Whether you’re new to bike touring or just realized your gear isn’t in the best shape, investing in a brand new tent will get you even more motivated to hit the road.
Knowing your tent can withstand whatever the touring gods throw at it will give you the peace of mind you need to focus on how much fun you’re having, rather than dreading any weather changes.
When choosing a tent for a bike trip, it’s important to keep your setup in mind; if you are already packed to the brim, a lightweight tent is a must. If you’re planning on doing shorter treks that require less supplies, you might be able to have the luxury of a slightly heavier and roomier tent.
When shopping for your home away from home, think about comfort, weather protection, and size. The following options fall on different ends of the spectrum in terms of best value, special features, and versatility; they are all great choices for any cyclist looking to live on their bike for a few months or only a few nights.
While setting up your bike for a long distance trip, make sure you set aside space for your tent, even if you haven’t gotten your hands on one yet. If you’re going the classic route; four panniers and front and rear racks, try to fit your tent in one of your panniers. It may take up the entire bag (or most of it), but it’ll be less exposed to the elements as your ride, and will free up rack space.
If your panniers are full, bungee cords are your friend; strap your tent tight to the front or rear rack for easy access. If keeping it on a rack, make sure your tent is sealed in its bag at all times; you don’t want stray raindrops seeping in as you ride. The bag will also protect the fabric of the tent from UV rays, which can break it down over time.
While three season tents are your best bet for long trips with unpredictable weather, if you’ll only be touring in summer months, strong waterproofing is what you’ll want to look for. Scroll down to the “Specs” section of any online product for useful information.
Pay attention to each tent’s rain fly set up and read what experienced hikers and cyclists have to say about using the tent in wet weather. A tent footprint is also a necessity; some tents come with their own footprints, but many are sold separately. The footprint will act as a dry barrier between the ground and the bottom of your tent. An ideal weight is generally The best bike touring tents are usually backpacking- specific; whether you’re on foot or on two wheels, how much you carry affects your speed, comfort and spirits.
Slingfin’s Portal freestanding tent has been racking up awards over the past two years, and its undoubtedly one of the best products on the market. Coming in at three pounds and five ounces packed (1.5 kg), this two person tent’s design is concise, despite its packable size, the tent has features like seven interior mesh pockets and opposite vents to maximize fresh airflow, giving you the best of both worlds.
Setup is quick and easy once you get the hang of it, and the Portal can withstand three, if not four-season weather. The rain fly is another special addition that sets this option apart; the design allows you to set the fly up first, then get the rest of the tent up from inside.
If you have to set up camp in a torrent of pouring rain, this perk allows you to open and put your tent up in a dry space, saving you an uncomfortable and likely chilly night. Long lasting and lauded for its craftsmanship, the Portal is worth the price tag, especially if you expect to continue touring. If you get tired of the saddle, this tent is also great for long hiking trips. The Portal’s matching footprint is sold separately.
By Sea to Summit
Considered ultralight, the Alto TR1 three season tent weighs in at a little over two pounds (0.907 kg). Notable features include sizable vents, a rainfly and apex vent that you can open or close from within the tent, an aluminum Quick Connect Foot pole attachment, and an upward tension pole design that raises the tent ceiling. The aluminum hardware is a nice touch, especially in terms of wear and tear and exposure to the elements.
The Alto is a one person tent for the solo cyclist, fitting nicely into a series of stuff sacks and making for a packable load. The Alto TR1 Plus is another option for those traveling in colder seasons; only slightly more expensive, the Plus has a 3+ Season rating, as opposed to the conventional 3. Both tents come in a two person option if you’re traveling with a partner.
Well known in the long distance cycling community, Big Agnes tents are preferred by a good number of riders for their lightweight and bike packing- specific collections.
The Fly Creek HV UL1’s packed weight is a little over two pounds (1.08. kg). This tent’s subtle but highly useful features cater to the weary cyclists; loops on the tent fly are ideal for drying clothes, while the aluminum Shortstik Poleset is made to fit just about anywhere on the bike, including on your handlebars. This small detail reduces the daily routine of stuffing your tent parts into a compression sack and hoping they all fit. Coined as high volume architecture, the Fly Creek’s pole angling allows you more space to sit up and move around in. With a durable carry sack made with months on the road in mind, this three season option seems like a keeper. Big Agnes footprints are sold separately.
By Mountain Hardwear
Mountain Hardwear’s Outpost 2 is another multi-season option for those looking to travel in unpredictable conditions, including cold weather; it’s an alpine specific tent made for mountaineering. It’s a great option for people who are also avid climbers, backpackers, and explorers.
With a packed weight of 5 pounds and 15 ounces, this red and frosty blue two person tent has two entrances and packs easily. An elongated dome shape gives you some room to breathe and there are plenty of pockets for accessories and electronics. A mesh canopy keeps the tent from feeling stuffy, while a sturdy rain fly keeps out the wind and showers. The roomy interior is great for taking a rest day during a long distance tour; at $450 to $600, it also comes in on the higher end of the price scale for a quality tent but will improve countless alpine, backcountry, or off road trips.
Built for backpackers, the Elixir 2 from MSR is a two person tent that weighs a little more, costs a little less and provides more than enough space for you and a touring friend. Ready to conquer three seasons, the Elixir is a great first time purchase thanks to its simple, color coded pole set up and break down.
Extra headroom is an emphasis, setting this tent apart from many others that are described as two person, but barely offer enough space to fit comfortably without being right up against the other person. An added gear loft allows you to store your valuables, and complete polyurethane coating guarantees protection from wet weather. Though this tent comes in at a packed weight of six pounds, almost double than many lightweight options, it’s worth considering if comfort matters to you.
If you are setting out on your first long distance tour and aren’t sure just how challenging it’ll be on your body and mind, having a tent like this will give you something to look forward to at the end of a long, difficult day. Packing your bike up before you leave and including this tent,whether in a pannier or on a rack, can give you an estimate of how its weight will affect your ride. The Elixir does come with an included footprint, bringing your entire purchase to about $250.
When traveling with another person, a heavier tent can often be split into two loads; the poles and fly can be carried separately from the tent body, for example. If you don’t want to store these parts loosely in your panniers, you can purchase stuff sacks separately from any outdoors store.
If you slept through an overnight rainstorm or your tent is soaked with morning dew (which happens more often than you’d expect), make sure to dry it if you have the chance. Set it up empty, and allow it to air out before putting anything else in it.
If your tent doesn’t come with them, having extra stakes, seam glue, and a tent patch kit is a good idea before embarking on tour.
While some of the most popular tents on the market may be sold out, don’t hesitate to pre-order them or get an estimate on when they’ll be back in stock.
Pay attention to your tent’s warranty policy! More often than not, the company you’re purchasing from will have a warranty that allows you to bring or send your tent in for repairs free of charge.