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Solo backpacking is a rite of passage with its own set of challenges and rewards. One of the best parts about striking off on your own is the ability to drop weight and leave the tent behind. If you’re going that route, however, you’ll need a solid shelter. In this article, we’ll take a look at one such option—the bivy tent. Most of the major tent and outdoor gear companies make a bivy shelter of some variety. These range from simple bags that fit around your sleeping bag to one-person tents with collapsible tent poles. We dug deep into a few of the best options out there for those looking to add a bivy tent into their arsenal of gear. We paid special attention to one particular shelter, the Tenier Woodland Camo Waterproof bivy cover.
We broke down some features of this bivy cover and compared it to other comparable products on the market. Price, comfort, performance, and warranty were also considered for each product to help you decide which bivy tent is right for you. We also chose an overall top pick and broke down our rationale for the choice.
What Is a Bivy Tent?
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A bivy tent is a one-person shelter generally used while camping. The term “bivy” is a shortened version of the word bivouac. This is military terminology that refers to minimal camping wherever your situation allows. Bivy tents and shelters come in two main forms—a tent or a bag. Tent-style bivy shelters are similar to regular tents but much smaller and with only enough space for one person. They often use a minimal tent pole setup and raise the shelter up and out of contact with an internal sleeping bag. A bivy bag is essentially a water and windproof cover that wraps around the outside of a sleeping bag. Both bivy bags and tents are usually set up directly on the ground.
Bivy bags and tents are usually constructed of a high denier nylon that is laminated with a waterproof material. In premium grade bivy shelters this could be Gore-Tex or a similar waterproof/breathable membrane. On more affordable bags you may find nylon that is coated with a synthetic sealer like polyurethane. A breathable line could be far more comfortable in warm and humid weather or where condensation may form. That said, even lower-cost bivy shelters will provide excellent weather protection and added durability to your sleeping bag.
The Tennier Woodland Camo Waterproof Bivy Bag is our featured shelter for this article and it’s an excellent value priced option.
This bag is officially licensed to the U.S. military as part of their modular sleep system. It fits over military edition Patrol and Intermediate Cold model sleeping bags, but will also easily work with just about any sleeping bag on the market.
This is a big and comfortable bivy bag measuring in at 35”W x 82”L. It weighs in at about 40oz, so it’s far from ultralight. You might well ask yourself why anyone would carry a bivy bag that’s as heavy as some two-man tents on the market. The answer is that this thing is incredibly tough. If you’re not planning on backpacking far, or if you’re car camping and just want to sleep under the stars, this could be a perfect choice. This is a bag that will not only outlast the toughest wet weather but will also outlast all your other gear.
Protection and Comfort
As you might expect from military spec products, this thing is rock solid. It features a Gore-Tex XCR liner, and it is completely seam-sealed on the inside. It also features multiple layers of high denier nylon so it will instill confidence even in a gnarly storm. While bivy camping we generally recommend sticking with a synthetic sleeping bag but this bivy is more than solid enough to keep you dry in a lighter down bag.
Like the other elements of the military’s modular sleep system, this bivy bag is large and comfortable. The knock on this system is that it can be too clunky and packs too large for light backpacking. While this may be true for some, the size is nice for bigger users and weight will almost certainly be worth it.
Is It Right For You?
Overall we think this is an excellent choice for someone who wants a bombproof bivy bag at a low price. With a Gore-Tex membrane and military grade nylon, this bag will take abuse that most others won’t. If you’re looking to cut weight to the bare minimum, then this bag will not be for you. If you’re looking to keep it simple and tough without breaking the bank, however, this is an ideal choice.
One of the great upsides about the Tennier Woodland Camo Waterproof bivy bag is the price. Prices for these bags fluctuate, but they are generally available on amazon.com for around $60. This is a screaming deal for a Gore-Tex bag that is built to last.
How They Compare
We picked a few similar products available on the market to see how they compare.
This is a high-value, low-price bag selling for around $60 on Amazon.com.
Super tough nylons with Gore-Tex make this bag an excellent value.
This is a big, comfortable, bombproof product.
It will keep you warm and dry but weighs as much as a tent.
Since this is a military product warranty information is slim for aftermarket buyers.
Outdoor Research’s Bug Bivy sack is a super light, minimal shelter for bug protection only. It offers some water protection from the ground with a hydroseal bottom layer, but this is essentially a one-person bug hut. The bivy tent features head to toe no-see-um mesh that is held up by a simple one-pole construction. There is no protection from wind or wet weather from above so this is only for bug protection. That said, the shelter weighs a paltry 16 ounces, so it’s more than worth the weight to give added bug protection on a dry night in warm weather.
Overall this is a purpose-built bivy for those who only need bug protection and a little moisture protection from the ground.
This bivy tent currently retails on Amazon.com for around $80.
This has limited features but could be an ideal choice for those only needing bug protection.
This could be the best choice in the bunch for warm, dry, buggy weather. Avoid wet weather at all costs, though.
This isn’t a versatile unit, but it is perfect for its intended use.
Outdoor Research covers all of its products with their Infinite Guarantee. This is a full warranty against any defects for the life of the product.
This bivy tent from Snugpak offers excellent comfort and three-season weather protection. It is a tent-style bivy shelter with two aluminum poles that help keep the structure up off the head, shoulders, and upper body. There is a zippered bug net that can drop down and roll away from the opening above the head. This is a great option for warm nights when bugs aren’t a problem and ventilation is at a premium. It’s a heavier bivy, weighing in at around 39oz, but it packs much smaller than a regular tent. The packed dimensions of this bivy tent are 12″L x 5″D.
This is a good overall bivy tent for those who want the comfort of a one-person tent with the packability of a bivy bag. It’s a great three-season option, but those wishing to go ultralight may prefer something without poles.
This bivy tent currently retails on Amazon.com for around $125.
The foldaway bug net and tent-style construction make this a versatile product.
Added breathability and room to move will be a welcome addition for nights out solo.
The bivy loses a few points here because of added weight.
Snugpak offers a 12-month warranty.
The Winterial single-person bivy tent is the most like a traditional tent of all the bivy tents on our list. This shelter offers a two-pole, freestanding construction with aluminum poles that above the upper body and feet. The thing that makes this so much like a regular tent is the double-walled design. There is a separate rain fly that pulls over a tent primarily made of no-see-um mesh. The bottom of the tent is sealed with waterproof PU nylon, so it will keep you dry without the need for a footprint. The double-wall design of this single-person tent makes it far more versatile than some other bivy tents on this list. If it’s warm, leave the rain fly off and get full ventilation under the stars. With the rain fly, however, this tent is warm, dry, and comfortable. With a winter rated sleeping bag, this bivy tent would likely keep you comfortable in early winter conditions. There is a cost to all this weather flexibility, however, as this tent weighs in at around three pounds packed weight. This could be cut down but leaving out some of the eleven aluminum stakes or swapping them for something lighter like titanium.
This bivy tent currently retails on Amazon.com for around $90.
Excellent double-wall construction makes this a versatile freestanding tent for one.
This tent will keep you comfortable in any conditions from muggy summer nights through early winter flurries.
It’s heavy but super versatile.
Winterial offers a one-year warranty but also a 30-day satisfaction guarantee.
A bivy bag or tent can be the perfect addition to your quiver of gear when the time comes to strike out solo. As we’ve seen in this article, there are a number of different styles that cover a wide range of features and price points. For those looking to go ultralight, a bivy bag is probably the best option. These shelters will give you comfort and protection without any tent poles, but they tend to sacrifice some creature comforts.
Bivy tents on the other hand usually offer a little more space and better weather protection at the cost of more weight. Choosing between the two depends on your level of comfort, weight tolerance, and budget. Fortunately these days there are options available for the first time soloist, the hardcore veteran, and everyone in between.
The Bottom Line: For the price, we think the Tennier Woodland Waterproof bivy bag is nearly impossible to beat. This bivy bag gives professional grade weather protection and durability at a price that even absolute beginners can justify. With premium features like Gore-Tex and high denier nylons, this bag will not only keep your sleeping bag dry but hold up over years of storage in the offseason.
This bag is definitely not the choice for someone who needs ultralight gear for long distance journeys. That said, we think it’s a great option for most other solo backpackers. Our rationale here is that solo trips tend to be shorter for the average hiker. For a few nights out solo, the added weight of this bag is more than worth it for the comfort and excellent quality. Even long distance trekkers may find this bag appealing as a spare or cool weather choice for shorter missions.
Overall Rating: 5 Stars