When sleeping outdoors in the wilderness, many people opt to use a bivi bag – this is often referred to as bivvying. A bivi bag also called a bivouac or bivvy bag in some quarters, is a waterproof bag that is slightly larger than a sleeping bag and can be a lightweight sleep-in option when out camping or backpacking.
Bivi bags are lightweight and very easy to use as they do not have any complicated gears or moving parts to set it up.
Bivi bags can be set up in a matter of minutes and packed up very quickly as well. There are various types of bivi bags on the market with different features, and so, if you want to purchase one, it would be better to know what features to watch out for.
How to use a bivi bag
- Choose a conducive spot to set out your bivi. The spot in question should be flat ground, devoid of sharp objects and should not have a tendency to become waterlogged. The last thing you want is to have stones, sticks, or rocks poking into your back and making you uncomfortable and potentially ripping into your sleep haven. It is also wise to steer clear of both human paths and animal trails.
- Safeguard yourself from sudden weather changes. It makes no sense to go camping and then catch a cold. So you should choose yourself a spot that offers some protection from inclement weather. Spots like these include spots underneath trees, beside stone walls, and large rocks.
- Setting up your bivvy: Bivvy bags are a whole lot easier to set up than tents. Once you have located a convenient spot to set up camp, all you have to do is slide your sleeping mat into the bivi bag. There’s a high chance that your bivi bag will only be large enough to fit you with not much else. So be sure to arrange your gear neatly outside the bag and close to you.
- When you are ready to go to sleep, climb into your bivi bag and pull it over your head. Some bivvies come with zips for closing them up, while others have drawcords or drawstrings. Whatever ‘closing‘ your bivvy uses, you shouldn’t cover it up completely so that you can have air circulating within the bag. The only exception to that would be when it’s raining. Leaving the bivvy partially open would also help reduce condensation in the bag, especially if own a bivi bag that is not breathable type. Some bivvies come with mesh nets beneath the waterproof covering of the head area, allowing them to be left open and not worrying about bugs or insects getting in.
- You could also take along with you a tarp to offer extra protection against the elements, especially if you think it might rain. In the same vein, you could carry along a waterproof bag to put your belongings in, if the bivvy is not big enough to take them.
- Bivvy bags are usually colder than tents. Therefore, it would be best if you take warm clothing along with you, especially if the weather is cold.
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Things to consider before buying a bivi bag.
Is it Waterproof?
First, a bivvy bag should be waterproof. This makes sense since you are going to use the bivvy outdoors. For a bivvy bag to be considered waterproof and survive all but the worst weather conditions, it has to have a hydrostatic head rating (HHH) of at least 10,000mm.
Anything less than that, and you would find that your bivvy would get wet more quickly, a situation which would be most undesirable. It would be best if you also looked for bivvy bags with taped seams. Taped seams are commonly used on waterproof bivvy bags to prevent water from entering into the bivvy bag through the seams. This is accomplished by melting tape over the holes caused by stitching the seams. Taped seams confer more waterproofness on the bag.
Is it Breathable?
When searching for what bivvy bag to purchase, be sure to look out for the breathability level of the bag. The breathability of a bivvy bag is its ability to allow air to pass through it. This feature is essential because it eliminates the feeling of suffocation that would most likely be experienced in the bag if it was not breathable.
Another important reason why you should opt for a very breathable bivvy is the fact that bivvies that are not breathable tend to get soggy or damp. This dampness is caused by the air that is released each time you breathe and the vapour your body releases. If the air remains trapped within the bag, it will lead to condensation and hence, dampness.
As such, you would wake up to a wet bag that would have to be aired out before use again, or you would find it very uncomfortable to sleep in it.
Is it Lightweight?
Look for a bivvy bag that packs small and is lightweight: Your reason for considering a bivvy bag rather than a tent is most likely because you want something you can use in case of emergencies, or you do not want to pack a heavy load. This purpose would be defeated if you were to choose a heavy bivvy bag.
Ensure that you are okay with the weight of the bivvy bag you are purchasing before purchasing it.
Does its Design Work?
Note the design of the bivvy: There are various designs of bivvies on the market. Some have hooped tent poles, some have mesh panels around the head area, and others have none of the two.
Bivvies with hooped tent poles are advantageous in that you can keep the head panel from off your face, plus you get more space in the head area. The ones with mesh panels are also advantageous because, with them, you can keep the waterproof hood of the bag off in warm weather and catch some breeze while still keeping insects off your face.
Does the Bivi Bag fit?
There’s no point buying a bivi bag that will fit a 5-foot person when you are 6 feet tall. So do your checks to make sure that the bivvy bag you choose fits you. It is always best to check if the bivvy you are buying accommodates your body size before buying it.
It is important to check if the bivvy would suit your build and height to avoid ending up with a bivvy that feels too cramped. If possible, consider getting one that is big enough for you to stow your belongings in with you.
Bivvy bags are much cheaper than tents, much lighter and pack down much smaller. They also offer the benefit of keeping you close to nature in a way that tents do not. It is, however, imperative that before settling on the bivi bag for you, you do some research into the types of bivi bags available and ensure that it meets your needs so you can have an excellent bivvying experience.