A Look At The Two Sides Of The Bivy Vs. Tent Argument

A question that is often asked in camping circles concerns the relative pros and cons of taking a bivy or a tent on a camping trip. There are good arguments for both and each style of camping has passionate devotees and detractors.

Here, I’m going to have a quick look at the arguments on both sides of the bivy vs. tent debate to see if there are strong arguments for one being objectively better than the other or it just comes down to a matter of taste or circumstances.

A Look At The Two Sides Of The Bivy Vs. Tent Argument


Yellow Bivy Sack For Minimalist Solo Expedition Camping

A Yellow Bivy Sack With Mosquito Net And Foam Sleeping Pad Inside

A bivy is basically an outer shell that you put around your sleeping bag. The most important thing is that your bivy is waterproof so it will offer protection from the rain. A standard bivy will also offer you a few degrees of extra warmth as well as protecting against wind-chill.


The main advantage a bivy offers you is that it is extremely lightweight and can weigh as little as around 10oz or less. It also packs down very small. The other big advantage it offers is that it is extremely quick and easy to set up or put away.

When using a bivy, it can be easier to find a place to sleep as you don’t necessarily need to be on flat ground like with a tent and you can also sleep somewhere that would be too small for a tent. This means using a bivy can open up areas unavailable to traditional tent campers.


The biggest disadvantage associated with sleeping in a bivy is that it traps moisture and the condensation means you can wake up damp. You also need to leave a hole open to breathe through which means bugs can get in. Bivies can also be quite claustrophobic to sleep in.


A Camping Tent Near Canyon

Tents come in all shapes and sizes and there are some ultra-lightweight summer tents that can be not so much bigger or heavier than a bivy. Some solo tents can also be very simple to assemble but not even the easiest can match a bivy for ease of use.


Tents naturally offer more comfort and space than a bivy. They protect you more from the elements and if you are caught in a heavy storm, it’s much better to be in a tent than a bivy because in a bivy you will basically have to remain immobile until the bad weather passes.

Tents are better ventilated than bivies. They normally have two layers so the moisture from your body is able to pass through the inner tent and condenses on the rainfly meaning you won’t wake up damp. This means you won’t have to dry everything out every day or two like with a bivy.


The negatives related to tents are the increased weight, longer setup time and the fact that you need to find a suitable spot as a certain amount of space and fairly flat ground are required to pitch a tent. For some, the fact that you are zipped up in a tent and cut off from nature is also a drawback.

Which Is Best

Sleeping in a tent is the best-known form of camping and is suitable for any level and in most conditions. Bivies were originally used as lightweight emergency shelters by climbers and mountaineers and are also popular with minimalist campers.

A Climber Bivouacs Under The Stars On The Side Of Sharkstooth

A Climber Bivouacs In His Lightweight Bivy

Bivies can be good in certain conditions like when you really want to keep weight to a minimum and when the chance of rain is very low. While a bivy can protect you from rain, being inside one when it’s throwing it down is not going to add to the enjoyment of your trip.

Camping Tent On Snow In The Mountains

A Tent Is A Great Choice If You Have Enough Space For Setup

Tents are good in just about any situation but are definitely better than bivies if you’re expecting lots of rain or if you simply value a bit of comfort over the chance to cut down on just a few pounds or ounces of weight in your backpack.

The smart camper has more than one string to his or her bow, is familiar with different styles and techniques of camping and knows the suitable choice in any given situation. It isn’t simply a case of one being better than the other so think about your specific trip before you decide.


While some dedicated minimalists will always prefer a bivy as it offers you a lighter and simpler solution at the expense of comfort, which for some is a fair trade off, I think the best advice is to think about the conditions before deciding.

Sleeping in a bivy in the right conditions can be a liberating experience, bringing you closer to nature and really allowing you to sleep under the stars. However, when the rain is falling in sheets and you’re all alone in the wilderness, I know which one I’d rather be sheltering in.

What’s your opinion? Do you agree with me that you should choose the best setup for your trip or do you always stick to one or the other whatever the conditions? What are your experiences? Leave me your comments to let me know your thoughts – and if you enjoyed my article, don’t forget to share!

Julie McClain

Chief editor here at Outdoorzer. I'm an outdoor lover and ever since I was a little girl, I've worked hard to learn all I could from my Dad about Camping, Hiking, RVs and surviving in the woods.

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