Enlightened Equipment Recon Bivy Review

Enlightened Equipment Recon Bivy ReviewThe Enlightened Equipment Recon Bivy is an ultralight bivy sack with a waterproof bathtub floor and a combination of mesh and breathable water-resistant fabric on the top. The layout of materials makes it very resistant to condensation while also providing splash protection when used under a tarp. It is well-constructed, with lots of attention to design details that make it easy and intuitive to use, roomy, and adaptable.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 6.35 oz (manufacturer); 6.6 oz + 0.2 oz for the stuff sack (measured)
  • Materials: Noseeum mesh, 10D (denier) breathable nylon with DWR (upper). 15D silnylon bathtub floor
  • Zipper: Center zip
  • Sizing:
    • Regular/Regular: Fits users up to 6’ tall with a girth up to 56”. Actual dimensions: 80” x width: 28” /19” (head/foot).
    • Long/Wide: Also available. Fits users up to 6’6” tall with girth up to 62”
    • Both sizes can fit pads up to 77” x 25” x 2.5”
    • Height at head end (when pitched with shock-cord): 18” (confirmed)
    • Height at foot end (when pitched with shock-cord): 15” (confirmed)

Types of Bivvies and Their Uses

The category of “bivy” includes three sub-categories:

Water-resistant bivvies have a waterproof bottom and mesh at the head area, but their uppers primarily use water-resistant fabric to add warmth and splash protection to your sleep system when camped under a minimalist shelter. Bug bivvies are primarily made with mesh with a waterproof floor that’s designed to keep you protected from flying, crawling, and biting insects.

The headwall and footwall are made vertical by clipping the shockcord to loops inside your tarp

The Recon is a hybrid, splitting the difference between a water-resistant bivy and a bug bivy. It has a waterproof floor and is constructed with a headwall, footbox, and sides that are water-resistant, and a face area and wide stripe of mesh running down the center of the torso–more mesh than you normally see on a water-resistant bivy, but less than on a dedicated bug bivy. This mesh stripe makes the bivy significantly less prone to condensation than many water-resistant bivvies. This construction means you can use the Recon in several different scenarios:

  • To cowboy camp under the stars on a clear but buggy night
  • Under a tarp to protect you from bugs, drafts, and splashback from precipitation
  • In a 3-sided shelter to keep bugs and rodents off

Construction Details and Performance

The Recon’s bathtub floor is 5.5” tall, supported by a combination of stake loops and vertical 5” struts at the four corners. Additionally, the shape of the bivy and clearance for your head and feet are created by a vertical headwall and footwall, held upright by adjustable shock cords, with a mitten clip that connects to loops on the underside of your tarp.

The Recon has 5 rigid struts in the 4 corners and stake loops to help shape the bivy's bathtub floor
The Recon has 5 rigid struts in the 4 corners and stake loops to help shape the bivy’s bathtub floor

While you can just throw the bivy sack down and get into it, using ultralight stakes on the four corners helps keep it in place (and you on your pad) if you move around at night, in addition to giving the bivy more shape as described above.

The long center zip is a welcome detail if you’ve ever tried to use a bivy with a short chest zipper that you have to wriggle into. It also makes it easy to load your sleeping pad and bag and to enter and exit in the night.

The center zip makes it easy to get in and out at night
The center zip makes it easy to get in and out at night

The zipper has 2 sliders, so you can position the sliders where you want them for easy access. Inside the bivy, the sliders each have 2” long, semi-rigid rubber zipper pulls that hang down to find them quickly by feel in the dark–just run your finger along the zipper.

Thin shock cord and a mitten hook on both the head end and foot end allow you to connect the bivy to loops on the underside of a tarp for better head and foot clearance. The shock cord is very thin to save weight, so you don’t want to yank on it. On lots of my gear, I’ve started to move cordlocks to the very end of their shock cord (loosen the tension) before storing them, because, over time, the cord lock will “bite” into the shock cord, causing a weak point (especially on the thin stuff) that can lead to breakage. If it does break, I may replace it with thin static cordage with a loop of stouter shockcord between the cord and the mitten hook.

Notice how the mesh comes down further on the sides near your face--this is great for side sleepers
Notice how the mesh comes down further on the sides near your face–this is great for side sleepers

Surprisingly Roomy

Despite the fact that I was using a regular-sized Recon, not the Long-Wide, I was able to fit a 25” wide, 3.35” thick inflatable pad inside, a 3” thick inflatable pillow on top of the pad, and my 30*F quilt inside without a problem. Lying on my back on all of this cushioning, I found that, with the head-end shock-cord pulled tight, my nose just touched the mesh. This was easily remedied by keeping my ball cap on so the brim could push the mesh away from my face. Nonetheless, I didn’t find the top to be a tight fit at all. I was able to be my normal rotisserie-sleeper self in this bivy, with no feelings of claustrophobia. That’s some generous sizing. If you use a thinner pad or pillow or place your pillow on the floor of the bivy above your pad (instead of on top of it), the shock-cord adjustment provides plenty of clearance for your face from the mesh without the need for a hat.

You may notice the dimensions in the Specs at a Glance show that the Recon Bivy tapers from head to foot. My wide pad also tapers, but I flipped it around with the wide end towards the feet to see if a wide rectangular pad would fit, and it does fit fine–it just pushes the bathtub floor out to gain more width.

Comparable Ultralight Bivy Sacks

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
REI Bug Out BivyBug Bivy14 ozFront$70
Yama Mountain Gear 1P Bug ShelterNet Tent10.9 ozFront$145

Recommendation

The Enlightened Equipment Recon Bivy checks all the boxes of what I want out of a bug bivy: lightweight, easy to enter/exit, waterproof floor and splash protection on the sides, lots of ventilation on the top to prevent condensation, adaptability to many different floorless shelters, and generous volume. I expect this bivy to continue to be one of my go-to pieces when I’m not hammocking.

Disclosure: Enlightened Equipment provided SectionHiker.com with a bivy for this review.

Editor's note: Help support this site by making your next gear purchase through one of the affiliate links above. Click a link, buy what you need, and the seller will contribute a portion of the purchase price to support SectionHiker's unsponsored and independent gear reviews, beginner FAQs, and free hiking guides.

About the author

Greg Pehrson is an ultralight backpacker who was bitten hard by the MYOG (make-your-own-gear) bug. He repairs, tinkers, and builds gear, often seeking to upcycle throwaway items or repurpose things from outside the backpacking world.

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9 comments

  1. Are the rigid struts pieces of sewn in fiberglass or something?

    • It’s hard to know for sure because they’re fully sewn-in. They are very thin (about 1/8″), with rounded caps over each end to protect the fabric. They are slightly flexible. Perhaps delrin rod? To pack the bivy, I find the four struts and group them together, then roll the bivy around them.

  2. Used EE Recon Bivy on my thru hike of the AT and loved it. perfect to add a few degrees of warmth during the cold months and rodent protection while staying in the shelters. this bivy was the best gear i purchased for the trip.

  3. Lawrence Constantino

    Well this sounds good, but I just ordered the side zipper Borah gear UL 67 argon bivy wide large, with shipping comes in at $119.40 and as you say about 6oz. You could order dyneema from Borah gear and knock off another oz for another $70. 6 oz is good! Looking forward to seeing how it compares with a tent on some issues when combined with a tarp.

  4. Have the Borah Gear bivy long/wide. Borah made extensive modifications to my design for no additional cost– too many and you will have to pay for it, but mine were integral to the manufacture of the bag so no additional cost. When I got it I made more including a support that holds the width of the net open so no contact with my head during the night. Other mods drove the weight up to 7 1/2 oz. I think I have created a product that is excellent against bugs, wind heat loss and a wind tunnel to prevent/reduce condensation. John at Borah has the pictures and can duplicate it for you. I have used it in freezing temps with a quilt and like it. Truly superb customer service.

  5. I have a MYOG bivy much like the Recon, while I like it, it has one issue. The whole thing, sleeping bag and mattress included, tends to move when i get up in the night. The movement puts strain on the bungee cord that holds up the head space. Instead of using the cord, I wear a hat to keep the noseeum mesh off my face. Wearing a hat 24/7 is not ideal. So bivy models with a internal stiff structure to keep it off your face may help.

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