What Is The Difference Between A Bivvy And A Tent?

Bivy vs tent pros and cons

Unless you are very into outdoor activities that require you to sleep outside in the wilderness then it is possible that you do not know what a bivvy is.

What Is a Bivvy?

To put it short, a bivvy (or bivvy bag) is much like a tent but weighs a lot less and essentially acts as a waterproof ceiling for your sleeping bag. 

The Difference Between A Bivvy And A Tent?

They come in two main designs:

  1. Those with a structure such as a hoop to keep it suspended above you
  1. And those that do not have structure

It can be a good call when you are first adjusting from using tents to bivvys to use one with a structure as it mimics the space that a tent provides more effectively. 

They are usually made of nylon, which is lightweight and waterproof, the perfect material to help battle the elements in as you sleep.

The top of the bivvy is also breathable which is a great advantage especially if you go for the structureless design. It slips easily around your sleeping mat and sleeping bag.

Bivvy set up

There is ample space below the head area where you can put clothes or pillows in to add support and comfort or if you just like the idea of a convenient place to store your belongings. 

Unlike a tent, you do not have to hunt for that flat, perfect piece of ground to pitch on:

  • With the bivvy you can roll it out like a standard sleeping bag and sleep however you like whether it’s on an incline, sideways, or even tied to a tree with the loop on the top of the bivvy – the choice is yours!
  • The bivvy was primarily made for camping in the snow, mountains, and alpine environments so you also don’t have to worry about the ground being soft enough for the tent pegs to be secured so you are much less limited to what kind of terrain you can camp on. 

It is common sense to anyone that when you are camping in these harsh environments, it is of utmost importance that you are kept warm and sheltered.

The bivvy does just that by not only keeping your whole body warm but being so light and small gives you a lot more room to pack additional coats and socks. 

As you enjoy the stars in the night sky, there is a good chance that you are also accompanied by insects that bite. Since your face is exposed to this, having insect repellent on hand to rub on your face could be the difference between good sleep and no sleep.

What is the difference between a bivvy and a tent

You can also get a separate mesh layer that you can zip onto the bivvy in order to keep the bugs at bay. 

When in an emergency, grab a bivvy because they are easy to shove in a small bag, set up, and roll up again.

You do not have to worry about making sure you have all the poles and enough space like you would if you grabbed the tent instead. 

The bivvy bag is a great invention and after reading this, you may be wanting to pick up one yourself and bin your tent on the way but step on the brakes a bit there because there are things that a tent can offer that a bivvy cannot. 

What is a Tent?

A tent is a shelter made out of materials such as cloth and nylon that can be rolled up and taken with you.

They have been around much longer than bivvys have and are more likely to be found in a standard household’s storage closet.

It can be a bit of a hassle to set up a tent with all the poles and elastic but once it is up, the camping trip truly begins. 

You may not have a perfect view of the night sky as you lie down at night but if it rains you will not feel a drop of it unlike if you were in a bivvy, especially if the rainfall is heavy.

There is also no privacy in a bivvy as you cannot get changed in and out of clothes without having to stand up which can be a bit tricky to wriggle out of especially if you are in a rush, whereas if you are in a tent you just need to zip and unzip the door flap.

Furthermore, It’s private you don’t have to stand in the wind and rain as you try to pull on your socks. 

Bivvy Vs Tent

Weather can be unpredictable when you are going for hikes and it can be horrible being caught in a storm in nothing but a bivvy when you could be more sheltered in a tent where you can also wait out the storm by reading or cooking.

Bivvy vs tent explained

However, in a bivvy:

  • You have no choice but to bundle up and endure it.
  • Seeing as the bivvy is a big sleeping bag, there is a lot less space for anything other than sleeping.

This may be great for many campers but if you suffer from claustrophobia it might just be too much of a tight squeeze. However, when you are not sleeping, a bivvy is flexible enough for you to sit up and eat or drink.

They come in different sizes so:

  • If you prefer something with extra volume to allow you to move about a bit inside then you can opt for an XL. 
  • If you go for a size that is too small, then you can risk compressing the sleeping bag’s filling and thus reducing its insulation. 

When it comes to price, you will find yourself spending less on a bivvy than on a tent.

You do get less fabric and privacy but it is exchanged for convenience and warmth.

If you are still not sure about committing to the bivvy lifestyle then you can pick up a cheaper one and give it a trial run in the great outdoors.

Or perhaps you’d like to settle for the best of both worlds and sleep in a warm biffy under the sturdy ceiling of a tent.

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