Gear Closet: The ZenBivy Light Bed Review

The ZenBivy Light Bed: Over the past few years there has been a shift in how outdoor gear gets tested and made. In the past, large companies set the tone, creating new products that were released on a set schedule to meet seasonal demands, retail trends, and shareholder expectations. Today however, there are different paths to getting a new product on the market, including the use of crowdfunding.

This approach has been used by small and medium-sized companies alike to get their innovative new item into production and out to the public in a more timely fashion. Just yesterday I posted a story about how BioLite is using crowdfunding to get its new Headlamp into the hands of customers early. Today, we have another piece of gear that is using a similar strategy, this time creating a new sleep system that could replace the mummy bag you’ve been using all these years.

The new ZenBivy Light Bed launched on Indiegogo last week, bringing a lighter version of the original ZenBivy Bed, which launched last year. At first glance, it would be easy to dismiss the ZenBivy as just another sleeping bag in a sea of sleeping bags that are currently on the market. But, the designers behind this sleep system actually but some thought into their design and have come up with a more comfortable way to get a good night’s sleep in the backcountry.

What sets the ZenBivy apart from the competition its its approach to keeping us more comfortable on our backcountry excursions. While sleeping bags generally do a fine job of keeping us warm, they don’t always move well with us when we sleep. Anyone who has ever tired to roll over in their bag has usually found this out and they’re generally not made for those who like to sleep on their side or stomach. If you sleep on your back, and seldom move, chances are you have no issues with sleeping bag design. But how many of us prefer to actually sleep that way?

The ZenBivy ships with two distinct parts –– a quilt and a fitted sheet. The quilt is designed to keep us warm in the outdoors, just like quilts and sleeping bags from other manufacturers. The real innovation comes in the fitted sheet, which slips over your sleeping pad, providing a soft, comfortable layer between your body and the pad itself. The quilt can then be attached –– or not –– to the sheet, to create a system that somewhat resembles a traditional sleeping bag. The difference is, when you move about in your sleep, you can do so independently of the sheet of the quilt, just like you do in your bed back home.

I had the chance to test the ZenBivy Light Bed on my recent bikepacking trip to Colorado. I carried the 25ºF version with me into the backcountry and used it as my sleep system. The evenings dipped into the 30s in terms of temperature, so it was a reasonable test of its warmth and approach, particularly since I was sleeping in a lightweight shelter and not a full-blown tent. In those conditions, I was plenty warm inside the bed, finding it to be at least as comfortable as any of the sleeping bags I’ve tested over the years.

But where the Light Bed really shined was with its ability to grant me freedom of movement while sleeping. Traditionally, when I’m back home in my own bed, I don’t move around a lot. But, when camping, and sleeping on a small pad, I tend to roll on my side a bit more, usually taking the entire bag with me. When I did that in the ZenBivy however, I was able to move about unfettered by the sleeping bag itself. I could also adjust the quilt easily to meet my needs. When I got it a little warmer, I could open up the side to vent out some heat. And if I got colder, I could wrap up in further to stay warm.

What the ZenBivy brings to the table over its predecessor is that it is lighter, smaller, and more efficient. Depending on which size you get, the sleep system actually breaks the two pound (.9 kg) mark. That isn’t ultralight these days by any means, but it is completely respectable, especially when you consider everything that it brings to the table.

If you’ve been looking for a better way to sleep during your backpacking, hiking, or adventure travel excursions, the ZenBivy Light Bed may be exactly what you’re looking for. I can attest to how warm and comfortable it can be. The sleep system is scheduled to begin shipping in March of 2019, but it is available for preorder via Indiegogo. The company is making two different versions –– 25ºF, and 10ºF –– which start at $379 and $479 respectively. Both can be had at substantial discounts when purchased now however, making them much more affordable.

To find out more about the ZenBivy Light Bed, visit the official Indiegogo page. You’ll learn more about how it works, the premise behind its design, and what the entire system looks like. It truly is a worthy option for those looking for an alternative to the traditional sleeping bag.

Kraig Becker