Best bivvy bags 2024 | Tested and reviewed

Try a lighter, more adaptable approach to wild camping by ditching the tent and packing a bivvy. Not sure what you need? Let us take you through the best options.

Hiker using a bivvy bag in Harter Fell Summit Lake District

by Ben Weeks |
Updated on

While there are some impressively light and compact hiking tents around today (some one-person tents weigh in at around one kilogram), you can do even better with a bivvy bag.

Spacious they are not, but a well-designed bivvy bag provides an excellent little sleeping pod to use during your overnight outdoor excursions. They should be just big enough to fit you and your sleeping mat. Maybe also a reasonably sized hiking backpack.

The bivvy bag market isn't as extensive as tents, largely due to them being reasonably niche. There are, however, still a solid range of dependable options.

The best bivvy bags at a glance:

Best in test: Rab Ridge Raider Bivi - View offer on Ellis Brigham

Best Value: Alpkit Hunka - View offer on Alpkit

Best for durability: Snugpak Stratosphere - View offer on Amazon UK

Some bivvy bags are very uncomplicated. They consist of a weatherproof outer material and that's about it. These are the lightest and usually least expensive options. But then there are others that seek to occupy a space between tent and bivvy bag. These offer more internal space thanks to the use of poles. But they are a bit heavier and more expensive. In this guide, we are covering the best bivvy bags of all types and budgets.

The best bivvy bags 2023

Best in Test

This is a regular feature in any of our bivvy roundups, and with good cause. Freestanding and less claustrophobic than a typical bivvy thanks to its hooped main pole and micro upright pole at the foot, it’s made from Pertex Shield Air fabric, which is both waterproof and breathable (HH of 15k and an MVTR of 20k), keeping you dry and reducing condensation. The zipped entry provides easy access and has a mosquito mesh door.

It’s not as compact and lightweight (or as low priced) as a bivvy bag, nor as roomy and liveable as a tent, but it offers an excellent compromise between the two, opening up a world of overnight adventure opportunities.

Pros

  • Spacious
  • Freestanding
  • Great weather protection

Cons

  • Not as lightweight as pole-less bivvies

Best Value

Alpkit Hunka with award overlay
Price: £54.99

alpkit.com

The Hunka (and its big brother the Hunka XL) is about as simple as a bivvy gets. There’s no zip, no poles, and no mesh – just a waterproof and breathable 2.5-layer ripstop nylon bag.

This basic approach makes the Hunka light (under 400g) and excellent value, but it does have limitations. Because it can’t be sealed completely it’s best saved for fine weather nights (or combined with a tarp) and evenings devoid of midges or mozzies.

It’s ideal for use in bothies to protect your sleeping bag from the damp and grime often found within.

Pros

  • Very simple
  • Lightweight and compact
  • Fantastic value

Cons

  • Can't be fully sealed

Best for versatility

For those wanting the comfort of a poled bivvy but without the extra weight, the Helium Bivy is perfect. Despite having a pole that lifts the upper fabric away from the face, it weighs only 448g. Plus, on occasions where you want to go even lighter or the ground conditions mean pegging out the pole isn’t feasible, the Helium can be used pole-less, and this takes the weight down to around 400g.

This is thanks to the Pertex fabric with Diamond Fuse technology, which makes the current Helium Bivvy 14% lighter than the previous model.

The Pertex Shield Diamond Fuse fabric is highly waterproof and breathable (although specific figures aren’t given), while the clamshell opening (with mesh panel) makes it easy to access.

Pros

  • Great weather protection
  • Can use with or without pole

Cons

  • Rab Ridge Raider Bivi offers more space

Best pole-less bivvy

The problem with bivvying is that the best nights for it are often the most popular with the insect population. Bivvy bags that can’t be zipped up offer an open invitation to an all-you-can-eat buffet to any passing midges and mozzies.

In addition to being waterproof and breathable, easily accessible (thanks to the two-way L-shaped zip) and remarkably spacious, the Mountain Bivvy places an insect-proof mesh panel over the face, allowing you to enjoy the sweet scent of the evening or the dance of the constellations without risking your skin.

Pros

  • Good value
  • Good weather and insect protection
  • Compact

Cons

  • Very snug – may not suit everyone

Best for durability

Snugpak Stratosphere
Price: $224.95
Alternative retailers
Walmart$170.33View offer

The thing that puts many people off bivvying is the claustrophobic nature of sleeping in what is essentially a waterproof body bag. The Snugpak Stratosphere dismisses those concerns with two short criss-crossing aluminium poles which lift the fabric above the face.

There is a trade-off though. The addition of the poles (and the pegs to pitch it out, although these are optional) means this bivvy weighs just over a kilogram and its pack size can’t compete with pole-less bags. However, it does make for a more pleasant place to sleep.

Pros

  • Tough fabrics
  • Relatively generous space

Cons

  • Similar style Outdoor Research Helium Bivy is lighter

Best budget bivvy

More of a protective shell for your sleeping bag than a bivvy, Decathlon’s offering is nonetheless waterproof, breathable and tough. The face opening can be cinched with a cord, but not closed entirely, so this bag is best suited to use with a tarp or as a protective cover when sleeping in a bothy or cave.

Pros

  • Tough fabrics
  • Relatively generous space

Cons

  • Similar style Outdoor Research Helium Bivy is lighter

What to look for in a bivvy

Hiker using a bivvy bag, Lynn Idwal, Snowdonia
©Live For The Outdoors

Type: The most basic bivvy is a waterproof sack that goes over your sleeping bag and sometimes your sleeping mat. Some people find this set-up cramped, claustrophobic, and a little like a body bag, so prefer poled bivvies. These use short poles to lift the canopy – usually over your head – and make the interior feel a bit more spacious.

Weight: The bivvy is the spork of the tent world. It's compact and lightweight. Yet, the weight of a bivvy can vary dramatically depending on the material it’s made from and whether it requires poles. You’ll need to consider which is most important: light weight and packability, or comfort and protection.

Waterproofing and breathability: A bivvy should prevent you and your kit being soaked by rain or the ingress of moisture from the ground, so the fabric must be waterproof. However, their single skin construction makes it difficult to prevent condensation on the inside, so the fabric should be breathable too. If provided, check out both the Hydrostatic Head (waterproof) and Moisture Vapor Transmission Rate or RET (breathability) figures of the fabrics – the higher the HH and MVTR numbers the more waterproof and breathable the fabric.

Face opening: While most bivvies can be sealed completely with a zipper, and some have a mesh panel that allows ventilation without letting in bugs, some cheaper bivvy sacks cannot be completely closed, leaving an opening around the face.

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Ben Weeks is Trail Magazine's Gear Editor and has been with Trail and LFTO for over 10 years. Ben is a qualified Mountain Leader and Climbing Instructor.

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