Pros and Cons: 1-Person Tent vs. Bivy Sack

1-Person Tent vs. Bivy Sack: A lightweight backpacker hiking on a North American trail

In this post, we'll take a look at:

When it comes to ultralight camping, there’s an important choice to make: should you go for a 1-person tent or a bivy sack?

These two options offer unique pros and cons, and in this post, we’ll explore them to help you decide which one suits your adventure style best.

1-Person Tents: A Closer Look

1-Person Tent vs. Bivy Sack: An ultralight 1-person tent pitched in a mountain range

1-person tents, just like any gear, have their strengths and weaknesses, especially when you compare them to something as different as a bivy sack.

1-Person Tents: Pros

  1. Protection from the Elements: Most 1-person tents offer reliable protection from the elements. They shield you from rain, wind, and insects, ensuring a comfortable night’s sleep. Plus, they provide a secure space for your gear.
  2. Condensation Management: While it’s common for 1-person tents to accumulate some condensation, managing it is typically easier than with bivys.
  3. Privacy: For solo campers seeking privacy, 1-person tents are ideal. They provide a personal space for changing, reading, or relaxing.

1-Person Tents: Cons

  1. Weight: Ultralight tents, like the Zpacks Plex Solo, are super lightweight and compact. But, keep in mind, if you add an extra pole for support or go for a freestanding tent, the weight can be nearly twice that of an ultralight bivy sack.
  2. Setup: Setting up a 1-person tent takes much more time, about 10 minutes from start to finish, which is considerably slower than a bivy sack. Also, tents need more space for setup, unlike bivys.
  3. Cost: While 1-person tents offer many benefits, high-quality lightweight models can be relatively expensive.

Bivy Sacks: A Closer Look

1-Person Tent vs. Bivy Sack: An ultralight bivy sack arranged in a field beside a small hill

Now, let’s take a closer look at bivy sacks. They offer an intriguing option for ultralight camping, but there are serious pros and cons to consider.

Bivy Sacks: Pros

  1. Weight and Portability: Bivy sacks are ultralight and compact, making them an excellent choice for adventurers who prioritize traveling light. You can find models that weigh around <1-1.5 lbs (<450-680g).
  2. Quick Shelter Setup: Setting up a bivy sack is a breeze. You can have your sleeping quarters ready within minutes. This is always valued after a long hike.
  3. Relatively Stealth: Bivy sacks are ideal for campers who want to remain inconspicuous in the wilderness. However, a 1-person tent in neutral colors can somewhat achieve the same effect.

Bivy Sacks: Cons

  1. Cramped Quarters: Bivy sacks, by nature, provide limited interior space. If you prefer room to spread out or need extra storage space for your gear, you may find a bivy somewhat confining.
  2. Protection from the Elements: Although they have a simple design, bivy sacks offer sufficient protection from outdoor elements like rain, wind, and insects. However, in really tough conditions, I’d prefer a tent since they are designed to handle heavy rain more effectively.
  3. Condensation Challenges: Due to their smaller size, bivy sacks are more prone to condensation than tents. Effectively managing this condensation buildup requires a well-thought-out plan, which you can learn more about here.

Decision Time: 1-Person Tent vs. Bivy Sack

Now that we’ve explored the pros and cons of both options, it’s time to make an informed decision. Consider the following factors to help you choose the shelter that best suits you:

Trip Duration:

  • For Short Trips (1-2 nights): If you’re planning quick getaways, both 1-person tents and bivy sacks can work well.
  • For Prolonged Trips: For multi-day camping trips, a 1-person tent will provide the necessary comfort and space for extended wilderness stays.

Terrain and Weather:

  • Fair Weather: In mild and predictable weather, a bivy sack can be a fantastic ultralight choice. Its minimalist design shines in these situations.
  • Harsh Conditions: In challenging weather (heavy rain, snow, strong winds), choose a 1-person tent for superior protection and comfort.

Ultimately, bivy sacks work well for short trips in fair weather, lightening your backpack load. But, if you expect rain, a bivy might not be the best pick.

You can reduce the risk by bringing an extra tarp for campsite protection, but yet again it adds weight. However, it’s worth considering if you plan to share the tarp with a friend and both of you can fit beneath it.

Final Thoughts

Ultimately, the choice between a 1-person tent and a bivy sack hinges on your personal camping philosophy and the specific demands of your outdoor excursions.

In our opinion, if you want an extremely light backpack and are going on a short trip with good weather, go for a bivy sack. If you want a versatile shelter for different trips, choose a 1-person tent.

If you’re still unsure about whether to make the leap into bivy sacks, we recommend checking out Ronald Turnbull’s book, ‘The Book of the Bivvy,’ for a closer look into the world of bivy enthusiasts.

Interested in an ultralight shelter? Check out our TOP 5 guides that cover the lightest shelters on the planet.


Why use a bivvy and not a tent?

Opt for a bivvy over a tent when prioritizing minimalism, low weight, and quick setup in your outdoor adventures. Bivvies offer unique advantages for lightweight and spontaneous camping.

What is the disadvantage of a bivy tent?

The main disadvantage of a bivy tent is its potential for condensation buildup, which can affect comfort during your camping experience. Unlike tents, bivvies offer limited ventilation, leading to moisture accumulation.

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