10 Best Bug Shelters for Ultralight Backpacking in 2021

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:

1. 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 that called 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.

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Borah Gear

2. 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.

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Mountain Laurel Designs

3. 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 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.

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4. Six Moon Designs Haven Nettent

Six Moons Designs Haven Net Tent
The Six Moon Designs Haven Nettent is a two-person insect shelter that weighs 16 oz and requires two trekking poles to set up. While it is designed to be coupled with the Six Moons Haven Tarp, it’s also sold standalone and can be used under any shaped or flat tarp for insect and creepy crawler protection. It has dual doors that allow each person has their own exit vertical walls a the ends that raise the netting off your feet and over your head. Clips on the top of the mesh and peaks make it easy to integrate this nettent with a wide range of tarps or use it by itself on starry nights.

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Six Moon Designs

5. 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.

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Mountain Laurel Designs

6. Yama Mountain Gear Bug Bivy

Yama Mountain Gear Bug Bivy
The Yama Mountain Gear Bug Bivy is a simple bug bivy with a mesh canopy and bathtub floor that is suspended from your tarp shelter and can be staked out. It’s available in two different sizes that have a 4″ or 6″ deep bathtub floor made with PU-coated siliconized polyester. You also have the option to position the zipper enter horizontally so you can crawl in the front end or climb in from above through the center ridgeline.

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Yama Mountain Gear

7. Six Moon Designs Serenity Net Tent

Six Moons serenity Net tent
The Six Moons Serenity Net Tent is 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.

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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.

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Outdoor Research | REI

9. REI Bug Out Bivy

REI Bug Out Bivy 3
The REI Bug Out Bivy can be used for cowboy camping without a tarp or underneath one in stormy weather. It has an internal pole to keep the insect netting off your face, sidewalls for moisture protection, and stake out points to square out the corners and keep it in place. There are also attachment points on the ceiling, so the bivy can be suspended under a tarp and used without the pole. Weighing a minimum of 14 oz, it’s the heaviest option on this list, but the price is right. The inner dimensions of 87″ long x 27″ at the shoulders tapering to 22″ at the feet so it will fit most regular sized inflatable sleeping pads. Given its door orientation, it works best with tarps that provide easy access to its front door.

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10. Yama Mountain Gear 1P Bug Shelter

Yama Mountain Gear 1P Bug Shelter
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.

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Yama Mountain Gear

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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