The Side Zip Borah Bivy

A couple of months ago I realized that I needed to get a bivy to use with a certain tarp, so I started looking around. In doing so I came across a thread over on BPL in which a few members were talking very highly of the Borah Bivies. Once I looked into them a little bit I knew that this was the bivy I wanted to go with. But why, you ask? Well, I will give you two reasons:

  1. The fact that so many had great things to say about both, John’s customer service, as well as the actual bivies themselves.
  2.  Price.

John West offers his Borah Bivies in a wide assortment. It is very easy to customize your own bivy right on his site. It’s as simple as choosing which model bivy you would like, then pick the materials, width and length and then any extra options that you may want. As well, if you don’t see a particular option on his site, you can simply email him and ask him about more specific details/options, and from what I understand, he is very accommodating.  And in my opinion, considering the high level of customization as well as the high quality of both the materials and the craftsmanship, I feel like his bivies are very pocketbook friendly. His basic (standard) bivy starts at $70, and then depending on additional options and materials, the price moves up accordingly.

So, all of these options…what did I decide on? Well, I will tell you…

  • I went with the Side Zip model simply because I was not so sure about squirming into a bivy with a top zip only…
  • I choose the M50 top because I wanted it to be as light as possible, and because I wanted to check out the newer M50 material (as opposed to the older M50 that is on my enLIGHTened equipment quilt).
  • I choose the regular width and length.
  • I did not choose any extra options.

This bivy with these options ended up costing me $95 (which I paid for using money I made from selling some of my other gear that I did not use anymore).

As well, when I ordered the bivy, there was a 3-4 week estimated delivery time frame, however, I was leaving for a trip that I really wanted to use this bivy on in about 2.5 weeks… So, I also emailed John and asked him if there was any way possible for me to get the bivy just a little earlier than his anticipated times which were clearly posted on his site. John was quick to respond and told me that he could probably move my order up, upgrade the shipping to Priority Mail and have it to me the day before I left… and I am happy to say, it all went down just the way he said it would! Huge thumbs up for his customer service… Thanks John!

Once I got the bivy, the first thing I did with it (of course) was weigh it. The supplied stuff sack came to 0.2 oz and the bivy itself came to 5.7 oz! This was even lighter than I expected (it is listed at 6.1 oz +/- 0.1 oz, but not sure if that weight includes the stuff sack). So, I quickly dug a long section of shock cord out (0.7 oz) and attached it to the pull loop located on the mesh part of the bivy. (I chose shock cord so that the cord would give with movement rather than tug so that the mesh will not be stressed where the loop is sewn on, or possible be torn loose.) After that, I stuck it in a medium-sized cuben fiber stuff sack from ZPacks (0.2 oz) and then threw it in my pack. The next day I was hiking down the trail with it…

To date, I have carried it on 2 hikes (here & here) and slept inside it 3 nights, each time inside one of the shelters located along the AT. And to be fair, it has been so hot on each of these hikes that sleeping was just plain miserable, period. Much of each night I would toss and turn inside the bivy just from being hot (and being dirty didn’t help none either…) However, to be fair again, I found that I was even hot and uncomfy when laying on top of everything (not in the bivy) with nothing on but my undies…

So, considering my limited use so far with the bivy, here are some of my thoughts on it:

  • As I said, huge thumbs up for John’s customer service.
  • The craftsmanship is great. I find no loose stitching and it all looks uniform and even.
  • I am worried that the pull loop sewn onto the mesh is a weak spot. I need to reinforce it with some SilNet or something. (Thanks Gizmo Joe for the suggestion!)
  • I like the side zip and imagine I would have been less happy with the standard top zip only. This is my preference though.
  • It will accommodate me while on a thick (2.5″) air pad and my fat Marmot Helium sleeping bag without constricting the bag. (However, I do not think that I could get a whole lot more bag in there unless I went to a wide version.)
  • I do wish I had chosen to add a tie out at each corner on the foot box. This would allow me to pin down the bivy and keep it from sliding upwards (toward the head) to keep the shock cord tight and keep the mesh pulled off of my face.
  • It is not seam sealed, however, I do not plan to use this in direct rain, so I do not see this as an issue and prefer it not to be sealed so that it can breathe even if just a little bit better.

I can’t really say much else about the bivy at this point. However, overall, I am happy with it and I look forward to trying it out more on future trips. (And TBH, I am even considering a new shelter to use with this bivy… hhmmm… any guesses as to what??? ) As well, speaking of new gear, I am also currently awaiting the Klymit Static V pad to come in the mail any day now, so I can check it out. Once it comes in I will add an addendum to this review to include how this bivy holds the slightly wider, 23″ pad…

Anyway, I will admit, a number of people have either emailed me or commented in various blog post or YouTube videos asking me about the Borah Bivy. I hope that this can answer most of those questions, however, if you have any other questions, feel free to ask below and I will do my best to answer them. As well, feel free to email John and I am quite sure that he will be happy to answer any other questions too.

Thanks for watching/reading!


Disclaimer: As noted above, I did pay for this bivy with my own money. I have no obligation to review this product. The opinions within this review are my own and I have arrived at them from actually spending a small amount of time with (and in) this bivy.

About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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10 Responses to The Side Zip Borah Bivy

  1. Fred Bar says:

    At this point in Space and TIme, Borah Gear has the cheapest, lightest shelter combo available anywhere:

    1) 5.5’x9′ Solo Silnylon Tarp – $49.99 – 8 ounces!
    2) Bug Bivy – $64.99 – 6.5 ounces!

    Add 10 Vargo Titanium Stakes ($37.00) at 0.3 ounces each (6 for the tarp, 4 for the bivy) for a total of 3 ounces and (from Zpacks accessories) 50 feet of 1.25 mm line (0.55 ounce) for $12.95 plus 10 of their Micro Line Loc Guy Line Adjusters (.65 /ea or $6.50) at .025 ounce/each or 0.25 total.

    18.3 ounces and $171.43.

    Yes, you may save some cash by buying 10 decent stakes for $10 at Amazon (delivered free with Prime) at 0.46 ounces each for a total of 4.6 ounces or:
    19.9 ounces and $144.42. 20 ounces and less than $150 !! (plus applicable tax if any and applicable s/h if any).

    Yes, you can go Light and Relatively CHEAP with good quality components. I’ve gone with the Bug Bivy but the larger, wider one so that I can my bag and shoes (in a bag) inside.

    The day John West figures out how to attach the tarp to the bug bivy easily and efficiently (and remove most of the netting leaving only sides), all other tent/shelter cottage manufacturers will go bankrupt since he will probably sell this anywhere between $150 – $200 without using Cuben and keeping the weight under 1 lb.


  2. Steve Gullett says:

    Thanks for the review Stick. I have one on order with John. I can’t wait to get it into the woods.


  3. Joe says:

    close the balloon with a marble.


  4. Hi Stik, an idea I saw somewhere, is to use a long balloon (the type they use to make animal shapes) to keep the bug net off your face if you are above the tree line or have no overhead branches. Just inflate it and use it like a bendable strut. Weighs very little..
    Good look on the hike, and welcome to the world of the bivvy.
    Walk far, and stay safe.
    Regards Steve.


    • Stick says:


      I bet that would scare the @#$% out of me if it went pop through the night… 🙂

      Really though, that might be a good idea. I would have to figure out how to close it up without having to tie it closed each night though…there is no way that I could get that untied!

      Thanks for the tip and for stopping by!



  5. Nathan says:

    Just curious if you had any other bivies on your short list. What made the final decision for you? I’m looking at getting a Bivy as I move to a tarp (and for AT shelters). I was considering the Borah, MLD Superlight, or the ZPacks Quantum Bivy.


    • Stick says:


      Before I got the Borah bivy I had looked at all of the bivies you mentioned (save the ZPacks bivy…it had came out on the site jsut after I ordered mine), as well as the SMD Meteor Bivy, the bivies at Ti Goat and even the Suluk 46 Bivy… They all looked like great options, but of course, I could only go with one…

      When I got this bivy, my intentions were to use it under a tarp, a small tarp. This meant that it would need to be able to at least resist some rain spray/splatter if needed. This knocked the bug bivies out. This really left the Borah Bivy, the MLD SuperLight, and the SMD Meteor bivy as options. Two other factors that were important was price and wait times. The Borah Bivy was less expensive than the SMD and the MLD, as well, MLD has a longer wait time, whereas SMD has them in stock and ready to ship.

      To be fair, price played a huge roll in my decision, but what really made up my mind was all the good buzz going on over on BPL about John’s customer service, and the high quality of his bivies. As well, the bivies he offers is also the same, if not less weight! Mix all of this with a very affordable product and that is a winner to me!

      If you are considering a bivy, I highly suggest checking out John’s site and see if he has something you are looking for (which considering all the options he has, I think he will). Don’t get me wrong though, the other ones discussed are great options too I am sure, in this case though, John’s was the one I went with, and I can honestly say that I am very happy that I did. Great product, friendly service and fast shipping.

      (Actually, mine is on the way back to him as we speak. He offered to put some stake outs at the foot for me, so now I will have those! It should be back sometime next week…)

      Hope this helps.



  6. Darren M. says:

    Hey Stick! Great overview of the Borah Bivy. I’ve been eyeing these up for awhile too. I still am not sure if I can ‘deal’ with a bivy. There are many nights that I would love to just cowboy camp if I don’t need a tarp and I love the quality/price ratio of this bivy. Keep us up to date on how you’re liking the bivy experience in-general and thanks for letting us know about mods you would do next time (bottom stake loops), that makes a lot of sense. Darren


    • Stick says:


      I will be sure to try and update this post as I need to…and actually, I have talked with John and am going to send the bivy back to him and let him add the bottom tie out loops to it for me.

      I agree with you about cowboy camping… it is nice for sure. However, I feel like this is a great option for use with a tarp for if the weather turns bad unexpectedly, or for those nights when I stay inside a shelter and want to try and keep the mice and the bugs at bay…

      Either way, I think that John offers a great bivy here for a very good price… If you are in the market for a bivy, I would really suggest to check out what John has to offer…

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by and commenting!



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