How do you decide which tent will be the best for your trip?
Choosing the right motorcycle travel tent is a complex decision that’s influenced by where and when you camp, how many people, and also how you camp and how long. It does not matter whether most people spend less than two weeks per year camping or make it their home for months on end, it is worthwhile doing proper research when buying a tent that will be home on those epic expeditions.
- Intended use: Where and in what season?
- Structure/features: Freestanding versus stakes, vestibule, double or single-wall construction
- Capacity: How many people and how much gear do you need to fit inside?
- Weight: Your tent should be as light as possible while still meeting your purpose, capacity, structure and cost requirements.
- Time travelling, how many times pitching and packing on the trip.
- Important points to consider here
- Our current tent has now been used for a total time of more than 340 days pitching and packing it nearly every day. With time we realised what type of tent would be best for longterm motorcycle travel and the best features it would need. Motorcycle travel has its own unique challenges compared to other sports or adventures when it comes to shelters:
- Pitch and pack tents nearly every day for weeks or months on end. They need to be hard wearing and be able to handle being pitched and packed more often.
- Fewer parts, less to get lost.
- Poles must be able to take stresses of being pitched continuously.
- Be freestanding and be able to pitch quick.
- High roof as we spend more time over the period inside tent and need the head room.
- Livability – Must have more space and overhang vestibule.
The most suited tents for motorcycle use would be either a one man tent or a Bivy for a short trip or a one man double wall tent for long trips or the two/three man double wall tents. Most weigh less than 2-3kg and pack really compact.
Understanding tent jargon
Types of tents:
Bivy’s & tarps: A bivouac sack (also known as a bivy, bivvy, or bivi) is an extremely small, lightweight, waterproof shelter, and an alternative to traditional tent systems. It is used by climbers, mountaineers, hikers, ultralight backpackers, soldiers and minimalist campers. (wiki)
Double-wall tents have three parts: (1) an inner tent with a waterproof floor and non-waterproof roof, (2) a waterproof outer tent rain fly, and (3) poles. Double-wall tents come in three varieties, Self supporting or Freestanding or Tunnel tents. This combination works very well. This is in our opinion the most suited for motorcycle use. With waterproof-breathable fabrics like Gore-Tex, single-wall tents came into being. These are even more lightweight and also more expensive. If not designed properly, single-wall backpacking tents can have more condensation problems.
These tents also comes in: Front entrance, side entrance and both side entrances.
* 4-season: all-weather backpacking tents for the heaviest snow and rain, the fiercest winds, winter backpacking or mountaineering.
* 3-season: suitable for the worst weather of spring, summer and fall
* Convertibles: designed so you can leave out a pole or zip out a section or panel, converting four-season into three-season
* 2-season: generally best for mild weather conditions; “ultralight” backpacking tents often fall into this category
* Minimalist shelters: may or may not be considered a “tent”, tarps etc.
* Vestibules: A vestibule is an extension of the rain fly that goes out beyond the doorway and down to ground level. They’re extremely handy and it allows you to store your pack and gear out of the rain, without taking up room in the tent. In really bad weather, you can cook on your stove in the vestibule. That way you don’t have to worry about carbon-monoxide fumes in an enclosed tent. You can often get by with less internal floor space if you have a good-sized vestibule.
* Hydrostatic head: For any fabric to be considered fully waterproof it must be able to withstand the pressure of a column of water 1000mm high without leaking. This is classed as a hydrostatic head rating of 1000. These ratings are used to describe a tent floor waterproofness.
* Doors: Very lightweight tents often only has a single door. That’s fine, but 2-person tents with 2 doors give each sleeper a separate entry and exit point so you can come and go as you please. This is nice, such as, if your companion wants to turn in early while you stay up to do some stargazing or just drink more beer. Also more user-friendly than crawling into a tent like moles.
* Poles: Virtually all backpacking tent poles are made of aluminum 7001 grade alu and shock-corded together. Older or cheaply made tents use fiberglass poles, best to try to avoid. One important thing about poles, however, is the length of the sections. The longer the sections the harder they are to pack inside small spaces. Look for tents who use DAC poles or Easton poles as example you can be assured it will be a good quality tent and they used quality materials. There are plenty of other brands but these are renown for high-quality poles. Repairs: It is easier to cut an Aluminium pole and use it again than trying to fix a Carbon pole.
* Structure: Most lightweight tents these days are “freestanding”, meaning no stakes are required for setup. Non-freestanding tents often have fewer poles, so they’re lighter. Hammering poles into the ground or rocky ground can be an issue and can be a big pain. A freestanding tent also helps if you’re tired or lacking time, arriving at a campsite late … this happens more often than not. Just insert poles, throw in your gear, and ignore the slightly loose walls.
* Footprint & Groundsheets: Tent footprints are made for your particular tent model or floor shape. You place it beneath your tent to reduce wear a tear and possible ground moisture seepage. Cut a footprint from a sheet of clear painter’s plastic or buy a cheap tarp from outdoor shops. It’s cheaper, lighter, easily replaceable, and of course guaranteed absolutely waterproof.
* Capacity/Size: Lightweight tents are made for 1-man, 2-man and so on, but the real internal space varies. Most Chinese tents sold by Wallmart or Game are more suited to small Asian postures.
The average western male will not really want to share a 2 man tent. So it’s best to look at the area specification specified. Add that you want to put your gear inside the tent.
What is the best then? In general, unless you know you will be venturing solo AND lightweight a lot, we recommend looking at the 2-person tent so you have more options or if you are two people get a 3-man tent.
* Mesh panels: This is a very important aspect for Africa or hot climates use. Tents intended for milder conditions typically make ample use of mesh. Some lightweight tents, in fact, offer all-mesh canopies—a nice place to spend a night under million stars. Mesh alleviate stuffiness inside a tent.
* Ventilation: Condensation is a huge problem in tents. If enough builds up, the moisture could pool into drops of water and will start dropping on you and your bedding. The antidote: Easy, get a tent with good ventilation.
* Weight: What is considered “lightweight tents? What is considered heavy? The more living space, the bigger and
heavier the tent, also depending on the fabrics. So when comparing tents, look for high square meters and low weight. Don’t automatically discount a tent due to above-average weight. Internal volume and floor space may be a bonus. As well, you may want less mesh for warmth, or more poles for strength, or a larger vestibule. Everything is a trade-off. Some of the higher quality brand 3 man tents will weigh around 2.5kg to 3.5kg.
* What about height? Height is really secondary because motorcycle tents are always going to be low profile, you’ll be sitting, crouching or stooping. It is worthwhile to search for a tent with a high roof. It makes life a lot easier to live in.