Last updated in January 2021. Happy New Year!
Perhaps the biggest challenge in choosing the right tent for your cycle tour or bikepacking expedition is the fact that there’s no industry-standard category of tent specifically made for cycle touring or bikepacking.
Instead, you’re left to wander through hiking and backpacking departments looking at ultralight tents, freestanding tents, 3‑season and 4‑season tents, double wall and single wall tents, tents with or without awnings or footprints – and at prices from next to nothing up to hundreds (even thousands) of pounds or dollars. Which of these tents is appropriate for a two-wheeled adventure?
Given this bias towards people with backpacks rather than panniers or frame luggage, it’s natural to look for recommendations from other riders when choosing a tent for cycle touring or bikepacking.
But before you get bogged down with what other people think is the best tent (which often seems to be the first one they bought or the latest one their sponsors gave them), here’s one important thing to remember:
‘Best’ means nothing outside the context of your bike trip. Every ride is different.
So before you go any further, take a moment to ask yourself:
- Are you looking for a long-lasting tent for a transcontinental trip, or something simple for a short summer adventure?
- Are you a couple who like plenty of living space and room for your luggage, or a minimal solo rider?
- Do you have racks and panniers to take bulky and heavy loads, or are you bikepacking with ultralight gear?
- Do you plan on staying at nice campsites, or wild camping in the woods after dark?
- Are you planning a fair-weather ride, or will all-season and/or winter use be involved?
There are a few tried-and-tested tents for cycling adventures that have proven themselves on a massive range of journeys.
But if you want to delve any deeper, you’ll find there’s no real ‘best tent for cycle touring or bikepacking’ until you know the answers to the basic questions above.
Know what kind of bike trip you’re going on? Great! Read on…
What Types Of Tents Are Good For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking?
I’ve spent a long time – too long, probably – looking at the trends over the last 14 years or so.
And I can tell you that the most popular kind of cycle touring or bikepacking tent for one rider is a freestanding, double-walled, two-berth, three-season tent in an inconspicuous shade of green, weighing 1–2.5kg (2–6 pounds), and strapping nicely to a rear rack or a handlebar harness, with room inside for the rider and the most important bits of their luggage.
For a couple, it’s the three-berth model of the same tent.
And for a solo ultralight bikepacker, it’s the one-berth model.
If you were short of time and you asked me to pick just one range of tents that ticks all of these boxes, it would be MSR’s Hubba NX range, which is available in 1- to 3‑berth models. (Click here to scroll to the full details and photos).
I’ve used and abused many tents in the Hubba range over the years, including a 2014 two-berth Hubba Hubba NX, a 2012 one-berth Hubba, and a 2010 three-berth Mutha Hubba HP. I still own and use all of them regularly.
If you don’t have any super-specialised requirements and you’re looking for a top-quality tent you can simply grab and ride out the door with, the MSR Hubba NX range is what I’d recommend.
How Do Tents For Cyclists Differ From Tents For Hikers & Backpackers?
Before we start listing off the best cycle touring and bikepacking tents, I feel it’s important to explain how the priorities for cyclists differ from walkers, and how that might affect your choice of tent.
The single biggest difference is that packed weight and volume is usually less of an issue for cyclists.
On a bike tour, you have a two wheeled, pedal-powered vehicle to carry your gear, rather than shouldering the burden yourself. This means – generally speaking – that you can safely consider slightly bigger, heavier tents that will allow you to live more comfortably, fare better in bad weather, last longer, and possibly cost less too.
Long-distance thru-hikers in particular are concerned with minimising their loads. Unless you’re an ultralight bikepacker, you probably won’t be sharing that concern. (But in case you are, there are several suggestions below for ultralight tents for bikepacking too.)
A second difference is that cyclists tend to camp close to roads, not in the backcountry.
This brings with it totally different priorities when it comes to visibility.
Many hikers prefer to be as visible as possible in a mountain landscape in case of needing assistance. Cyclists, on the other hand, typically want the opposite: to be able to wild camp undetected, close to civilisation.
A third, possibly marginal difference is that hikers have access to ultralight shelters which use hiking poles for structure. Although some of these shelters may seem to offer a fabulously lightweight and packable solution for a bikepacking expedition, you’ll have to bring an additional set of poles to set them up. These poles will have no other use, which kind of defeats the point. If reducing your luggage is really your top priority, consider using your bike to support a simple tarp shelter.
The Best Cycle Touring & Bikepacking Tents For 2021
The following tents are specifically recommended for those travelling by bicycle, and include examples from manufacturers the world over.
These recommendations are drawn from my interviews with highly experienced riders who have spent countless miles and years road-testing these tents. The listings are fully updated to reflect the latest models and prices for the 2021 season.
We’ll start with low-budget tents for short and simple trips, move on to the most popular tents in the mid-range for general cycle touring and bikepacking use, and work our way up to the most durable lightweight tents ever made for world-ranging rides of months or years.
We’ll finish by looking at specialist tents suited to the weight and pack size restrictions faced by bikepackers with frame luggage planning rides in wilder country.
For each tent, you’ll find links to manufacturer’s websites where you can get detailed, up-to-date specifications. I’ve also included links to online retailers in the UK, USA and Canada offering the best deals I can find (affiliate links are marked with an asterisk; you can find out more about my affiliate policy here).
These are not the only tents that’ll do the job.
But I can promise you they represent the very best of what the global cycle touring and bikepacking community is using successfully today.
Vango Banshee Pro 200/300 (UK, £155/185)
UK manufacturer Vango’s range of 3‑season Banshee Pro tents are at the upper end of their scale in terms of quality and features, but still represent good value for money. They come in a natural shade of green for wild-camping in the temperate zone and provide ample living and storage space while remaining light enough for a fully-loaded cycle tourer to consider. Two- and three-berth versions are available under the 200 and 300 model names. The 200 is ideal for a soloist at 2.39kg, and the 300 at 2.82kg is good for a couple.
Being a British brand, Vango is very well represented in the UK, both on the high street and online. Their tents may be harder to find elsewhere.
- Get the Vango Banshee Pro 200 in the UK from Go Outdoors, Amazon* or eBay
- Get the Vango Banshee Pro 300 in the UK from Go Outdoors, Amazon or eBay
As an alternative, the Coshee range by Wild Country (see below) is similar in design, name and price point.
Wild Country Zephyros Compact 2 (UK, £220)
Wild Country is the budget marque of the premium British manufacturer Terra Nova. The 1.95kg Zephyros 2 takes more than a little inspiration from Hilleberg’s Akto, a favourite high-end tent for minimalists since it was popularised by TV outdoorsman Ray Mears. It requires staking out at each end, but you get a lot of interior space for a reasonably low weight and with a single pole supporting a single-pitch structure.
The new Compact version, updated for the 2020 season, features shorter pole sections for a more convenient packed shape for bikepacking luggage and small panniers.
There’s also a 1‑berth version which weighs in at 1.65kg, but in my opinion – especially given the small awning – the 300g you’d save isn’t worth the loss of interior storage space for your gear, unless minimising weight is your number one priority.
- Get the Wild Country Zephyros Compact 2 in the UK direct from the Terra Nova website, or from Amazon, Snow + Rock, Cotswold Outdoor or eBay
Alpkit Ordos 2/3 (UK, £230/270)
Direct retailer Alpkit has made a splash in the bikepacking and cycle touring scene, with the Ordos 2 and Ordos 3 tents now almost as popular as MSR’s Hubba series (see below). I used one myself on a traverse of the central highlands of Armenia. Alpkit is UK-based but offers global delivery.
With 2- and 3‑berth models available and a choice of a red or green fly, the lightweight yet affordable Ordos tents – just 1.4kg for the 2‑berth and 1.7kg for the 3‑berth – are roomy, practical, well-ventilated, easy to pitch, and very reasonably priced, with the wedge design echoing the long-standing Vaude Hogan (see below) and Big Agnes Seedhouse. Not quite freestanding but close enough for almost all real-world purposes, they do well in warmer weather.
- Order the Ordos 2 or Ordos 3 direct from Alpkit in the UK or with worldwide delivery, or try eBay for second-hand options
REI Quarter Dome SL1/2 (USA, $299/349)
If your tour is beginning in the States and you need a new set of camping gear, you’d do well to head to the nearest branch of REI. This well-known outdoor co-op manufactures a range of top-rated gear and sells it without the third-party mark-up, so you get a lot for your money.
Their ultralight, semi-freestanding Quarter Dome SL, available in 1‑berth (1.3kg) and 2‑berth (1.7kg) versions, was the most popular cycle touring tent among Stateside riders in my most recent survey. Expect plentiful headroom, excellent build quality and one of the best warranties you’ll find in the outdoor equipment industry. The mesh inner can be pitched fully freestanding for warmer weather and stargazing, with the rainfly needing just a couple of (included) stakes.
- Get the one-berth Quarter Dome SL 1 from REI.com in the USA
- Get the two-berth Quarter Dome SL 2 from REI.com in the USA
- Alternatively you can buy the Quarter Dome range from any of REI’s 132 retail stores in the lower 48.
If you’re on a tight budget, don’t mind a little extra weight, and still want the REI brand assurance and warranty, check out the cheaper Half Dome 2 Plus.
MEC Spark 2.0 (Canada, CAD$420)
Looking for a suitable tent for a bike trip originating in Canada? Look no further than the Spark 2.0 dome tent from Canadian gear co-operative MEC.
The 1.75kg, 2‑berth Spark will house you and your partner, or just you if you want a bit of space, at a very reasonable weight for the price. With two doors and two vestibules for easy access and extra storage, the 3000mm waterproof, 30D polyester ripstop fly will protect you from the most obnoxious of North American springtime downpours. And because the Spark 2.0 is designed in-house by Canada’s largest gear co-op, it also works out considerably cheaper than similar-looking tents from better-known brands, and is covered by MEC’s famous ‘rock solid’ guarantee.
- Get the MEC Spark 2.0 tent online from the MEC website or from any of their 22 retail stores across Canada.
MSR Elixir 1/2/3 (Worldwide, £215/265/320 / $200/250/300)
If saving weight is not of utmost importance, and you’re looking to save money, but you still want a quality tent from a reputable brand, the MSR Elixir range (Europe/USA/Canada webpages) is a very good bet.
These tents have a very similar freestanding dome structure and the same range of 1‑, 2- and 3‑berth variants as the much-loved Hubba range (see below) – but for significantly lower prices. Why? They’re considerably heavier: 2.77kg compared to 1.76kg in the case of the 2‑berth Elixir versus the 2‑berth Hubba. That’s almost 60% heavier, although we’re still only talking the weight of a 1‑litre water bottle.
Slightly more spacious, and with a more complex pole structure, you can probably expect the Elixir tents to last even longer than their more expensive brethren. As such, they’d be an excellent choice for fully-loaded riders heading off on long-haul trips for whom maximum durability is key.
As with the Hubbas, European markets get a choice of green or grey rainfly while Americans are stuck with grey.
- Get the MSR Elixir range in the UK from Amazon, Snow + Rock (2P/3P), Cotswold Outdoor (2P/3P), OutdoorGear UK or eBay*.
- Get the MSR Elixir range in the USA direct from MSR or from REI, Outdoorplay or Amazon.
- Get the MSR Elixir range in Canada direct from MSR or from MEC or Amazon.
MSR Hubba NX 1/2/3P (Worldwide, £385/445/650 / $380/450/550)
Riders love the generous headroom, the inner mesh pockets, the vast luggage awnings, and the low packed volume and weight.
The range, which features 1‑, 2- and 3‑berth models, has been updated several times over the last couple of decades as tent technology evolves, and today strikes a balance between weight and longevity. In other words, they’re neither the lightest nor the longest-lasting tents in this list, but you’re unlikely to find fault with either characteristic.
The North American models all come with a grey rainfly, but in Europe green rainflys are also available. I’d recommend this for more inconspucious wild camping.
Most solo fully-loaded cycle tourers go for the 1.7kg, two-berth Hubba Hubba, which may also suit those bikepacking in pairs.
Couples with a full luggage setup tend to prefer the spacious 2.3kg three-berth Mutha Hubba.
Ultralight solo bikepackers usually go for the 1‑berth Hubba with a minimum packed weight of 1.1kg.
(There has in the past been a 4‑berth variant called the Papa Hubba, but this is not part of the current season’s range.)
Expect MSR tents to last many years if well looked-after, with top-quality weatherproofing, well-designed ventilation, superb build quality, and super-easy setup, with a variety of pitching options for different climates, including inner-only and fly/footprint-only.
By all accounts you should avoid the now-discontinued Tour variants, which suffered from a variety of well-documented issues.
- Get the MSR Hubba NX range in the UK from Amazon, Alpine Trek, Go Outdoors, All Outdoor or OutdoorGear UK
- Get the MSR Hubba NX range in the USA direct from MSR or from REI or Amazon
- Get the MSR Hubba NX range in Canada direct from MSR or from MEC or Amazon
Vaude Hogan UL (Germany, £430)
Another tent that has stood the test of time, German brand Vaude’s classic Hogan UL 2‑berth tent was, back in 2007, my first decent tent of any kind. I rode across Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Mongolia with it for four years, so I guess you could say I’ve put it through its paces (read my original review here). Then my brother inherited it and subjected it to another few years of abuse. It’s still standing 14 years on.
It’s not the lightest, nor is it truly freestanding, but it is extremely durable, waterproof, and stable in bad weather, with a decent-sized porch and a nice natural shade of green available for the fly, and it’s pretty portable at 1.9kg.
- Get the Vaude Hogan UL in the UK direct from Vaude or from Amazon*,
- Get the Vaude Hogan UL in its native Germany direct from Vaude or from Bergzeit.de.
- Get the Vaude Hogan UL in Canada from Amazon.
Terra Nova Voyager (UK, £600)
A British design that’s been doing the rounds for decades, the semi-freestanding classic Voyager is a long-term favourite among round-the-world tourers from the UK, in part because Terra Nova don’t feel the need to change the design of or discontinue perfectly good tents at random (like certain other manufacturers seem to do), allowing the tent to build up a second-to-none reputation.
Weighing in at 2.2kg, top-class construction, weatherproofing, liveability and extreme durability is the order of the day here.
- Get the Terra Nova Voyager in the UK direct from Terra Nova or from Amazon*, Cotswold Outdoor* or UltralightOutdoorGear.co.uk.
Hilleberg Nallo 2/3/GT (Sweden, £765–970)
The most lusted after (and expensive) tents for long-haul trips for which durability is the key consideration are undoubtedly those in the Nallo range from Swedish tentmakers Hilleberg.
They’re not the most lightweight, nor the best choice for hot climates, but they do have an unmatched reputation for quality and longevity. Hilleberg have long resisted following the trend for ever lighter and more flimsy materials: these tents are among the most tried and tested in the world and will last – literally – for decades.
Other Hilleberg tents often seen on the road include the minimalist 1.7kg Akto for soloists and bikepackers (also see the Wild Country Zephyros above) and, for couples, the freestanding and spacious 3.3kg Allak 2. The Swedish brand predictably makes excellent winter tents, with the 2.4kg Soulo standing out.
The Best Ultralight Bikepacking Tents For 2021
The following tents are included in this list as examples of shelters that have either been developed with bikepacking in mind or crossed over from backpacking and thru-hiking circles – in any case, tents that have found favour in the bikepacking community.
You’ll also find some of the lighter tents from the list above – such as the Alpkit Ordos, the MSR Hubba NX, and the Hilleberg Akto – making their way onto bikepacking kit lists, possibly in stripped-down form.
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo (USA, $200)
Weighing just 680g (that’s the same as a full, standard-sized cycling water bottle), the single-pole, single-wall Lunar Solo relies on being staked out and requires you to supply your own pole (it’s designed to be used with a trekking pole). It’s never going to be as comfortable as a double-wall tent with a geodesic structure – but if you’re OK with that, it’s difficult to imagine a more minimal shelter that isn’t a bivvy bag.
- Get the Lunar Solo direct from Six Moon Designs in the USA, or from Ultralight Outdoor Gear in the UK.
Terra Nova Starlite (UK, £595)
New in 2018, the Terra Nova Starlite series, available in 1‑, 2- and 3‑berth options, was one of the first British tents designed with bikepacking in mind. Aside from striking a great combination of weight and weather-resistance, the 2‑berth Starlite 2 weighs just 1.5kg and, thanks to a reduction in pole section length, has a packed length of just 29cm. This means it’ll fit easily into a small pannier, or strap to your handlebars using the stuff-sack’s integrated webbing loops.
Some might consider its non-freestanding design a negative, but in the type of climate and terrain it’s designed for, staking it out really shouldn’t be a problem if you choose your pitch accordingly. Once up, it’s as roomy as you’d expect from a tunnel tent and very stable. That the optional footprint extends to cover the awning floor is a nice bonus.
More Tents For Cycle Touring & Bikepacking
If that’s not enough of a selection, try the following, which have also been recommended by readers of this blog:
- Berghaus Peak 3.2 (UK, £170)
- Big Agnes Seedhouse SL / Copper Spur HV (USA, $350/450)
- Camp USA Minima 2 SL (USA, $350)
- Decathlon Quickhiker 3 (Europe, UK £100)
- Exped Gemini II (Worldwide, UK £530)
- Macpac Minaret (New Zealand, NZ$900)
- Marmot Tungsten (Worldwide, $200)
- Nordisk Telemark (Denmark)
I have also happily cycled the length of England with a Tesco Value tent I rescued from the local household recycling centre, because remember: you don’t actually need any of this fancy gear.
Which tent(s) have you successfully used on tours or bikepacking trips? Let us know in the comments.
Still struggling to choose?
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