Emergency Blanket vs Bivy – 6 Important Factors to Consider

Emergency Blanket vs Bivy
Emergency Blanket vs Bivy

Emergency blankets and bivys serve similar purposes, so deciding which one to use can be tough. 

Both emergency blankets and bivys reflect your body heat and are water-resistant. However, a bivy isn’t suitable for someone who dislikes being constrained, and an emergency blanket is better if you’re on a budget.

To help you further, I’ve done research to put together a more detailed guide below.

FeatureEmergency BlanketBivy
WeightExtremely lightLight
ComfortGood; best for people who prefer being unconstrainedGood if you don’t mind enclosed spaces
WarmthReflects 90% of body heatVery warm
VersatilityCan be used in many situationsNot versatile
Packed SizeSmaller than your handA little bigger than your hand
PriceUsually inexpensive; will have to be repurchased eventuallyCan be highly affordable or very expensive

Emergency Blanket Pros and Cons – Emergency Blanket vs Bivy

Emergency blankets don’t immediately spring to mind when thinking about camping gear, but they can be highly beneficial.

The Pros – Emergency Blanket Pros and Cons

  • Budget-friendly; low cost and can be bought in bulk.
  • Extremely light.
  • Can be used in all weather conditions.

The Cons – Emergency Blanket Pros and Cons

  • No head cover; your face and head may end up cold.
  • Won’t protect your back.
  • Difficult to clean; you’ll have to replace them when they get dirty.

Bivy Pros and Cons – Emergency Blanket vs Bivy

Bivys come in two forms: sack or shelter. The sack is similar to a sleeping bag, and the shelter has some structure over your torso, making it more like a tiny tent.

The Pros – Bivy Pros and Cons

  • Can be used instead of a tent.
  • Reusable can be reused indefinitely, whereas an emergency blanket has a shorter lifespan.
  • Warm enough to provide comfort.

The Cons – Bivy Pros and Cons

  • Can feel claustrophobic.
  • Your breath can cause condensation buildup.

Weight – Emergency Blanket vs Bivy

Winner: Emergency blanket

A single emergency blanket usually weighs less than a pound.

In fact, you can get several emergency blankets that weigh under a pound in total: look at the Oceas Outdoor Mylar Emergency Blanket 4 pack. The shipping weight of the four emergency blankets and their case is under a pound.

A bivy sack, by comparison, weighs only 4.8 ounces, but one bivy sack is still heavier than one emergency blanket.

Comfort – Emergency Blanket vs Bivy

Winner: Varies

You need a sleeping pad with both pieces of gear, so the comfort level there is about the same. As neither has padding, the comfort factor is solely dependent on whether you’re comfortable in cramped spaces or not.

If you enjoy being tightly wrapped up, then you’ll prefer a bivy bag. If you want more wiggle room, then an emergency blanket will likely appeal to you most.

Warmth – Emergency Blanket vs Bivy

Winner: Emergency blanket

Emergency blankets reflect 90% of your body heat, so they’re always going to be at least a little warmer than a bivy.

Some bivys also reflect this much body heat, but not all of them do, so it’s difficult to generalize. 

Both items will keep you plenty warm when you need them to, though, so you’re not losing out on anything regardless of which one you pick.

Versatility – Emergency Blanket vs Bivy

Winner: Emergency blanket

Neither an emergency blanket nor a bivy is too versatile, but a bivy sack is less versatile than an emergency blanket.

You can only use a bivy one way: crawl into it, close it up, and stay warm. However, emergency blankets are essentially big sheets of fabric. You can use them in plenty of ways.

You can suspend an emergency blanket like a tarp for some shelter above you. You can wrap an emergency blanket around you like a cape and walk with it on a cold day. You can even sit on top of an emergency blanket if the ground is too cold to sit on.

Packed Size – Emergency Blanket vs Bivy

Winner: Emergency blanket

Both of these items roll up incredibly small, but the emergency blanket has to win. If we look at the Oceas blanket from earlier, a single emergency blanket rolls up smaller than your palm, and four of them in a holder are smaller than a single packed bivy.

That said, bivys are still quite small. They’re often not much bigger than your hand when rolled up tightly and packed away.

Price – Emergency Blanket vs Bivy

Winner: Varies

Pricing can vary a ton between emergency blankets and bivy. Emergency blankets seem more affordable at first glance, as you can get four for just over $20, and in some cases, you can get 10 for just over $10! 

But you have to remember you’ll have to rebuy them at some point.

Bivy sacks vary in price, too. There are some great ones available for under $30, but they’re usually the ones made for emergency use. Sturdier, longer-lasting bivy bags can cost over $100, as you can see with this Snugpack Special Forces bag.

Alternatives to Emergency Blankets and Bivvys – Emergency Blanket vs Bivy

Sometimes neither of the options described above will make you comfortable, but there are alternatives that you might wish to use instead. 

Wool Blanket – Alternatives to Emergency Blankets and Bivvys

A wool blanket won’t keep you as warm as an emergency blanket, but it’s always a good option if you like being cozy. I don’t recommend using one when it’s extremely cold outside, but it’s a good option for early fall and late spring trips.

You can layer wool blankets for extra warmth, but keep in mind that they’re very heavy and expensive, so they’re best for car camping.

If you want to see how a wool blanket compares to a sleeping bag, then I suggest you read up on the details of using a wool blanket vs sleeping bag.

Mummy Sleeping Bag – Alternatives to Emergency Blankets and Bivvys

A mummy sleeping bag is the closest thing you’ll get to a bivy without it being a bivy. Mummy sleeping bags are highly insulated and wrap you up tightly. There’s even a hood, but your face will be exposed so you won’t feel quite as constrained as you would in a bivy.

Three are other types of sleeping bags, too, but a mummy bag will keep you warmest. However, you can still take a look at this mummy vs rectangular sleeping bags comparison if you want to choose the best sleeping bag for you.

Single-Person Ultralight Backpacking Tent – Alternatives to Emergency Blankets and Bivvys

If you want something roomy that’s not quite as large as a tent, then consider something like this. It’s a single-person tent that’s just a little bigger than a bivy shelter, but it’s not quite a full tent.

They’re narrow, but there’s lots of headroom for you to sit up by day or night.

Camping Quilt – Alternatives to Emergency Blankets and Bivvys

A camping quilt is like a mummy sleeping bag without a back. It fits your body, tucking you in, but your back and head are free, so you won’t feel as constrained. 

These are great for people who don’t mind their legs being wrapped up tightly but who have issues with claustrophobia when their head is obscured.

Emergency Blanket vs Bivy
Emergency Blanket vs Bivy

Conclusion: Is There A Winner? – Emergency Blanket vs Bivy

There’s no way to say whether an emergency blanket or a bivy is best, as they’re highly similar. It’s up to what you feel is a better fit for you.

I recommend investing in both and trying them out in different situations, as you never know which one you’re going to click with.

Frequently Asked Questions – Emergency Blanket vs Bivy

What are the Different Kinds of Bivys Out There? – FAQs

Depending on your needs and preferences, there are many different types of bivys available.

Here’s a rundown of some of the most popular types:

  • All-season bivys offer excellent rain and wind protection thanks to features such as waterproof breathable fabrics and taped seams. These models are heavier and typically more expensive than other types of bivys, but they are an excellent choice for longer trips in colder climates or at high altitudes.
  • Lightweight bivys are commonly made of lightweight materials like ripstop nylon or ventilated mesh, making them ideal for ultralight backpacking or bike-packing trips. However, because these models typically lack ventilation and weatherproofing, they may not be suitable for prolonged use in wet or cold environments.
  • Non-waterproof materials (such as Mylar) are commonly used in emergency bivys to reduce weight while providing basic protection from the elements in life-threatening situations.
  • Bivy sacks are simpler than traditional tents, with only one layer of fabric providing some protection from the elements but not much space inside; this can make them uncomfortable during longer stays outside or when multiple people are camping together.
  • Four-season bivys have increased insulation and wind/waterproofing, making them appropriate for year-round use in any climate – ideal for alpinists looking for a lightweight alternative to a four-season tent.

How Can I Protect Myself from the Wind While Camping? – FAQs

Wind can make camping uncomfortable and even dangerous, so it’s critical to plan ahead of time.

Here are some tips for protecting yourself from the wind while camping:

  • Choose a campsite that is wind-sheltered by natural features such as trees or hills. Set up camp near larger objects like boulders or vehicles to break up the wind if you’re camping on open land.
  • Set up your tent with care; ensure that all stakes are securely fastened and that precipitation flys (if included) are properly positioned over windows and doors to prevent cold air drafts from entering your tent.
  • Use adequate guidelines to secure your tent against strong gusts of wind; this will also help keep your tent’s shape intact, preventing the force of the wind from pushing against its walls and tearing it apart.
  • If necessary, add additional layers of protection, such as large tarps, between your tent and the ground; this will minimize any exposure to wind chill, which can cause a significant drop in temperature inside your tent.
  • Place heavier items, such as coolers or backpacks, along the edges of tents to keep them from blowing away or damaging other parts of your campsite during high winds.

What Makes Emergency Blankets Suitable for Emergencies? – FAQs

Emergency blankets are a must-have item in any emergency preparedness kit because they can provide critical protection in life-threatening situations.

Here’s why they’re useful in an emergency:

  • They are lightweight and compact, making them simple to transport and store in your emergency kit.
  • The blanket’s material is designed to reflect body heat back toward you, allowing you to stay warm even in cold or windy conditions.
  • Some models are waterproof and/or tear-resistant, providing additional weather protection if necessary.
  • When placed beneath another layer, such as a tent or sleeping bag, emergency blankets can prevent heat from escaping down into the ground.
  • Most emergency blankets are brightly colored and have reflective strips to help search parties find them in the event of an emergency; make sure you have one of these models in your kit if you plan on traveling to remote areas where help may not be immediately available.
Ben Wann- Tent Camping Expert

My name is Ben Wann, and I’m a lifelong tent camper and backpacker who jumps on every opportunity to get out and enjoy nature! I created this site to inspire others to get outside and to make the process easier for you.