Choosing the best tent for cycle touring is difficult because there’s a heck of a lot of choice out there. Ultralight tents, freestanding tents, 3-season, 4-season, double wall, solo, with and without awnings – and at a whole range of prices from next to nothing up to hundreds of pounds or dollars. Which of these hundreds of options is right for you?
As a newcomer, it’s natural to look for other people’s recommendations when choosing a tent for cycle touring. But before you get bogged down with what other people think is the best cycle touring tent (which somehow usually seems to be the one they use or were given by a sponsor), here’s one important thing to remember:
The word ‘best’ only has meaning within the context of your bike trip. Every ride is different.
- Are you looking to for a bomb-proof long-lasting tent for a transcontinental trip, or something cheap for a few weeks of summer adventuring?
- Are you a couple who like plenty of living space, or a minimal solo rider?
- Do you have racks and panniers to take heavy loads, or are you bikepacking with ultralight gear?
- Do you like nice campsites or wild camping in the woods?
- Will it be fair weather only, or will all-season pitches be required?
Sure, there are a few tried-and-tested tents for cycle touring that have proven themselves on a massive range of journeys. But there’s no ‘best tent for cycle touring’ until you know the answers to basic questions about your style of cycle touring. If you haven’t asked them of yourself, now’s the time to do so. Then come back to this article.
Know what kind of tour you’re going on? Great! Read on…
The listings below represent an up-to-date collection of frequently-recommended tents, cited by experienced cycle tourists and specifically recommended for cycle touring.
We’ll start with low-budget solo tents for short and simple cycle touring, and work our way up to uber-tents for people on worldwide bike tours of many months or years, with a few specialist tents cited as examples of how preferences may differ depending on the details of any given trip.
I’ve fleshed out the details of no more than one tent from each brand in order to avoid favouritism. When several tents from a single maker have proven popular, I’ve included them as additional suggestions in the same entry as the ‘favourite’ cycle touring tent from that brand.
You’ll find links in each case to the manufacturer’s website where you can get detailed specifications, plus links to online retailers in the UK and USA I’ve found offering the best deals on each example.
These are not the only tents that’ll do the job. They are, however, representative of what people are out there using successfully.
What Does The Perfect Cycle Touring Tent Look Like?
I’ve spent a long time (too long) looking at the trends, and I can tell you that the prototypical cycle touring tent for one person tends to be a freestanding, double-walled, 2-berth, 3-season tent in an inconspicuous shade of green, weighing 1.5-2.5kg, fitting nicely on the rear rack of a touring bike, with room inside for the rider and some of their luggage (but not their bike).
For a couple, it’s generally the 3-berth model of the same.
If you’ve done any amount of online research, you’ll probably have noticed that the priorities for cycle touring tents differ from those of backpackers. Why? Mainly because weight and volume is much less of an issue for the cyclists.
Remember you essentially have a vehicle to carry your stuff, which means you can carry a tent that will allow you to live comfortably. In choosing a bigger, heavier tent, you’ll likely also save money, fare better in bad weather, and find that your tent lasts for longer. Backpackers are concerned with minimising the load on their shoulder straps and hip-belts. You won’t be sharing that concern.
(Ultralight bikepackers do have different priorities which are much more in line with the backpackers, so I’ve included a couple of examples for that specialism.)
The Big List of Best Cycle Touring Tents
Gelert Solo (UK)
If you’re riding alone, looking for a low-budget lightweight tent that can be pitched in temperate climates, and you’re not expecting much in the way of living space, the Gelert Solo tent is well worth a look, not least because you’ll be able to pick one up for well under £50. Coming highly rated by bushcrafters and hikers, it’s small, inconspicuous, waterproof and very lightweight at 1.3kg.
Since Gelert’s acquisition by Sports Direct, they’ve become more difficult to find. Check eBay* first, and also look at the Amazon* listing’s “Also Viewed” section for several identical tents with different logos on them. The OutdoorGear Backpacker 1 and the OEX Phoxx 1, for example, both look suspiciously similar.
Vango Banshee Pro (UK)
Vango‘s Banshee Pro 3-season tent range is a step up in quality and features, coming in a good shade of green for wild-camping and providing ample living and storage space while remaining on the lightweight side of things. Two- and three-berth versions are available under the 200 and 300 model names, the 200 is ideal for a soloist at 2.4kg, and the 300 at 2.8kg is good for a couple.
Vango is very well represented in the UK, though their tents my be hard to find elsewhere. The RRP for the Banshee Pro 200 is £150, but you’ll be able to find them cheaper online from outlets such as Go Outdoors (£125*). The 300 is actually cheaper at the time of writing (£110*).
As an alternative, the Coshee range by Wild Country (see below) is curiously similar in design, name and price point.
Wild Country Zephyros 2 (UK)
Wild Country is the budget marque of the otherwise premium British manufacturer Terra Nova. The 1.9kg 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 space for a reasonably low weight and with a single pole supporting a single-pitch structure. Not a lot of porch space, though.
Alpkit Ordos 2/3 (UK)
The Brits’ favourite budget direct outdoor gear retailer Alpkit have made a splash in the bikepacking and cycle touring scene as well as with the mountaineers and climbers, with the Ordos 2 and Ordos 3 tents proving almost as popular as MSR’s Hubbas in a recent highly non-scientific survey of cycle tourers I conducted on Twitter.
With 2- and 3-berth models available and a choice of red or green flys, these ultralight tents – just 1.3kg for the complete 2-berth model and 1.6kg for the 3-berth – are roomy, practical, well-ventilated, easy to pitch, and reasonably priced, with the wedge design echoing the long-standing Vaude Hogan and Big Agnes Seedhouse. Not quite freestanding but close enough for almost all real-world purposes, they do well in warmer, drier weather, with full mesh inners.
Get the optional footprint or make your own: as with all ultralight tents, longevity is not a design priority. I can easily see these being strapped to the handlebars of bikepacking rigs and taken off on many a summer adventure.
REI Quarter Dome (USA)
If your tour is kicking off in the States and you’re looking to reduce your excess baggage fees when flying there, you’d do well to leave the camping gear at home and head to the nearest branch of REI. This outdoor co-op manufactures a range of really well-rated gear and sells it without the third-party mark-up, so you get a lot for your money.
Their freestanding Quarter Dome range, available in 1-berth (1.3kg), 2-berth (1.7kg) and 3-berth (2kg) versions, was the most frequently-cited cycle touring tent range from Stateside survey respondents, with the Half Dome range also mentioned as a lower-budget alternative.
The Quarter Dome 2 is available from REI.com* by mail-order for $349, or from any of their 132 retail stores in the USA.
MSR Hubba NX (UK/Europe/USA)
The MSR Hubba NX series is the latest incarnation of one of the all-time most popular tents among cycle tourers globally. The range, which features 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-berth models, has been updated several times over the years, and the current ‘NX’ incarnation seems to have managed to strike a balance between lightness and durability, with grey and green fly versions available (get the green), and an optional Gear Shed accessory to extend the awning for storing additional luggage (really, though?).
The heavier and cheaper Elixir range has a similar freestanding dome design and range of sizes, and if weight is not of primary importance I would consider these over the Hubba equivalents for the durability factor.
Expect all MSR tents to last for years, with top-quality weatherproofing and ventilation, superb build quality, and super-easy pitching with a variety of pitching options for differing climates. In 2017, MSR released a fancy Tour version of the Hubba range with an integrated storage room, though it seems the jury is still out on the build quality of the first batch – and do you really need that extra space?
Being based in Seattle, WA, MSR tents tend to work out slightly cheaper in the USA. Look again at REI*, who stock the full range of both Hubbas and Elixirs, with the Hubba Hubba NX at $399.
Vaude Hogan UL
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 11 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.
Terra Nova Voyager
A British design that’s been doing the rounds for donkeys’ years, the freestanding classic Voyager is likely the most dependable long-term favourite among British world tourers, 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.
Hilleberg Nallo 2/3/GT
The most lusted after (and expensive) tents for long-haul trips for which durability is the key consideration are undoubtedly those from Swedish tentmakers Hilleberg.
They’re not the most lightweight, nor the best performers in 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: don’t expect to find a bikepacking-friendly tent in their range, but do expect to find tents that are among the most tried and tested in the world and will last literally for decades.
The Nallo 2 (2.4kg) comes highly recommended for solo tourers, with the Nallo 3 GT (3.1kg) representing the epitomé of luxury on-tour living for couples. Other Hilleberg tents often seen on the road include the minimalist Akto (see the Wild Country Zephyros above) and the freestanding and spacious Allak. The Swedish brand predictably makes excellent 4-season (ie: winter) tents, with the Soulo standing out for solo cyclists.
In the UK, the Hilleberg Nallo 2 is available from many of the high-street chains, including Snow + Rock* and Ellis Brigham*. Cotswold Outdoor* have the GT model. They’re more difficult to find elsewhere online, and rarely discounted.
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo
The Lunar Solo is included in this list as an example of the kind of shelter that has crossed over from backpacking and hiking circles and found favour in the ultralight bikepacking community. Weighing just 680g (that’s the same as a regular-sized cycling water bottle), the single-pole, single-wall design relies on being staked out, and is 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 plain old tarp and bivvy bag.
It is by no means the only such shelter on offer – check out MSR’s FlyLite to see a big-brand attempt at the same kind of thing.
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)
- Big Agnes Seedhouse / Copper Spur HV (USA)
- Camp USA Minima 2 SL
- Decathlon Quickhiker 3 (Europe)
- Eureka Midori Solo
- Exped Gemini II (Switzerland)
- Macpac Minaret (New Zealand)
- Marmot Tungsten
- Nordisk Telemark (Denmark)
- North Face Tadpole / Talus (Worldwide)
- Yellowstone Alpine (UK)
I have also happily toured with a Tesco Value 2-berth tent, because you don’t need any of this stuff.
Alternative Sleeping Systems
Tents aren’t your only option for outdoor slumber on tour. Bivvy bags, hammocks, or simply sleeping outside (if it’s warm and dry) are entirely feasible alternatives. Check out my article on alternative sleeping systems here.
OK, enough about tents – let’s go camping!
Which tent(s) have you successfully used on tour? Which would you most highly recommend to a friend planning a trip? Let us know in the comments.