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REI Co-op Superlight Review

A decent bivy that has a few issues that need to be ironed out before it can hang with the rest of the competition.
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Price:  $150 List | $149.00 at REI
Pros:  Spacious, breathable, venting, sturdy
Cons:  Difficult setup, zipper/entrance frustrating
Manufacturer:   REI Co-op
By Brian Martin ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Jun 11, 2019
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60
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#6 of 9
  • Weather Resistance - 25% 7
  • Weight - 25% 4
  • Comfort - 20% 7
  • Ventilation - 15% 9
  • Packed Size - 15% 3

Our Verdict

The REI Co-op Superlight Bivy blurs the line between being an ultralight single person tent and a simple bivy sack. We found it to be the most spacious of all bivys tested in this review (when it was fully staked out) and ultimately quite functional. Some of the negative aspects we found include the necessity to stake out the bivy to enjoy its roomy floorplan, ineffectual zipper protecting flaps, and the fact that this was by far the most difficult to set up bivy we tested. In good weather, it took us almost ten minutes to get completely pitched and ready to crawl in. This process could be significantly more difficult in a surprise rain or snow storm. In contrast, bivys like the Outdoor Research Helium allowed for an extremely quick and easy setup while offering better weather protection and similar comfort.


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Awards  Editors' Choice Award  Best Buy Award Top Pick Award 
Price $149.00 at REI$178.95 at Backcountry
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Star Rating
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Pros Spacious, breathable, venting, sturdyLightweight, weatherproof, roomy, ease of use, bug screen, and on and onDurable, lots of head room, completely weatherproofLightweight, versatile, stows easily, price is rightExtremely lightweight, packable
Cons Difficult setup, zipper/entrance frustratingStuff sack too largeOverkill for milder climates, heavierLeaky zippersExpensive, no zipper
Bottom Line A decent bivy that has a few issues that need to be ironed out before it can hang with the rest of the competition.This very well may be the new standard in what we expect from a top notch bivy sack.This bivy sets the bar for the rest of the field by providing nearly perfect comfort, warmth, and weather protection.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.
Rating Categories REI Co-op Superlight Outdoor Research Helium Bivy Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy Backcountry Bivy MSR Pro Bivy
Weather Resistance (25%)
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7
10
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8
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9
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7
10
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6
Weight (25%)
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4
10
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6
10
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5
10
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7
10
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8
Comfort (20%)
10
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7
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9
10
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9
10
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7
10
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5
Ventilation (15%)
10
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9
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9
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8
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6
Packed Size (15%)
10
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3
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9
Specs REI Co-op Superlight Outdoor Research... Outdoor Research... Backcountry Bivy MSR Pro Bivy
Measured Weight (oz.) 24.8 oz 16.3 oz 20.7 oz 13.6 oz 8.9 oz
Packed Size (in.) 5 x 12" 4" x 12.5" 4" x 15.5" 3" x 9.5" 8" x 3.5"
Waterproof? Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Open Length (in.) 87" 82" 84" 80" 88"
Shoulder Width (in.) 27.3" 26" 26" 36" 36"
Material (top/bottom) Pertex nylon Top: Pertex Shield 2.5L 100% nylon Bottom: 100% 40D nylon Top: 3-layer Gore-Tex Respiration Positive fabric
Bottom: Waterproof Hydroseal coated nylon
Top: 20D Nylon Ripstop
Bottom: 30D Nylon Ripstop
20D ripstop nylon 2 ply breathable 1000mm
Bug Mesh? Yes Yes Yes Yes No
Sleeping Bag or Pad Attachments? No Yes Sleeping pad straps No No
Poles? Yes, Aluminum Yes, one overhead shockcorded Delrin pole Yes, one overhead shockcorded Delrin pole No No

Our Analysis and Test Results

While the REI Superlight has many redeeming features, there are a few issues that need to be ironed out before we would strongly recommend it to a friend. To start with the positive attributes first, at a reasonable weight, it is the roomiest bivy we tested. It has plenty of space for a bigger than average adult, and we didn't feel overly claustrophobic during a protracted weather event. The areas that could be improved would be the ease of setup including a pole with grommet feet which are adhered inside the pole (so they don't continuously pop out), a design that doesn't require being staked out for optimal performance (think rock ledge in the alpine), and an entrance zipper system that doesn't snag. There's nothing more frustrating than trying to get into or out of your bivy and having the zipper continuously catch.

Performance Comparison


With a few improvements  the REI Superlight would be a contender with some of the best bivys we tested.
With a few improvements, the REI Superlight would be a contender with some of the best bivys we tested.

Weather Resistance


While we found the Pertex fabric utilized by the REI Superlight to be an excellent barrier against the elements, we had a few issues with the protective flaps surrounding the zipper. They were easily blown to the side, which exposed the zippers. Bivys like the Outdoor Research Helium and Outdoor Research Alpine have tackled this problem with a clamshell opening and flaps that make it nearly impossible for the elements to expose the zippers. As the REI bivy seems to be oriented towards longer-term use and expedition type adventures, it needs to be more focused on these small details around vulnerable points like zippers.

The zipper covers are a major weakness in the otherwise weather resistant Superlight Bivy.
The zipper covers are a major weakness in the otherwise weather resistant Superlight Bivy.

We don't want to be too harsh on the Superlight Bivy as it performed acceptably with only a few nagging issues which were illuminated when compared to ultra weather resistant bivys like the OR Alpine. Beyond the zippers, this sack seems quite well protected from the elements and even the zippers, while vulnerable, let in a minimal amount of moisture.

All of the bivys we tested that utilized Pertex fabrics do an excellent job at shielding us from the rain. The REI model is no exception.
All of the bivys we tested that utilized Pertex fabrics do an excellent job at shielding us from the rain. The REI model is no exception.

Weight


With a name like the Superlight, we expected grand things from this bivy. They must have known we get excited at the thought of superlight outdoor gear… When we dropped this thing on the scale in registered right at 24.8 ounces (703 grams) which puts it about 8 ounces (240 grams) heavier than our Editors' Choice bivy. Considering the REI Superlight comes with four aluminum stakes and an aluminum pole, it isn't that wild of a weight difference. When you consider the overall performance difference, however, the added performance and weight savings of the OR Helium make it the obvious choice.

While not the lightest bivy we tested  the Superlight does come with four stakes and an aluminum pole  which most other bivys do not.
While not the lightest bivy we tested, the Superlight does come with four stakes and an aluminum pole, which most other bivys do not.

Comfort


Comfort is another area where the Superlight Bivy did quite well. Once the bivy is set up and staked out, it's roomy and doesn't flap incessantly in the wind. One of our testers tends to sleep on his side with his knees bent, which proved to be a bit of an issue when the bivy is staked out, as it is rigidly held in place. Though this wasn't a huge issue, it could be for some individuals and worth mentioning. As the rest of the bivys we tested don't require stakes to attain their full functionality, moving and bending knees isn't hindered.

To stake or not to stake? With stakes  the Superlight Bivy has tons of wiggle room inside. Without the stakes  you save some weight but lose out on what really sets the Superlight apart from its competition.
To stake or not to stake? With stakes, the Superlight Bivy has tons of wiggle room inside. Without the stakes, you save some weight but lose out on what really sets the Superlight apart from its competition.

Ventilation and Breathing


This model is an exceptionally breathable and well-vented bivy. One of the highlights is their zipper overhang at the top of the entrance which allows you to open the zipper several inches without welcoming in the rain. This, in conjunction with the ample space inside, allowed for excellent airflow and venting.

Compared to the rest of the bivy field  the Superlight Bivy has the most space. This thing is knocking on the door of being a one-person tent.
Compared to the rest of the bivy field, the Superlight Bivy has the most space. This thing is knocking on the door of being a one-person tent.

While we found similar venting and breathability in the Superlight Bivy as we did with the other top bivys in this round of testing, the one shining point, the zipper overhang, utilizes some extra fabric that the Outdoor Research Alpine and Outdoor Research Helium don't, as they incorporated their clamshell design into the same ventilation feature.

Packed Size


The Superlight Bivy is just about the largest bivy, in terms of packed size, that we tested. It has the largest included pole and is the only bivy to include stakes. The roomy floorplan, while comfortable, requires more material. The result is a packed size that rivals many single person tents.

If you're looking for a comfy bivy and packed size is highly important to you, check out our Editors' Choice, the Outdoor Research Helium as it retains excellent comfort while offering a much more packable design.

Best Applications


While the Superlight Bivy might not be one of our award winners for 2019, we could see it being a nice companion for three season backpacking, bikepacking, or really any adventure that necessitated having some extra shelter. We feel that the spacious and well-ventilated floorplan might work well in extremely buggy environments where you want protection from the insects but also don't want to simulate a sauna.

You're bug-proof oasis awaits. If you're heading to the boundary waters in Canada and are worried about mosquitoes completely desiccating you  the REI Superlight would offer well-ventilated protection against those little angels.
You're bug-proof oasis awaits. If you're heading to the boundary waters in Canada and are worried about mosquitoes completely desiccating you, the REI Superlight would offer well-ventilated protection against those little angels.

Value


If the Superlight Bivy were $50.00 cheaper, it would certainly be more appealing. As it is currently, our Editors' Choice Outdoor Research Helium is priced within 30 bucks and offers either equal or better scores in every metric we tested. This isn't to say the Superlight isn't good value for money and if you're looking for a bivy that blurs the lines between a single person tent and bivy sacks, this might be worth taking a look at.

Conclusion


The REI Co-op Superlight Bivy didn't win any awards this year, but it has potential! Considering the four stakes and aluminum pole were part of the weight, it has a pretty high space to weight ratio. With a few tweaks, it could be excellently weatherproof, and similarly, some small changes would allow it to be set up and packed away quickly and easily. As it stands, it is functional but a bit frustrating at times.

All in all  the REI Superlight is a functional bivy that offers quite a lot of internal wiggle room. With a few tweaks  it would rank among the best in our review.
All in all, the REI Superlight is a functional bivy that offers quite a lot of internal wiggle room. With a few tweaks, it would rank among the best in our review.


Brian Martin