Choosing a Tent for Bikepacking and Lightweight Cycle Touring

By Talyn Williams

How to Choose a Bikepacking Tent

We've put together this detailed comparison guide to help you decide which bikepacking tent is right for you.

A man using his bike wheel to hold up his tarp shelter in the forest

What to Consider When Choosing a Tent for Bikepacking or Cycle Touring

General considerations when thinking about which tent is best for your bikepacking and cycle touring adventure include:

  • The size of tent you need for you and your gear
  • How much the tent weighs and its size when packed
  • The durability of the tent fabrics
  • Construction method to give protection from the elements
  • Whether you prefer outer or inner pitch first

You'll also need to match your tent to your bikepacking setup and the type of trips you intend to take with it...

Where are you going bikepacking and what will the weather be like?

Summer conditions or winter conditions? Windy or calm? Wet weather or dry weather? Racing or taking your time?

Answering these questions means you can start to get an idea of how resilient your tent needs to be in changeable conditions and how valuable weight is.

If your intentions are bikepacking through the arctic or across Iceland, chances are you're going to need something warm and robust enough to deal with freezing temperatures and high winds. 

If you're taking part in a race like the Transcontinental, you'll be saving every gram you can.

How long is your bikepacking trip going to take?

How many miles will you be covering per day? How many days/weeks/months will you be cycling for?

Most of us can put up with some sort of discomfort for short periods of time. But if you're circumnavigating the globe on your cycle touring steed, you'll most likely want something you can happily pitch and leave for weekend breaks.

Where will you be sleeping?

5 star campsite cruising for a full range of facilities? Getting as far away from civilisation as possible for a wild camp?

If you're wild camping, we prefer to be as minimalist and discreet as possible with a bivvy bag and tarp. For campsites however you may want something you can squeeze your bike into too.

How comfortable do you need to be?

We all have different tolerance levels and often in bikepacking, comfort can be a trade-off between weight. But that doesn't mean the most minimalist of shelters has to be uncomfortable.

It's all about knowing yourself and what you need to stay happy on (and off) the bike.  

two men getting into bivvy bags at dusk, in the forest with their bikes behind them

How Heavy Should my Bikepacking Tent be?

More often than not, the best tents for bikepacking and cycle touring generally weigh between 1-2kg. Potentially more if you can split the tent between riders (e.g. one takes the poles and pegs and the other takes the inner and flysheet).

One thing to keep in mind is that, other than your bike, your tent will most likely be the heaviest item you're carrying. 

A modern bike is likely to weigh between 9kg and 13kg. We go for a combined weight of between 5kg and 10kg for all your camping gear. That gives an enjoyable bikepacking experience where the bikes riding performance isn't too affected by the sheer bulk of your camping gear.

With some practice and fine-tuning, you should be able to get all your kit (including the bike) under 18kg, with experts riding events like the Welsh Ride Thing often coming in at around 15kg.

Deciding exactly what to pack for a bikepacking adventure is all part of the excitement. Optimising your cooking setup and analysing your sleep system to save weight and minimise your pack size.

The big advantage of going lightweight is that it opens up trails and bridleways that are otherwise inaccessible to cycle tourers and you might even carry your bike for limited sections.

The decision on what to take, and which tent to pack, ultimately comes down to the rider (or riders), and the length of the adventure.

Bikepacking Weight Saving Tips

  1. Choose a lightweight bike frame - there's some big gains to be made between frame materials, opting for carbon over aluminium could save you up to 1kg in some cases.
  2. Use lighter bike luggage - you could save up to 50g by using our UK made VX21 bags with a dry bag rather than the waterproof TPU Nylon equivalent
  3. Pre-cook and vac-pac your food - this could prevent the need for 300g of cooking equipment (a tip learnt from our own IT guru James)
  4. Minimise base layers - one set for on the bike, one set for off the bike. The weight savings here could be endless
  5. Pack an ultralight sleep system - If it's just you, there's around a 600g saving by going for a lightweight bivvy and tarp over the Soloist one-person tent
A man cooking a meal on his camping stove next to his hooped bivvy bag at sunset

Ultralight 1 Person Bikepacking Tents and Bivvy Bags

Now's the time to really decide how much comfort you want vs how much weight you want to carry.

Want space and a secure shelter from the storm, 1 person tents offer great comfort but they'll never be lighter than a bivvy bag.

Bivvy Bags, Hammocks and Tarps

Hunka / Hunka XL Bivvy Bags

  • Weight: from 330g / 490g
  • Fabric: 2.5 layer waterproof Ripstop nylon
  • Packed size: 13x15cm / 16x23cm
  • Price: £49.99 / £64.99

Kloke Bivvy Bag

  • Weight: 265g
  • Fabric: 3-layer waterproof 7d nylon
  • Packed size: 20x12cm
  • Price: £129.99

Elan Hooped Bivvy

  • Weight: 900g
  • Fabric: waterproof 70d ripstop nylon
  • Packed size: 39x11cm
  • Price: £99.99

Mora Hammock

  • Weight: 515g
  • Fabric: 20d nylon
  • Packed size: 7x16cm
  • Price: £39.99

Rig 3.5 One Person Tarp

  • Weight: 300g
  • Stuffed size: 8x10x14cm
  • Open dimensions: 140x240cm
  • Price: £64.99

Rig 7 Two-Three Person Tarp

  • Weight: 550g
  • Stuffed size: 8x18x18cm
  • Open dimensions: 240x280cm
  • Price: £99.99

Soloist 1 Person Tent

If the weather turns, you're going to get a much comfier sleep in a tent, and being well rested could mean covering more ground the following day.

  • Weight: 938-1252g
  • Fabric: waterproof 20d ripstop polyester
  • Packed Size: 42x14cm
  • Price: £119.99

Aeronaut 1 Person Inflatable Tent

The Aeronaut’s inflatable pole makes it one of the most packable two skin tents available.

  • Weight: 1200g
  • Fabric: waterproof 15D Si/PU nylon ripstop
  • Packed Size: 28x13cm
  • Price: £179.99

A man getting out of his tent in the woods with bikes next to it

Lightweight 2 and 3 Person Tents for Bikepacking and Cycle Touring

Bikepacking and cycle touring with friends often means you can afford to carry a tent by splitting the weight between you, but there are still some really lightweight options to help keep weight minimal.

Tent Weight Fabric Packed Size Price
Aeronaut 2 Person Tent 1500g
15D Ripstop nylon
15 x 32cm £199.99
Ordos 2 Person Tent 1400-1750g 15D Ripstop nylon 13 x 42cm £229.99
Ordos 3 person Tent 1700-2150g 15D Ripstop nylon 14.5 x 46cm £269.99
Jaran 2 Person Tent 2040g 40D Ripstop Nylon 15 x 42cm £229.99
Jaran 3 Person Tent 2360g 40D Ripstop Nylon 15 x 45cm £269.99
Tetri 2 Person Tent 2250-3000g 190t Polyester 20 x 50cm £119.99

3 friends cycle touring in the Faroe Islands with pannier bags

Cycle Touring Tents

Cycle touring is often chosen in preference to bikepacking if you're covering lots of ground without worrying about how fast you're riding it.

Pannier racks and bags tend to be heavier and, when fully loaded, aren't the most streamlined of systems.

The major benefit though, is space. More space for extra clothing, food, tools and yes, more space for a bigger tent, especially if you're sharing the weight between friends.

Our favourite tents for cycle touring are tunnel tents. They're lightweight and offer more space, so you can pitch up on a campsite for a few days between long days in the saddle, and explore the local area.

Viso 2 / 3 Tunnel Tents

  • Weight: 3222g / 3900g
  • Fabric: 68D 190T Polyester
  • Packed size: 22x48cm / 23x48cm
  • Price: £129.99 / £149.99

Kangri 2 Person Mountain Tent

  • Weight: 3250-4300g
  • Fabric: 40d Si/PU N6/260t ripstop nylon
  • Packed size: 19x60cm
  • Price: £399.99
A woman cycling up a hill in Slovenia with cycle touring pannier bags attached

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