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Tents and bivvys are both great at providing shelter when you’re out in the wild, but they’re still radically different when it comes to level of comfort, convenience, weight, size, and much more.

If you’re wondering what fits you best and want to learn the major advantages and disadvantages between tents and bivvys, you’ve come to the right place.

Tents – convenient and comfortable

Orange and gray tunnel tent with multiple rooms

A tent is typically made up of multiple sheets of special fabric, making it both waterproof and breathable at the same time. They have an internal frame made out of fiberglass, metal, or similar flexible materials, making them able to stand on their own with no support.

Depending on the capacity, tents can accommodate a larger group of people as well as keeping the equipment nice and dry.

Advantages of using a tent:

  • More space equals better comfort.
  • It is economical in the sense that you only have to use one tent to fit two or more people inside.
  • Tents can be quite lightweight, depending on the design.
  • It keeps you dry throughout the night in most weather.
  • It keeps the bugs out.
  • Tents usually have ample storage space.

Disadvantages of using a tent:

  • A tent is much bulkier and heavier to carry than bivvy bags.
  • It requires more space to set up.
  • It isn’t as discrete as a bivvy.
  • It is usually more expensive than bivvys.

Also read: The Best Type of TentThe Best Backpacking Tent for Heavy RainThe Best Tent for Full Time Living

Bivvys – lightweight and simple

Camouflage bivvy sack

Also known as bivouac sack, bivvys were invented out of the necessity for mountaineers who needed a lightweight shelter to keep them warm throughout the night.

The best way to describe a bivvy, is that it’s basically a weatherproof sleeping bag, just big enough to fit one person.

So, if you’re backpacking through the backcountry, a bivvy bag is a great choice. Not all models protect you from bugs though, and they only provide a limited level of comfort.

Advantages of using a bivvy:

  • Very easy to set up, fold, and carry.
  • Great for mountaineers and hikers.
  • Super lightweight.
  • Just enough space for one person.
  • Very discrete.
  • Works well as an emergency shelter too.

Disadvantages of using a bivvy:

  • Some models do not cover your face.
  • They don’t do well with heavy snowfall.
  • You cannot store much equipment inside.
  • Only suitable for sleeping.

Factors to consider

Let’s take a look at some necessary features, that are important to consider regarding the tents vs. bivvy question, and see how they compare in performance to each other as well as meeting the needs of the user.

1. Comfort

Considering that dampness is a problem when it comes to bivvy shelters, although there are actually some models that are built with materials that enables some ventilation. The thing is, the price goes up too. Compared to a tent, a bivvy is made for just one person to use, meaning it doesn’t allow for storage and other things.

In bad weather, tents are a lot more stable and comfortable. As with tents, you can sit down and do other things in it. Bivvy bags on the other hand, don’t work for anything but to sleep in them. Although bivvys warm up faster, when it comes to movement they are still less comfortable compared to larger tents.

If you’re looking for comfort, tents are clearly winning because of their size and shape.

2. Convenience

If stealth is necessary for a hiker, a bivvy bag is the way to go. Setting it up is quick and it packs up even quicker. These features come in handy if you want to keep your presence at a minimum, and just want somewhere warm and dry to sleep for the night.

A tent would need adequate space and probably some soil to drive the pegs into, a bivvy sack can be laid out almost anywhere like a ledge, or even a rock surface. However, a bivvy also needs to be routinely dried every 2-3 days, which makes it less convenient if you’re planning on hiking a lot for multiple days at a time.

If you’re in the backcountry with no space to set up a tent, the bivvy bag is a great idea. Convenience-wise it wins because of how easy it is to set up, but given the fact that it needs a bit of time to dry every once in a while and doesn’t provide space for equipment, the tent should be considered as well.

3. Size, shape, and weight

Whether you’re a biker, a hiker, or perhaps a kayaker, you’d want to cut down on the amount of equipment you bring along.

You don’t want to be weighed down by a heavy tent that takes up half of your backpack space, because you still need to pack food, water, cooking equipment, changing clothes, and everything else on top of your shelter.

When it comes to size, shape, and weight, the bivvy bag is a clear winner. It packs down to almost nothing, taking no more space than a regular bottle of water.

4. Cost

When it comes down to cost, things get a little weird. Bivvy bags sell from anywhere between a few bucks and all the way up to hundreds of dollars, and it all comes down to your needs and preferences.

Tents are usually cheaper for what you get, and if price matters the most, a tent will definitely give you the best bang for your buck.

You need to think of it this way: Tents usually offer space for more than one person, whereas the bivvy bag only sleeps one. And while most people are usually travelling in a small or large group, you can share the cost by getting a larger tent instead of multiple bivvy bags.

Conclusion:

So, what have we learnt while researching for this article?

When comparing tents with bivvys, we discovered a lot of differences, making them great for multiple purposes.

Here’s our conclusion.

Tents:

Best choice for anyone who wants a higher level of comfort, keeps you dry in all types of weather, but isn’t as lightweight as the bivvy bag.

Bivvy bags:

Great for mountaineering and stealth camping in nature, very lightweight and easy to pack in any backpack, not as comfortable as a tent though.

Editor’s notes

These are some of the sources we’ve included in our research:

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