What’s It Like to Sleep in a Bivy Bag ?

It’s interesting !

With no success from posting my requests to borrow someone’s bivy sack- via blog, Facebook, Twitter I finally bought my own.  I have been intrigued about ditching my tent for certain brief outdoor overnights.  You’ve read about my keen interest in following up some of the ideas of the most interesting book Microadventures, by Alistair Humphreys.

photo 4Humphreys includes a chapter entitled The Glorious Bivy Bag, where he extolls the benefits of sleeping on the ground, inside your bivy sack.  I did a little research and found a huge price difference in what is essentially a sleeping bag raincoat.  You can spend close to $250 for a top of the line model.  I went for the bottom of the line, and selected  a $58 (with shipping) bag on Amazon.

Here’s the bag- it’s advertised as “Waterproof GORE-TEX© Bivy Cover is produced utilizing waterproof, moisture-vapor-permeable material with all seams heat sealed.”  It weighs 2 pounds, 3 ounces.


General Lee and I launched our impromptu overnight in the woods by throwing  minimal kits together.  I packed just a headlamp, sleeping bag, pad, quart of water, axe, lighter and my pack on my back. We hopped in the car after supper and before it was dark and left the car in the Stevens Corner lot .  We made quick work of walking up the Multipurpose Road, taking a left at the Frohock Trailhead, then veering up to the backside of Bald Rock Mountain.

We had originally planned to sleep right on top, up at 1100 feet, but that idea got ditched when we experienced the refrigerator wind flowing up the rock face overlooking Penobscot Bay.

Fogbank moving in
Fogbank moving in

We located a flat area between the dilapidated lean-to and the rock ledge leading up to the top where we laid out our sleeping pads and bags.  Lee was going pure cowboy, but I put my bag inside the bivy sack and rested that combo on top of my Neo-air mattress.

My set up with Lee in the background
My set up with Lee in the background

I  had planned to start a warming fire, but when the real dark hit at around 9 PM, we headed right  into the bags anticipating a great undisturbed night of open air sleep.

How did it go?

The thick fog was so laded with water that when I awoke in the night to pee, it sounded like it was raining.  It wasn’t rain. It was the accumulated fog drops falling off the tree branches overhead onto the ground.

This was a good initial test of the bivy sack.  While the cover of my bivy was absolutely soaked with water, the outer cover of my down bag was barely damp. I liked the big teeth of the heavy duty zipper that extended half way down the bag.  This bivy is huge.  I did not cinch the drawstring at the top of the bivy, but did extend the ample hood over my head.  It’s definitely good to be wearing a head cover- I had on a wool hoodie, so put that over my head for warmth.  One thing to think about when sleeping out in a bivy is what to do with all the gear you have with you.  If it’s great weather, you just put your stuff in your pack and let the whole package just sit there overnight.  But if it rains, or the trees are dripping water all night, you want that gear to be dry.  None of this matters much if you are just dirt bagging it for a night then packing up and going home, but if you are out for more than one night, you’d better be packing a large waterproof bag to put your gear in.

Humphreys admits that the bivy is sort of silly, but it’s fun if the weather and the bugs cooperate.  I think he’s right in that, ” When inside a tent, you are basically in a rubbish version of indoors.” If rain were predicted, I would not be choosing the bivy- I’d pack my tent which weighs the same.

We were up at 5 for the 5:08 AM sunrise, which was just a thin orange band sandwiched between grey washes of clouds.

I’m looking forward to spending my next night within my new bivy, soon.

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