Bicycle touring camping tents types
Let's begin from a fact: during a vacation by bicycle we will be carrying our luggage and will not be using a service of luggage carriers... in this case, the field is reduced to tents weighing 3-4 kg tops, maximum limit acceptable. Even in this little area (tents for 3-4 people), the number of possibilities is vast. For convenience, we can split the tents into two categories:
- Light tents:
- this type puts first the reduction of the weight above all the other features, so it's more likely to be suitable for shorter trips during spring or summer. We will not expect them to be highly durable or resistant to all weather conditions. These tents usually weigh 1 to 2 kg.
- Four-seasons tents:
- these tents are suitable to endure tough weather conditions, so they have to be chosen if you travel off-season, with some nights below zero. Four-seasons tents are realized with more resistant materials, so they are suitable for longer bicycle travels, while their minus is the weight: they can be 3 to 5 kg.
Starting from this first selection, you easily see that the perfect tent doesn't exist and usually, you'll have to face this thin balance between lightweight and resistance, I can personally suggest the following:
- Do you usually do short trips (up to a month)? Do you travel to countries where the weather is mild? You will need a light tent, easy to carry, quick to mount, which can guarantee good ventilation during the warm nights on the ocean shore. If you have to change some poles or patch it after 5 trips... some years should pass and you should have paid off the tent.
- Do you usually travel for a long time in extreme conditions? Without any doubt I suggest you buying a four-seasons tent. Some hectogram more won't change your life, but you'll camp one or more nights under the starry sky! The tent will protect you against pouring rain, wind, cold, resisting the abuse of the bad weather.
- Keep in mind that four-seasons tents, being built with more resistant and heavy materials are also more expensive (30-40% more than the light tents). There are some amazing medium models which are affordable.
- Keep in mind that most companies indicate the number of hosts per tent without considering the luggage. Consequently, in a 2-persons tent, you will hardly fit 4 (or 8 panniers) without losing in terms of comfort. Once more I suggest you carry more weight in order to live comfortably inside the tent if you plan to travel a lot: buy a 2-persons tent if you travel alone and a 3-persons tent if you are a couple. This way, you won't have any problem in term of room for your luggage too. For shorter trips, you can adapt by squeezing a bit or leaving the luggage on the rack or near the tent.
- Water resistance:
- After some years of travels and free camping around the world, I can assure you that it's easier to get wet from underneath than from the roof! The weight of our body and of the luggage on the floor, especially if you place the tent on non-draining terrains, can cause the entrance of some water and I can assure (by personal experience... what a night under Mount Cook in New Zealand!) that it's not funny to dig during the night under a storm! So, when you choose the tent, check the water-resistance level of the floor other than the roof! The value to be considered is the Water Column, expressed in millimetres: between 3000 and 4000 mm for the roof, and between 6000 and 10000 mm for the floor. Be careful not to exaggerate! The more water-resistance of your tent nylon, the less will be its transpiration!
- Yes, I know... the presence of a veranda on a bicycle touring tent might seem an extra luxury. But if it's raining outside and you need to "live" imprisoned, to have a place where to cook or just where to leave the luggage, this might be useful!
- Usually light tents are built with mosquito nets instead of nylon, beating the four-season tents. If you plan a trip in a hot and dry country, look for tents with wide areas of mosquito nets. Some four-season tents allow to open the nylon, generally near the entrance, and leave only a mosquito net. This feature might be useful in dry and moist countries.
- To have two entrances might be very useful in some situations, especially to avoid stepping on someone if you have to get out of the tint in the middle of the night and you are on the opposite side of the tent. Some tents, especially the igloo-type, have a side entrance.
- Some tents offer a pretty useful feature, especially if you have to assembly it under pouring rain: in order to avoid wetting the internal part, which then would be wet for all the night, some companies have produced some tents which can be mounted starting from the water-resistant roof. If you are planning to travel in some moist areas, this feature could help ou a lot.
- One of the most delicate parts of a tent is the zippers, which are used to close and open the access area(s). The zipper and the nylon near it are the most stimulated parts of the tent, for their continuous use. Be careful and find a model with robust zippers and reinforced sides: if a zipper breaks, it will be difficult to fix it or replace it and you'll have to throw away the tent.
The best touring tent models in my opinionThe models that you will find below are just a few among the hundreds available on the market, so if you don't find the right mix suitable for your needs, don't hesitate to look more thoroughly! Here you won't find any self-sustaining model, which is definitely not suitable for a bicycle trip.
Bertoni Tende, our technical sponsor during #transitalia, provided usTiger Moth tent. This 2-persons camping tent is lightweight but didn't present any trouble during some storms on the Appennines or strong wind in our Andes journey. It's a 2-persons tent so it doesn't fit all our luggage, which can be placed in the two verandas on the sides, where the entrances are. It weights 1,80 kg. Soon we will write a detailed review of this Tiger Moth.
Ferrino, one of the leader companies in Italy, produced a mountain bike and bikepacking tent: Ferrino MTB. It's a3-season ultralight tent (1,7 kg) and has some very summery features. The outer tent is in aluminium, while the floor is in thermal-insulating polyester. The size of this touring tent is 250x135x110. It's suitable for who loves riding light (it weights just 1,6 kg and the compact size is 13 x 36 cm) and for short trips by bicycle, but I advise against it to more adventurous travellers.
The most known among bicycle travellersColeman is another brand pretty popular among bicycle travellers met around the world. In their catalogue we can find the most classic Monviso and the most technical line Phad. In our opinion one of the best tent for Coleman brand is the 2- person Sundome tent. It has no veranda so it's better using it traveling alone to store bags inside. This tent is a 3-season basically (but can become a 4-season!) with good ventilation thanks the two windows and a good resistance to wind and rains . It weighs around 3 kg and it's freestanding. On Amazon you can find the renewed version Coleman 2-person Sundome Tent at 70$
The list of best touring bicycle tents above isn't exhaustive neither selective: as we broadly explained before, there is a tent for each kind of traveller!
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