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Bivvy vs. tent while bikepacking

Old 08-20-21, 06:18 AM
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rbrides
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Bivvy vs. tent while bikepacking

I'm considering using a bivvy for the first time on a 4 day bikepacking trip into wilderness territory, no stores, no support. If you have firsthand experience with both tents and bivvies and care to opine on the +/- of the bivvy, I welcome your comments. I've read plenty for articles and weblinks but, hey, I respect all you folks here on bikeforums and your input. Unless I replace my tent with a very expensive new tent, the bivvy obviously packs smaller, is lighter, is a tighter fit for a nights sleep and doesn't cover/protect gear. If you have experience using one, were those conditions problematic on your trips? Other concerns?
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Old 08-20-21, 06:27 AM
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I used a bivvy on the Trans Am Bike Race. If you are only sleeping several hours, who cares. If you are spending 12 hours in the rain? Give me my light tent. I did a tour once where it rained every day for a month with over a meter of rain, it would not have been possible w/o a good tent.

If the weather forecast is good, a bivvy or even cowboy camping is fine. 4 days is very short, so, the risks are low. I would try the bivvy if forecast is decent. My light dyneema tent isn't alot heavier than a decent bivvy but tons more money.

For me it is that simple.
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Old 08-20-21, 07:18 AM
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I like to use a hoopless bivy and a light tarp. I don't see any point in the heavier hooped bivies. I like something like my Borah Side zipper ultralight bivy (7 ounces) or if it is hot my Ti Goat Ptramigan Bug Bivy (5.3 ounces). I have usually paired them with a Integral Designas Siltarp 1 (7 ounces) plus some light cords and a few needle stakes but I decided to splurge on a bit more coverage and bought a Sea2Summit Escapist M 6'6" x 8'6" (12.3 ounces) that I take when I want a bit more covered space.

I often cowboy camp on top of the bivy and climb in if conditions require it. If rain seem very unlikely I'll often take a chance and not pitch the tarp. In that case I keep it handy and pull it over me and my gear if a surprise shower pops up.

I decided that I really don't care for the heavier bivies and would take a one man tent rather than go that route, but most of the time for both touring and backpacking I do use the ul bivy and tarp. Maybe because I try to go when/where the weather won't be consistently bad. I may need to tough out a few bad days, but really have never had to deal with a week or rain on a bike trip. To be honest if I did I'd wimp out and get a room at least now and then if not more often. I haven't had to do that too much, but on road tours it is generally an option. I have had whole canoe trips that were rain the whole time, but I always took a tent on those. If I were to tour when consistantly bad weather was expected I might take the tent instead, but really I don't spend much time in the bivy or tent other than sleeping or reading. Even when it rains I typically get bored by mid morning at the latest and roll out any way. Riding in the rain isn't bad IMO. Seriously though I try to plan so that the majority of the trip isn't rainy.

Some of that won't apply to your more remote trip, but I always use the tarp/bivy for backpacking these days.
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Old 08-20-21, 08:00 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
I like to use a hoopless bivy and a light tarp. I don't see any point in the heavier hooped bivies. I like something like my Borah Side zipper ultralight bivy (7 ounces)........

.......Some of that won't apply to your more remote trip, but I always use the tarp/bivy for backpacking these days.
This is similar to my main set-up. I use a Borah bivy and Z-packs hexamid. Together, light and tiny but have weathered some serious storms from snow to hard rain. I also have a bug netting for my Adirondack trips, bugs galore. Lots of folks like the hammock for sleep comfort but I often travel in the SW and sometimes above tree line so a hammock will not work. Like staehpj1 , I carry a tent when canoe, car camping or expecting lots of rain BUT I tend to go elsewhere if heavy rains are forecast.
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Old 08-20-21, 08:15 AM
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My single-wall silnylon Tarptent is so light and simple, I gain nothing by not bringing it along. I rest so much better in it than in a bivvy, it's worth the minimal extra weight and bulk.
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Old 08-20-21, 12:43 PM
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Thanks GhostRider62
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Old 08-20-21, 06:52 PM
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My advice is: If you are to the point in your life where you are no longer superman whom can change in a phone booth laying on its side, then get a tent. If you are capable then get the bivy. The weight savings makes a big difference on bike handling and overall satisfaction. I am to the point of practically needing a stand up tent.
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Old 08-20-21, 07:15 PM
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For me a bivy means condensation and being uncomfortable. With single walled tarptents you also get some condensation, but it is less as you have better ventilation and crucially it isn't in contact with your sleeping bag. Also now that tarptents are so light weight and pack so small I would never use a bivy.
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Old 08-21-21, 04:24 AM
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Originally Posted by nun View Post
For me a bivy means condensation and being uncomfortable. With single walled tarptents you also get some condensation, but it is less as you have better ventilation and crucially it isn't in contact with your sleeping bag.
I'll say a bit on the condensation thing...

First in hot weather when you are using the bug bivy it is pretty much a complete non issue.

With the regular bivy I still have found it manageable. I use a down sleeping bag with a DWR shell with my bivy. I am careful not to turn and breathe with all my breath going into the bivy, but keep the mesh in front of my face. There is a little condensation, but I have not found it to be a big problem. My down bag have never gotten wet enough to be an issue. What moisture I do get is in the form of a little condensation under the sleeping pad down by my feet (easily wiped up) and a few drops beaded up on top of the shell of the sleeping bag that brush off the DWR shell without soaking in. If it wasn't a DWR shell I still think most of it would brush off and it is little enough that a little airing out and some sun once in a while would handle it.

It helps a lot if you can choose between a regular bivy and a bug bivy depending on the expected temperatures. On really long trips I have often had half of the trip where the other choice (bivy vs bug bivy) would have been better,l but it was never a show stopper. On a long enough tour I could have had the other one mailed to me if it were a big enough deal. Also if it isn't buggy and is warm you really don't need to be in the bivy. I'd rather cowboy camp when it is nice any way.

The only time the bivy ever got really kind of miserable was when it was really hot and buggy. If you expect that kind of conditions take the bug bivy. Worst case you could take both. I never have, but my bug bivy only weighs 5.3 oubces so it wouldn't be out of the question. I'd be more likely to choose thr more suitble one for the first half of a long tour and switch mid trip if needed. I could see using the USPS to swap in Pueblo on the Trans America for example.
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Old 08-21-21, 04:48 AM
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I have no experience with a bivy, but if I was going on a trip where I was going to be awake for no more than five minutes each day inside of the bivy, I would consider it. But I do not anticipate every doing the tour divide race, my schedule is more relaxed. I am going to spend more waking hours in the tent.

Rain and other things happen, and I would rather have a tent.

I have been using tents for the past half decade that are ultra light single wall ones that are designed to be set up with trekking poles. Bicycling, I do not carry trekking poles, so I cut some tent poles to use instead of trekking poles. Single wall ones have more condensation, but if you are comparing to a bivy, condensation is likely assumed.

Yes tents cost more, the vast majority of my camping gear including tents were bought on sale or from a discount internet seller. I often buy stuff months ahead of time if I see a good price.
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Old 08-28-21, 07:54 PM
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I did a bivy on my 2005 tour and a tent on my 2016 tour. The thing I have against a bivy is if for some reason, the weather keeps you in the bivy, it gets really old, really quick while in a tent, you can at least sit up, stretch around etc But packing wise and stealth camping, you can't beat a bivy. Also, when having to use the fly, a bivy also gets condensation real quick, but when you don't have to use the fly, it's a great view.
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Old 08-28-21, 09:56 PM
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I prefer my Hennessy hammock for sleeping and relaxing, but also use a bug bivy for when I have to be on the ground, and there are too many bugs to cowboy. Both can use the same tarp.
If I had to bring both, my load would still be smaller than many small tents.
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Old 08-29-21, 05:00 AM
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Originally Posted by Swampthing View Post
I prefer my Hennessy hammock for sleeping and relaxing, but also use a bug bivy for when I have to be on the ground, and there are too many bugs to cowboy. Both can use the same tarp.
If I had to bring both, my load would still be smaller than many small tents.
My bug bivy only add 5.3 ounces so I can see that, but can't you just use the Hennessy on the ground like a bivy when you are sleeping on the ground and need bug protection?
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Old 08-29-21, 09:02 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
My bug bivy only add 5.3 ounces so I can see that, but can't you just use the Hennessy on the ground like a bivy when you are sleeping on the ground and need bug protection?
I could in a pinch, but the Hennessy is bottom entry so itís awkward.
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Old 08-29-21, 10:18 PM
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I used a hooped bivy a few times and found it tight and uncomfortable. With how light tents are these days, there is almost no difference in weight. Plus, side entry makes a world of difference
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Old 08-30-21, 04:54 AM
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Originally Posted by MarcusT View Post
I used a hooped bivy a few times and found it tight and uncomfortable. With how light tents are these days, there is almost no difference in weight. Plus, side entry makes a world of difference
FWIW, I consider hooped bivy an entirely different animal than the type of bivy I use. The hooped bivy is more of a hybtid bivy/tent or even a tent when compared to something like the Borah Side Zip. It weighs in at 7 ounces and moves with you allowing a freedom of movement that a hooped bivy doesn't. It is an entirely different experience than something like say the OR model that is essentially a tiny tent.

I think they are three entirely different things: envelope bivys, hooped bivys, and tents, but if I had to break it down to two categories, I'd put the hooped bivys in the tent category.
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Old 08-30-21, 04:07 PM
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If rain is not an issue, you could use a head net and gloves, and cowboy camp.
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Old 09-06-21, 09:29 PM
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I agree with most posts in here that tend to suggest a bivvy being OK if the weather is good.

However, keep in mind that being a weather forecaster is the only job you can be wrong 50% of the time and still get paid.

I realize my form of adventuring (bike touring, backpacking, what have you) is not what I think of as the "norm" with small and light loads - I do pack heavier than most, for sure. With that having been said - I have weathered a lot of bad weather in a strong dome tent. The one I have is a Mountain Hardwear Hammerhead 2. It is a cross between a 3 season and 4 season. On my tours last Fall (Oct-Nov '20) I used it all but a few nights. On my northern trek I used it all but 2 nights, I believe. The 2 nights without were my hammock. It also rained nearly the whole trip. I have weathered out some rain in the hammock before. However, the tent is far superior.

As far as bivvy's go - I have some of the cheap SOL bivvys. The insulated one is the better of the ones I have (I think I have 3 of them). It is said to be breathable and "water resistant". I found it to have a lot of condensation. I tried it as extra insulation in my hammock one night and woke up wet. I got out of it in the wee hours of the morning to sleep more comfortably for a few more hours.

My recommendation would be, unless you enjoy suffering and roughing it, get yourself a good sturdy tent and try it out/learn how to set it up a few times close before you embark on a big trip with it. There are a lot of light 2-3 season tents on the market that are very popular options for backpackers and cyclists alike. However, to be very truthful - personally they do not appeal to me what so ever. They will save weight, but I keep going back to the situations I've been hunkered down in my Hammerhead 2 and I've been very grateful of its' protection. It isn't a solid wall framed building on a foundation, but for as floppy as a lot of other tents go - the Hammerhead is substantial and storm proof. Yeah, you pay for it in weight. For me, having been in it through some wild times I would never want a less sturdy tent, should conditions deteriorate.

As always, everyone's mileage differs. I'm sure others out there have rode out some pretty wild weather in bivvys. I'll pass. Give me a real tent.
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Old 09-09-21, 02:46 PM
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I don't do well sleeping on the ground more than 1 night. I love my Hennessy Hammock, but have though about trying a hooped hammock that will be easier to bivy if neccessary.
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Old 09-22-21, 11:09 AM
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I got home from a backpacking trip a few days ago. Almost two weeks on Superior Hiking Trail in Northern Minnesota. I tried a new tent on that trip, probably about as close as you can get to a bivy and still being a tent you can sit up inside.

I am not sure who was the first company to design a tent like this, but the first time I saw one on my computer screen was from Six Moons.
https://www.sixmoondesigns.com/colle...schutes-bundle

And two years ago I saw one like that at a campground I was staying at, the gal that owned it said it was the first trip that she had ever used it, so far she was very happy with it. She got one on Ebay (Canada), shipped from Asia that was the same design as the Six Moons version that I cited above.

I decided to buy one (the Asian lower cost version). I had no idea if I would like it and I am almost six feet tall, so I was concerned it would be too short. So, I had it in my truck to try out for one night, did not want to roll the dice and use it every night on an almost two week trip if it was not a good tent for me. It was a little cramped, but I think I will use this in the future on some backpacking trips.

There is no pole included, it was designed for backpacking where you likely have trekking poles, not designed for bike trips. You use one trekking pole to set it up. I cut a pole for mine, so there is a pole in my second photo, I have a trekking pole in my first photo.





I am not saying this is the right tent for everyone, but if you are searching for an ultra light tent, this might work. But if you are over six foot, you should probably avoid the Asian version. The on-line reviews I saw on line said there were two spots that needed seam sealing, I sealed those before my trip. And it rained on my trip so I was glad I did that.

If you get one, I would suggest upgrading some of the tent stakes. The most critical stake is the one that is closest to the camera in my photos, you want a really good tent stake there.

I packed some good stakes with mine, I also use a plastic sheet cut from a heavy duty shopping bag for a ground sheet, with those items and the pole that I cut for mine the package weighs 1,325 grams.

I got mine on Ebay over a year ago, but I saw it cheaper than I paid at Amazon as I write this:
https://www.amazon.com/Ultralight-3-...dp/B08XW5SJ25/

Please note that I only used mine for one night. So, do not consider this a glowing review, I just can't say much about it with that limited amount of use. But I will likely use it again on backpacking trips. Bike trips, I use four panniers and I want more interior space so this will not go on any of my bike trips.

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Old 09-22-21, 12:41 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I am not saying this is the right tent for everyone, but if you are searching for an ultra light tent, this might work. But if you are over six foot, you should probably avoid the Asian version. The on-line reviews I saw on line said there were two spots that needed seam sealing, I sealed those before my trip. And it rained on my trip so I was glad I did that.
....
Please note that I only used mine for one night. So, do not consider this a glowing review, I just can't say much about it with that limited amount of use. But I will likely use it again on backpacking trips. Bike trips, I use four panniers and I want more interior space so this will not go on any of my bike trips.
I've looked at some tents like that. I'd be curious what your impressions are after longer use.

Do you have any more comments of the air flow and if you got any mist blowing thru from the rain? I see the big vent at the peak and would be curious of any risk of wind-driven rain through the bottoms of the fly - it doesn't look like the fly goes all the way to the ground.
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Old 09-22-21, 01:51 PM
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I think bivy's have a place. On a quick tour with long days and cooler weather with no precipitation, I'd bring a bivy in a heartbeat. If it's rainy or you plan to spend time in camp, a tent is a must IMO. There's no right way or wrong way. A bivy and a tent are both tools to get the experience you want.
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Old 09-22-21, 01:53 PM
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I have used only a ground cloth over the years. If there was morning dew or rain or sap if under trees, then I could put part of it over the sleeping bag. The only advantage of a tent is being able to keep food inside, assuming you are not in bear country. I had an elk eat through my pannier to get at some granola I had inside which was most unexpected.
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Old 09-22-21, 03:47 PM
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Originally Posted by KC8QVO View Post
I've looked at some tents like that. I'd be curious what your impressions are after longer use.

Do you have any more comments of the air flow and if you got any mist blowing thru from the rain? I see the big vent at the peak and would be curious of any risk of wind-driven rain through the bottoms of the fly - it doesn't look like the fly goes all the way to the ground.
I did not notice any wind blown rain coming in, top or bottom. The fly height above ground could be adjusted slightly by changing how close the fly is to the tent stake.
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Old 09-22-21, 09:22 PM
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Originally Posted by Tourist in MSN View Post
I got home from a backpacking trip a few days ago. Almost two weeks on Superior Hiking Trail in Northern Minnesota. I tried a new tent on that trip, probably about as close as you can get to a bivy and still being a tent you can sit up inside.

I am not sure who was the first company to design a tent like this, but the first time I saw one on my computer screen was from Six Moons.
https://www.sixmoondesigns.com/colle...schutes-bundle

And two years ago I saw one like that at a campground I was staying at, the gal that owned it said it was the first trip that she had ever used it, so far she was very happy with it. She got one on Ebay (Canada), shipped from Asia that was the same design as the Six Moons version that I cited above.

I decided to buy one (the Asian lower cost version). I had no idea if I would like it and I am almost six feet tall, so I was concerned it would be too short. So, I had it in my truck to try out for one night, did not want to roll the dice and use it every night on an almost two week trip if it was not a good tent for me. It was a little cramped, but I think I will use this in the future on some backpacking trips.

There is no pole included, it was designed for backpacking where you likely have trekking poles, not designed for bike trips. You use one trekking pole to set it up. I cut a pole for mine, so there is a pole in my second photo, I have a trekking pole in my first photo.





I am not saying this is the right tent for everyone, but if you are searching for an ultra light tent, this might work. But if you are over six foot, you should probably avoid the Asian version. The on-line reviews I saw on line said there were two spots that needed seam sealing, I sealed those before my trip. And it rained on my trip so I was glad I did that.

If you get one, I would suggest upgrading some of the tent stakes. The most critical stake is the one that is closest to the camera in my photos, you want a really good tent stake there.

I packed some good stakes with mine, I also use a plastic sheet cut from a heavy duty shopping bag for a ground sheet, with those items and the pole that I cut for mine the package weighs 1,325 grams.

I got mine on Ebay over a year ago, but I saw it cheaper than I paid at Amazon as I write this:
https://www.amazon.com/Ultralight-3-...dp/B08XW5SJ25/

Please note that I only used mine for one night. So, do not consider this a glowing review, I just can't say much about it with that limited amount of use. But I will likely use it again on backpacking trips. Bike trips, I use four panniers and I want more interior space so this will not go on any of my bike trips.
I've got the two person version of that Asian tent. Mine's branded Flames Creed. It came with a groundsheet. I've used it for several nights in different terrain on several hiking trips. It works well and is not a bad tent for the price. I have been lucky so far and haven't had it up in stronger winds. It copes with rain fine: the vestibule is quite large so you should be able to get most of your gear out of the way even if it is higher off the ground. It's a bit breezy in cold weather though. You can get straight tent poles for use with those hiking pole tents. I have upgraded the pegs to titanium nail pegs.

I'm 169cm short and on a 9cm air mattress I still have just enough room that my head and sleeping bag foot don't touch the inner, even when sitting up.
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