Outdoor Research Stargazer AscentShell Bivy Review

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Home Forums Campfire Editor’s Roundtable Outdoor Research Stargazer AscentShell Bivy Review

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  • #3684938
    Backpacking Light


    Locale: Rocky Mountains

    The Outdoor Research Stargazer AscentShell Bivy (18.9 oz / 536 g, $259) is one of the few waterproof-breathable bivy sacks on the market that weigh just over a pound and also includes mosquito netting, a side-entry zipper, and a headroom-extending pole.

    Greg Pehrson
    BPL Member


    Locale: playa del caballo blanco

    Nice, iago!  I realize this is a limited review but you put a lot of detailed information in there. Would you say the half-moon space beyond the footbox seam is too small to put a stuff sack with your shoes/ boots in during below-freezing temps?  Thanks!


    Iago Vazquez
    BPL Member


    Locale: Boston & Galicia, Spain

    Dear Greg, thank you for the compliment!

    Regarding the half-moon shape at the foot end, it’s too small for footwear storage. I would probably store something I do not need to access throughout the night and I want out of the way, such as a water filter, powerbank/batteries, or similarly sized items.

    Users with a similar body size to mine or larger could struggle fitting footwear inside. The best storage area in the bivy is at the head end, where it is relatively generous–certainly in comparison to the rest of the bivy body.

    I personally prefer to store footwear outside, but if I had to store footwear inside the bivy, I would probably put it at the head end separating both pieces of footwear and/or perhaps incorporating one or both into my pillow system…

    Terry Sparks
    BPL Member


    Locale: Santa Barbara County Coast

    <p style=”text-align: left;”>As pointed out several times in the review, bivy’s are a tough sell to us backpackers.</p>
    <p style=”text-align: left;”>For a small to no weight penalty, you can get a good 1+ person (higher cost) Dyneema tent that has room for your gear and you can sit up and layer up without compression in cold weather.  For warm weather, it makes more sense to carry a 6-8 ounce (+stakes & lines) flat tarp at less cost.</p>

    James M
    BPL Member


    I took this bivy on the Colorado Trail this summer and LOVED my choice. I had a very limited time window to complete the trail and was alone, so it was absolutely perfect for me. I am 5’10” and slim, used a OV mummy pad and a 30 degree EE Enigma, and had no problems with filling the bivy up even when on my side. If necessary I could pull all my gear inside in the head space, which made it pretty tight, but more often I left my pack and shoes outside in a compactor bag. It was light and small in my pack, waterproof in the rain, allowed me to watch the stars (probably my favorite feature), and allowed me to hike much later into the day, not worrying about finding a good campsite or having enough light- as long as I wasn’t on the side of a cliff, I could find a spot to set up. In the mornings I could unzip, set up my stove and make a hot breakfast while my always cold toes were still cozy in my bag, then pack up in a matter of a minute or two and hit the trail. Loved it! Disadvantages were: basically no living space if there’s precipitation, no room for a dog. Otherwise, a perfect shelter for this trip and for solo trips to come!

    Stargazing from 12,000 ft up can’t be beat, especially when all you have to do if it starts raining on you is a simple zip. I can’t think of another fully waterproof, one pound backpacking shelter that lets you see the whole night sky.

    Iago Vazquez
    BPL Member


    Locale: Boston & Galicia, Spain

    Dear Terry, I agree that for most people in most circumstances a tent, tarp or hammock is an easier choice. However, bivies are one more option with its own set of pros and cons, just like any other shelter. At times bivies shine, others not so much. As James above points out, they can be a supreme choice for many of us for certain trips :)

    Arthur B
    BPL Member


    Thank you for a very detailed review.  Very well researched.

    I’ve used the prior OR model, the Helium Bivy on backpack outings in the desert and the Sierras.  I thought it performed quite well in the desert.  Freestanding, with minimal stakes.  And resistant to fine wind-blown sand when the top is zipped shut.  And great for stargazing the desert sky at night.  I would expect the new Stargazer bivy to also perform well in those conditions.

    I had very mixed feelings about the Helium Bivy performance in the Sierras.  I had significant condensation issues when the temperature dropped into the low 20’s.  Comparing specs, the Stargazer uses a different material.  That may explain the much better cold weather breathability that you saw.

    After my cold weather experience with the Helium, I bought a Dyneema tent for other fall weather mountain trips.  It is only slightly heavier than my bivy.  But I plan to take the Helium bivy the next time I go back to Arizona.  The experience of others on the Arizona trips was that fine wind-blow sand can blow right through mesh screens.  And the multiple stakes required to set up the tent can be a chore in sand.  For a free standing, sand proof tent, the solutions I’m aware of are 3 pounds or more.

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