What Is a Bivy Sack and Why Do You Need One?


Camping fans are always looking for gear that's lighter and simpler to pack. If you're eyeing a minimal camping setup, you might have thought about one-person tents. But, let's talk about an even smaller and lighter option: a bivy bag. In this blog post, we'll dive into what a bivy bag is and why it could be the best choice for your next wilderness adventure.


What Is a Bivy Bag?


what is a bivy bag


A bivy bag, bivy shelter, or bivvy sack, short for bivouac, is essentially a compact, one-person tent that wraps around you and your sleeping bag to provide protection against light rain and other mild weather conditions. Initially designed for short-term use, these bags have evolved into all sorts of styles. They're not just for emergency situations anymore; you can use them as small tents, wear them like ponchos, or set them up as makeshift tarps. Plus, they're usually made from waterproof or water-resistant, so you stay dry. They're super handy for hikers, climbers, or anyone traveling light and wanting to minimize their load.


Types of Bivy Sacks


Bivy bags are pretty handy for weather protection or if you prefer to pack light. Let's break down the different types you might come across:


1)  Traditional or Basic Bivy Bags

 A bright orange bivy sack

Credit: LACD


The basic bivy sack is the most common type you'll find out there. The bottom of the sack is usually made with a tough nylon bottom that's been waterproofed with a urethane coating. The top layer, on the other hand, is often made from ripstop nylon, a lightweight material that's both waterproof and breathable.

Traditional bivy bags are designed to be light and easy to carry, which is great for emergencies. But because they're so basic, they don't offer much protection. They might also not be the most comfortable since they can feel a bit claustrophobic and don't offer much in terms of space.


2)  Bug-Out Bivy Bags

 A blue bivy sack with a see through net on the front and a yellow pillow inside

Credit: Outdoor Research


Bug-out bivy bags are designed primarily for bug protection. These are usually mesh bivies meant for use in warmer climates where your biggest concern isn't rain or snow but mosquitoes and other insects. They're super lightweight and can be used alone on clear, starry nights or inside another bivy for added bug protection.


3)  Hooped or Face Lifter Bivvy Bags


Credit: Australian Camping Quartermaster


Hooped or face lifter bivy bags are ideal if you feel a bit claustrophobic in a tight space. These bags come with a lightweight pole (or hoop) that raises the fabric above your head, creating a mini tent-like space. This not only gives you more room to move around but also improves airflow. They're a bit bulkier and heavier than the first two types, but for many, the extra comfort is worth it.


4) All-Season Bivy Bags


Credit: Outdoor Research 


All-season bivy bags are built to withstand harsh conditions. They're made from tougher materials and often have better waterproofing and insulation properties. Some even come with features like snow flaps or extra insulation layers. Naturally, they're heavier and bulkier, but if you're camping in cold climates, these could be your best option for staying warm and dry.


Why Do You Need a Bivvy Bag?


Confused if you should go bivy camping? Here are 4 reasons why you should carry a bivy bag during your next outdoor adventure:


1)  Bivy Bags Can Be Used in a Variety of Situations

 A couple lying next to each other in their bivy sacks looking at their phones

Credit: Envato Elements/ Image-Source


If you want to reduce the weight of your backpack but don't feel safe sleeping in the open, a bivouac sack is perfect. They're designed to facilitate alpine, mountaineering, and snow camping, adding an extra layer of weather resistance in these harsh conditions.


2)  It Reduces the Time Spent Setting Up Camp

 A lady sleeping in her blue bivy in the fields with the sun coming up

Credit: Envato Elements/ Simol1407


If you're planning long days in the mountains and need to move quickly, bivy shelters can help you maximize your time on the route. They're easy to set up at night and take down in the morning, allowing you to spend more time outside and cover more ground.


3)  Wild Camping With a Bivy Is Easier Than With a Tent

 A man leaning on a rock while lying in his orange bivy drinking coffee

Credit: Envato Elements/ cavanimages


Unlike tents, bivy shelters don't stick out above the ground. Their low profile helps keep you safe and hidden, making it easier to find a campsite. For instance, you can set up a bivy shelter behind a bush, under a car, or behind a wall.


4)  Bivy Bags Occupy Minimal Space

 A lady standing in her orange bivy drinking out of a blue flask with a lake and trees in the background

Credit: Envato Elements/ wayhomestudioo


Setting up a bivy sack is easy because it only needs as much space as your sleeping bag or quilt. Just pick a spot that's flat and large enough for you to lie down comfortably.


How To Use a Bivy Bag

 A couple setting up their bivys in a field of dry leaves in a forest

Credit: Envato Elements/ Image-Source


Follow these easy steps to use your bivy bag:


  • Lay out the bivy bag on flat ground. Make sure there are no sharp objects underneath.
  • Open the zipper or unfold the entrance flap.
  • Place your sleeping mat or sleeping bag inside.
  • Sit at the opening of the bivy and then slide inside feet-first.
  • If the sack has a drawstring, tighten it around your face.
  • Close the entrance flap or zip up the bag.


Note: Make sure you cover your bivy bag with an emergency shelter in case of severe weather.


Do You Need a Tent When Using Bivy Bags?

 An Emergency USA emergency shelter in its bag on a log with a army knife and compass next to it

Credit: Emergency USA


Since a bivy bag isn't big enough to hold your backpack, outdoor gear, and hiking boots, you might need additional shelter. This additional shelter not only prevents wet gear but also serves as a backup in case your bivy bag fails.

If you want something portable, an emergency shelter is perfect. As the name suggests, these shelters are used in emergencies. These are basic tents, designed to shield you from the elements and help maintain body heat. They're typically made of Mylar material and are used by survivalists and outdoor enthusiasts.


FAQ Section


What's the Difference Between a Bivy Bag and a Sleeping Bag?

A sleeping bag is a large, zip-up sack that you crawl into for sleeping outdoors. It provides insulation and comfort, with room to move around. On the other hand, a bivy bag is a waterproof cover that you slip into, providing minimal shelter and protection from the elements. It's designed just to hold your body, without much extra space.


Do You Need a Sleeping Bag When Using Bivy Bags?

This depends on the weather and what you're looking for.

Bivy bags provide protection from the elements, but they don't offer much insulation on their own. If it's cold outside, you'll likely want a sleeping bag to stay warm. However, on warmer nights, you might be fine with just a sleeping pad or even without one if you're a warm sleeper.




We hope that this article has given you a better understanding of what a bivy bag is. It's important to note that bivy bags may not be suitable for everyone. They're ideal if you're looking for simplicity, minimize your load, and be one with nature. However, if you prioritize improved protection and security, consider investing in good-quality tents and sleeping bags.

Looking for reliable emergency shelter and sleeping bags? Explore Emergency USA's range of durable solutions that keep you safe and comfortable in any outdoor situation. Shop with us today.