Best Bikepacking Tents | Buyer's Guide - Outdoors Magic

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Best Bikepacking Tents | Buyer’s Guide

Why you should wild camp when bikepacking and the best bikepacking tents for your next adventure

Words: George Scott

Sleeping under the stars is an integral part of the bikepacking experience. After all, bikepacking is about breaking free from the confines of modern life, pedaling into the unknown and embracing the great outdoors. That’s why we’ve picked out a selection of the best bikepacking tents to help you enjoy that experience to the full.

Bikepacking affords riders a freedom beyond traditional cycle touring. Relieving the bike of heavily-laden panniers allows bikepackers to venture further afield and deep into the unknown.

“Wild camping gives you the ability to stay true to core bikepacking principles, such as self-sufficiency and freedom.”

“It’s a little odd and scary at first, especially if you don’t even have a tent and you’re just asleep in a ditch somewhere,” says Joshua Cunningham, who rode 22,000km from London to Hong Kong in 2015. “But once you do it a few times and it begins to become normalised, that’s when you really start to appreciate the freedom you have. It’s liberating.”

Bivvy, Tent or Tarp?

Bikepackers typically have three main options when camping on a trip. First is a sleeping bag and bivvy; second is a sleeping bag, bivvy and tarp; and third, a lightweight tent.

“Bivvies are lightweight and faff-free, but aren’t the best in bad conditions as they leave you very exposed,” says Cunningham. “Tarps can be fiddly and inconvenient, but have many proponents due to the extra protection they offer for such little extra weight. A tent is super-comfortable but heavier and more difficult to fit into bikepacking bags.”

Related: Best One Man Tents
Related: Best Two Man Tents

All three setups have their pros and cons. The relative merits of each will depend on the demands of your ride and how inconspicuous you need to be. The importance you place on comfort, weight and ease of use will also be important factors. “If I’m doing a race I’ll take a bivvy, silk liner and inflatable mattress,” says Cunningham. “If I’m touring I’ll take a tent, sleeping bag and inflatable sleeping mat.”

“The ‘ideal’ tent will vary from one rider to another”

We’d normally recommend a lightweight tent for bikepacking trips of more than a night or two, unless you need to travel particularly light.

Related: Best Bikepacking Bikes

The ‘ideal’ tent will vary from one rider to another. But generally speaking, a bikepacking tent should weigh less than 2.5kg and fit inside a handlebar bag (some may require the poles to go inside the frame pack). It should also be an inconspicuous colour, offer sufficient space and, of course, be able to withstand the conditions you’re likely to encounter.

Finding The Perfect Wild Camping Spot

Wild camping can be an intimidating prospect for first-time bikepackers. Round-the-world bikepacker Joshua Cunningham, author of Escape by Bike: Adventure Cycling, Bikepacking and Touring Off-Road, offers five tips to find the perfect spot.

  1. Choose somewhere that has overhead cover for extra warmth and protection (bus stop, hedge, barn, rock, tree).
  2. Try to camp on flattish ground that’s elevated from bodies of water that may rise in the night.
  3. Don’t be scared to ask landowners for permission to camp: pub gardens, people’s gardens, churchyards, farmers’ fields… wherever it is and whoever you ask will almost always let you stay.
  4. Make your exit from the road quickly and confidently. Do it just before dark, when there’s nobody to see you setting up camp. Be gone before anybody discovers you.
  5. Leave no trace.

Bikepacking Bonus Tip

“Imagine a world where bikepackers are globally connected and look out for each other,” says Callum Nicklin, brand manager of Mason Cycles. “Well, it exists and it’s called warmshowers.org. Here you might just find a caring and generous person offering a fellow cyclist somewhere safe to put your tent, maybe even a bed and a meal. You’ll meet someone new, share a connection and probably get a good night’s sleep. Just try to return the favour when someone else needs it.”

If you’re after more general advice on bikepacking, including how to start out and what you need for it, take a look at our beginner’s guide to bikepacking.

Best Bikepacking Tents | Top 5

Many of the best lightweight tents for adventure racing, wild camping and long-distance hiking are also ideally suited to bikepacking. However, some features become even more important when you’re on two wheels. This includes pack size (particularly packed length), overall weight, ease of pitching and porch space. The following models are all tried and tested bikepacking stalwarts that are well worth considering.

Terra Nova Laser Compact 2

Price: £500
Weight: 1.23kg
More info: terranova.co.uk

It is little surprise to see the Terra Nova Laser Compact 2 at the top of our list, given it’s fresh from earning a spot in the Outdoor 100.

The Laser Compact 2, new for 2019, is based on Terra Nova’s popular Laser Competition 2. However, it is both lighter and more compact in terms of pack size. With a claimed weight of 1.23kg and packed dimensions of 30x15cm, it’s ideally sized for a handlebar bag.

The tent is rated for three-season use. The low-profile design, with an inconspicuous green flysheet, makes it ideal for wild camping. The tent pitches all-in-one, with the flysheet and inner attached, so getting it up quickly in the rain shouldn’t be a problem.

The Laser Compact 2 technically sleeps two, and has two porches to store kit. However, it would be ideal for a solo bikepacker in need of a little extra space and comfort.

Read our full Terra Nova Laser Compact 2 review.

 

Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Bikepack

Price: £399.95
Weight: 1.36kg
More info: bigagnes.com

Given the fast-growing popularity of bikepacking, it’s little surprise to see bikepacking-specific tents emerging. The Copper Spur HV UL2 Bikepack from US brand Big Agnes is one such tent.

In fact, the Big Agnes Copper Spur also featured in this year’s Outdoor 100, where OM editor, Will Renwick, described the space-to-weight ratio as ‘very impressive’. Like the Terra Nova, it has a handlebar-friendly pack size of 30x15cm, while claimed trail weight is right on the money at 1.36kg.

The Big Agnes pitches inner first but we found it quick and easy to erect, while quality materials should see it stand the test of time.

Beyond the compact size, smart features that bikepackers will appreciate include webbing loops on the flysheet to dry wet kit, an oversized pocket to stash bulky gear, elastic webbing to store your helmet on top of the tent, and an extended footprint.

Read our full Big Agnes Copper Spur UL 2 review.

Alpkit Ordos 2

Price: £269.99
Weight: 1.3kg
More info: alpkit.com

Alpkit is a favourite among bikepackers. The British firm sells a range of quality bikepacking bags as well as camping gear and clothing.

The Ordos 2 is Alpkit’s lightest tent (claimed weight 1.3kg). While the pack size is a little bigger than the Terra Nova and Big Agnes tents (at 42x13cm), it’s still well-suited to bikepacking adventures.

The inner and flysheet are pitched separately (inner first). We generally prefer tents that pitch inner and outer together, both for simplicity and when pitching in the rain, but the Ordos’ design does mean you can just use the inner on warm, dry evenings.

The outer can be pitched on its own, too, for a super-lightweight setup which still offers a reasonable level of protection. Otherwise, the Ordos 2 is also available with a footprint for a tenner more; a worthwhile investment.

Vaude Lizard GUL 1P

Price: £560
Weight: 0.69kg
More info: vaude.com

This one is for the real weight weenies – the Vaude Lizard GUL 1P weighs just 690g. That, frankly, is ludicrously light. It makes the Vaude suited to riders who want the protection of a tent without the additional weight. The Lizard GUL 1P’s low weight will cost you, though.

Carbon fibre poles help keep the weight down. Despite the compact size and featherweight design, the tent is fully waterproof and rated for three-season use. A small porch offers storage space for kit but, as ever with a tent like this, the Vaude Lizard GUL 1P is not particularly spacious.

Where the Vaude Lizard GUL 1P also excels is in its inconspicuousness. If you want the protection of a tent and the ability to squeeze into the stealthiest camping spots, the Lizard ticks both boxes. For all-out comfort, however, we’d pick one of the roomier options featured here.

MSR Hubba Hubba NX

Price: £444.99
Weight: 1.56kg
More info: ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk

In reality, the demands of a bikepacker are very similar to the fast and light hiker. MSR’s superbly-named Hubba Hubba may be described as a backpacking tent but it’s also suited to bikepacking. it has a claimed weight of 1.56kg and a pack size of 46cm x 15cm.

The tent’s generously-sized interior provides plenty of head room and can also be entered from either side, in turn providing two porches for storing bikepacking bags.

The freestanding design is ideal for bikepackers who need flexibility as to where they can camp. The Hubba Hubba can also be pitched with just the poles, flysheet and a footprint or tarp (sold separately) if you want to cut weight.

The Hubba Hubba isn’t quite as compact as the Terra Nova and Big Agnes tents featured here. You should make sure it fits in your handlebar bag. However, this is still a really good option. If you want to go lighter and smaller still, check out the one-person Hubba.

Read our full MSR Hubba Hubba NX review.

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