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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 chose 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 (purchase at REI) 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 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. Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2
The freestanding Big Copper Spur HV UL2 is a versatile option for bicycle touring. First, be aware that there are several different sizes and colors for this tent (from 1 to 4 persons). We have a lightweight Big Agnes tent and as advertised, we’ve found these tents to be comfortable, highly wind-resistant, mostly waterproof and amazingly lightweight (coming in under 3 pounds). While we still prefer the MSR Hubba Bubba for bike touring, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 can be used for both bike touring and minimalist backpacking without giving up any functionality. Keep in mind that the “HV” designation refers to “high volume.” This catchy marketing term describes the near-vertical sidewalls and relatively open design of the tent that increase the interior usable volume of the tent by 20% compared to earlier versions of the tent.
4. Winterial Single Person Personal Bivy Tent
The Winterail Bivy tent is designed for a single person and is very inexpensive. It’s very lightweight (about 2 pounds) and has high ratings on Amazon. Some helpful stats: 2lbs 9oz, 18″ x 4.5″ x 4″ when packed for transport, 38″ x 28″ x 90″ when set up, made with 190T Polyester, large double-layered door for easy access, includes tent, rainfly, 2 x aluminum poles, 14 ground stakes and 3 guylines.
5. Marmot Limelight
The Marmot Limelight tent is another versatile lightweight, freestanding tent that can double as a bicycling touring tent and a backpacking tent. This is a 3-season, 2-person tent that comes in around 5.2 pounds. It does come with a footprint and you’ll need a little more room to fit this one into your panniers. This version of the Limelight has two vestibules and comes with color coded clips and poles to make set up as painless as possible. Marmot also added a large double door and 1 rear D-shaped door to make getting gear in and out of the tent simple and convenient.
6. Big Agnes Tiger Wall Platinum 2
The Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL 2 is an amazingly well-rounded option for bike touring. This beauty weighs 2.4 pounds and comes with 2 doors and a vestibule. Strong DAC Featherlite single-pole system structure makes for easy and efficient setup and takedown. Although the Big Agnes Tiger Wall is semi-freestanding since you’re required to stake out the foot end of the tent to secure it, it’s rated as a 3-season tent and has a 15-denier floor and rainfly, which is extremely thin. Big Agnes improved the tear resistance of this tent by adding a silicone treatment to the solid fabric, but keep in mind that since the tent materials thin, they are see-through. We highly recommend this tent for bike touring, backpacking and just about any other sport that requires quick setup, protection from the elements and lightweight versatility.
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 price point. The Marmot Limelight is a solid option if you’re looking to save some money and don’t mind adding an extra pound or two.
Although the production quality is lacking, we thought you might be interested in this comparison between the Big Agnes Tiger Wall and Copper Spur.