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10 Best Bug Shelters for Ultralight Backpacking of 2023

10 Best Bug Shelters for Ultralight Backpacking

There are three different types of ultralight bug shelters suitable for cowboy camping, sleeping in a lean-to, or underneath a flat tarp: bivy sacks, bug bivies, and net tents. They all have their pros and cons, but that’s true of all ultralight backpacking gear. While bivy sacks are confining, they provide excellent insect protection. Bug bivies usually offer more living space, but are generally harder to get in and out of and must be used with a tarp or trekking poles. Net tents offer the most living space, but also tend to be the heaviest option. For a deeper discussion of these considerations and tradeoff, see our Ultralight Bug Shelter Selection Guide below.

With these factors in mind, here are our top 10 recommended bug shelters for ultralight backpacking:

Make / ModelWeightOpening
Katabatic Gear Pinon Bivy7.3 oz / 207gTop
Borah Ultralight Bivy5.0 oz / 142 gChest
Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight Bivy5.5 oz / 156 gSide
Paria Outdoor Breeze Bivy13 oz / 369gTop
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid 2 Insert14.8 oz / 419gSide
Mountain Laurel Designs Bug Bivy6.5 oz / 184gTop
Six Moon Designs Serenity Net Tent11 oz / 312gSide
Outdoor Research Bug Bivy16 oz / 454gFront
SlingFin SplitWing Mesh Body11.2 oz / 318gFront
Yama Mountain Gear 1P Bug Shelter9.3 oz / 272gFront
Six Moon Designs Deschutes Tarp (with skirt option) 16 oz / 454gFront

1. Katabatic Gear Pinon Bivy

Katabatic Gear Pinon Bivy
The Katabatic Gear Piñon Bivy provides a waterproof floor with a water-resistant upper to protect your quilt from spray and mist. It has an extra-large mesh window and long U-shaped zipper extending from waist level across the top, allowing for easy entry and exit. It is designed to work well with both pyramid shelters and tarps. Katabatic Gear also makes the Bristlecone Bivy which has a smaller mesh window that is better for cooler weather but has the same U-shaped zipper for easy entry or exit.

View at Katabatic Gear

2. Borah Gear Ultralight Bivy

Borah Ultralight Bivy
The Borah Gear Ultralight Bivy is an ultralight bivy sack with a waterproof silnylon floor, mesh noseeum netting over the face and head, and a breathable and water-resistant top fabric, either Argon 67 Argon 90, that provides enough insect protection that it can be used as a bug-proof sheet in hot weather. The bivy has a horizontal zipper over the chest for access. A grosgrain pull-loop can be used to suspend the mesh from your shelter and includes a shock cord. Multiple lengths and widths are available. Read our Borah Bug Bivy Review. 

View at Borah Gear

3. Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight Bivy Sack

MLD Superlight Bivy Sack
The Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight Bivy Sack is a water-resistant bivy bag that is available in several different variations: with or without full head netting, with a waterproof silnylon or Dyneema DCF floor, a left-side or right-side zipper, in multiple colors, lengths, and widths. The top fabric is a breathable, insect-proof 10 denier nylon with a 3X DWR coating for enhanced moisture protection while a top gear loop lets you suspend the netting off your face for better ventilation and comfort. Read our Mountain Laurel Designs Superlight Review.

View at MLD

4. Paria Outdoor Breeze Mesh Bivy

Paria Breeze Mesh Bivy
The Paria Outdoor Breeze Mesh Bivy has a mesh canopy with a 9-inch deep tub-style floor to protect you from wind, splashback, and biting insects. While the canopy sides are mesh, the front and back end walls are made from solid rip-stop nylon, providing additional wind protection and privacy. The floor and sidewalls are made with 30 Denier ripstop silnylon which has a Sili/PU dual-coating and fully taped seams, providing 5,000 mm of hydro-static resistance. There is a zipper entry on the top ridgeline. Read our Paria Breeze Mesh Bivy Review.

View at Paria Outdoor

5. Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid Half 2 Insert

Ultamid 2 Half Insert
The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultamid Half Insert is a one-person insect shelter that weighs 16 oz and requires one trekking poles to set up. While it is designed to be coupled with the Hyperlite Ultamid 2 Pyramid, it’s also sold standalone and can be used under any pyramid or flat tarp for insect and creepy crawler protection. Dimensionally, it’s 33″ (w) x 89″ (l) x 44″ (h) with a single side door. Weighing 14.8 oz, the walls and roof are made with no-see-um mesh while the bathtub floor is made with Dyneema DCF and seam-taped.

View at Hyperlite

6. Mountain Laurel Designs Bug Bivy

Mountain Laurel Designs Bug Bivy
The Mountain Laurel Designs Bug Bivy is an all mesh bug bivy with a 3″ bathtub floor. It has two ridgeline tie-out to connect it to a tarp as well as corner stake out points. Access is through the top via a zippered door on the ridgeline. The 30d silnylon floor has a hydrostatic head of 4000 mm. A second model, the Bug Bivy 2, is also available with a 5″ deep bathtub floor if you prefer more wind, splashback, or insect protection. Read our MLD Bug Bivy review.

View at MLD

7. Six Moon Designs Serenity Net Tent

Six Moons serenity Net tent
The Six Moons Serenity Net Tent can be set up by itself with trekking poles, hung from a rafter in a lean-to, or underneath a wide variety of tarps. It has a peak height of 45″ with plenty of headroom so you can sit up inside or change clothes. The head and foot ends are 8″ high to help keep the netting off your head and feet, while a 3″ bathtub floor keeps you dry. The tent has corner stake-out loops and a large side door for easy access.

Check for the latest price at:
Six Moon Designs

View at Six Moon Designs

8. Outdoor Research Bug Bivy

Outdoor Research Bug Bivy
The Outdoor Research Bug Bivy is a 16 oz bivy sack with a waterproof floor that works well under an A-frame tarp pitch. A short fiberglass pole holds the mesh away from your face, keeping the bugs at a distance, while the front zipper opening seals out mosquitoes and other small insects. A waterproof floor keeps the moist ground from soaking through your bag. Stake loops around the perimeter let you secure the bivy to the ground while internal sleeping pad straps help keep your sleep system from shifting at night.

View at REI

9. SlingFin SplitWing Mesh Body

SlingFin SplitWing Mesh Tent
The SlingFin Mesh Body is compatible with any tarp, mid, or as a standalone bivy sack held up by trekking poles. It’s also available by itself or as part of the SlingFin SplitWing Bundle. Weighing 11.2 oz, it’s roomy for one person and can even fit two friends, with corner guylines, ridgeline guylines, and internal ceiling o-rings for hanging gear or a clothesline. Access is through the front zippered entry. Read the SectionHiker SplitWing Bundle Review which goes into detail about the Mesh Body as well.

View at SlingFin

10. Yama Mountain Gear 1P Bug Shelter

Yama Bug Net
While the Yama Mountain Gear 1P Bug Shelter is designed for use under Yama’s tarps, it can also be pitched by itself using trekking poles or under almost any other tarp shelter. The 1P Bug Shelter is also available in an assorted number of material combinations, including Dyneema DCF. The 1P Bug Shelter has a mesh canopy and a bathtub floor that’s 10″ deep along the sides. Access us through a large front door, while peak height is 40″ at the head end and 25″ at the foot end. Set up requires two poles and 4-6 stakes.

View at YMG

Ultralight Bug Shelter Selection Guide

Bug Shelter Types: Pros, and Cons

Ultralight bug shelters can be bivy sacks (intended for warm weather use), bug bivies, or net tents. You can also repurpose the inner tent of a double-wall tent although it will be much heavier and awkward to use in more constrained spaces.

Bivy Sacks

Ultralight bivy sacks do not have waterproof tops because they intended to be used in dry conditions under a separate waterproof shelter in non-winter conditions. Most have mesh hoods for insect protection and comfort with a solid, highly breathable fabric, covering the torso and legs. A waterproof floor is often included as convenience along with a zipper or drawstring closure. Grosgrain loops are usually included to suspend the mesh overhead with cord and to stake out the bivy sack corners.  Bivy sacks made entirely with mesh tops can be problematic because insects can bite through the mesh if you are sleeping on top of your quilt or sleeping bag in hot weather instead of inside or under them.

  • Advantages
    • Provide wind and splashback protection under tarps. (Splashback is when water bounces off the ground near a tarp and back at you.)
    • Good for insect and dew protection when cowboy camping under the stars.
    • Easy to use in a lean-to because they can be suspended from rafters and take no additional room.
    • Provide inflatable sleeping bag protection when a pad is used inside bivy sack.
    • They can be used like a sheet for insect protection in hot weather.
  • Disadvantages
    • More claustrophobic than alternatives
    • Low to the ground so less waterproof against pooling water

Bug Bivies

Bug bivies (not to be confused by all mesh bivy sacks that some manufacturers call bug bivies) are similar to bivy sacks but have sidewalls and must be suspended overhead using trekking poles or an overhead shelter. They’re usually offered with a waterproof floor. Many come with top zippers on the ridgeline which can be a little difficult to get in and out of depending on your stand and ability to balance while stepping out of them.

  • Advantages
    • More living space
    • Must be suspended at the ends using trekking poles or covering tarp
    • Higher sidewalls provide better insect and water protection.
  • Disadvantages
    • Top door access can be awkward.
    • Heavier than a bivy sack.
    • More difficult to use in a crowded lean-to.

Net Tents

Net tents are the equivalent of an inner tent from a double-wall tent but are usually designed to be set up using trekking poles and staked out at the corners. instead. Net tents have waterproof floors and a zippered entrance. If you are planning to combine a net tent with a tarp, it’s important to make sure that the door locations align properly for ease of access.

  • Advantages
    • Lots of headroom so you can sit up inside and change clothing.
  • Disadvantages
    • Heavier than bivy sacks or bug bivies.
    • More difficult to use in a crowded lean-to, especially if they have a side door.

Zipper Location

On bivy shelters with zippers, it’s often more convenient to have a side zipper or one at the head end than a zipper that runs lengthwise down the center. If you’re sleeping under a tarp, there’s going to be limited headroom underneath it, particularly in inclement weather when it’s pitched low to the ground for more wind and rain protection. Bivy sacks with side zippers and big bivies with end doors are easier to get out of compared to bivy sacks with center zippers or bug bivies with top zippers in the ridgeline.

Bathtub Floor and Sidewall Depth

If you have to sleep on top of your sleep insulation on hot nights, insects can still bite you through the mesh if you come in contact with it. If you sleep on a 2″, 3″, or 4″ high inflatable pad, you might consider choosing a shelter with higher sidewalls made with solid insect-proof fabric instead of mesh,

Breathable fabrics

When choosing a bivy sack, try to get one with a highly breathable top fabric to help reduce the chance of internal condensation inside the bivy back. Avoid buying a bivy sack with a waterproof/breathable top fabric for warm weather use because they’re much more prone to internal condensation.

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  1. What is your criteria for having the Outdoor Research bivy ranked higher than the Yama? Your specs are off on the Yama btw.

    • It’s not a ranked list. But you’ll find that Yama is very frequently out of stock and their specs are constantly changing. We were only off by 0.3 oz anyway.

      • Ahhh. The numbers beside the name of the shelters threw me off. I have the Yama shelter, and was referring to the tub floor depth. Gen makes some great stuff!

        • The thing is, there are so many different styles of bug shelters and people’s needs differ that rank ordering doesn’t make any sense. Why would a bivy sack be better than a net-tent? It really is in the eye of the beholder (personal preference) and the intended use.

  2. Sea to summit nano mosquito pyramid net shelter…50 bucks, 3 oz…

  3. The Paria breeze mesh tent offers more room and is only $10 more than the breeze mesh bivy. I pair it with Paria 8×10 sil tarp and makes a very nice shelter. Paria has some nice gear at very affordable prices.

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