Hands-on Gear Review

REI Minimalist Review

REI Minimalist Bivy
Best Buy Award
Price:  $100 List
Pros:  Lightweight, fun features, breathable
Cons:  No waterproofing across the face, excess stitching and bulk, thin fabric
Editors' Rating:   
  • 1
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Measured Weight oz:  15
Measured Weight lb:  0.94
Measured Weight g:  430
Manufacturer:   REI

Our Verdict

Is there a simple and lightweight bivy sack on the market that works well in three seasons but won't break the bank? The REI Minimalist Bivy is a high quality product with fun features to enhance the camping experience without adding excess bulk. Some may prefer the breathability of the bug netting covering your face rather than the usual nylon shell, though it will leak in serious weather. We gave this bivy our Best Buy Award based on the versatility and high quality at a low cost. Overall, the Minimalist is a high quality product that is reasonably priced and perfect for a weekend backpacker heading into the backcountry.

No longer available - June 2016
The REI Minimalist bivy is no longer being offered by REI. If you're in search of a new bivy, check out the Best Bivy Sack to compare all contenders.



RELATED REVIEW: The Best Bivy Sacks

Our Analysis and Test Results

Review by:
Greg Davis and Sarah Hegg

Last Updated:
Thursday
September 25, 2014

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The REI Minimalist is a unique product, offering some really cool features without extra weight. Many consider bivy sacks as an alternative to a tent, and we enjoy some of the design differences that stood out in this model. While added zippers and stitching create bulk, it can still easily be crammed into a small included stuff sack and fit in even the smallest of overnight packs. While more serious weather might require a 4-season bivy, like our Editors' Choice winner the Outdoor Research Alpine Bivy, with a bit of care and an extra rain jacket across the mesh face net, it is possible to remain dry in a rainstorm in this model.

Performance Comparison


For summer nights in the alpine a bivy sack can provide plenty of protection at a fraction of the weight of a tent.
For summer nights in the alpine a bivy sack can provide plenty of protection at a fraction of the weight of a tent.

Weather Protection


While we have reservations about the mesh-only face covering, the rest of this bivy works well to keep out the rain. However, stand alone without a rain jacket or tarp for precip protection, there is nothing standing in the way of getting rained on your head through the mesh only opening. One perk of this bivy, however, is that is has a rain gutter around the mesh face opening. This means that if you put a rain jacket over the mesh part, the gutter will deflect water that drains from your body towards your face.

A mesh bug net replaces the typical nylon shell  creating greater breathability at the cost of some weather resistance.
A mesh bug net replaces the typical nylon shell, creating greater breathability at the cost of some weather resistance.

Ventilation


Some of our testers did have issues with condensation in this sack, so we would recommend that it is extra important with this bag to make sure you are breathing through the mesh and not inside your bag as well as to use only the minimum insulation necessary to keep you warm. When we ensured these things, we did not have any major issues with condensation beyond the normal range for bivy sacks. There are three different zippers that allow for arm holes or to easily adjust the ventilation amounts in the middle of the night. We also like the gutter flaps covering the zippers as it can be difficult to make sure all three zippers are completely closed.

Arms can be popped out of the grey zippers while the black zippers are for main entry. Note the large rain gutter flaps which add bulk and weather resistance.
Arms can be popped out of the grey zippers while the black zippers are for main entry. Note the large rain gutter flaps which add bulk and weather resistance.

Comfort


This was the shortest bivy reviewed, and came in at 82 inches long. While we didn't notice any issues with our testers, folks who are looking to store extra gear in their bivy might find it difficult. Add to that the fairly narrow 32 inch shoulder width and some might need a bigger bivy. The MSR AC Bivy is a bit longer and more broad at the same weight, and also a touch more weather resistant, for those looking to increase storage capacity. Our testers found the bug net face covering to be a great idea on just about every trip, with it being a slight inconvenience on the odd rainy night. While throwing a rain jacket over the face during rare storms isn't fun, it was worth the starry views and breathability on all the other nights. The zippered arm openings are awesome features unique to this bivy that make hanging out in camp in the bivy even easier. One added perk is that the zippers have differently shaped pulls (one is round and one is flat) so you can easily figure out which one is the hood or the arm holes if you need to adjust in the middle of the night.
Drying camp out after a thunderstorm in the High Sierra.
Drying camp out after a thunderstorm in the High Sierra.

Weight


This bivy was the lightest reviewed, at 15 oz — even lighter than our bug net bivy! When you are considering bivies as an alternative to tents, weight is one of the most important variables for choosing a bivy sack. A sleeping system paired with this product can slide well under the '3 pound standard' used by ultralight backpackers and can perform well in a variety of conditions, whether in the mountains or desert. This is a high quality bivy at almost a third of the weight and cost of a lightweight tent, a solid value and well worth the investment.

Packed Size


We really liked the included stuff sack, which was more spherical and less cylindrical than the others, and we can easily find a spot in our overnight packs to cram it away. By eschewing tent poles and bulky fabric, the entire bivy is extremely small. Often bivies are used as emergency shelters in stakeout kits which are typically no larger than a school pack, and those looking to build a kit for unplanned nights out would do well to add this to their collection. If you simply have a need or preference to go as light and fast as possible, this model can easily reduce pack space needed to replace a tent with minimal shortcomings.

The packaged bivy is just slightly larger than a 1-Liter water bottle  with plenty of dead space for further compression.
The packaged bivy is just slightly larger than a 1-Liter water bottle, with plenty of dead space for further compression.

Best Applications


For those looking to get into a bivy sack with low financial commitment, this product is well worth the price and performs well in most climates without extra weight or bulk.

Value


We gave the REI Minimalist the Best Buy award as it is a quality and versatile product that fills an average camper's needs at a bargain price of $99.50.

Conclusion


This is a versatile bivy that serves most needs at a low cost and high value. We like the comfort and lightweight materials, and recommend this bivy to any camper looking to drop some pack weight and experience the wilderness in a new way.

Other Versions


Minimalist Bivy - Long
  • Cost - $109
  • Weight - 17 oz
  • Bivy Length - 88 inches
  • Long version of the Minimalist Bivy

For ultimate comfort, pair this bivy with a high quality sleeping pad and a lightweight backpacking sleeping bag.

Greg Davis and Sarah Hegg

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OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews


Most recent review: September 25, 2014
Summary of All Ratings

OutdoorGearLab Editors' Rating:  
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  • 5
 (3.0)
Average Customer Rating:  
 (0.0)
Rating Distribution
1 Total Ratings
5 star: 0%  (0)
4 star: 0%  (0)
3 star: 100%  (1)
2 star: 0%  (0)
1 star: 0%  (0)


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