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Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Review – A Great Ultralight Bivy | Average Hiker

bristlecone bivy with bag and pad

Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Review

This Katabatic Brislecone Bivy review describes a well made, ultralight backpacking bivy and another quality product from Katabatic. My last bivy was from Mountain Laurel Designs (MLD), and although their Solo is a good bivy, I wanted a larger mesh panel.

After researching current bivys on the market that met my requirements, I bought a Bristlecone Bivy on White-blaze. The Bristlecone is made by Katabatic, a manufacturer of quality ultralight quilts and bivys.

I was excited when I saw the bivy for sale on White-blaze. The bivy was brand new and had never been used, so I made the purchase. It has been a good addition to my gear list.

To date, I have used the Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy on the east coast in late spring/early summer. Trails like the Appalachian Trail and the New England Trail are in my backyard and great trails for equipment testing on shorter hikes.

Table of Contents

My Bivy Requirements

My Bivy Requirements for long distance hiking remain the same.

  • Light Weight – Lightweight is essential on long-distance hikes, but not as much for section hikes. I don’t usually take a lot of time off when I hike long distances, so I work to reduce weight to combat fatigue.
  • Room – I want a bivy that is long enough to allow me to store gear in the foot when it is cold. I also want enough room on the sides to keep small items like a battery, hiking poles, etc. I keep my poles inside of whatever shelter I use. I’m tired of small animals eating the cork handles.
  • Water Proof/Resistant – The bottom of the bivy needs to be waterproof, and the top shell should be water-resistant. I used to have a fully waterproof bivy but could not use it in warm weather due to heat and condensation.
  • Net Window – I don’t want a net bivy, but I would like a large net over my face.

Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Review – Quick Specifications

  • Weight: 8.1 ounces
  • Fit: 6’6″
  • Weight: 8.1 ounces
  • Length: 91 inches
  • Shoulder Girth: 76 inches
  • Foot Girth: 54 inches
  • Price: $155
  • Packed Dimensions: 8″ length, 5″ wide – it is packed in a waterproof stuff sack and could pack down to about 6″ x 5.”
  • Upper Shell: Pertex Quantum Nano Ripstop .9oz/yd
  • Bottom: CORDURA® Silnylon 1.4oz/yd

When Do I Use a Bivy

My intent with the Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy was to use it in colder seasons – early spring and late fall. I also use a bivy in dry climates where rain is limited, like desert hiking or high altitude hiking.

Cowboy camping is not my thing, although I enjoy sleeping under the open skies. Too many creepy crawlies have given me a nip or two, and waking up with a spider or tarantula perched on my face is not much fun.

In recent years, single person tarp-tent shelters have gotten lighter and lighter, coming in at 13-15 ounces now. This is about the same weight as a bivy and tarp, so I use a bivy less. The Bristlecone Bivy will still have its place on certain hikes.

When Do I NOT Use a Bivy

I typically don’t use a bivy on long-distance hikes, and this bivy is not in my current Arizona Gear List. Still, I’m thinking about taking it on my Arizona Trail thru-hike in September/October. The weather appears perfect for a bivy/tarp system, and desert night skies are beautiful. If I don’t use the bivy, I will take my Zpacks Hexamid.

Wet, warm, humid environments are not ideal due to condensation. A bivy adds about 5-10 degrees to your sleep system, so colder weather works best for me.

I don’t use a bivy much on the east coast unless I know the weather and the trips are short. The east coast is sometimes buggy, and I like to cook on short trips. It is tough to cook and eat from inside a bivy. The last thing I want to do is spill food in the bivy and become a bear burrito.

Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Review – First Glance

katabatic label on bivy

The Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy reminds me of the MLD Solo Bivy. The biggest standout for me, and one of the reasons I bought the Bristlecone Bivy, is the large mesh panel across the top of the bivy.

The Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy is well made, and the quality is obvious when I roll the bivy out and take a close look at it. All the seams and stitching are neat and tight. The #3 YKK zipper is easy to use, and the dual zippers do not snag. Many small details indicate this is a well-made bivy.

Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Set Up/Pack Up

tent mode for the bivy
bivy staked out
tie lines

There really is not much involved in setting up a bivy. Roll it out and put your sleeping pad and sleeping bag inside of it and crawl into sleep. I often set up my bivy like a small tent. This allows more room, and no net is left resting on my face. If you are a back sleeper, you can also wear a baseball cap to keep the net off your face.

Using my hiking pole, I tie three lines to anchor the pole and connect one of the lines to the small loop at the top of the bivy. This keeps the netting up off my face and gives me more room to move around, read, write, etc. If there is a tree near-by, I tie a line from the same loop to a branch above the bivy.

The three lines I use for the Bristlecone Bivy are pre-cut, and I roll them up and toss them in the bivy before packing it up in the morning.

One note on the hiking pole. I used to put the handle down and tie the lines around the tip. The small basket kept the lines in place at the top. Since the cork gets eaten by animals, I now put the tip on the ground and place a zip-lock bag around the handle before tying the lines around it.

So far, nothing has chewed on the handle – knock on wood.

Staking Out the Bristlecone Bivy

The bivy has a silnylon floor, and unless you want to slide around all night, you had better sake out the bivy. There are four stake-out loops provided, so this is done quickly and easily.

I also need to stake out the Bivy if I’m going to tie up the hood.

Packing Up the Bristlecone Bivy

The bivy packs up small. If the weather is nice, I pack it in the mesh pouch on my backpack. It is packed in a silnylon bag if it is raining, and I turn it upside down before packing it in the same mesh pouch. This keeps water from leaking into the bivy interior.

Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy – Components

The bivy’s main components are simple and easy to use. They provide four stake out loops, sleeping pad attachments, and a large mesh panel across the bivy hood.

Mesh Window

mesh face panel
plenty of bivy room

The mesh panel is large, allowing for good airflow. I don’t sleep with my bivy open, so having a large mesh panel to reduce condensation is critical, and the Bristlecone Bivy performs well. Condensation has not been an issue.

Tie Out Loops

quality loop stitching
stake out points

The Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy has four tie out loops, one at each corner. These have a few uses.

  • They anchor the bivy so I can tie up the hood for more space.
  • They keep the bivy from sliding all over the place.
  • They pull the bathtub floor tight in heavy rain when there may be water running or pooling under the bivy.

Sleeping Pad Attachments

bristlecone bivy pad clips
pad clip

The Bristlecone Bivy has four sleeping pad attachments sewn onto the bottom of the silnylon floor. I don’t use them much since the bivy itself holds the sleeping pad in place, especially with the things I put between the bivy and the pad’s edges.

If you do use the attachments, and you have a Katabatic quilt, the attachments are excellent. The cord attachment system you use to attach the quilt to the pad also lines up with the attachments on the bottom of the Katabatic Bristlecone bivy.

I secure everything I have with one cord system. In the morning, when you pack up the bivy, leave the cords in place, so they are ready to go when you stop for the night.

Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Review – Materials/Construction

The Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy uses quality materials and is well made. The quality is the workmanship, such as stitching, seams, etc. The Bivy is roomy and provides plenty of space for my 20 inches wide, 2-inch tall Neoair Sleeping Pad, and my 10 Degree Feathered Friends Lark Sleeping Bag.

Shell Material

 bivy materials

The Bristlecone Bivy uses Pertex Quantum for its shell. The material is breathable and resistant to tears and abrasions

I’ve always had a good experience with Pertex Quantum, and the material on this Bivy is no exception. Condensation has not been an issue as long as I make sure I breathe out of the mesh window and don’t let the bivy slide up over my face.

The Bristlecone has also had no issues with tears or scratches yet.

Bathtub Floor Material

silnylon bottom material

As I’ve mentioned, the bathtub floor is made of silnylon. The bottom of the Bivy is double-coated with silicone and resists moisture well. I’ve not used it in any downpours, but I’ve used other shelters with the same floor material. Leaking water has never been an issue. This bivy has held up well in spray and light rain.


sleeping bag and pad
roomy toe box area

I’m 5’11, and this Bristlecone bivy is 6’6″ with a zipper on the left side. When it is cold, I like to store my electronics, and sometimes my shoes if it is freezing outside. I am careful about storing wet clothes due to condensation. If it is wet enough to have wet clothes, I usually set up my tarp and hang the clothes.

As you can see in the pictures above, even with my 10-degree sleeping bag and inflatable sleeping pad, the Bristlecone Bivy has plenty of room in the hood and foot sections. There is also room to tuck in small items beside the sleeping pad, such as my phone, headlamp, battery pack, etc.

Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Review – Final Thoughts

The Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy is a quality ultralight bivy that is well made and provides a reliable light-weight alternative for fast and light hikers. The bivy has plenty of room and a large mesh panel that is exactly the right size for me.

The Bristlecone Bivy is excellent in cold weather. The bivy adds 5-10 degrees to my sleep system to carry a lighter weight quilt or sleeping bag. One of my favorite things about a bivy is that I can toss and turn with no drafts. This is a big plus for me when using a quilt.

I would recommend the Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy for anyone that enjoys backpacking with a tarp and wants to keep their weight low. This is a solid bivy for a tarp/bivy system.

Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Availability

I reached out to Katabatic at the time I wrote this review. The Bristlecone Bivy is currently out of stock. They expect the Bivy to be back in stock at the end of 2020 or the beginning of 2021. They also stated that there might be some minor changes to the Bivy’s construction once back in stock.

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2 thoughts on “Katabatic Bristlecone Bivy Review – A Great Ultralight Bivy | Average Hiker”

  1. I grabbed a Bristlecone maybe 12 years ago and the design doesn’t look like it’s changed. I use under a Gatewood Cape. It’s overkill as far as shelter, but it serves as a ground sheet, draft protection for the quilt, a bug-free capsule (RMNP sites are all next to water) and a catch-all for pillow and extra clothing.
    I happened to work just a couple miles from their first shop, so I brought my cape with me to show Aaron when I picked up the bivy. The floor of the bivy and the cape looked like they were made from the same material. Another unexpected benefit was that the net loop was exactly right to snap into the loop inside the cape. Aaron handed me a few feet of shock cord so I could just use the same stakes as the cape to keep things fairly centered under the cape. It’s a nice system.
    I usually zip the net down when it gets cold and the mosquitoes stop flying, but with the hood clipped up it keeps the floor in a little bit of a bathtub and blocks wind from my face. Even with the net zipped, this bivy feels a lot less confining than my first one; I can change clothes inside without performing any Houdini maneuvers. Even so, I like to take advantage of the headroom of the cape when I can. I’ve never had condensation inside. The large net and the breathable top work well.
    I have only used the pad attachment loops a few times, but now that I have a Katabatic quilt, I’ll be using them more in order to position the cords for that system, and keep the pad centered inside the bivy.
    Overall, it works very well under my tarp, for my purposes.

    1. Sounds like you have a great system. Good idea on the shock cord. I also like how roomy this bivy is, and that it also lines up well with my Katabatic quilt. Good tips – thanks!

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Ellie Thomas

I've hiked thousands of miles and still love the unknown of the journeys. Trails hiked include the AT, PCT, CDT, CT, AZT, NET, BMT White Mountains, and numerous blue-blazed trails around the country.