Here we are, sleeping just below the crest of a mountain pass, off trail in the Sierra Nevada. Pictured are the Katabatic Piñon Bivy, the Solo Quilt by Blue Bolt, the Desert Mariposa Sun Shirt, the Fractel Cap, the Zpacks Altaplex Tarp, Cnoc Cork Trekking Pole, and the Sea to Summit UL Pillow.
Overview: After spending 40+ nights with the Katabatic Piñon Bivy, in a variety of environments, I’m ready to say that it is one of my favorite shelters I’ve ever used. Whether it be in rain, dust, clouds of mosquitoes, or literal snow, it has yet to fail from the elements.
Test Locations: the Arizona Trail, off trail in the Sierra Nevada, the Sawtooth Mountains, exploring Grand Staircase-Escalante, and the Guadalupe Mountains High Route.
Gearlist for the AZT: https://lighterpack.com/r/ydu7z7
Katabatic Piñon Bivy Specs
- 2.19 g/ 7.52 oz
- 6 ft long
- Tapered Cut, 82 - 68 inches wide
- Bathtub design for splash protection
- No-see-um mesh
- ROBIC Nylon floor
- Pertex Quantum upper
- Tie loops at the foot and face end
- Stake loops on all four corners
- Internal sleep pad attachment points
Pros of the Katabatic Piñon Bivy
Katabatic Piñon Bivy fully staked out and deployed!
LOOK AT ALL THESE FEATURES. Bivys, by design, are meant to be minimalist. Yet this one packs so many features in under half a pound. That’s four full sized stickers bars, or an afternoon snack after you’ve hit fifteen miles.
I really appreciated the bathtub floor, and the breathability of the Pertex upper. On more than one occasion, I've relied on their protection from unexpected rain swells, as well as giving me extra room to keep mosquitoes from flying by my ear at night.
How I usually employ my Piñon Bivy, as a ground sheet. I like to place my pillow in the bivy, to keep it from rolling away from me as I toss and turn throughout the night. My Dandee Pack goes underneath my legs to elevate my feet and insulate my legs from the ground.
Durability. I'll be honest with you. I'm a lazy hiker. Weather and bug pressure permitting, I'll pick a spot on the ground and just go to sleep. I truly hate setting up and breaking down camp. Most of the time, I'll just lay out my bivy and use it as a groundsheet. I'll toss and turn all night, and in the morning, I'll crump the Piñon Bivy into a ball, and shove it into my pack.
The Piñon Bivy will NOT quit on you.
Seriously. Wanna sleep on top of a mountain pass? No problem. How about a small spot in between cactus and thick thorny bushes. You got it. The Piñon Bivy is so dang reliable. I'm not sure I've even disfigured the mesh. Which leads me to my next point…
Having enough room is always a concern for backpackers looking into getting a tarp and bivy setup. Honestly, I have so much room here. I can eat, change clothes, plan the rest of my trip, etc. All with full protection from bugs and the elements.
Ease of use. Like I said, you can just lay it on the ground and pass out while checking your maps for the next day’s section. That’s the genius of a bivy system; and as durable as the Piñon is, you can pretty much lay it wherever you’re reading this RIGHT NOW.
Thunderstorms can get willey in the desert, so to make things even easier, I added shock cord loops to its four corners to extend the bathtub to its fullest in the most dire of situations. Even if you don’t take that extra step, the Piñon is incredibly easy to use.
Availability. The Piñon can ship in as little as one to two business days. Meaning you can order your bivy from one trail town, and pick it up in the next. That's an INVALUABLE asset to have available to you, in case your first shelter gets thrashed by a storm, or you change your mind about wanting to use it….Or you're a gear nerd and you need your new piece of gear STAT!
Weight. “But doesn’t this weigh as much as my Goosefeet Gear Down Jacket?” Well, yeah… but that’s not the point. In the ultralight world, the Piñon Bivy clocks in at an average weight. With more context though, it’s only an ounce or so heavier than something as light as the ANDA Burrito.
The level-headed backpacker in me sees that it’s nowhere near as heavy as the bivys offered by the more mainstream gear makers. Add a simple tarp, and it still undercuts the weight of most traditional shelters on the market.
The gram-weenie in me, though, does wish Katabatic offered a version with a 0.80 oz/sqyd DCF floor. But, in this case, I won't let perfect be the enemy of good.
The Piñon Bivy is one of the most durable and versatile ultralight shelters I’ve used, and has been battle tested in the most horrendous of conditions over the course of the past year. The bottom line is that it will protect you from the elements, no matter what gets thrown your way.
Rafael is a freelance writer and adventurer based in the Mountain West. You can find him trail running, backpacking, or sampling the best tacos during his free time. Follow all his adventures over on Instagram, or read more of his work over on his website.
on slick rock in the midst of a thunderstorm with 35 MPH gusts?