Borah Gear Bug Bivy Review

Borah Bug Bivy Review

The Borah Gear Bug Bivy is a reasonably priced bivy for use under a variety of tarps when there is mild to medium bug pressure. It can add a few degrees of warmth to your sleep setup and is also great for cowboy camping. It weighs between 5.5 – 6.5 oz, costs $85, and can add a lot of versatility to your shelter system. There are other similar bivies out there, but none of them hit such a remarkable price point.

Specs at a Glance

  • Opening: chest zipper or side zipper
  • Seasons: 3
  • Fabric: 0.7 oz no-see-um netting, and 1.3 oz silpoly floor
  • Dimensions: 73″ in girth at the shoulders, 64″ at the feet for Standard/Standard
  • Trail weight: 5.5 oz Standard/Standard

Construction

The Borah Gear Bug Bivy is an ultralight bivy constructed with .7 oz no-see-um netting and a 1.3 oz silpoly floor. It comes in a number of different configurations. You can choose a side zipper or chest zipper and between four sizes: Standard/Standard, Long/Standard, Standard/Wide, and Long/Wide. All options are also available with their Cuben (Dyneema ) Bug Bivy which is constructed with a 0.5 oz DCF floor and 0.5 oz no-see-um netting, weighs an ounce or so less, and is double the cost.

Their zippers are #3 coil and there are two sliders for ease of use. There are also loops on the foot end of the bivy for hanging it out to dry. The Standard/Standard Bug Bivy weighs 5.5 oz, and the Long/Wide (the one I have) is 6.5 oz.

Cowboy Camping with the Borah Gear Bug Bivy
Cowboy Camping with the Borah Gear Bug Bivy

Interior Room/Sizing

According to Borah Gear, the Standard fits users up to 6′ 1″, and the Long fits users up to 6′ 4″. The shoulder girth of the Standard is 73″, and the Wide is 78”. At the foot end, the Standard is 64″ while the Wide is 66”. They recommend that users who weigh 180 – 220 lbs use a wide. They also recommend that if you use a 25″ wide pad (like me), to go with a wide regardless of your weight. Users over 220 lbs or 6′ 4″, should contact Borah Gear for custom sizing.

I purchased the Long/Wide so that I can use a long/wide Therm-A-Rest Neo Air, a 20-degree quilt, and occasionally a 50-degree synthetic quilt inside it. I’m 5’ 11” and 160 lbs and the interior room is just fine for me, maybe even a little overkill. If you are over 220 lbs or 6’ 4”, or just want more room, don’t fret, custom sizing is free in most cases.

This bivy is most comfortable for me when I suspend the head end and get it off my face. I don’t really mind the constriction of a bivy sack but I can’t stand the mesh on my face!

You need to suspend the hood overhead to get the mesh off your face.

I do sometimes wish the zipper went a bit further down the side. I’d like to be able to get in and out more easily. I wonder if a full-length zipper right down the middle would ultimately be a better zipper orientation for me. Borah Gear does custom work, so they will likely entertain ideas like this.

Modularity

I have used the Borah Gear Bug Bivy many nights under my Mountain Laurel Designs Duomid. I’ve also paired it with a Mountain Laurel Designs Grace Tarp, a Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar, a MYOG flat tarp, and a ZPacks Pocket Tarp w/ Doors, and it works well with all of them.

I had mine custom made with 10d nylon at the foot to protect my quilt from splashback.
I had my bivy custom made with 10d nylon at the foot to protect my quilt from splash-back.

I’ve also cowboy camped in this bivy many a cloudless night the Utah desert. If you want to increase the versatility of a tarp you have, the Borah Gear Bug Bivy may be one way to do it. It gives you a floor to prevent pad punctures, netting to keep bugs out, and increases the overall warmth of your sleep system by a few degrees, all for only 5.5 – 6.5 oz of added gear weight.

Insect Protection

The Borah Gear Bug Bivy will protect you from ticks, scorpions, spiders and other crawling things. It does quite well with gnats too. If you can get the mesh off your face, you’ll be safe from mosquitos. If you can’t, or if it’s too hot to sleep inside your sleeping bag, they will eat you alive right through the mesh. This happened to me one June night next to the Green River in Southern Utah. Bottom line: really heavy bug pressure may sometimes necessitate the use of a double-wall tent. But for mild to medium bug pressure—or if you’re hiding from ground crawlers—I really like the Borah Gear Bug Bivy.

The foot end comes with a loop and shock cord as well.
The foot end comes with a loop and shock cord as well.

Condensation and Warmth

It’s always surprising to me how much additional warmth no-see-um netting adds to a sleep system. When I wake up in the middle of the night and unzip my bivy I can almost always feel the temperature drop a few degrees.

Depending on the conditions, bivies can either help with condensation or make it worse. Sometimes, if I’m breathing all night inside the bivy, I get a pool of condensation across the chest of my quilt. This is worse if I can’t get the mesh off my face.

I find this bivy to be quite comfortable when the head end is tied up.
I find this bivy to be quite comfortable when the head end is tied up.

If I can suspend it from something (I now have mitten hooks inside my ZPacks Pocket Tarp w/ Doors for this purpose) then this is less of an issue. The added space seems to allow my breath to disperse more widely and make it all the way through the mesh. In this case, condensation will land on the tarp and the mesh, and not my sleeping bag, which is ideal.

I switched to the Borah Bug Bivy bivy from a bivy with a solid outer material like the MLD Superlight Bivy, because it trapped even more water vapor, sandwiching it between the layers. The Borah Gear Bug Bivy works better for me in this regard.

Comparable Bug Bivies and Shelters

Make / ModelTypeWeightOpeningPrice
Borah Ultralight BivyBivy Sack6.0 ozChest$85
Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight BivyBivy Sack5.5 ozSide$175
Enlightened Equipment Recon BivyBug Bivy6.35 ozTop$150
Paria Outdoor Breeze BivyBug Bivy13 ozTop$60
Mountain Laurel Designs Bug BivyBug Bivy6.5 ozTop$125
Yama Mountain Gear Bug BivyBug Bivy7.1 ozTop or Chest$80
Six Moon Designs Serenity Net TentNet Tent11 ozSide$135
Bear Paw Wilderness Designs Standard Pyranet 1Net Tent13 ozSide$130
MSR Thru-hiker Mesh 1 HouseNet Tent10 ozSide$149
Yama Mountain Gear 1P Bug ShelterNet Tent10.9 ozFront$145

Recommendation

The Borah Gear Bug Bivy is a light, reasonably priced, well-constructed bivy offering several sizes and zipper configurations. It can be custom made even larger often for no extra charge. It effectively keeps crawling insects and gnats out of your sleeping area and protects you from mosquitos as well, as long as you don’t have a shoulder or knee pressing up against the mesh. The price of this bivy is one of the things that makes it really compelling; $85 for a well-made piece of gear that can be paired with countless different tarps is a great deal.

Disclosure: The author purchased this product.

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About the author

Ben Kilbourne has been backpacking at least once a month every month for the last twelve years. His explorations have taken him all over the west, but especially the canyon country of the Colorado Plateau. The geography of the west has become familiar to him. He has developed a rudimentary understanding of its geology, and an awareness of the subtle changes in flora and fauna due to soil, elevation, aspect, and precipitation and how these elemental things interact with both ancient and modern humans. His experiences on the land, whether triumphant or thwarted by events either in or out of his control, have provided the foundation for the work he does. Find Ben’s paintings, songs, and essays here http://benkilbourne.com/.

6 comments

  1. I have another brand of bivy with a zipper at the head and I cannot wiggle into and out of it with my back and sciatic problems. I may try to spring for one of these, but I’d definitely ask for a longer zipper.

    I wonder if giving this a permethrin treatment will make any difference with mosquitos?

    • Yeah, the side zip is way better than chest zip. Highly recommend.

      And yeah, permethrin isn’t a bad idea. But in July in the Uintas I might just take my Duomid with Solomid XL inner… At least they’ll be buzzing further from my face.

  2. Spot on review Ben! I’ve had the ultralight side zip for 3 years and really like it. As an active side sleeper the bivy keeps me locked in place on a women’s neoair xtherm with quilt. It definitely helps with wind, splash and warmth. In the mountain west I am able to keep the netting open after mosquito season, this works great in the fall and eliminates the condensation. If I was to order again I would go with the regular wide for additional wiggle room. The price is great and the workmanship is solid. If you are considering a lightweight bivy I would definitely recommend checking out the Borah products.

  3. I also purchased this bug bivy and really like it. I got it custom-sized to be wider as I’m a larger active sleeper with a 25″ pad. Staff at Borah very pleasant and helpful during the purchase process. I have the side zip and find it relatively simple to get out and “go for a walk” as needed in the middle of the night. I would recommend utilizing a ground tarp (I use a polycryo one) to make it simpler roll out of it.

  4. I had a bug bivy from Borah and found it to be too small for me in almost every configuration. Borah recommended a long/wide based on my size and I got it but found it difficult to even zip into when using a summer weight quilt and 2.5″ inflatable. This was true with 20″ or 25″ pads.

    If you’re on the larger side and/or use an inflatable pad, I would very much recommend asking about custom sizing. Great company and quality, just a tight fit. I gave mine to a smaller friend and even they wondered how it could be a long/wide.

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