Ultralight Bivy Bags

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I recently wrote a guide to bivy bags (also known as bivy sacks and bivvies), but one thing I didn’t mention were ultralight bivy bags.

On this page I’ll be focusing more specifically on lightweight bivy bags – namely what they are, who they’re for, when you might need one and what the advantages/disadvantages of using them are?

What Are Ultralight Bivy Bags?

If you have a bivy bag already (or you’re thinking of buying one), chances are you’re interested in lightweight backpacking.

Even though ‘regular’ bivy bags are a lot lighter than tents, there are a couple of key differences between regular bivy bags and ultralight bivy bags:

  • Fabric – It’s important for any bivy sack to be able to breathe so that condensation and moisture doesn’t build up on the inside. A lot of the weight you’ll save on an ultralight bivy bag comes from the fabric that’s used. Depending on where you’ll be camping, you might want to choose a bivy sack made of lighter fabrics. Lighter fabrics typically work fine, but aren’t as effective at keeping out rain and won’t insulate you as well, so they’re best used in warmer, dryer climates.
  • Netting – The second area where ultralight bivy bags differ from ‘regular’ ones (and where a lot of weight is saved) is around the hood. Heavier bivy bags will have a mesh netting and a structured support to hold it up. At the other end of the spectrum, some ultralight bivy bags won’t have any kind of mesh netting around the hood whatsoever. Again, the conditions you’ll be encountering should influence your decision when it comes to buying. For example, if you’re camping in an area where there are few bugs or insects (such as on the side of a mountain), you can probably forgo the mesh netting in order to save weight.

How Much Lighter are Ultralight Bivy Bags than Regular Bivy Bags?

Bivy bags are designed to do the job of a tent (but to be much smaller and lighter).

Ultralight Bivy BagsFor most backpackers, bivy bags are a non-essential item, but for those wanting the lightest backpack possible or for those with limited sleeping space (e.g. mountain climbers), bivy sacks work as a great solution.

The question that remains, however, is just how much lighter are ultralight bivy bags than ‘regular’ bivy bags?

As with almost any item of hiking/backpacking gear, there are ‘regular’ versions and ‘lightweight’ versions.

One of the lightest bivy bags on the market (if not THE lightest) is the Terra Nova Ultra Bivi Bag, which weighs a meager 50 grams (or 2 ounces).

At the other end of the scale is Intergral Designs’ EXP Unishelter, which weighs in at 1140 grams (or 40 ounces).

As you can see here, the second bivy bag is over TWENTY- TWO TIMES as heavy as the first. Quite a difference!

The Downsides of Ultralight Bivy Bags

There are times when bivy bags work very well. During the summertime, a lightweight bivy bag is a great alternative to a tent.

However, if you’re out camping during the monsoon season you might wish you’d brought a tent instead of a bivy bag (particularly if your bivy bag isn’t one of great quality).

One potential solution to this is to bring a tarp tent along with your lightweight bivy, as you’ll remain protected from the rain and the total package should still weigh less than that of a tent.

In addition to this, some ultralight bivy bags don’t have any kind of mesh netting around the open end (i.e. where your head is). This means that a part of the bag will be open at all time, and you’ll be at the mercy of any bugs or creepy crawlies happening to pass by.

Related posts:

  1. A Guide to Bivy Bags & Bivy Sacks
  2. Buying an Ultralight Sleeping Bag
  3. A Buyer’s Guide to Laptop Bags
  4. Airport Rules for Carry-on Bags
  5. How to Buy a Cold Weather Sleeping Bag

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