Outdoor Research - Helium Bivy

Category: Sleeping Bags

Got this for its light weight and simplicity. Took it out for two nights of cool dry North Cascade October weather. First night was a little above freezing, second a little below. Even leaving the fly all the way open and head out I got soaked both nights. There's something seriously wrong with this design. Also the bug screen is almost useless because you can't get it tensioned enough to stay off your face - even with stakes and guy line(s). And the fly droops down on your neck. I ended up using some clips to hold the fly off me and to increase the ventilation. No matter, I got soaked anyway. Oh, also it weighs in at 18.5oz but when you add stakes, guy line and a few little clips it's closer to 23oz. Knowing I'd never use it again I returned it to the store.

I have always wanted a bivy and recently bought this bivy hoping that it would be everything I dreamed of. Given that I have no past bivy experience to compare this to feel free to ignore the entire novel below. I have to admit that there are several issues with this product that made the first night rather uncomfortable. The first being the net, (bug net), in the front droops down when zipped up. This causes it to potentially sit on your face. This rather defeats the point of a net as the bugs can easily feast on you all night through the net that is resting on your face. I am 6'2" and fit into this bivy well enough, but In order to do so I had to scoot towards the top of the bivy, where the net is, and risk being eaten alive by the hungry pests waiting patiently outside. To fix this issue a used a little tape to secure the net to the pole of the bivy. This improved my experience by leaps and bounds and no longer had to worry about the bugs sucking what blood I had left. The second issue I had was how hot the bivy got. I slept out of my sleeping bag starting out, which helped, until the cool night really sank in. At that point it was cool enough to actually use my sleeping bag. The reason I felt that it was so hot was due to the fact that the rain fly section hangs down if you have the net zipped up. This cuts off the rest of your body from the ventilation from the net and makes for a sauna type feeling from the neck down. I fixed this by rolling up the rain fly. It can also be secured with tape to the top of the bivy.

Ok. So I was leaning in the direction of the Out Door Research Alpine Bivy but ended up settling on this one for the price. I will say this thing is awesome for what it is. Light weight, small, comfortable. I'm 6'1 and there's room for my boots at the bottom of the bag. I've been using this on a section of the Contenintal Divide trail (Grays Peak to Rocky Mountain National Park) and it's been great. I'm more of a fast and light person so this checks all those boxs. And it's easy to find a flat spot to set it up since it's so narrow.

I've used this bivy on nights in the 50's & 60's temps, and in rain. It's been great so far! Slight condensation on rainy nights along the zippered area, but not enough to even wet my sleeping bag. I love the built in mosquito netting, perfect for clear nights when I want to feel the crisp breeze outside. The hoop pole keeps the bag up off me well enough. I can't wait to take this bivy on more adventures!

I bought because of light weight. This was my first use of any bivy sack. The rain fly does fall down with netting zipped closed. I have now installed three pieces of 1" wide Velcro to be able to hold the rain fly up therebye opening up the sack which helps a lot. I am also going to make a second modification to open up the sack. I will try to install a second poles set maybe 2 feet from the first pole set.

I can see how this would be a good product if it were waterproof as stated on the tag. However, I took this on a 9 day trip, and the bivy was unusable. On the first night it rained and my sleeping bag got soaked. It wasn't only at seams it was through the fabric and the whole thing. The bivy may be "water resistant" but definitely not waterproof. I ended up having to cram in another tent the entire trip (as it rained 8 of the 9 days) and used the rolled up bivy as a pillow.

This is an awesome 3-season Bivy. I took it backpacking in 40-80° weather, camped along a river most nights, and had very little condensation, even when it was all zipped up. In fact, the only condensation I noticed was along the taped seams along the hoop section. I woke up thinking the edges near my elbows were wet, but I realized it was just really cold, which makes me think this wouldn't be good for snow camping. The inside material is kind of slippery, like a rain jacket material, but I didn't mind it. I am 5'5", 125 lbs. and this Bivy had way too much room. I shoved my pack at the feet and still had ample room below my feet and shoulder to shoulder. To save weight I wish this came in a shorter size. The hoop system was awesome when I tried it out in the store, but the reality is that it doesn't stay up on its own; I had to tie a guy line to a tree and to the top of the hoop to keep it upright. The netting option is great for warmer nights, and its zipper is high-vis yellow. I still had to use my headlamp in the middle of the night to differentiate the zippers, though. I woke up freezing and closed the entire Bivy, and that made a big difference in temperature control. While I really liked most of the features of this Bivy, I returned it because it required extra work to keep the hoop upright, plus for an ultralight backpacker, this isn't the most lightweight option out there. If you don't care that it's 18 oz., you've figured out how to keep the hoop up all on its own, and you're not claustrophobic, this Bivy is perfect.

it was set up in rain all night, with pad and bag inside,zipper in pools of water, almost completely dry inside. good so far. mike

the first night it rained the zipper leaked. I tried re-zipping and screwing with it but it still leaked. I also didn't like the way the cover and bug screen just lay on your head when using the bug screen. What's the point of the hoop if the cover lays on your head anyway? On the plus side there wasn't much condensation inside like I have experienced with my old REI bivy. I'm going to return it.

Yeah… great in the right conditions. Mt.Adams At 9k below freezing at night … 20* down bag. A little frost… so what. A little wind…stayed warm and didn't have to carry 10# tent. Dried quick in sun… so with little precipitation in forecast this is the way to go in cooler weather. (Look in rocks)

Have used this on overnight backpacking trips 4-5 times, all in ARIZONA. Have enjoyed most when it has been colder out as it seems to do a good job of retaining heat. After testing in my living room, I realized two things... 1) best to tie a guy-line to over-head loop and stake down body at all four corners, 2) I use two clips to roll up and secure the “flap” that would otherwise hang onto my face and block airflow. With these two additional steps, I have enjoyed every outing and experienced minimal condensation. Granted, I live in a dry climate... so keep that in mind as I could see condensation becoming a real issue in high humidity! All in all... I give it high marks for when I am looking to go very lightweight.

It's ok. I didn't love it. I used it for 4 days bike packing the Maah Daah Hey in Western North Dakota. It's very light weight, packable for bike packing and pretty darn water proof. But as a structure its a bit flimsy, is a condensation disaster, the screen/zipper thing is truly bad. Lots of little annoyances. I'm returning it and will replace with a lightweight 1 person tent. Creature comforts will be worth the little extra weight and space. I'd recommend for a ultralight person on a budget. It's not bad. It's just not for me.

I bought this one because it was the lightest available at REI at the time, and it came with poles to hold the headspace up.

Have not had it very long only used it once so far but like the size of it. I have added Velcro to hold the cover up if I just need the screen

Bivys aren't for everyone-- they're claustrophobic for some and there's no room inside for your pack (although I found enough room for my hiking shoes and an extra layer) but overall I think this is a really good value. Kept me warm and dry in the rain and snow in the Grand Canyon on a recent R2R2R hike. In fact it works better in snow than rain-- condensation can become an issue on the inside of the bag during a long rain. But either way it does the job at a really good price and weight. One word of caution-- you really do need to keep the clamshell open about 8-10 inches for ventilation. The fabric is really airtight especially when wet or frost-covered. I was getting short of breath before I figured out it wasn't the altitude but the bag itself that wasn't allowing enough O2 to get inside.

When I bought this and tried it out, I was aware of the design flaws it had with the netting but the reason I return it was that it wasn't very long. It doesn't fit me very comfortably since I'm 6' 5' and there isn't much inches to spare to try to avoid the netting that falls on your face, even when I hook the netting to the pole. This is not good since mosquitos can bite right through it. There's also not a lot of room to move around either.

The OR Helium has served me very well. I've always been able to keep it partially unzipped and never had condensation issues. Very lightweight, easy to setup, adds a lot of warmth over cowboy camping, and has been durable despite being setup on sharp rocks on multiple occasions. You have to have realistic expectations, any bivy is going to have condensation issues when fully closed. If your looking for a tent, you will be disappointed with any bivy.

Used this at 10,000 feet on Humphreys Peak (AZ) last week with very lightweight sleeping bag. Kept me warm and dry in intermittent rain and hail. Flipped hood and hoop open when not precipitating and had no issue with condensation.

Went on a 3 night trek in the Smokies last March with this product. Finally getting around to writing this review. I went this this because it was supposed to waterproof. It is not. After an 18 mile day on the AT I set this bivy up dead tired ready to bed down. It is not free standing. Its super simple to set up, but you need to anchor it into the ground, which for some could be a problem. The bivy is not breathable, and if you don't leave a considerable portion zipped open, you feel like you might suffocate.

The bivy worked marvelously. I just used it on an unexpectedly stormy trip. I was under an overhang so I didn't see it exposed to a direct downpour, but it handled the drips and splashes just fine. Most importantly, it is warm. I only had a thin summer weight sleeping bag with me when the temperature was in the low forties/high thirties, but even when I crawled into it sopping wet and shivering, I was warm and mostly dry in under an hour.

I used this on two separate occasions in the summer. Each time was good weather so I never set up the arch pole or zipped it closed at night since it never rained and I didn't need to. Each of the mornings when I woke up there was condensation all over the inside of the bag and especially by the feet. It doesn't appear to breathe in good summer weather so I can't imaging how unpleasant it would be in poor weather. I won't be keeping it.

I have taken this bivy into various climates and conditions and am often impressed. It's light, small, and overall comfortable. I enjoy the straps to secure your sleeping pad, but be careful as they do deteriorate quickly and begin to shed. It sets up quickly, and when in a hurry, I have actually skipped setting up the support bar (as it's not required) and just slept with it laying on me. I'd recommend this product for sure.

Pro, light weight, does the jub Con's dificult to get in, design need some tweaking. My daughter and I took this to the Grand Canyon, spent 5 days and 4 nights. Had a great time. This is a very light way to go. 2 of these weight less than a really lite 2 person tent. However they are hard to get into at night and worse to get out of in the middle of the night. Also the design relies of it be closed up to hold the bow up. If you choose to leave it open or just use the netting then bow with sags or fall dow completely. A light cord attached to the loop at the top of the bow sleeve and a tent stake should fix.this problem, but it would also make it harder to get into bedd. I would reccommend this to a friend with qualifications. Try it before you buy it. The REI store put one up for my daughter and her get in it. If weight is a real concern then consider it.

I have used this Bivy over a couple dozen tips, From the Desert - Big Bend Nat Park and Grand Canyon trips to Whitefish Montana Mountains. It is light - dry, and easy to handle. it DOES touch your sleeping bagall over, ( you wear this almost - a skin over your sleeping bag) staking it out can help if this "touching" is an issue for you, but it's a Bivy -- not a 1-2 person tent, and as such excels in all my needs. BUT I do also keep my pants and boots inside with me -- just because - so there is some extra room.. I regulate temps and humidity by unzipping a little of the entrance a few inches as needed. It has kept me warm, safe and dry in High strength & cold winds with little disturbance while my companions were beat to death & freezing inside their tents. (it warms up quickly in there) These have a specific purpose and are fantastic - BUT you need to learn how to use them to me most comfortable - also consider your base layers or whatever your sleeping in as well as the bag you take. If you'll carefully consider the environment and adjust / regulate clothing and ventilation - then you'll be one smiling pea snug in your pod -- and for mere ounces of weight.. I Love Mine. !


Does not breathe adequately. Camped one night in lower 50 degree weather and condensation in the bivy was significant (yes my head was out of the bivy). I am returning this item.

The blvy collapses all the time. Very unstable in the wind. It is unstable when getting in and out of the it.

I used this bivy on a 6 day 50 miler backpacking trip and I will be returning it when I have time. They weight is one of the selling points but comfortably isn’t one. The cons of this bivy is there are no tie down loops so you can’t guide the bivy out if it’s raining. Also is would be nice if it had a foot vent. Finally it was raining and my sleeping bag got soaked. I do not recommend this product

I used this on a previous bikepacking trip, and would highly recommend it! You can pack it down to virtually nothing, and it’s saves so much space with only one pole that fits perfectly in a frame bag. The night I used it there was steady winds, and low 40 degree weather. It cut the wind perfectly, and I didn’t feel crammed inside with a sleeping bag and pad. Well worth the investment.

I haven’t used it yet, but it DOES come with a pole.

There had been rain a couple nights before I used the Helium Bivy, but it was said to be water proof, so I wasn't worried about dew. Was I wrong. The dew soaked into the tent and got my sleeping bag wet. The whole roof sunk in (from head to toe.) I felt like I was in a coffin or a ziplock bag with no breathing room.

I've spent many nights in a bivy, and this is not the best. I was hoping for a lightweight, breathable bivy, but it felt more like a sauna. Also, the bug net design is atrocious. I ended up sleeping on top of this bivy for a few days because I was sick of inhaling bug net into my mount while sleeping

Water permeates through the fabric. You can not use this in rain. It is quite claustrophobic. It takes time to get use to it. I purchased it because I was heavily weight conscious. But now I think it was worth to take a little extra weight for being water proof and a little bit more comfort.

Very nice and light bivi, but some condensation inside and hard not to have mosquito netting on head when keeping the bugs out

Don't be fooled by the photos - this does NOT come with any poles!

First the good: very lightweight, well constructed, stood up to a few night time showers very well, and, as others have noted, with the rain fly down (zipped) it does draw tight giving fair head room, and it breathes fairly well (considering you're wrapped in a waterproof bag). The bad: if you don't stake it down firmly at all points, the pole doesn't really do much of anything, it can flop around, hang toward your face etc. If it is staked down well, and the rain fly is zipped fully or even partially, it does pull the shell away from your face. But, if you try to just use the mesh fly, (which is well constructed), first...figure out the zipper configuration before you actually try and sleep in this thing as it's confusing as heck in the dark. The much bigger bummer is that when you try and just use the mesh covering, the rain fly just flops down and creates this "flap" that hangs around your neck or upper chest...it's obnoxious, but worse it traps heat and makes your bivy very warm. I've taken it out on 3 trips now to test it and just can't get past the uncomfortable nature and inconvenience of the hanging flap and barely functional pole to keep it off your face. I would have LOVED this thing if it kept the material (both mesh and rain fly) off my face better with maybe an additional pole, or separate zippers for the rain fly and mesh, so the rain fly could be rolled up outside the bivy rather than inside. I have only used a really simple gore tex bivy in the past, for some minimalist adventures, so I don't have many other bivy sacks to compare it to...but if you are considering this versus a one person tent, I personally have made the decision to deal with the slight additional weight and size of the one person tent to take advantage of more space, better breathability, more versatility and most importantly, a better night's sleep!

I have spent almost two weeks in the Outdoor Research Helium Bivy and found it to be pretty acceptable for my use. I bought it new and tried it out on my back lawn without turning off the early morning sprinklers. I slept comfortably all night and did not get wet from the sprinklers, which were on for 20 minutes.



Does this bivy require any aftermarket waterproofing prior to use?

It does not, the fabric used is a waterproof fabric. You may want to refresh the DWR after some use just as you would a Jacket.

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