By Kenyon Neuman
Sleeping in the back of my car has never been an ideal scenario, but if an early start from a distant trailhead is required, I’ll gladly do it.
I drive a 2017 Volkswagen Golf Alltrack Wagon with a large Thule Cargo Box affixed to the roof to carry most of my gear. The rooftop storage lets me use the vehicle’s back as a dedicated bed with the rear seats folded down.
With my back seats reclined, there’s not enough length to comfortably accommodate my 5’9″ frame. My feet touch the hatchback door, and I’m always surprised at how this minor compacting causes significant sleep disruption.
Given my history of sleeping in the back of sport utility wagons, I was asked to use and review the Backseat Bivy. The Backseat Bivy is a bit like a hammock that spans the width of your vehicle. It creates a sling across the gap that exists between your front & rear seats when the latter is folded down. It’s a solution that makes your car camping “bed” longer by converting that useless pillow-swallowing gap into a functional space for you to rest your weary head.
I planned an overnighter at a Sno Park just West of Bend, Oregon, to test the Backseat Bivy. I set up the Backseat Bivy at home before I departed and found it a quick and easy process. This was also practice, as it was storming up high. I imagine other folks would want to do this if they’ll be arriving in bad conditions, in the dark, or if they are car camping several nights in a row and want to avoid the set-up and breakdown process each day.
The basics are this: insert the poles to provide structural integrity and shape to the fabric, fit over the front headrest, and tension slightly once the two rear runners are clipped to the child seat anchors. The only difficulty was adjusting the sling to fit my vehicle just right. I imagine the second time around will be a breeze.
I departed with my skis nested on the roof, my ski boots in front of my passenger seat (by the heater), and a nice car-camping bed made up in the back.
I drove through quite a pummeling snowstorm, arriving at my destination to find the parking lot recently plowed. I parked and adjusted my front seats to the furthest-forward position to maximize the length of my sleeping space and truly test whether the Backseat Bivy made that space usable. This took a small amount of finesse as I didn’t want to stress either of the tent-pole-like rods that help keep the Backseat Bivy taut.
I partially adjusted the driver’s seat first. Then I moved the passenger seat fully forward. Finally, I moved the driver’s seat entirely forward.
Once I had the front seats as far forward as possible, I climbed into the back of my vehicle. To my delight, I found the bed in the back of my car was much longer than before. Wind gusts kept me up for a bit, but then I was out like a light, and I even hit snooze a few times, delaying my ski plans a bit.
For the first time in ages, I was comfortable in the back of my car; the Backseat Bivy did deliver on its promise to lengthen the sleep-able area in the back of my wagon. I’ll gladly use the Backseat Bivy anytime I plan to sleep in my car, as it just made for a much more comfortable snooze. These folks have an understated product that, bottom line, will help you have better adventures – a good night’s sleep is like that.
I’ve made a list of “pros” and “cons” for The Backseat Bivy based on my experience testing the product:
- Successfully adds length to the sleeping area in the back of your vehicle.
- It creates an excellent, subtle channel in the area where your headrests, and it supports a pillow.
- Closes the gap between the front and back seats to prevent items from falling through.
- It can remain set up when you adjust the front seats for driving so long as you adjust the driver and passenger seats carefully, considering the backseat bivy poles to avoid breakage.
- Made of high-quality materials.
- Easy to set up.
- Highly Adjustable.
- It breaks down to fit into a nice, small bag that stows easily.
I had to wrap the suspending straps around my front headrests an extra time to get it to fit my vehicle in an ideal way. This may have been a user error, but it wasn’t straightforward for me in the setup phase, the child seat anchors in my car are not set far back, so I took up some slack with the double wrap around the front headrest.
Most of us outdoor types who want the option of a driveable and sleepable vehicle are not knee-deep in #vanlife. The Backseat Bivy is a cost-effective and practical piece of gear that makes more humble cars a whole lot more comfortable for sleeping.
Backseat Bivy is based in Canada and is the brainchild of Nick Hayock, a self-professed dirtbag who has roamed North America prototyping a cost-effective sleep system for years. You can order the Backseat Bivy directly for $125.00 with free shipping within the U.S. and Canada.
Dimensions are 48″ wide and 24″ long.
The fabric is “Bluesign certified 600 Denier 72T recycled fabric + high grade webbing.”
The two collapsible poles are manufactured from 7000 series aluminum.
According to Backseat Bivy, once the system is properly installed, it can support a load of “60lbs (27kg) of indirect bodyweight (i.e. your head, neck).”
The weight of the Backseat Bivy is roughly 2.4 pounds.