Bicycle touring with a bivy tent is a popular and inexpensive option. A bivy (short for bivouac) is a solo shelter, a piece of ultra light camping gear that also packs very compact, which is of course very essential for bicycle touring.
When to use a Bivy Tent
There are three different bike touring situations where a bivy tent would be required:
- Self supported bicycle touring also called bike packing by some which is carrying your camping gear on your bicycle in your cycle panniers.
- A bike tour, typically for a week, where your luggage to hauled to the next destination by the organizer as there can be several hundred or even more than a thousand cyclists. There normally are restrictions on the amount of bags you can take and weight of your luggage. For example when I was on a tour of Wisconsin we were permitted only 2 bags including our tent and sleeping bags.
- If you have a base camp with daily cycling trips in the local area like we did when cycling in Maine. A bivy tent is not as essential in this situation.
Types of a Bivy Tent
The Bivy sack was originally designed as an emergency shelter for climbers but now is used by cyclists and back country hikers. The top is a waterproof and breathable lightweight fabric such as Gore-Tex with the waterproof bottom layer similar to most tents. The bivy sack usually weights about two pounds or less although many also carry a lightweight tarp. This option requires a certain type of people who is happy with the very basics.
The bivy tent is a low rise shelter which may weight four pounds (or sometimes more) and provide room to sit up, change your clothes and basically have some breathing space. Depending on the model you will be able to bring some of your gear into the tent with you. There are models designed especially for cyclists who are bicycle touring as length of tent poles is an issue not faced by back packers to the same extent.
A bivy tent also provides more protection when it rains and it will during any bicycle tour of one week or more. This option is the most popular when bicycle touring.
Hammock tent where you hang your hammock between two trees and there is a rain or insect covering.
What to consider when buying a bivy shelter
- Whether you get a one or two person tent, will depend on who you are cycling with
- Space within the tent, is it too tight or you or do you require more breathing space to feel comfortable. Some models are low to the ground and do not provide much standing room
- Quality waterproofing
- Weight of the tent (they are usually 2 – 4 pounds)
- Ventilation through any windows and/or breathable fabrics
- Framing using tent poles (fold into smaller lengths) or some use the frame of the bicycle
- Ability to set up quickly as you most likely will have some rain during your journey
Click here to check out bicycle touring camping gear. Many cyclists prefer hotels or B & B but bicycle touring using a bivy tent can be a fun and comfortable experience if you have the right shelter.