How to Bivvy in the Rain Properly?

A bivvy bag set out in a field

Bivvying in the rain is a challenge in the best case and an outright disaster in the worst. Even the most experienced campers get confused in this situation.

The most important thing about bivvying in the rain is that you come prepared. The next crucial thing is to curb your expectations. Weathering the rain while in the wild can be extremely difficult and uncomfortable, and most people do not choose to do it of their own free will. Apart from the stress you’ll experience on a physical level, in a situation like this you’ll also encounter pretty difficult emotional and psychological challenges.

With the experience I’ve accumulated over the years of camping, I have a few tips that will teach you how to bivvy in the rain and help you have a great camping experience.

Table of Contents

Stay Realistic When Bivvying in the Rain

Before we start explaining how to properly bivvy in the rain, we’ll need to talk about camping in the rain, in general.

So, here are the things you should expect:

  • You will get wet – No way around it, expect to get wet when you bivvy in the rain. Make sure you have at least one change of clothes (underwear, socks, and shirt) whenever you go camping or hiking.
  • Your gear will get wet – Unless you bring a special, hermetically sealed pack, expect your other gear to get damp. No matter how much you hide or secure it, some water will get to it, if the rain is profuse enough.
  • Your core temperature will drop – Bivvying in the rain will make your body’s temp leak out rapidly. If you don’t regulate it, the consequences could be dire, even if you’re camping in the summer.
  • You will be tired – Everything will be more challenging to do, even the simplest camp chores.

Most of all, no matter how experienced you are at outdoor living, you need to accept the fact that there are many challenges that come with camping in high humidity and rain. And these challenges should not be taken lightly.

How to Pack Properly for the Weather

The ideal way to prepare to bivvy in the rain is to know that rain is coming before you leave for the camping trip.

If you know what kind of weather you’ll be facing out in the wild, you’ll know how to properly prepare. 

Waterproofing your equipment is a great way to keep it dry and safe. Also, you can get a waterproof backpack or even a pouch that will at least keep your essentials dry.

In addition to all this, you should prepare redundancies in case the weather goes south or takes a turn for the worse.

An additional tarp or an extra mylar blanket won’t weigh you down too much, but they could save your life by keeping you dry and warm. They might increase the weight of your gear (which none of us ever want), but a little extra security will go a long way. And you know what they say: “It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it”.

How to Know Rain Is Coming When on the Trail

Unfortunately, not all of us know that it’s going to rain on our camping or hiking trip. That only makes preparing to bivvy in the rain more challenging.

How can we know that rain is going to ruin our day in nature, once we’re out on the trail?

Check the Weather Beforehand

The first and the most obvious thing you should do is check the weather reports. Nowadays, there are so many ways you can check this, that I’m not even going to try and name them all. Here’s my favorite website for checking the weather. I use it every time I go camping, hiking, or trekking anywhere in the world. The awesome thing about it is that it allows you to see the weather on specific trails or mountain passes, including the presence and amount of precipitation.

In addition to proper preparation, nothing beats carrying a radio with you when on the trail. It will not only allow you to check the weather in real-time, but it can also help you cure bedtime boredom by listening to some music. Also, the battery life will be incomparably better than your smartphone.

Know What Suggests That Rain Is Approaching

If you have no means of checking the weather when camping, you can still recognize the conditions that spell rain. Here’s what you should pay attention to:

  • Atmospheric pressure – It isn’t easy to sense the changes in air pressure unless they are sudden. However, if you feel a slight pressure in your sinuses or you feel lightheaded, this might mean that there’s been a drop in air pressure. And, a steady drop means rain is coming. It’s important to listen to your body when doing anything, and this is especially true for hiking and camping.
  • Humidity in the air – An increase in humidity could mean rain. Luckily, this isn’t as difficult to feel as the changes in the air pressure. Alternatively, you could always look at the branches and leaves around you. If they are getting a slight coating of dew or droplets, there’s been a significant increase in humidity, and rain is probably coming.
  • Clouds – Nothing spells rain like a foreboding, gray mass of clouds. If you see one obscuring the horizon when you’re on the trail, it’s time to set up shelter as soon as possible.

What Is a Bivvy Sack?

Bivvy bag is short for “bivouac bag”. It is both waterproof and windproof, which makes it a great addition to any camper’s gear.

The bivouac bag, a staple part of any survivalist’s gear, is basically, a glorified, reinforced trash bag. In some camper circles, it is even called a “body bag”, as it somewhat resembles it. 

Bivvy bags are usually orange, red, or colored in other highly visible colors, but they also come in black, camouflage, or even with some prints.

The Advantages of a Bivvy Sack in the Rain

This type of shelter is great to keep in case of an emergency and works well for insulation, even if you’re sleeping in a tent or hammock. In addition to this, there is a number of reasons why a bivvy bag is an excellent primary shelter:

  • Ultralight
  • Incredibly easy to set up and use
  • Numerous uses besides being a shelter
  • Pretty durable
  • Folds up pretty easily and you don’t have to stuff it into a tiny tent bag

A person carrying a bivvy ag as it much lighter than a tent

Finally, bivvying under the night sky provides you with a most amazing view. With nothing over your head and no light pollution from the cities, the stars look particularly beautiful.

The Disadvantages of Bivvying

Unfortunately, nothing is perfect and all camping gear has its advantages and disadvantages. While the bivvy sack is a great shelter solution, it comes with its share of challenges.

  • If the weather is extremely foul, you won’t be able to use it.
  • Even though it is pretty durable, if you tear your bivvy sack, you won’t be able to sleep in it.
  • Not anyone’s first choice unless camping in the summer or beautiful weather.
  • Ultimately, even when everything works out, you’re still sleeping on the ground. If you don’t know how to properly clear the ground before setting up your shelter, you won’t have an easy time sleeping.

All in all, bivvying is an interesting and exciting way to sleep when in the wild. In most cases, it is an ultralight and durable shelter solution. Unfortunately, if you’re camping or hiking in extremely cold weather, it just won’t do.

How to Bivvy in the Rain Safely

In order to overcome the challenges of bivvying in the rain, you’ll want to start setting up your shelter before it starts raining.

Obviously, a bivvy bag is much easier to set up than a tent or hammock

Find the Right Spot for Your Bivvy Bag

The first thing you’ll need to do before you bivvy in the rain is to look for the perfect spot for your shelter.

Look for a place that’s under the canopy and sheltered from the wind. If it looks like lightning will accompany the rain, avoid camping under tall trees as they’re always at risk of getting struck by lightning.

In addition to this, make sure you’re on high ground, or at least, that you’re not in a valley. Waking up in a puddle of runoff is the last thing you want when you’re bivvying.

Clear the Bivvy Spot

Once you locate a sheltered spot for your bivouac, it’s time to remove any debris that could damage your bivvy bag or make it harder for you to rest properly.

Make sure there aren’t any stones, branches or twigs left. Basically, remove anything that could hurt you or make you uncomfortable when you’re lying on it. Even though the bivvy sack is durable, it’s not really padded, so you’ll feel the ground.

To fix this, you can place moss under your bivvy and get an improvised bed.

Setting up Your Bivvy Bag in The Rain

Bivvies are super easy to set up and you can literally do it with three branches – two to hold the sides and one to spread the opening.

Even though setting up a bivvy is effortless, setting up a bivvy properly has its challenges.

You’ll need to make sure the opening isn’t letting any water in, but that it’s open enough to allow air circulation.

It is also a good idea to pad your bivvy in any way you can. The ground will get colder and some of that cold will seep through.

Because of its durability, a bivouac bag can be padded with almost anything.

Dry leaves, a mylar blanket, or a poncho can add insulation and comfort to your bivvy bag. Just make sure that all the things you place inside the bivvy bag are completely dry.

Because it is waterproof, getting any moisture out of a bivouac sack is tremendously hard. So, that’s something you’ll want to avoid unless you absolutely have to do it.

Once you’ve lined your bivvy with insulating materials, place your sleeping bag in it and your shelter will be done!

Dealing With Wildlife When You Bivvy in the Rain

When you’re opting for a bivvy bag, you won’t have the usual tent wall between you and all the life forms that surround you, when on the trail.

You don’t have to worry though. Not only is the bivvy bag sealable to protect you from the creepy crawlies, but it is also very resilient. Insects won’t be able to bite through it to get to you.

If this is not enough for you, you can get a bug net and cover yourself with it to keep the pests away.

As for other animals, the bivvy’s bright colors usually keep them away, and if you have fire nearby this should also help. As long as they’re not provoked, and you’re not camping in their territory, all animals should leave you alone.

Additionally, no one likes sleeping outside in the rain. Most animals will be hiding in their shelters on a rainy night.

Finally, you should get as much information as possible about your camping/hiking location, before you set out. If there are troublesome animals you might come across on the trail, you should know about them and prepare accordingly.

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