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The perfect tent for your bikepacking adventure
Travelling the world and discovering what's waiting beyond the horizon: powered by your own physical strength, this is possible by bike. This rapidly growing trend is called bikepacking. With the help of various bicycle panniers, you can transport everything you need to take care of yourself along the way. Enthusiastic cyclists are rewarded with an incomparable feeling of freedom. The right equipment is indispensable for turning a cycling trip into a successful adventure. Many bike packers find relaxation from the multi-day trip at night when camping outdoors. Camping equipment in particular has a number of points that need to be considered during the purchase process. This can save a lot of weight and create comfort. How to best transport the travel utensils, which bike is well suited for the trip and some buying recommendations for the best bikepacking tents can be found here.
- What is bikepacking?
- Which bike is suitable for bikepacking?
- What equipment do I need?
- What is the best way to load my bike?
- What should I look for when buying a tent?
- What are the best bikepacking tents?
1. What is bikepacking?
As the name suggests, bikepacking is a cycle tour in which the two-wheeler is packed with the most important equipment. This is to enable you to be completely self-sufficient along the way. With bikepacking, you don't have to rely on restaurants for your own food or on sleeping accommodations. The one-time investment in equipment makes it possible to travel the world inexpensively in the long term. With the help of suitable panniers, you can stow your own equipment in such a way that there is no loss of riding comfort. Ideally, neither speed nor manoeuvrability are sacrificed. So there are no side pockets and usually no backpacks. Instead, the storage options fit snugly against the bicycle frame. Many small bags with little weight help. The cyclist himself has complete freedom of movement, as no luggage restricts him on his back. Bikepacking is therefore not a cycle tour in the classic sense. A classic bike trip is primarily about getting from A to B on your own. Taking care of yourself is not the main focus. The way of packing the bike is also different. Large bags are needed to carry as much luggage as possible. Whether this luggage has a slowing effect is secondary. Bikepacking must also be distinguished from a bike and hike tour. Bike and Hike tours are day trips where you want to climb a mountain peak by bike. As soon as the path no longer permits cycling, the bike is carried or parked in order to reach the destination on foot.
2. which bike is suitable for bikepacking?
Bikepacking is all about freedom. Having to buy expensive equipment before the trip starts is not the point. The same applies to the ideal bike for a bikepacking tour. Theoretically, the best bike is the one you already have before you set off. In practice, some types of bike make more sense than others. Unfortunately, the same is true for equipment. With high-quality, lightweight products, the bikepacking adventure can often be enjoyed more easily. Gravel bikes or mountain bikes are particularly suitable, as the best way to explore nature is off the asphalt. A Fully is particularly suitable for off-road use. Sticks and stones can be rolled over without any problems. Thanks to the two suspension elements, the suspension fork and the shock absorber, it is possible to ride on unpaved roads despite the equipment being carried. The equipment can also be a problem with the Fully. Attaching the bags to the bike frame can lead to the bike no longer compressing fully. In addition, a Fully can tempt you to choose paths for which you are too wide because of the equipment. When bikepacking, you also want to cover a few kilometres. Fullys are often very heavy and therefore strenuous to move on long tours. The suspension elements also absorb a lot of power that should actually be converted into propulsion. A hardtail is therefore better suited for bikepacking. It is usually easier to attach bags. Hardtails are lighter than full-suspension bikes, but they are still suitable for off-road use. The suspension fork can be locked, so the pedalling power flows into the drive. On full-suspension bikes, the rear suspension elements, the shocks, cannot be locked. With a hardtail, you can also expect more comfort due to the lower weight. Gravel bikes are just as suitable. They have become more and more popular in the bike cosmos in recent years. Gravel bikes combine advantages from road bikes and mountain bikes. They are light and narrow, but have tyres with tread. This means you can ride fast on a gravel bike without having to rely on asphalt. You also have grip on gravel paths or in the forest. Gravel bikes are particularly easy to attach bags to their frames. They are designed for bike touring. If you're new to bikepacking, you don't need a special bike to try out the trend. After all, not everyone enjoys taking care of themselves and exploring nature. If you are sure you want to spend a lot of time on bikepacking tours, a gravel bike or hardtail is a good choice.
3. what equipment do I need?
The most important thing when bikepacking are the bags in which all the other items can be stowed. After all, they determine whether the bike remains manoeuvrable and fast during the ride. Bags that are not suitable can also interfere with pedalling or impair the bike's functions. If they are too small, not everything important can be stowed. If they are too big, they quickly get in the way. The storage options should not be too heavy and should be able to be attached tightly to the frame of the bike. There are many bike bags on the market from different manufacturers. The Vaude and Ortlieb brands are particularly popular. Evoc also produces not only practical bike backpacks, but also ideal bikepacking bags. Everything you need for a multi-day trip can be stowed in the bags. It makes sense to assign certain functions to the respective bags, for example to store food, clothing and camping equipment separately. In this way, you can get to the item you need in just a few steps. When it comes to the items themselves, weight, pack size and functionality are important. In general, only those things that are really necessary should end up in the bags. As with backpacking, you want to avoid every superfluous gram.
To be able to spend the night on a bikepacking tour, whether at a campsite or on the mountain, a few things are essential. These include a sleeping bag and sleeping mat, a tent or a tarp. Tents protect you from wind, insects and rain. If they are insulated, they offer protection from dropping temperatures. A tarp is a type of tarpaulin that is used in a similar way to a tent. Traps are not completely enclosed like a tent and therefore do not offer equivalent protection. On the other hand, they usually weigh less. Depending on the area of use, either a tent or a tarp may make more sense. If you want, you can take a bivouac sack with you for bad weather. Wild camping is generally prohibited in Germany. The reason for this is primarily to protect the animal and plant world. In the worst case, you risk being reported to the police for wild camping.
Especially in the mountains, the weather can be unpredictable. Therefore, a rain jacket is a must, and rain trousers are also useful. A change of clothes kit allows you to change sweaty, wet clothes. A particularly warm jacket or jumper is especially important for the evening. Many cyclists opt for padded cycling shorts, but this is not absolutely necessary. With a customised saddle, even excursions of several hours on a bike are painless. A helmet, gloves, functional clothing and cycling shoes, on the other hand, are indispensable while cycling.
Food and drink
In order to be able to provide for themselves, many bike packers rely on a small outdoor cooker. Add a small pot and cutlery, and a lot of tasty dishes can be conjured up in the great outdoors. For example, noodles can be prepared with boiling water. What is quickly dismissed as a boring dish at home is a real treat in the open air. Sufficient food is just as important. Nuts or protein bars are particularly suitable, for example, as they provide a lot of energy and take up little space. A drinking vessel is also indispensable. Not on every tour will there be enough places to fill up with drinking water. Being prepared for this is vital. If necessary, other utensils such as a cutting board or coffee maker can be taken along.
To check the weather and plan routes, a smartphone including charger or a navigation device is important. In addition, a power bank can replace the missing power source for charging. If you want to be on the safe side, take a map for orientation. In case of a fall, it is important to be able to take care of yourself first. A first aid kit is a must. You should also be able to keep your bike in good shape on your own. You can do this with a multitool and spare parts. A spare inner tube, repair kit and bicycle pump help to get the bike back on the road quickly in the event of a flat tyre. Before setting off on your own, it is helpful to at least watch an explanatory video on the internet about what to do in the event of a flat tyre. During the bikepacking tour it can always happen that there is a supermarket on the way or another stopover. A bike lock to protect your bike from theft should also be included.
A roadworthy bicycle complies with the regulations if it is fitted with the necessary equipment. Among other things, this means lights, reflectors, reflectors or bells. During a bicycle tour, it can happen that the weather turns and you take refuge in a nearby shelter late in the evening. Especially at this time of day and in bad weather, it is important to be able to see the route and be noticed by other road users. A general bike check is also worthwhile, especially on long bike tours. The brake pads, tyre tread, tyre pressure and a functioning light are worth a quick look before setting off.
4. what is the best way to load your bike?
Bikepacking bags are usually attached to the frame itself, as well as to the handlebars and seat post. The aim is to keep the bike as manoeuvrable and fast as possible. In addition, neither the rider's freedom of movement nor the functionality of the bicycle should be restricted. To keep the bike agile, it is equally important to load the various bags sensibly. This means that heavy equipment should be stowed as low as possible and very close to the frame. The frame bag is particularly suitable for this. The centre of gravity must be as low as possible, otherwise a dysbalance will quickly occur during the ride. The heaviest equipment usually includes the camping cooker, tent, water, food or multitool and spare parts. Equipment that takes up a lot of space, i.e. has a lot of volume, fits in the saddle bag. The sleeping bag, tarp, spare clothes or gas cartridges for cooking can be stowed here. Light items go in the handlebar bag. Snacks for on the road, smartphone or navigation device and the first aid kit are ideal for this.
5. What do you look for when buying a tent?
A tent makes it possible to camp wherever you want when bikepacking. In addition, it provides protection from all kinds of disturbing factors that prevent you from getting a good night's sleep. For example, no mosquitoes or ants can get inside the tent. And the wind doesn't whistle so much around your ears. At first you might think that tents are too bulky to take along on a bikepacking tour. After all, poles, pegs, inner tent and outer tent are not necessarily handy luggage. There is a suitable 1-person or 2-person tent on the market for everyone, with a small pack size and low weight. Before buying, it is important to pay attention to various points. There are particularly small tents that weigh hardly anything. Manufacturers label ultra-light tents with UL for ultralight. A lightweight tent should still be waterproof. A look at the water column will tell you. A water column of 1500mm or more is considered a waterproof tent. However, it also depends on the workmanship of the seams whether a tent can really withstand the rain. On the other hand, tents with a lower water column that are manufactured to a particularly high standard can also withstand rain. Before buying, it's worth checking the experience reports of other bikepackers to avoid any nasty surprises. Tents should also be robust. To save weight, many tents are sold without a groundsheet. However, the bare tent floor is quickly punctured by stones or the like. So before your first tour, it is worth checking how your own tent is doing. There is no such thing as the perfect tent. You will always have to make compromises. In order to purchase the best trekking tent for you, further preliminary considerations are important. You should assess the area in which it will realistically be used. For example, it makes a difference whether a tent is only used in summer or also in cooler seasons. A tent that is suitable for all purposes will not make you happy. Rather, it should be equipped for the purpose that is relevant to you.
To find a tent that is customised to your needs, there are a few questions you should ask yourself before buying. For example, how much space you need. If you are travelling alone, you will quickly tend towards a 1-person tent. These tents are so small that you usually can't sit upright or turn around without bumping into the tent wall. There is also not much storage space for equipment. So either pay attention to the dimensions before buying such a tent or risk investing in a somewhat heavier tent with a larger pack size but more space. Especially on tours lasting several days, you want to cook in the awning. For this, the bikepacking tent needs a vestibule. This is a recess in which, for example, luggage can be stored in a dry place. Since it is worth carrying a 2-person tent even for people travelling alone, the next section introduces tents for both one and two people.
In a tunnel tent, the vestibule is at the front and the sleeping area is behind it. Tunnel tents have narrow sides and are therefore more wind-resistant. The tent poles are on the outside. This means that the inner tent and outer tent always remain connected. So if it rains, the tent can be pitched without the inner tent getting wet. In addition, it is usually quicker to pitch than a dome tent. The disadvantage of tunnel tents is that they are not free-standing. You have to brace them. This is not possible on all types of ground. Both too hard and too soft ground are unsuitable. With tunnel tents, there is a risk of a lot of condensation forming. Since the ventilation flaps are far apart, ventilation only works properly if the tent is positioned correctly in the wind. In contrast to the tunnel tent, dome tents offer a larger surface area. Particularly tall people are better off here; in tunnel tents they may bump their feet against the inner tent. Dome tents can be used as free-standing tents and do not necessarily have to be braced. The vents are closer together, so condensation can be largely avoided. However, if more than one person sleeps in a tent, condensation is usually unavoidable. There is less storage space for luggage in dome tents because the vestibules are smaller. They also tend to weigh a little more than tunnel tents because they need more poles. Since the inner tent and outer tent are pitched separately, pitching a dome tent in the rain is often problematic. Dome tents do not have to be double-walled tents. If tents have only one wall, they are somewhat lighter. On the other hand, the ventilation is usually worse. Which tent is best for you depends on what is most important to you.
6. what are the best bikepacking tents?
Various manufacturers have proven themselves with lightweight material and high-quality workmanship in their tents. These include MSR, Nordisk, Big Agnes, Salewa, Naturehike, Vango and Decathlon, to name a few brands. Due to the innovative, high-quality workmanship, some tent models go beyond any price range. Nevertheless, there are alternatives that are affordable and still do what they were made for: provide a place to sleep while travelling. Some camping tents are presented here.
Jack Wolfskin Gossamer
The Gossamer is a classic among tunnel tents for one person. The inner tent can also be used individually as mosquito protection. It has a pack size of 44 x 14 cm and weighs 1.75 kg. It is robust. It is very flat and can withstand any weather. Thanks to the colour and size, it is easy to camouflage in tall grass. The entrance is quite small, which is often the case with tents of this type. The tent combines low weight, small pack size and low price: for around 100€, the tent offers everything you need, but it doesn't offer the greatest comfort.
Grand Canyon Richmond 1
The 1-person tent has a pack size of 38 × 12 cm and weighs 1.52 kg. Both the outer tent and the floor have a water column of 2000mm. The tent is double-walled. The sleeping area is quite small. On the other hand, the tent can be bought for less than 100€ and is one of the cheaper models on the market, despite the high-quality materials.
Dome tents for one person
Ferrino NEMESI 1 Pro
The 1-person tent is easy to pitch. The outer tent has a water column of 3000mm. The floor is waterproof up to 8000 mm. This provides excellent protection in bad weather. With 15x35cm it has a small pack size. The 3-season tent is priced at around 200€. It has a vestibule for storing equipment. The weight is 1.5 kg.
The Single Wall tent can be pitched quickly even in the rain. The pack size is 46 x 16 cm. Pegs and guy ropes are included. The usable inner length is around 2 m. The tent is therefore more suitable for small people. This makes the tent more suitable for smaller people. It can be purchased for around 150€. It weighs 1.25 kg and has a water column of 2000 mm. The floor is waterproof thanks to 4000 mm.
Dome tents for 2 people
MSR Carbon Reflex 2
The MSR Carbon Reflex 2 trekking tent is ultra-light. Thanks to carbon fibre poles and an entrance area without zip, it comes to a weight of 0.84kg. The pack size is 43x13cm. It must be guyed down. The tent has two doors and plenty of space inside. The tent is available on Amazon for around 600€. Two tent poles make it easy to set up and take down, and it stands within a few minutes. The outer tent is made of ripstop nylon and has a water column of 1000mm. The tent floor has a water column of 3000mm thanks to its coating. There is room for two sleeping pads inside. The inner tent allows good air circulation, so droplet formation overnight is rare. Guy ropes and additional pegging hooks are not included with the tent and must be purchased separately.
MSR Elixir 2
The MSR Elixir 2 is freestanding and designed for two people. It has a pack size of 51 x 17 cm. The weight is 2.77 kg. A tent ground sheet, aluminium pegs and tent guy ropes are included. Two entrances with large vestibules offer plenty of space. You can buy the 3-season tent for around 300€. The inner tent can be used without the outer tent. The outer tent is made of ripstop polyester with 1500mm water column. The floor has 3000mm water column.
MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2
This tent is one of the most popular models among bikepackers. The outer tent is made of ripstop nylon and has a water column of 1200mm, the floor has a water column of 3000mm. The pack size is 46 x 15 cm. The 2-person tent has two entrances. The price is around 400€. The tent is freestanding and designed for three seasons. The inner tent can be used without the outer tent. Thanks to the ventilation flaps at the head and foot ends, the tent is well ventilated and tends to have little condensation. An additional tent pad must be purchased separately. The tent weighs 1.54 kg. The scope of delivery includes inner and outer tent, poles and pegs. It can be pitched in a few minutes even by inexperienced campers.
Naturehike Cloud up 2 Upgrade
The 2-person tent has a pack size of 40 × 13 cm. It weighs 1.8 kg. Both the outer tent and the floor have a water column of 4000 mm. This is a clear difference from other tents. It is better protected against moisture than other models. Pegs and guy ropes are also included. It is quick and easy to pitch. The tent is not insulating, so the temperatures inside are the same as outside. The tent remains stable even in windy conditions.
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