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Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy Review

This bivy sets the bar for the rest of the field by providing nearly perfect comfort, warmth, and weather protection.
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Price:  $250 List | $249.95 at Amazon
Compare prices at 2 resellers
Pros:  Durable, lots of head room, completely weatherproof
Cons:  Overkill for milder climates, heavier
Manufacturer:   Outdoor Research
By Brian Martin ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 11, 2019
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74
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 9
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 9
  • Weight - 25% 5
  • Comfort - 20% 9
  • Ventilation - 15% 8
  • Packed Size - 15% 6

Our Verdict

Can a bivy sack provide all of the protection of a tent without sacrificing comfort? The OR Alpine Bivy does a fantastic job of keeping the weather out without sacrificing usability and comfort. Whether in a gnarly mountain storm or on a pleasant weekend trip, this product performs extremely well. While the price tag rivals that of a full-sized tent, the bivy can stow into a small stuff sack and is considerably lighter than the average backpacking tent. The 2019 revamp of the OR Alpine Bivy has even shed a few hundred grams! We feel confident that this bivy will keep you dry and warm in the backcountry and enhance your overall experience.

If it's unlikely that you will encounter massive, torrential downpours or snowstorms on your adventures and find the price tag a bit steep, check out our Editors' Choice, the Outdoor Research Helium Bivy as it offers excellent weather protection, warmth, comfort, and is built off the same design as the Alpine.


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Overall Score Sort Icon
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Pros Durable, lots of head room, completely weatherproofLightweight, weatherproof, roomy, ease of use, bug screen, and on and onLightweight, versatile, stows easily, price is rightExtremely lightweight, packableSimple, lightweight, weather-resistance
Cons Overkill for milder climates, heavierStuff sack too largeLeaky zippersExpensive, no zipperExpensive, fiddly velcro closure
Bottom Line This bivy sets the bar for the rest of the field by providing nearly perfect comfort, warmth, and weather protection.This very well may be the new standard in what we expect from a top notch bivy sack.Sierra Designs found an enticing weight, comfort and versatility ratio with their Backcountry Bivy.An effective and lightweight bivy that far outperforms other emergency or minimalist shelters.If storm protection is your sole need from a bivy sack, the Alpine is a strong contender.
Rating Categories Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy Outdoor Research Helium Bivy Backcountry Bivy MSR Pro Bivy Rab Alpine Bivi
Weather Resistance (25%)
10
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9
10
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8
10
0
7
10
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6
10
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6
Weight (25%)
10
0
5
10
0
6
10
0
7
10
0
8
10
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6
Comfort (20%)
10
0
9
10
0
9
10
0
7
10
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5
10
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5
Ventilation (15%)
10
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8
10
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9
10
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8
10
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6
10
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6
Packed Size (15%)
10
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6
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10
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7
Specs Outdoor Research... Outdoor Research... Backcountry Bivy MSR Pro Bivy Rab Alpine Bivi
Measured Weight (oz.) 20.7 oz 16.3 oz 13.6 oz 8.9 oz 16.23 oz
Packed Size (in.) 4" x 15.5" 4" x 12.5" 3" x 9.5" 8" x 3.5" 4" x 10"
Waterproof? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Open Length (in.) 84" 82" 80" 88" 87"
Shoulder Width (in.) 26" 26" 36" 36" 35"
Material (top/bottom) Top: 3-layer Gore-Tex Respiration Positive fabric
Bottom: Waterproof Hydroseal coated nylon
Top: Pertex Shield 2.5L 100% nylon Bottom: 100% 40D nylon Top: 20D Nylon Ripstop
Bottom: 30D Nylon Ripstop
20D ripstop nylon 2 ply breathable 1000mm Top: eVent DVStorm 3 layer fabric
Bottom: 70d coated nylon
Bug Mesh? Yes Yes Yes No No
Sleeping Bag or Pad Attachments? Sleeping pad straps Yes No No No
Poles? Yes, one overhead shockcorded Delrin pole Yes, one overhead shockcorded Delrin pole No No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

This product scored high in each metric and, most importantly, remained waterproof and breathable through each test. A good bivy should be a comfortable home in a storm for an extended period, and that's exactly what this bivy is. With great headroom, an optional bug net, and an utterly waterproof system, at 20 ounces, we just can't ask for much more. While some might find it a touch narrow, our tester (5'11" 175 lbs) fit easily with room to spare, even adding in a few pieces of gear that had to be kept dry.

Peformance Comparison


The Alpine is at home in any environment.
The Alpine is at home in any environment.

Weather Resistance


The OR Alpine is the only model tested that utilizes Gore-Tex waterproof material, an industry standard and trusted name in the world of waterproof/breathable fabrics. Three-layer Gore-Tex body is used on top of the OR Alpine bivy with a burly 70D nylon floor coated in Hydroseal for added waterproofness when in the wettest of deluges. During extended stays, our testers found proper ventilation by simply cracking the stiff zipper flaps a few inches near the head. Due to the bathtub design and zipper placement, this technique works even if pitched in a puddle! The 2019, lighter Alpine didn't show any diminished weatherproof capacity. Outdoor Research kept ultimate weather protection at the heart of this bivy, making sure not to create any vulnerabilities during the weight-loss process.

When traveling through foul weather of any type  the OR Alpine is our first choice every time. OR's superior shell and design kept us dry and warm.
When traveling through foul weather of any type, the OR Alpine is our first choice every time. OR's superior shell and design kept us dry and warm.

Deploying the Gore-Tex fabric over the face during a rainstorm is easy, even in the dark, thanks to reflective tape and a neon green ribbon running the length of the zippers. All seams are taped and five-stake loops, along with a single guy loop, aid in a comfortable pitch. We found that staking and guying out the OR Alpine was essential for maximum comfort and ventilation.

14 hours of soaking later and the GoreTex waterproofing continued to breathe and keep our testers dry.
14 hours of soaking later and the GoreTex waterproofing continued to breathe and keep our testers dry.

As you can see in the chart, the OR Alpine remains the most weatherproof bivy in our testing field. While it has been edged out by the OR Helium in a few other categories, the Alpine will always be our go to if massive storms or snow caves are in our near future.

One of the biggest differences in weather resistance between the Helium (left) and Alpine (right) is the size of the protective flap over the zipper. The Alpine also has a wire sewn in for structure which definitely gives a large weather protection advantage. However  the Helium is quite effective and significantly lighter without this huge flap.
One of the biggest differences in weather resistance between the Helium (left) and Alpine (right) is the size of the protective flap over the zipper. The Alpine also has a wire sewn in for structure which definitely gives a large weather protection advantage. However, the Helium is quite effective and significantly lighter without this huge flap.

Ventilation


This model performed very well in the ventilation category. While it is made of a completely waterproof fabric that is not known to breathe very well, it has several features that allow for added ventilation, making it easy to keep condensation down. In clear and warm weather the bivy can be left open, allowing warm air to circulate out.

The large protective lip guarding the zipper allows for ventilation even during a heavy downpour. (As seen from inside the bivy)
The large protective lip guarding the zipper allows for ventilation even during a heavy downpour. (As seen from inside the bivy)

Likewise, during colder nights, leaving a small opening in the zipper when wholly enclosed in the system is sufficient for staving off condensed breath from building up on the inside shell. This bivy can be staked out when ground and space conditions allow, and it also has a pole at the head to give space. These features are crucial to providing space between the bivy fabric and you, which lets air flow around and condensation escape more easily.

As with even the best ventilated waterproof bivies, it's likely you will still accumulate some moisture inside. A feature unique to the Alpine is that the floor is coated with an anti-fungal treatment. On long trips, mildew and mold were not present despite intense moisture and humidity.

The high quality nylon fabric showed no sign of wear despite heavy use in rocky terrain.
The high quality nylon fabric showed no sign of wear despite heavy use in rocky terrain.

Comfort


A long storm or winter night spent in a bivy sack can leave one feeling like a mummy in a tomb. While more pleasant than a sarcophagus, few campers look forward to a night tucked away in eight square feet of nylon. Lucky for our testing team, the OR Alpine, with ample floor-to-ceiling room and a durable tent pole, felt more like a small backpacking tent than a bivy sack. The pole also keeps the bug net taut and out of the face when the waterproof hood is peeled back, without any collapsing material annoying falling onto the user and keeping the late night mosquitos from biting. One other plus for this product is that it includes straps to hold your sleeping pad in place. This is always a great feature for those that toss and turn through the night.

By clearing a few rocks and using an insulated coat as a pillow  even a bivy sack can give a good night's sleep.
By clearing a few rocks and using an insulated coat as a pillow, even a bivy sack can give a good night's sleep.

The one knock we have in comfort is the slightly narrow profile. The 26" width at the shoulder is enough for even a large sleeping pad, but little extra room is available to store gear that must be kept dry. However, our testers had no issues, and only the largest campers should notice — and at the end of the day, a bivy is not meant to store gear. A positive aspect of the space inside is the vertical clearance, plus the ability to toss and turn without disrupting the stiff nylon shell fabric is a bonus.

Weight


The OR Alpine used to be a heavy model. As you can see from the side to side photos below, the original Alpine (left) weighs in at about 811 grams vs. the 2019 Alpine, which tips the scales around 586 grams. We're still trying to wrap our minds around how Outdoor Research shaved over 200 grams off the original and still left us with the ultimate in weatherproof bivys. Well done Outdoor Research (insert hand clap emoji).


A few ounces more can be shaved off the Alpine by leaving the tent pole in the car. However, if any considerable time is expected to be spent pent up inside the sack, we recommend taking it with and dealing with a little bit of extra weight.

While some of our reviewers felt that the weight and features were overkill for average backpacking, many people may appreciate the complete, four-season weather protection of this sack. If you don't need four-season protection, you can find ultra-lightweight tents and tarps that are similar in weight but will give more space and comfort while hanging out at camp.

Packed Size


This bivy runs a bit long when packed up, coming in at 15 inches long. While the 2019 version of the OR Alpine saw some significant weight loss, it is still one of the larger bivys we tested when packed. Still significantly smaller than packing along a tent, and miles more packable than a tent with similar weather protection.


Often we found that the best place to pack it away was in a water bottle pocket or an exterior mesh pocket where the extra length presented less of a problem. Just as easily, the included tent pole can be removed from the stuff sack so that the bivy portion can be crammed wherever you have extra open space, such as a cooking pot, pack lid, or in between other items in your pack, while the pole can be slid safely out of the way. Overall, we felt the large packaged size wasn't ideal, but that the versatility and complete protection that the OR Alpine provides makes it worth it.

At 4" x 15.5"  the OR Alpine is larger than most packed models we examined. The amazing features and properties of this bag justify the slightly larger package.
At 4" x 15.5", the OR Alpine is larger than most packed models we examined. The amazing features and properties of this bag justify the slightly larger package.

Best Applications


The Alpine Bivy is adept at keeping you comfortable and dry in extreme weather situations. This is a true four season shelter and is best utilized in those situations. If you're going to be traveling primarily through warmer climates and encountering only occasional weather, the Outdoor Research Helium is a better option as it protects against the weather but is more breathable and lightweight. That being said, if you are facing inclement weather and want the most protection possible from a bivy, the Outdoor Research Alpine is a strong choice.

Value


This bivy is one of the higher cost options of our test group, at a retail price of $250. High-quality materials such as Gore-Tex and Hydroseal are reasonable luxuries for a high-quality product. Some ultra-lightweight tents or shelters are close in size or weight but are usually not stand-alone or four-season shelters. If you are heading out on a long term alpine expedition that requires a bivy, the price tag of the Outdoor Research Alpine is more than worth it.

The past version of the Outdoor Research Alpine was one of our favorite bivys ever  the new 2019 update is even better.
The past version of the Outdoor Research Alpine was one of our favorite bivys ever, the new 2019 update is even better.

Conclusion


The Outdoor Research Alpine offers the most weather protection of any bivy we tested. The 2019 revamp saw a massive weight reduction making this bivy even more functional. While it didn't retain its previous Editors' Choice Award, it is a fantastic bivy that we wouldn't hesitate to recommend to a friend. You really can't go wrong with the Alpine bivy though we feel like Outdoor Research really nailed it with the Outdoor Research Helium this year.


Brian Martin