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New to the bivy world. Looking for advice and tips!
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Mike Farrell

Locale: C.A
Great thread indeed. on 06/15/2013 17:11:55 MDT Print View

For me it is perfect timing for this thread as I plan to switch from my Lunar solo to a tarp and bivy for the summer months. Incorporating rain gear into the tarp is a great idea and saves weight by being a dual use product. As a kid our family camping trips to the Sierra we cowboy camped and the same while in the Army. A bivy lets us do that again while protecting our down bags and keeping bugs at bay.

About the temperature increase using a bivy, one thing to also consider is the reduction in wind chill. Whatever the gain is in static air, the gain in the wind is substantial. I have found that even mesh blocks enough wind to make a difference in my comfort. Here is a pic taken Memorial day just to brighten the thread up a bit.
Treasure Lakes

Edited by mjf on 06/15/2013 17:14:06 MDT.

David Miles
(davidmiles) - F

Locale: Eastern Sierra
Re: Bivy on 06/15/2013 18:30:21 MDT Print View

Most of my customers report 10+ degrees warmer in my bivy sacks. One even uses two thermometers to get real data and his shows 15-20 degree difference.

I always use a groundsheet. A few ounces of weight is a lot better than replacing a bivy or tent with a worn out floor.

kevin smith
borah gear on 06/15/2013 19:50:22 MDT Print View

sespe 2012

another vote for borah gear love my long wide m90 top silnylon bottom custom zip bivy even handles a neo air with winter bag no problem and no condensation issues as of yet john s customer service is top notch


Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: New to the bivy world. Looking for advice and tips! on 06/15/2013 19:55:04 MDT Print View

"I want to order a large for enough extra space to stash some gear inside if need be."

FWIW, I've yet to have a bivy that didn't have a good deal of extra room at the head to store stuff. Since they're all rounded at the top, instead of cut straight across, but your pad is straight across, there's always room, IME, to stash stuff in that half-moon area past your pad.

J Dos Antos
(Damager) - M

Locale: Redwoods of Santa Cruz Mts
Re: Great thread indeed. on 06/15/2013 20:56:15 MDT Print View


Thanks for the reply. I'm glad to hear from another satisfied Borah customer. I forgot to mention in my initial post that I was looking at TiGoat's bivies as well.


Thanks for the pic! It adds some color and makes me want to hit the trail tonight, except I'm working all weekend. As I previously mentioned, I'm a bivy noob, but I would think by blocking potential drafts and creating another layer, that I should gain between 3-5 degrees with the addition to my sleep system. In another post, David M mention his customers measuring a much higher increase in temps, but the bivies he makes are heavier duty. Time and experience will tell.

David M,

I checked out your website today and I appreciate all the information you include about your products. Two of my pet peeves with cottage companies are when they post almost no info and when they post one picture and it's bad quality. It's like c'mon guys, we're informed buyers, not noobs walking into REI for the first time. (I still shop at REI, so I'm not trying to insult anyone). That's why I've always liked the MLD website, because Ron posts such detailed info. Heck, I knew more about my Exodus backpack before I bought it, than I knew about some of the backpacks I have owned for years.


Thanks for the pics of the bivies in action! This is the positive feedback I had hoped for when I started this thread.


Thanks, now I have even more options to consider:) The reason I was considering the longer Borah bivy is that I'm 6'2" and on his website he says the normal is made for users up to 6'1". So my thought process is if I bought the long, I would have a little more wiggle room and space for storing gear, if necessary.

Backpack Jack
(jumpbackjack) - F

Locale: Armpit of California
Re: Great thread indeed on 06/16/2013 01:06:54 MDT Print View

I also have one of John's bivys in the long/wide with the M90 top.

I went with the M90, after owning one in the M50, and sleeping under the same tarp with Kevin, (in this post) my M50 developed condesation while his M90 didn't so I called John and he made me a M90, and on all my trips since I've had little to no condesation issues in all types of conditions.

This size leaves me plenty of room above my head to store a lot of gear, even in the winter.

I like to store all my gear up there for the reasons most people do, but what I found was when I store all my gear up at the top, it tends to keep the netting off of my face without using the tie out, so this is a bonus for me.

My extra gear usauly consist of my shoes, socks, down jacket, light, extra clothing, my hiking clothes (that I take off, I always sleep in clean base layer) and little things like toiletries and extra socks/down booties, and I've never felt cramped.

I also use the Neoair Reg. with a MYOG pillow and I'm a toss/turn side sleeper.

I have to mention that most off my experience with my bivy was before I started working/making the tarps with Borahgear.


J Dos Antos
(Damager) - M

Locale: Redwoods of Santa Cruz Mts
M90 material over the M50 on 06/16/2013 10:36:48 MDT Print View


I really appreciate this response. I looked long and hard at the M50 because it's the lightest upper material, but I've now heard from several people that the M90 is more breathable and perhaps more suitable to a wider variety of conditions. The more I research bivies, the more I realize condensation is the most frequent issue encountered with them. So if I have to take a .5 ounce weight penalty to aid in preventing this issue, then I'm ahead of the game. Hence the purpose of this thread. To get my selection right the first time.

Also, I'm waiting to hear back from John on specs, but if you work for Borah, maybe you can answer my questions. On the website it mentions that each long option (length and width) adds an additional .15 ounces, bringing the weight of the side-zip M90 bivy to 7.3 ounces. Is this correct? If so, I'll probably order a long/wide so I can use this bivy in winter. That's a minimal enough weight penalty.

Once I figure this out, I can finally place my order.

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Re: M90 material over the M50 on 06/16/2013 11:16:28 MDT Print View

"The more I research bivies, the more I realize condensation is the most frequent issue encountered "

Even with M90 you will get condensation. If you haven't seen it yet here are my thoughts on bivies and condensation

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: Re: M90 material over the M50 on 06/16/2013 11:48:13 MDT Print View

Interesting article Alex

Like you experienced, I have found high waterproof bathtub floors are a problem because humid air from body hits the cold waterproof material and condenses. The waterproof floor should be as wide as your pad plus as high as your pad is thick. I use a 1 inch thick 20 inch wide Thermrest so floor is 22 inches wide.

I have eVent top which I haven't noticed to have condensation. I'm going to make a new one from M50 to be lighter, but now I'm wondering about that based on your experience...

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: New to the bivy world. Looking for advice and tips! on 06/16/2013 12:06:03 MDT Print View

Like all gear threads there is no perfect gear or combination of gear. Each person needs to get out and hike a lot and then figure out what works for them. I use a bivy when my shelter is a small tarp. No bivy with a big tarp. I bring the correct sleep system so I don't have to rely on a bivy to keep me warm in case the weather gets bad.

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Re: New to the bivy world. Looking for advice and tips! on 06/16/2013 12:12:40 MDT Print View

When I see that the OP is from the redwoods/Santa Cruz I think that a bivy is a bad choice.

In my experience bivies shine when it's freezing and windy but dry (winter camping) or windy, dusty, and dry (desert camping in cooler temps).

But if it's wet outside, the condensation issue makes them a real pain to deal with. If a bivy is being carried to reduce splash/spray in rain, I think you're better off skipping the bivy and putting the weight into a larger tarp or enclosed shelter that doesn't require a bivy.

Brian Johns

Locale: NorCal
Bivy w/ Gatewood Cape on 06/16/2013 12:33:13 MDT Print View

I think the Gatewood cape offers enough coverage not to need a bivy. If I were the OP I might get a bath tub floor like the Zpacks Poncho Groundsheet then you prevent some splash, if any, and have rainwear should you need to exit the cape during a storm. Just a thought. Sorry of its already been suggested. I use a bivy only for winter or with a much lower coverage 8x5 tarp.

J Dos Antos
(Damager) - M

Locale: Redwoods of Santa Cruz Mts
Re: Bivy w/ Gatewood Cape on 06/16/2013 22:38:36 MDT Print View


Thanks for the link! You raised some interesting points in your article and I appreciate your spreadsheet data.

Also, I noticed one of the comments left by John Abela, from I'm a big fan of his meticulous gear reviews. I find it interesting how he says the Rons from MLD and SMD think bivy sacks are unsuitable for backpacking. I'd like to see those comments cited. That mystifies me because Ron from MLD makes bivy sacks, and I hope he's not producing and selling gear he doesn't believe in. I have a good friend who's thru-hiked the AT and the PCT, and is planning the CDT within the next 2 years, and he's a bivy, tarp guy. Try to tell him a bivy doesn't work for backpacking and his 10,000+ trail miles will laugh you in the face. On the MLD website, it says Andrew Skurka used a bivy on his Yukon trek, so maybe a bivy does have a place.

BTW Alex, the above paragraph is not aimed at you at all. I enjoyed your article and your conclusions. My annoyance stems more from John's comment. I just think it's wrong for him to dismiss an entire system cuz it didn't suit his needs/taste.


Thanks for the reply. As I've said throughout the thread, I definitely agree no sleep system is perfect for every situation. Like you, I believe I plan accordingly so that a bivy would never replace me knowing the conditions and the right combination of gear to bring for a trip. A bivy is a new experiment for me, and who knows, I may dislike it and end up selling it on Gear Swap.


I'm buying the bivy this time of year to experiment with it in dryer conditions and get a feel if that style suits me as a backpacker. We get a lot of rain here, but it's mostly confined to late fall, all of winter, and early spring, so I have plenty of time to figure out if I even like the system before using it under truly wet conditions.


I appreciate the feedback. I've never even heard of the Zpacks poncho groundsheet. What a cool concept. Yes, the Gatewood provides plenty of coverage for me, so the main reason I'm currently interested in a bivy is for cowboy camping without having to pitch the cape on nice nights. It's a good time of year for me to experiment around my local parks and trails, so I figure why not.

Again, I appreciate everyone's feedback and I hope this thread can help other backpackers decide if they want to try a bivy. I want to remind other bivy noobs if they're reading this thread, that Anna posted some great links on page 1. A great introduction to avoiding and managing condensation.

Edited by Damager on 06/16/2013 22:40:42 MDT.

Backpack Jack
(jumpbackjack) - F

Locale: Armpit of California
Borahgear bivy on 06/17/2013 01:19:40 MDT Print View

J Dos Antos,

My bivy in the stuff sack weighs 7.6 oz, this may vary a little depending on where we buy our material, the 7.3 oz weight he list is very close most of the time, mine may be a tad heavier because I just got back from a trip and I haven't had a chance to wash it yet, still has some Sierra dirt on the bottom. LOL


Edited by jumpbackjack on 06/17/2013 01:21:44 MDT.

Alex H
(abhitt) - MLife

Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW
Re: Re: Bivy w/ Gatewood Cape on 06/17/2013 04:56:06 MDT Print View

J Dos Antos,
no umbrage taken and the links that Anna posted and more are in the reference section at the bottom of my piece too.

I think that John Abela and the Rons are mostly just pointing out that bivies were originally shelters for climbers who had no other choice. I am sure that they make them because their customers want them.

One variable and thing that is not talked about much with condensation is the sleeping bag used inside a bivy. I have a feeling that condensation is worse when a too warm (too much insulation) bag is used for the conditions and so the dew point is closer to the heat source (you) causing the condensation to happen between the bag and the top of the bivy. Also different sleeping bag materials pass water vapor differently just like top materials on a bivy. So people have different experiences with the same bivy because they are using different sleeping bags inside.

I suspect that some of my condensation issues with the MLD superlight is from using a WM Ultralite bag in conditions that are too warm but I haven't had a chance to test it with a lighter bag yet.

J Dos Antos
(Damager) - M

Locale: Redwoods of Santa Cruz Mts
Sleeping bag choice inside bivy on 06/17/2013 11:44:09 MDT Print View


That's an interesting observation about sleeping bags being too warm for the conditions and one that makes complete sense. It's actually one of my chief concerns about experimenting with a bivy this time of year. Our overnight lows are hovering around 50 right now, though we have so many microclimates because of the ruggedness of the landscape, that can change from trail to trail.

Currently, I only have an Enlightened Equipment 20 degree Revelation quilt, and cannot afford another quilt specifically for summer. I am interested in experimenting with a MYOG quilt for summer, something cheap and effective down to 50ish degrees. I figure summer is the best time to experiment because a mistake won't kill me or lead to a horrifically uncomfortable night.

Maybe I overreacted to John's comment, but to deem bivies unsuitable for backpacking when many respected and experienced hikers use them, seems arrogant to me. I could be wrong.

Thanks again for the article, and if you have any more send them my way.

Fitz Travels
Unsuitable on 06/17/2013 12:52:47 MDT Print View

Perhaps bivies are not unsuitable for backpacking in general, but it doesnt take many times when you wake up with your down sleeping bag saturated with condensation to change your mind and shelter approach.

Ive had it happen twice, and that was enoughh for me. Even if it happens rarely, its enough of a problem in some environments and situations to really cause a big issue. One issue is if you just cannot dry it out the next day for whatever reason.

One time, my 45 degree MH phantom was as flat as a blanket in the morning. It was cool and cloudy that day, took all day to dry out. If you go on, basically all the bivies but the event ones are plagued according to reviewers to condensation issues.

There are posts on this site complaining about condensation issues even with the breathable materials from time to time.

Its a crapshoot IMO. humidity, dew point, amount of moisture your body releases, weather, sweaty clothes, .... Im not an expert, but the only reason imever have used a bivy is for stealth camping, and not because i felt it was an appropriate replacement for a tent., except for extreme cold where the moisture will freeze before it can saturate.

Dont get me wrong... Ive used bivies with success way more then not... But when it doesnt work... Its dicey in the right circumstances, enough for me to dirch the traditional bivy. And i live in a very low humidity climate.

J Dos Antos
(Damager) - M

Locale: Redwoods of Santa Cruz Mts
Placed my order for a Borah bivy today on 06/17/2013 16:42:04 MDT Print View

I just placed my order for a Borah bivy with side zip, silnylon floor, long/wide, and M90 upper today on John's recommendation. I'm excited to experiment with the set up, despite reported condensation issues from some users. It seems just as many users are satisfied with the system. I guess I can understand why bivies have become such a constantly debated topic the last several years.

I will give this sleep system a fair shake across as many conditions as I can before judging it one way or another. This should account for operator error, which I can assure you will occur. If, despite my best efforts, I repeatedly can't feel safe or comfortable with this system, then the bivy will become more of a specialty piece of gear for me, not a 'must-have' on a trip.

My goal is to keep my fellow backpackers updated about my trials as an experienced UL backpacker transitioning to a bivy. That way others can avoid some of the same mistakes I will inevitably make. Still, I welcome continuing feedback from others.

Oh, and before I forget. John's customer service was outstanding. He followed up with me several times with detailed responses and pertinent questions. Once I receive the bivy, I'll post initial impressions as well, then get out and field test it.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Placed my order for a Borah bivy today on 06/17/2013 19:08:26 MDT Print View

Hopefully it will work out for you.

michael levi
(M.L) - F

Locale: W-Never Eat Soggy (W)affles
update? on 07/21/2013 23:11:24 MDT Print View

Let us know..