saw the first solo tent that was all mesh with a rain fly. It weighed the same as my tarp and bivy, and I never looked back. The ability to sit up, change clothes, and do chores inside the mesh is priceless.

I agree with Franco and Mouse: get a light solo tent. My own choice is the MSR Hubba NX; they also have a lighter variant called the Carbon Reflex 1 that might work. If you want a bit more room, also check out the TarpTent Rainbow. (It's a single wall tent, which doesn't work for me in the hot, humid Ohio River valley, but that's a personal thing. It's well made, well-designed and, as I recall, weighs about two pounds all in.
Posted by: Bike_packer

Re: Need advice on bivvies first time user - 09/24/17 10:54 PM

Thanks for the honesty guys. I was definitely not expecting to see so much dislike for bivies lol. A lot of serious minimalist bike packers use bivies and tarps. One member I was consulting on a bike forum suggested I ask questions here so here I am. I have considered a light tent. Truth is when I got into this sport, I needed to get started cheap so I spent 25 bucks and bought as basic 2 man pup tent like I had as a kid. I have been using that tent for almost 2 years now. Total package weight is 3.5 lbs. That is heavy compared to the tarp tent but compared to other 1 man tents I compared in the 100 dollar range, it was the lightest. It packs decent and I have no complaints but like most bikers, I am looking to shed more weight. My buddies pack everything on their bikes from expensive take apart cots to tents and kitchen sinks lol. I am not kidding. I cannot be like that. If I want to sleep in a bed I will stay home. So even though I have successfully used my cheap tent many times, I am looking for lighter and simpler yet. Truth is last spring I bought a rolling fox tarp off of Amazon. I used it once in April on an overnighter. I simply had the coronet configuration pitched and my Klymit pad and sleeping bag under it and besides freezing my feet I slept like a baby. That is what brought me here today as I already own a decent tarp and I am looking to add to it. I got an event I am hosting at the end of October and chances are it will be cool enough to not worry about mosquitos so I probably can get by without a bivy or tent. I am looking into the future however. Thanks for the replies and I welcome more!
Posted by: JustWalking

Re: Need advice on bivvies first time user - 09/25/17 12:23 AM

If you don’t mind the confined space, bivies can certainly work for bikepacking. Enlightened Equipment makes the Recon bivy, pretty highly regarded, and weighs just under 6.5 ounces. Mountain Laurel Designs just came out with a new bivy, the MLD Bug Bivy 2 that has a bit more room than a normal bivy and weighs 7 oz. Borah's bivy is also well thought of. Put any of them under a cuben tarp and you can have a system that weighs less than a pound. I've used bivies with a tarp in spring/fall/winter (I generally don't backpack in summer). They won't increase your warmth very much at all - they're mostly, IMO, for keeping the bugs at bay and keeping rain spray off your quilt/sleeping bag. (If you haven't looking into quilts as well, you might consider one. It's all I use until the temps get below 25 degrees.)

Another way to go, zPacks makes cuben shelters that are spacious and light. And expensive. I own and use a zPacks Duplex as a solo shelter, which is a palace for one person with plenty of room to move around and store your gear in your shelter, and it only weighs 21 oz. including stuff sack and guylines. I’ve used this shelter in the forests of Pennsylvania and the mountains of California, Montana and Idaho. My favorite shelter of all time at the moment.

Cuben is, of course, quite expensive. The base Duplex costs $600. So not for everybody.

Somewhat related, there is a great site for bikepackers if you haven’t heard of it: called Bikepacker :-). You can find it here.
Posted by: jeremyw

Re: Need advice on bivvies first time user - 09/25/17 12:57 AM

I view a bivy as optional.

They can offer wind, rain, splash, and bug protection along with a bit of extra warmth.

Some like a borah event bivy can be used stand alone without a tarp, but ideally you want to use a bivy in conjunction with a tarp which basically makes the need for full waterproofness moot and becomes a question of splash protection.

Personally in your situation, if you're happy tarping without a bivy I would suggest getting a S2S nano bugnet, its more like a tent inner, has no bottom, can be used sitting round camp as a huge full body headnet and only weighs 90 odd grams.

If you want more crawly protection - I don't believe you really need it - you could go full bugnet bivy with a CF or silyny bottom. Borah gear and MLD make good ones.

Unless you're travelling somewhere with really warm weather I'd actually say go with a normal splash bivy with bugnet on the top area.

It ads a bit of warmth to your sleeping system, gives some minimal splash protection, bugproof's and its a fair bit lighter than full bugmesh. Again, Borah / MLD are my picks.

Avoid alpine bivies or whatever - they are not what you want.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Need advice on bivvies first time user - 09/25/17 11:20 AM

Bikers do not carry trekking poles! So when talking about UL tents, be aware that you would also have to add a pole system.

I have done 12-day trips at 12,000 feet in a bivy only and have weathered severe storms in one. Depends if you are OK with zipping up in a coffin for several hours or a day. But, as a biker, I assume you would be camping at campgrounds many nights. In this case, you could also get out and sit in the bathrooms for a break, or many some nice neighbor would invite you into their tent or RV. Also as a biker, if you do get wet in the bivy, you are not likely that far from help.

I think you should try to borrow a bivy from someone and try it out a few nights.
Posted by: BZH

Re: Need advice on bivvies first time user - 09/25/17 11:51 AM

Originally Posted By Bike_packer
... I was wondering do a lot of year-round Backpackers buy an ultra-light bivy with a net over the face and then use that year-round, or do they buy a bivy for every season? The other question is can you get by with just a bug bivy during the warmer months to keep mosquitoes and creepy crawlies off of your face and in the colder months not use a bivy at all? I do not know enough about bivies to know if they also help keep you warm? ...

I am not super experienced with bivvies, so you can take my advice for what it is worth. There are different kind of bivvies. Some can be nothing more than a net with a ground sheet. Most are made out of a breathable fabric (on top) with netting over your face. Some are made out of water proof fabric. The waterproof ones can keep you warmer, but you run the risk of trapping all of your body moisture and wetting out your sleeping bag/quilt. If your insulation becomes wet it won't do much insulating.

When I was a kid my father and I always winter camped with a tarp and no bug protection. Like others on here I use a lightweight tent. By the time you add a bivy and tarp they weigh about the same. I think the forums at backpackinglight have more bivy users but you need to pay now to post there.
Posted by: Glenn Roberts

Re: Need advice on bivvies first time user - 09/25/17 01:11 PM

I didn't realize (or think to realize) that budget might be a factor. When I was using bivies, there were no all-mesh bivies. One problem with a bivy is that, in warm weather, they get really hot and uncomfortable, and you sweat generously. I finally found a bivy that had a waterproof-breathable panel backed by mesh, so I could open it up from head to waist; sadly, it's no longer made. (It also weighed two pounds.)

However, before I found that, I found a mesh mosquito net like those you hang over a cot. I rigged it to hang under my 8x10 (10x12? I forget) tarp. There wasn't any door (but a zipper and some sewing skill would fix that), so I just lifted a corner or edge to get in, then dropped it down; I tucked the excess under the ground cloth, and had a fairly bug-proof shelter. BackCountryGear still sell the nets, in the $35-50 price range.

I don't think you were getting a lot of dislike, per se, for bivies. I think what you were getting is that they work, but there are more efficient solutions. I know that was my experience: I was never dissatisfied with the performance or weight of my tarp and bivy combo; I simply took advantage of an improvement when one became available.
Posted by: wandering_daisy

Re: Need advice on bivvies first time user - 09/25/17 02:17 PM

A good quality bivy is not cheap!

As for condensation, if your sleeping bag has dry-loft material on the outside, the condensation is quite easily shaken off in the morning.

I use an OR Basic Bivy. Once you add all the hoops and stuff, the cost and weight are not worth the inconvience, compared to a tent. My bivy is much more compact than my tent which is a real advantage if I want to do a shorter trip with my smaller pack.
Posted by: OregonMouse

Re: Need advice on bivvies first time user - 09/25/17 02:18 PM

I haven't seen mentioned here the fact that there are really several kinds of bivies. One is designed as a stand-alone shelter and is waterproof. Those are heavier and are also prone to condensation. It's also pretty hard to get into and out of one while it's pouring rain without letting water inside. These are used mostly by mountaineers.

Another kind of bivy is meant to be used as a supplement under a tarp. It is water-repellent rather than waterproof, having a waterproof underside and a water-repellent but breathable top side.. It helps prevent splash from hard rain or wind-driven rain from wetting you while you're under the tarp, and it usually has a screened opening to keep off the bugs. On clear nights, you can use it without the tarp for a night under the stars, as it should repel the dew. I tried one of these once and found it also prone to internal condensation. Of course, since I'm an active sleeper, turning over frequently, I ended up with the waterproof side on top, which certainly didn't help the condensation issue! I suspect that one of these would be too warm for Iowa summers. You can prevent splash by using a slightly larger tarp and staking it down to the ground in horrible weather.

There are also "bug bivies" or "net tents," which are made of netting, usually with a waterproof floor, again designed to be used under a tarp. (The waterproof floor replaces a ground sheet.) I strongly suspect that this may be what you're looking for. Mountain Laurel Designs and Six Moon Designs are two outfits that make this kind of bug bivy/bug tent, and of course there are others. Or you can get netting and rig up your own.

I originally wanted to use a tarp plus bivy or bug net rather than a tent. However, I did a bunch of research and found that the tarp/lightweight bivy or bug tent combination weighs as much as or more than the lightweight tents described in the responses above. In my case, I had to consider my dog (since deceased), who was perfectly happy to sleep throught the night in a lightweight tent but kept waking up and waking me up (inevitably just after I'd dozed off!) when under a tarp. (He was accustomed to sleeping in a crate.) So for my needs, I stuck with the tent. I have two lightweight tents, one (expensive!) weighing 17 oz. and the other (cheaper) weighing 27 oz., both including stakes and guylines. I should sell one, but I haven't decided which! The weight does not include poles, as Wandering_Daisy pointed out above, and you bikers certainly do not use trekking poles! However, poles for a tarp will probably weight about the same as the poles available for lightweight tents.

Since the weight of lightweight tarp + lightweight bivy, vs. lightweight tent, differs little, it really depends on which style you prefer.
Posted by: DustinV

Re: Need advice on bivvies first time user - 09/25/17 05:45 PM

One advantage to keeping with the tarp/bivy combo is that if you need to do any maintenance on your bike while it's raining, you can use the tarp. And the bike can be all or part of your pole system.

Also, you can cook under a tarp more easily than a tent, in the rain. Of course, be extremely careful. Some materials do just about disappear when touched by a flame.

A light, water-repellent bivy will pack pretty small and light, but as stated it is not easy to change inside of one in case you need privacy. And you'll hear the bugs right next to your face, so if that's a concern...

If claustrophobia is a problem, you might check out a 'bothy', which is basically a two-person bivy/wind shelter for mountaineering. Exped makes one that packs down really small and can be staked out like a tiny tent, but you would need to either go with a head-net or build a door with a piece of netting to keep the bugs at bay.
Posted by: Bike_packer

Re: Need advice on bivvies first time user - 09/25/17 09:26 PM

I am consulting with Borah right now and am planning on ordering one of their lightweight side zip bivies with argon 90. They recommended argon 90 over 67 as it was more breathable I guess. As far as claustrophobia...I can't see a bivy as any more confining than being inside my mummy bag zipped up. Sleeping inside the bivy in warm weather may be a concern as far as getting hot but I will have to wait till next year to find out. In that kind of weather I will not use my sleeping bag anyways but most likely just put my sleeping pad only inside and use the bivy as a bed sheet so to speak.