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Bivy Bags for Touring & Bikepacking

Bicycle Touring and Bikepacking can often mean being in remote locations where traditional accommodation like hotels and guest houses are not available, or keeping costs to a minimum is a priority.

Whilst many people choose a tent, many cyclists choose to use bivy bags, also known as bivouac sacks, as a lightweight and portable option for sleeping outdoors.

Bivy bags are designed to provide protection from the elements while still allowing you to sleep outside. They are typically made of waterproof or water-resistant materials and are easy to set up and take down, making them a popular choice for cyclists who are constantly on the move. They are certainly much easier to put up and take down than many tents. 

Bivy Bags for Cycle Touring

Benefits of using a bivy bag

There are numerous benefits to using a bivy bag while bicycle touring and bikepacking. Here are some of the most significant advantages:

  1. Lightweight and portable: Bivy bags are designed to be lightweight and compact, making them easy to carry on a bicycle. They take up minimal space and can be packed down to a small size, which is ideal for cyclists who need to conserve space. Squeezing one into your panniers or bags shouldn't be an issue.

  2. Protection from the elements: Bivy bags are designed to provide protection from the elements, including rain, wind, and snow. They are typically made of waterproof or water-resistant materials that keep you dry and comfortable. Remember they are not the same as tents and you must setup your bag correctly for a comfortable night under the stars - make sure you follow the instructions!

  3. Greater flexibility: With a bivy bag, you can have more flexibility in terms of where you sleep. They can be set up in remote areas, such as the backcountry or along the side of the road, without needing to find an established campsite.  Find yourself that perfect spot for a great sunset or sunrise and take away to worry of being found. Just follow the usual considerate guidelines for wild camping.

  4. Greater privacy: Bivy bags provide a greater degree of privacy than traditional tents. They are often used by cyclists who want to avoid the crowds and noise of established campsites. Find a spot and lie down - just make sure you are not in someone's back garden!

  5. Lower cost: Bivy bags are typically less expensive than traditional tents, making them a more affordable option if you are on a budget.

 

Bivy Bags for Cycle Touring

 

Drawbacks of using a bivy bag

While there are many benefits to using a bivy bag while cycle touring and bikepacking, there are also some drawbacks to consider. Here are some of the most significant disadvantages:

  1. Limited space: Bivy bags provide limited space to move around in. This can be uncomfortable for larger individuals or those who need more space to feel comfortable while sleeping.  Make sure you read the dimensions before purchasing.

  2. Lack of ventilation: Bivy bags can be hot and stuffy, especially during warmer weather. This lack of ventilation can lead to condensation inside the bag, which can be uncomfortable and lead to a damp sleeping environment. If it is a dry night, let some air into the bag to prevent this.

  3. Incomplete protection from the weather: While bivy bags are designed to provide protection from the elements, they may not provide complete protection from extreme weather conditions. You may need to seek out more substantial shelter during periods of heavy rain or high winds. Perhaps take a tarp with you or find a tree to sleep under to limit rain falling onto you.

  4. Limited use: Bivy bags are best suited for use in moderate to warm weather conditions. They may not provide adequate warmth during colder weather and you may need to supplement your sleeping bag with additional layers. Try your bag somewhere local or even in your garden to get your setup how you like it.

 

Bivy Bags for Cycle Touring

 

Tips for using a bivy bag

If you decide to use a bivy bag while bicycle touring or bikepacking, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your sleeping experience:

  1. Choose a suitable location: When setting up your bivy bag, choose a location that is flat, dry, and free from hazards such as rocks or roots. Avoid setting up your bivy bag in low-lying areas that may flood during heavy rain. Waking up in a pool of water doesn't sound like fun!

  2. Use a sleeping mat: Bivy bags provide little insulation from the cold ground. To stay warm and comfortable, use a sleeping mat to insulate yourself from the ground and provide an extra level of comfort. There are some great lightweight sleeping mats on the market that are perfect for lightweight cycle travel.

  3. Be aware of condensation: Bivy bags can be prone to condensation, especially during warmer weather. To avoid a damp sleeping environment, make sure to choose a location with good ventilation and avoid breathing inside the bag as much as possible - open it up and breath.  You can also use a breathable bivy bag to help reduce the amount of condensation inside the bag.

  4. Choose the right sleeping bag: Make sure to choose a sleeping bag that is appropriate for the weather conditions you will encounter on your bicycle tour. If you will be cycling in colder weather, choose a sleeping bag with a lower temperature rating to ensure you stay warm.

  5. Pack smart: Bivy bags are designed to be compact and lightweight, so pack only what you need. Consider using a compression sack to reduce the size of your sleeping bag and other items.

  6. Practice setting up your bivy bag: Before you hit the road, practice setting up your bivy bag at home to make sure you know how to set it up quickly and efficiently.

Conclusion

Bivy bags are a great option for cyclists who want to explore the outdoors while on a bicycle tour. They are lightweight, portable, and provide protection from the elements while still allowing you to sleep outside. While there are some drawbacks to using a bivy bag, such as limited space and incomplete protection from extreme weather conditions, the benefits outweigh the disadvantages for many cyclists. With proper preparation and planning, using a bivy bag can be an enjoyable and rewarding experience. Don't forget to enjoy the sunsets and sunrises!

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