Mark Twain once delivered a comical speech on the weather in New England in which he said, “There is only one thing certain about New England weather: you are certain there is going to be plenty of it.” New England weather is indeed notoriously unpredictable and presents a special challenge for cyclists who are camping in the region. We combed through buyer reviews, gear blogs, and recommendations from experienced cyclists to pull together the consensus choices of the best tents for bikers touring the Northeast.
The criteria for the tents we chose was comfort in both fair and foul weather, ease of setup in windy or rainy conditions, excellent weatherproofing, and durability. We preferred lighter tents, but we didn’t exclude heavier ones since a tent is arguably a bikepacker’s most important piece of gear.
Before we dive in, we want to clarify one distinction that will help you decide which tent is the best for you. The first three tents we’ve chosen are freestanding tents, and the last three are tunnel tents. Freestanding tents can be set up without stakes, can be moved easily, and typically have more headroom. Tunnel tents have a larger footprint with less headroom and require stakes for pitching, but they typically have larger vestibules for gear storage. And while you’re doing your trip planning, check out our recommended bike racks, car camping gear and water bottles.
1. MSR Hubba Hubba NX
The 2-person freestanding MSR Hubba Hubba NX is our top choice for a cyclist touring New England, whether for a weekend or for a month. It’s one of the most popular 3-season backpacking tents right now, and it easily meets all our criteria for bikepacking: excellent weatherproofing (for both wind and water), great ventilation, easy to pitch (with great alternative configurations for pitching in foul weather), rather light (packed weight: 3lb 13oz), very roomy, and very durable by all accounts (Amazon reviews, REI reviews, personal testimony from long-distance cyclists). It’s also compact when packed (6 x 18 inches). The Hubba Hubba NX is also a great choice for an extended solo tour because you’ll have plenty of room for your gear and for maneuvering inside if you get stuck in a storm.
2. MSR Elixir 2
The 2-person freestanding MSR Elixir 2 is another 3-season tent that is similar to the Hubba Hubba NX in its footprint, volume, and weatherproofing but is made of heavier, more durable materials. It also has a bit more headroom. The heavier materials make for a much lower price, so if weight is not of primary importance for you, we would recommend considering the Elixir 2 over the Hubba Hubba NX.
3. Terra Nova Voyager
The 2-person freestanding Terra Nova Voyager is a classic 4-season British-designed tent that has been building a world-class reputation for more than 25 years. Terra Nova is especially well-respected for its weatherproofing: excellent waterproofing and great performance in high winds. It’s on the high end in terms of cost, but if you want a freestanding tent that will stand up to any weather, including snow, no questions asked, this is the tent you want. One more note: the Voyager is sometimes out of stock, so act quickly if you’re interested in buying this one.
4. Vango Banshee 200
The Vango Banshee 200 is a 3-season tunnel tent billed for two people. However, some users report that it’s a little cramped for two, and one world-touring cyclist writes that if you’re taller than 5′ 9″ you might be touching one end of the tent with your head when you lie down. It’s fairly light (about 5 pounds), very waterproof, and performs very well in high winds. You can pitch the inner tent and outer tent together, which is very useful for keeping the inside dry if you’re setting up camp during a storm. Being a tunnel tent, it does require solid terrain for the guying pegs. Perhaps the greatest advantage the Banshee has is its price: it’s by far the cheapest tent in our lineup, and definitely the best value. If you’re touring alone and cost is an important factor in your decision, this is your best option.
5. Hilleberg Enan
We come now to our two Hilleberg recommendations. Swedish tentmaker Hilleberg has set the gold standard for durability in the world of tents for 45 years. If cost is not an issue, you’re looking at the best tents in the industry.
The 1-person Hilleberg Enan is a 4-season tunnel tent. The Enan is a very high-quality lightweight tent (packed weight: 2lb 10oz) that will last for a very long time. It provides extreme versatility for all kinds of weather: it will survive the worst of winters but can be opened up and vented for the summer. And it will pitch inner and outer together, so again, ideal for New England where rain and snow can be unpredictable and violent. The Enan also has a surprisingly large porch area for such a small tent, providing a good amount of space for gear storage.
6. Hilleberg Nallo series
The Hilleberg Nallo series are all 4-season tunnel tents. The Nallo GT variation includes an extended vestibule for more storage space. Both the Nallo and Nallo GT are available in 2-person, 3-person, and 4-person iterations. The picture shows the Nallo 2. The Nallo series are, as a whole, a bit heavier than the others we’ve recommended, but they provide top-notch quality and will last much longer. If the Terra Nova Voyager is out of stock, a Nallo tent will be your next best choice for a completely weatherproof tent. Consider any Hilleberg purchase an excellent long-term investment as it will likely never need to be replaced. If cost is not an issue and you’re on an extended tour with a partner, the Nallo 3 GT represents ultimate luxury in on-tour living for couples.
The MSR Hubba Hubba NX is the best all-around choice for its excellence in ease of setup, weatherproofing, durability, and comfort, all at a mid-range price. The MSR Elixir 2 is a bit heavier, but it’s more durable and has a bit more headroom at a cheaper pricepoint. The Terra Nova Voyager is for those who want ultimate weatherproofing without paying for a Hilleberg. The Vango Banshee 200 is far and away the value option while still providing good durability–it’s just a bit small for some. The Hilleberg Enan is the very best 1-person 4-season tent that money can buy and is equally suitable in all climates. Lastly, any product from the Hilleberg Nallo series is the right choice for the touring cyclist (or couple) who wants the ultimate in quality and durability.