How To Go Bivvy Bag Camping – My Beginner’s Guide
Love wild camping? Meet your next wild sleeping adventure – the humble bivouac. Bivvying is the hardcore, no frills version of camping. Essentially, it’s just wrapping your sleeping bag in a waterproof bag, known as a bivouac, and sleeping out in the elements. My bivvy bag camping guide will give you the knowledge and confidence to get out and sleep with nothing between you and the great outdoors.
And don’t worry! Bivvying may look chilly, but it’s not significantly colder than camping. It’s also a great way to feel a lot closer to nature – the last thing you’ll see before you shut your eyes are the stars and the first thing you see will be the sunrise, with no tent walls in between. If you’re planning to wild camp this is the subtlest way to go about it, too.
Top seven tips for beginner bivvy bag camping
1, Keep as dry as possible
The most important tip for happy bivvying? Keeping dry. Draw your bag up and draw it tightly around your face if it’s a bit nippy. If rain is forecast, your best bet is to string a tarpaulin up between two trees and kip under that to avoid the Chinese water torture of rain dripping on your nose all night. Look for a waterproof but reasonably breathable bivvy bag – I like army surplus stores for cheaper bags. Store the rest of your gear in a dry bag or in your rucksack, covered with a raincover.
2, Keep warm
Yes, you can bivvy in bitter winter conditions. This photo is from my bivvy in a homemade snow shelter in Arctic Sweden during the incredible Fjallraven Polar 2019. I had a great Fjallraven sleeping bag (choose a four season bag with a comfort rating well below zero to keep you warm all night), a ‘mattress’ of springy tree branches between me and the snow, great inner layers and socks, two hot water bottles and – key tip – I did loads of star jumps right before I went to sleep so I had lots of residual body heat to keep me warm.
3, Make it cosy
Make your bivvy as comfy as possible – it needs to be an inviting place to sleep as well as somewhere to be protected from the elements. Wear warm, soft inner layers (I wear my thermal winter inner layers when bivvying). Slide a camping mat inside your bivvy bag to keep you off the ground. And don’t forget plentiful snacks or even a cheeky whisky flask.
4, Pick the right spot
Look for flat, dry ground, ideally with some shelter from wind from rocks or trees. I always try to choose a bivvy spot with a view – after all, half the joy of waking up from a night of bivvying is opening your eyes to a glorious landscape, like my pal Helen’s bed in Snowdonia in the photo at the bottom of this post.
5, Pack light
Pack as light as you can for a wild camp or bivvy – the whole point is to feel unencumbered and free. All you need are your bivvy bag, a good sleeping bag, an ultralight sleeping mat, water, food, a stove and fuel, a head torch and a map. Oh, and jelly babies.
6, Be safe
Make sure you’ve let someone know where you’ll be sleeping and when you expect to return. Carry both a physical map and a GPS app on your phone. If you feel nervous, take a friend – bivvying is a lot more fun with a mate to swap stories with as the sun sets on your wild camping spot.
7, Respect the landscape
Set up your bivvy late in the evening, dismantle it early in the morning and leave no trace of your visit – these are all good rules to follow for general wild camping adventures, which isn’t legal in most of Britain and thus requires discretion. Use only stoves to cook on, never light a campfire and carry all rubbish away with you.
Has my bivvy bag camping guide inspired your next adventure? Try my beginner’s guide to camping and learn how to find the confidence to go wild camping or bivvying alone.