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Noobie Bivy Questions
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(smoke) - F
Noobie Bivy Questions on 05/07/2013 07:55:59 MDT Print View

I'm thinking about trying a bivy with a tarp to get lighter. My limited bivy experience is with the US Army Goretex MSS Bivy, which I am not fond of, as it was a sweat bag.

I see all types of bivies out there - bug bivies, bivies with all manner of zippers and vents, hooped bivies, bivies with mesh and without mesh, bivies with a cord to attach to a ridge line to hold the "hood" up. I am in the SE and have to deal with bugs, rain, cold, hot and high humidity.

My main questions - is there a 3 season bivy, and if so, what does it look like?

OR do I need a bug bivy for summer and something else for fall/spring?

Can a side sleeper use a bivy or are they for the back folks only?

How do you keep it from having a condensation issue if it's all zipped-up?

Right now, I'm thinking I want -

Waterproof bottom, breathable top, mesh on the face, chest zip & side zip, cord to hold it off my face, and maybe a foot vent.

Thanks for all the advice in advance!

Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Bivy in SE on 05/07/2013 08:07:53 MDT Print View

I have been using tarp bivy for years now all over the country, four season. There is only one set of weather conditions that really stink when it comes to bivies, hot, humid and bugs. I ran into this combination in NJ last summer and there no good answer. So, if I were putting together gear for this type of weather it would not include a bivy, I would likely just go with a lightweight one person tent. I had to chose between overheating and getting devoured by bugs, not a great choice for sleeping. My bivy has worked well with cooler weather and bugs, it has a fully enclosed bug net over the head. I can also sleep with the bivy fully open in hot weather without bugs. Now in other parts of the country like the Sierra or desert, bivies are great. My two cents.

Kevin Schneringer
(Slammer) - MLife

Locale: Oklahoma Flat Lands
Borah side Bivy on 05/07/2013 08:22:07 MDT Print View


I made a Tyvek bivy and tried it this past few weeks had about $40 bucks in it.
Decided it was good for me. The pattern is on BPL and it was good practice before spending major bucks. Plus it was fun!

FYI- Borah Side zip Bivy. $95 bucks, best price per ounce I found. 6.1 listed on website

Pete Staehling
(staehpj1) - F
Bivy on 05/07/2013 08:33:53 MDT Print View

I find that a bivy works well for everything except hot and buggy conditions. I remember a pretty miserable night or two on the Gulf coast where it was get steamed or get eaten alive by bugs. In those conditions a bug bivy is a better choice.

I don't see why side sleepers can't use a bivy, but they may want to pick the model based on how the mesh part is set up. One with a big mesh window might be required to avoid breathing in the bivy too much. The Borah one or similar would work fine. The ones with a tiny mesh window maybe not.

I have gotten to like using a tarp and bivy or tarp and bug bivy depending on the conditions. When conditions allow I cowboy camp sleeping on top of the bivy and climb in only if needed due to cold, bugs, showers, or wind.

I do not always pitch the tarp unless I expect rain. If there is an unexpected shower I have gotten by with just pulling the tarp over me.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
Re: Noobie Bivy Questions on 05/07/2013 08:48:54 MDT Print View

I have two bivies. One is just a sack with no zip or net. It is very convenient, great at keeping my gear clean and keeping bugs off as ling as I wear a headnet. Problem is it's a bit smaller than I would prefer so in hot weather I can't get away from the sleeping bag. Measured flat it's 36" at the wide end and 22" at the foot. I would prefer something more like 40" and 28".

My other one is a mini-tent type with two hoops. Much roomier, but same small foot end. Still way too low to sit in, and the fact that it gets staked down means I can't sit up and bring the sack up with me. I usually use this one without the poles.

Rain is the biggest problem- a classic bivy will be hard to keep it off your face. Even if you handle that, you can't get in or out without a soaking. I like the idea of a DWR bivy with mesh from about mid-torso and a hang loop for the net. Couple that with a tarp and you're set. The bivy is to keep your gear clean and together, protect from ground moisture, splashes, mist, and bugs. Where I hike, 90% of the time the tarp could stay in the pack.

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Noobie Bivy Questions on 05/07/2013 09:13:56 MDT Print View

Nix the bivy and get a tarp with bug and floor inner. Or something like the Tarptent Notch. You aren't going to get much lighter unless you start using Cuben Fibre. I have used bivvies for years but see no use for them anymore apart from high altitude mountaineering and / for use in snow caves.

Jim W.
(jimqpublic) - MLife

Locale: So-Cal
When to use a bivy? on 05/07/2013 09:52:26 MDT Print View

True that a light tent isn't a weight penalty over bivy plus tarp.

What I like about using a bivy is that "setup" is just throwing it on the ground it you don't need to rig the tarp for rain protection. I think they work great for clear weather where you just want to keep bugs and dirt off.

So I guess my suggestion is bivy when rain is infrequent and you like to sleep out, but want some bug protection.

(smoke) - F
Thanks for the replies! on 05/07/2013 09:56:15 MDT Print View

Thanks for the replies so far.

BTW,I've already tried several UL tents. My Tarp weighs 7 ounces and the Bivy about 7 more. That's 14 oz. My goal is 1 pound or less. I don't know of a tent short of cuben (too much $) that gets close to that. Now, if I could find a used GG The One, I'd scrap the whole bivy thing, but I keep looking and hoping;-)

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Thanks for the replies! on 05/07/2013 10:02:41 MDT Print View

What size of tarp is that? I assume a 5x8? You are going to require a WP bivy then. And with that comes all the joys of unmanageable condensation. There are no WP bivvies that weigh 7 oz. You will be approximately double that.

(smoke) - F
Tarp on 05/07/2013 10:06:23 MDT Print View

Yes, it's 5x8. That's why I'm asking all these questions. I use the tarp for other stuff, so I'll keep it. Maybe I'll just can the bivy thing. Thanks!

Dave -
(FamilyGuy) - F

Locale: Up there
Re: Tarp on 05/07/2013 10:13:13 MDT Print View

I wouldn't 'can' it as you may simply love it. It happens...; )

Apart from a Tarptent type shelter, maybe a larger tarp (8x10?) with a water resistant bivy would be better overall - with respect to condensation management,overall weather coverage, etc.

Mountain Laurel Designs has the Cricket tent, which is a small shaped tarp and bug inner net that weighs 20oz, so close to a pound but offers double walls. You can remove the inner net and just use the tarp as well.


Ben Crocker
(alexdrewreed) - M

Locale: Kentucky
Bivy on 05/07/2013 10:30:52 MDT Print View

I think you can get by with a water resistant topped bivy in a 5x8. But my preference is a larger tarp with no bivy. An 8x10 or trailstar will do it. And weigh less. I am in the muggy southeastern US, so venting is king. I will bring a headnet in case the bugs find me.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Noobie Bivy Questions on 05/07/2013 11:07:04 MDT Print View

The problem is that you have set an arbitrary weight and then want equipment that will deliver a certain level of performance at that weight.

How about writing down all the things you want your shelter to do and then seek out the lightest version you can find? If it doesn't weigh a pound, so what?

Bivies look good on paper, but who wants to spend 8 hours in a big stuff sack? If you are going to pitch a tarp anyway, it's just a few more ounces and pennies to use a small single wall tent, possibly lighter and less expensive. Another approach is a larger tarp of lighter material and tough it out with a head net. It's all weather, bugs, weight and cost.

If you use a poncho or cape, then you can get back some of the weight in the multiple use and perhaps tip the balance and justify the compromises. I've gone the cape route with a bug bivy and have been satisfied with that. I can crack the pound barrier with a head net; otherwise I'm in the sub 2 pound range (including rain gear) and I have the option of sleeping out with just the bug bivy, or without the bivy weight when the bugs aren't in season---- I still have 360 degree protection with the cape and don't need a bivy for rain protection.

Edited by dwambaugh on 05/07/2013 11:08:10 MDT.

Joe S
SpinnTwinn on 05/07/2013 11:20:10 MDT Print View

10 oz for a lot of tarp. Not in production but I found mine by posting in the gear trade section here. That and a Borah bivy work for me.

(smoke) - F
OK on 05/07/2013 11:49:27 MDT Print View

As previously stated, I already have tried 2 tents at around the 1.5lb mark. The 1lb goal came from trying to be enough weight less than that to justify any loss of performance or convenience. That seems to me to be the whole premise behind UL/SUL.

What do I want in a shelter?

To be dry when it rains.

To be warm when its cold. Not so much the shelter on this aspect.

To be cool when its hot.

Keep the bugs off/away.

Not sweat to death, no matter what the weather.

To be as light as possible without going crazy with the $.

To be easy to set-up.

I know I can get there with a 1.5lb tent, already have. I just wanted to know if I I could maybe get to 1lb with a bivy/small tarp, thus the goal.

I'm not really into the headnet thing. Tried it with just my sleeping bag, ground sheet, and a tarp and didn't like it.

I'm thinking it's not worth the trouble and I'll probably just stick to the tent.

Oh, and Spinn-Twinn tarps seem to be about as easy to find as The One.

Edited by smoke on 05/07/2013 11:51:10 MDT.

Josh Brock

Locale: Outside
I have it!!! on 05/07/2013 12:15:17 MDT Print View

I have a bivy/tarpset up that weighs 13 oz(no stakes or tie outs). But I had to make my own bivy. I cant in good consience reconmend the set up because this is the first year I will use it. but the weight your trying to reach is definately possible with that set up.

By the way I did not include the stakes and tie outs in the set up because these change depending on the destination, ground I will be pitching, and type of pitch. I have several different stakes and at different weights from the ground hogs, down to the little titanium tooth pick shepard hooks and the same goes for a tent IMO.

Josh Brock

Locale: Outside
set up on 05/07/2013 13:08:44 MDT Print View

Here is the set up if it rains I'm planning on just flipping the bivy over so that the water proof side is on the top. also its 8 feet long so it ca fit extra gear in it to keep dry in the rain.


Hiking Malto
(gg-man) - F
Have you tried this? on 05/07/2013 13:15:08 MDT Print View

"Here is the set up if it rains I'm planning on just flipping the bivy over so that the water proof side is on the top. also its 8 feet long so it ca fit extra gear in it to keep dry in the rain."

I get how the waterproof side would help with splash but is the netting on the ground. If so what a mess. If not then what a mess on your pad. Just curious if you have tried this out in the rain.

Josh Brock

Locale: Outside
tarp bivy on 05/07/2013 13:58:16 MDT Print View

Yeah My pad is full length Syn mat ul7 and yes it most likely will get dirty/muddy LOL. but I don't really care about that. nor do I bring clean sleeping clothes hahah. I don't go in to the out doors to stay as clean as possible. and there are cottage gear makers that use noseeum on the bottom of there tarp tents with no issues.

I look at it this way- will it keep the rain off me yes. will it keep the bugs out yes. does it have ample room for moving for extended stents yes. do I expect to stay clean don't care.

So it boils down to what you expect out of your shelter.

Btw I have used it just not in heavy rain... as I stated in my first post this is my first season with it and can not in good conscience recommend it because of this. I doubt I will have any issues with it the only change I'm making is attaching a guy line to the face part so that I can pull it off my face.

Edited by needsAbath on 05/07/2013 13:59:46 MDT.

Billy Ray
(rosyfinch) - M

Locale: the mountains
tarp/bivy combo under 1lb on 05/07/2013 14:49:12 MDT Print View

My personal solution is a BD Twilight Bivy (10oz)which has WP bottom and kinda/sorta breathable top and netting. I love to see the stars at night laying in my BD bivy. If it looks like rain I can break out my Zpacks Hexamid Solo Cuban tarp (4.0 oz or 5.5 oz with 'beak')

However, most of my trips are in the Sierra where it rarely rains much in the summer and it is almost never humid and the bugs are mostly tolerable. If the bugs are bad I use the BD bivy netting and a head net until it gets cold and they go to sleep.

If you were in a humid climate you might want to get a Bivy that was more breathable than the BD Twilight. But bivys are by nature vulnerable to rain penetration (if not through the fabric, then through the entry/exit), which is why I carry the Hexamid in addition to the bivy. But tarps alone are vulnerable to wind... which is why I use a WP bivy... as well as the idea of easy to lay out a bivy and the view of the stars at night. When using a down bag, it seems to me nice to have both a WP bivy AND the tarp as a bit of double protection against my down getting soaked... all under 1 lb.