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If there’s one piece of kit that we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time researching, it’s tents. It’s understandable though, because there are a ridiculous number of shelter options on the market. Seeing as how our tent will be our home while we’re on the (dirt) road, we don’t want to go over-the-top trying to be minimalist. On the other hand, since we need to carry it, we can’t afford for it to be too large or heavy either.

In a perfect world our tent would:

  • pack small
  • be light weight
  • have the option to set up freestanding
  • be reasonably robust
  • have 2 doors
  • have a subdued color scheme (not bright orange)
  • not be crazy expensive

Here are a few that we have considered:

Hilleberg Nammatj 2 GT

Reportedly very strong, and popular with some cycle tourers, but expensive, heavy, and not free standing.

Some lighter weight, free-standing options:

Marmot Tungsten 2P

MSR Hubba Hubba NX-2

Big Agnes Copper Spur 2 Platinum

All of the above are popular, and would probably do the trick.

Some other lightweight tents popular with bikepackers:

Tarptent Double Moment

Both this tent, and the one below, have options that allow them to be set up freestanding.

Zpacks Duplex

Made of Cuban fiber (Dyneema) so very lightweight, but pricey.

And for something different…

Increasing in popularity amongst ultralight hikers and bikepackers are pyramid-style tents. Although these shelters are strong, lightweight, and reportedly have a ton of interior space, they are not freestanding, which is a drawback in situations where you may wish to set up the tent indoors (that occasionally happens while traveling), and can be expensive, especially those made of Cuban fiber. They also don’t come standard with a floor or screen, making them less suitable for wet or buggy regions unless you purchase those options. They are sexy though, in a retro kind of way.

Ultamid 2

Photo by Cass Gilbert

Here is a review of the Ultamid 2 (pictured above), and a 2nd review of a similar product made by Bear Paw Wilderness Designs.

Which tent will we ultimately choose?

We’re going to hold off on this decision until we can get face to face with some of these. Also, who knows what may come on the market in the next month or two?

Do you have a favorite tent? If so, feel free to post the brand/model/link in the comments. The more, the merrier!

28 Comments

  1. Mike,
    We just bought our 3rd tent and it is a larger Marmot. We recently camped at Padre Island National Seashore and we had the tent partially collapse in some pretty strong winds around midnight on our last night there. The tent poles are now bent (this was a new tent) and I am finding Marmot’s customer service completely unacceptable. I wrote the several times on their website with no response. I then tried to chat with them online but no one was home. Again left a message. Some two weeks later I got a response to send the entire tent in for an “evaluation”.

    I have also dealt with Big Agnes and their customer service and they were excellent. Of the tents you are looking at I’d go with the Big Agnes. I would not go with a tent that is not freestanding as you will likely be settling it up and tearing it down daily!

    I did my bike tour with an REI and it was also an excellent tent. Our other tent is a Mountain Hardwear and it too has been excellent!

    Bill

  2. The best advice we received (from REI) when we started our bicycle touring is that you should opt for a larger tent since you will spend a lot of time in it. Bad weather days may mean spending days! in your tent. We took the advice and we have to say that the bigger tent really made things better on long tours.

    Most tents are either for backpacking or car camping. Bicycles are somewhere between. Pick your “house” carefully!

  3. I bought one of these a couple of years ago and my back thanks me every time it’s used. There are options for converting it to a stand alone “ground” tent, insulation, etc.

    http://www.sierramadreresearch.com/hammock-shelters/nube

    • Hammocks might be comfy to some, but they aren’t really suitable for what we’ll be doing, and where. They require trees, etc. to hang them, and that is not always available.

  4. Have you looked at Eureka’s tents? I know backpackers and hikers like the Eureka tents a lot.

  5. I’ve been backpacking with a Eureka Timberline 4-man tent since 1991. Last fall one of the little plastic clips that attaches to the rain fly finally got brittle enough that it broke off, but I fixed it with one of the tiny caribiners I carry to clip my cameras to my backpack. Might be heavier than what you want, but it’s lasted me 25 years! https://www.campmor.com/c/eureka-timberline-4-tent-40328?gclid=CjwKEAjwqZ7GBRC1srKSv9TV_iwSJADKTjaDkeB8XRJtBCoMVrTm4r6MqRGasDMKGEa8KJXOWq3fkRoCosfw_wcB

    • Yes, the one you linked is heavy, but it’s also a 4-person tent. A tent last 25 years is pretty good though. How many days per year do you think it was used?

  6. What conditions would you put your tent up indoors?

    • We have read where cycle tourers have set up their tents on concrete slabs in parks, or inside old buildings, or in fire stations. I even read one account of a guy setting it up on top of a bed in a hotel room, to protect himself from the mosquitos. 🙂

  7. I have not priced shopped tents elsewhere but from what I have read about Mountain Equipment Co-op there are few retailers who can match their customer service and guaranty. As a purchased a new ski jacket there last fall I witnessed another client returning a 10 year old backpack for repairs. Within my circle I have yet to find anyone who has even a minor negative thought about MEC and their products.
    https://www.mec.ca/en/explore/returns-and-guarantee/

    https://www.mec.ca/en/explore/Services/

    I would be happy to help you out with the logistics if you order from them.

  8. If you want light weight, really hard to beat MSR and Big Agnes (although I admit intrigue with Z-packs except for the $$). However, for my biking, I found compromise with the Eureka brand. Seems to fall somewhat in the middle of weight/price.

  9. Have you looked at the TentSile? Not sure if they can freestand, though, and not terribly cheap.

    https://www.tentsile.com/

  10. OK Mike, please don’t laugh at me, I am not a professional…
    I have a cheap $50 Coleman Sundome 3 Person Tent that I have used for many years and LOVE. It is quite light and compact, is free-standing, just the right amount of room for 2, when you remove the rain cover everything above about 28″ is mesh so on the warm nights it’s great and cool. It has lasted very well, and for a couple of years I used it every summer weekend for 2-3 nights each weekend, so probably 60% of the year. Even if you decide that you need it to be much lighter ($$), check out the layout and consider it. It is so functional and easy to set up.

    • Not laughing. While light and compact is a relative term (really lightweight gear tends to be pricey), I read something that said that no tent is designed to be used every day, week in and week out, and thus will wear out over time, regardless of what you paid for it. To that end, a brand new 100.00 tent every month would in one year just surpass the cost of some of the most expensive ones. Of course, you don’t want you house to break, so there has to be a balance. Thanks.

  11. Have you guys figured out bike shorts yet? I can live in any number of tents, even uncomfortably. Bike shorts or pants, I’d rather not be uncomfortable for a nanosecond.
    Seems to me easier to pad the seat than my pants (getting to the age where folks don’t guess bike pants, they guess adult pampers). This season my plan is to put the gel foam on the bike where it belongs but I still need some more styling than old cutoff dungarees. Then again, being the last human in dungarees ( a grand word on the verge of extintion) has some appeal…..
    There’s gotta be a high tech semi expensive alternative to bike fashion faux pas.

  12. Google sites related to through hiking the Appalachian Trail. A number of my friends took this on in college, and there are certain similarities, since the hike typically takes > 6 months. It’s practically a cult thing, and what works for long duration has been well-explored.

  13. An outlier here. I backpacked for years as a Boy Scout, Venturer and leader with nothing more than a blue plastic tarp. I could pitch it anywhere, even with no trees around (rocks, kayak paddles, and in your case, bike frames). Super cheap, just need some ropes and plastic pegs. Great even in a driving rain if about 8*12′ because you are a long way from the edge. Awesome ventilation too.

    When Diane came along we added an internal bug net because she reacts poorly to mozzies. We later got a tent in Australia where they think adult tents need standing headroom!

    According to my tree planter friends the UV will kill a nylon fly in just 4-5 months. Many would put a cheap blue tarp over to protect the costly fly.

    If I was doing what you plan to, I would consider a high-tech tarp tent and internal bug screen. No floor just a groundsheet. Some good reviews here:
    http://m.outdoorgearlab.com/Ultralight-Tent-Reviews

    I would place a high premium on light weight. Riding is just more fun if you are not too overloaded.

    And as a long time bike commuter I would only ever consider padded shorts. MEC used to make hiking shorts that looked normal except for bike padding. Lot less conspicuous.

  14. Hubba Hubba. Love it. We have the ” back porch” option so you can tuck gear in. Whatever tent consider how high the floor wraps up at the openings.. Pretend its raining hard and the drops hit the ground hard- dirt/mud bounces up into the tent between the tent and the rain fly. Same principle in blowing sand. Ah, to be young again you crazy kids!

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