Hiking Gear: Tent or Bivy Sack

132_3260-Bivy-SackAs I continue to make plans for a long distance backpacking trip on the AT I am searching for gear that is quality, lightweight and fits my budget. Recently I have been researching whether to purchase a tent or bivy sack. I’m still trying to decide as there are some concerns about the bivy sack such as having room to change clothes in bad weather and heavy rains.

Thanks to backcountry.com for their help. They gave me great insight on the difference between tent backpacking versus bivy sacks.

So what is your preference, tent or bivy sack? Do you have a bivy sack and if so what are your thoughts on using them? If you prefer tents which ones do you recommend or use? I would love your input and feedback so comment below and let’s get a conversation going.

Tent or Bivy Sack? Which is your choice?


10 thoughts on “Hiking Gear: Tent or Bivy Sack

    1. I’ve looked at the MSR Hubba 1 person and leaning towards that choice, but wanted to get some input on bivy sacks. I’m still not sold on them do to room and how they stand up to bad weather.

  1. Similarly, I spent weeks contemplating hammock vs. tent. Personally, I think I’d need more room than a bivy sack but I know people who just love them. A tent can become a bit more of your home on the Trail, and provide a bit more protection in bad weather. I imagine some sort of ground covering is key for rainy nights in a bivy sack, but I think they’d be okay. I’d try to get some perspective from other thru-hikers (logs, journals, blogs?) who have used a bivy sack – unlike a weekend warrior, the AT is 5-6 months of living with what’s on your back. That swayed me from a hammock. Also think about personal habits/preferences. I’d like to keep my pack with me in my tent, some people don’t care. Good luck researching/deciding!

  2. A bivy sack may or may not offer complete protection from the elements. Depends on the bivy sack, obviously. And of course the ones that will keep you dry and out of the wind are going to weigh more, as well as being more expensive. I say that because weight is really the main reason to go with a bivy over a tent, unless you’re doing big wall rock climbing where you’ll sleep on very narrow ledges … but that’s not the AT.

    I’ve been using a Big Agnes Seedhouse UL-1 backpacking tent for a while now. It weights 2.2 (?) pounds, and cost about $250. It’s big enough to change clothes, and at 6’1″ I can fit inside with plenty of gear beside me, but if you’re any taller it will be cramped. Also, the tent sets up very quickly and easily, which is really nice. It’s drawback is that in very strong wind, a draft can get in under the rain fly. On the other hand, it’s kept me perfectly dry in the rain. And it’s very small when packed down.

    I assume whatever you get, you’ll put it to some use well before you set out on a long hike. Backcountry.com has a great return policy, so if you make the wrong call, they’ll give you your money back.

    1. PS – I’m not sure if it’s tacky to link to a photo in a comment or not, and I won’t be offended if you delete this. But in the interest of trying to be helpful, here are two photos of the tent I’m using and would recommend, the BA Seedhouse UL-1.

      Snow Lake (Enchantment Lakes, Alpine Lakes Wilderness)

      Barney’s Rubble (Icicle Canyon)

      The first shot came from a 3 day, 30 mile trip into the Enchantments. I think I gained about 7,000 feet of elevation, and the majority of it was carrying the tent, plus my sleeping bag, air mat, food, stove, and, well, everything else. The second one was a few hundred yards from the car, it’s at the top of a cliff I spent the day climbing and rappelling.

  3. I spent a lot of time trying to decide this one too! And bought a book on Bivvying just to see what’s involved. I like the concept of a Bivvy, but in the Uk I don’t think it is practical due to the rain. I mean, how does one get into and out of a bivvy when one is covered in mud and soaking wet?

    In the end I bought an Akto Tent. Some Bivvy and Tarp combos weigh as much as the tent so there isn’t much to gain in terms of what is being carried.

    For me, having now been out in some pretty dire weather, the ability to cook and eat under cover and have a place out of the wind means that I’m pretty sure the tent was the right option!

    1. I agree, hiking the east coast of the US along the AT had it’s rainy seasons. A tent just seems more suitable. After hiking in soaking rain I’d like to have a dry space for changing into something warm and dry.

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