A question from a reader about using bivi bags on cycle tours rather than a tent:
Having just finished reading about you wild camping in Seoul, I was wondering if you and Laura even bother with tents anymore, or what your rationale is with using bivy sacks instead.
Cheers, and happy trails!
Andrew – Let’s Ride Bikes
Are Bivi Bags Better Than Tents For Cycle Touring?
Thanks for your message. We have a tent and bivi bags.
Our tent is an MSR Hubba Hubba HP which you can use as normal double-walled but also pitch as outer only (cooler and more space) or inner only (cooler and bug protection). It’s about 2kg in total and perfect for cycle touring. (There is a newer version of the tent available now which is 500g lighter: the Hubba Hubba NX).
Our bivi bags are Rab Survival Zone LITEs (full review here). They only weigh 200g so are a negligible addition to size and weight. They are not waterproof but good for protecting the sleeping bags, keeping dew off and wind protection. As an addition to a tent, they are fantastic.
If you were just taking a bivi, you’d definitely want a waterproof one and, if you’re expecting much rain, a hooped one will save you a lot of misery (I have a Terra Nova Jupiter).
The rationale for bivis is that they are quick and easy to use. They are really discreet and far less intrusive than pitching a tent in e.g. a public park. You also don’t have all the space you want and you get to really sleep under the stars.
The downside, of course, is the lack of weather protection and general exposure. A tent is a wonderful cocoon from the world when you’re tired and want to escape.
Hope that helps?
More about Bivis and Tents
Beginner’s Guide to Bivouacing – what are bivis and what the hell is bivouacing?
Rab Survival Zone LITE bivi bag review – the bivi bags we’re using, possibly the lightest in the world
Some alternatives to tents – from my friend and cycling veteran Tom Allen
Buy Rab Survival Zone Lite online >>
Tom Allen (@tomsbiketrip)
Nice and succinct, as always!
Quick correction — the Hubba Hubba HP hasn’t been discontinued; it’s just a Europe-only model now. The standard (non-HP model) has indeed been replaced by the NX, however. (The difference between the two is mainly to do with the inner tent; the standard being pure insect mesh, and the HP being a mixture of mesh and ultralight fabric.)
Thanks Tom. I did my NX research on your website – ha ha! Good that the Hubba Hubba HP is still available in Europe.
I did know about the standard vs HP difference though having forked out the extra £100 for the latter.
I’d think it largely depends on where you’re touring and what the weather is expected to be like… no? Seems kinda obvious, if you’re expecting to have some bad weather, you might want to bring the tents along just in case. Yes there are waterproof bivi bags and they’re fine and everything but… I still wouldn’t want to be caught in a real torrential downpour in one.
Thanks for the comment.
I guess the problem is that you often don’t know what the weather will be like. If you knew it would be nice then the decision would indeed be obvious.
Also, bringing a tent “just in case” is quite a large and heavy addition for something that you’re hoping not to use. That’s why, in our case, the tent was the default but we carried the lightest possible bivvy bags (Rab Survival Zone Lite, 200 grams), which aren’t waterproof, knowing that we would only use them when we had good weather.
All the best,