Choosing the right tent for our journey
This is an article about how we picked a 2 persons ultralight tent for our bikepacking trips, and which criteria we were looking for.
Two entrances means two exits, this is particularly useful for a nighttime pee. It also provides two apsides to organize your stuff independently from your partner in the vestibules and keep only the necessities inside. Two opposite sides also allow for one entrance to be exposed to or hidden from particular weather conditions: wind directions, light, rain, sun,…
Self-standing tents are sturdy and do not require ropes that may strain the tent, without those anchor points the stability of the tent is less dependent of the ground it is build on. In very stormy conditions, additional storm lines can still be added and anchored into the soil.
Space inside self-standing tents often provides more volume due to their dome shape. Although, the dimensions of an ultralight 2 persons tent tend to be pretty narrow, the additional height is very welcome. Our inner tent dimensions come in at 120cm in width, 230cm in length and 110cm in height. The outer width is 260cm.
Colour is especially crucial when you plan to wild-camp. If you want to hide from land owners choose a colour that fits the natural surroundings you are traveling in. Choose earthy khakis for forests, sandy tones for deserts, and so on… If you do want to attract the views of your future life savers in rough camping conditions, then choose an alarming colour like red.
Interior, make sure you have a flexible zipper system to regulate airflows, let in light, keep out mosquitos, etc. You will need some anchor points for ropes to hang lamps on or to dry clothes. Pockets are useful to organize your life inside the tent.
Season indicators provide detailed informations about what time of the year the tent is meant to be used in, we chose a 3-season-tent because we want to be cozy in colder and rainy times, and we don’t forsee to go climb an icy mountain. 4-season-tents are great though, although they will be heavier and more expensive, only choose them when you plan to do a lot of snow camping and can afford to carry the extra weight.
Floor quality is quite important, your tent will be build upon the most different grounds in the most different conditions. Make sure the floor is resistent to formic acids to prevent ants and other bugs from damaging the fabric. Additional groundsheets are available if you want extra protection, or plan to camp on very rugged terrain. Until now our floor lasted without one.
Hydrostatic ratings indicate in which conditions your tent will keep you dry, anything above 3000mm should keep you dry for a few weeks in continuous rain. Pay particular attention to floor hydrostatic ratings, you can get tent floors with ratings up to and above 10000mm, this is particularly useful in heavy rains and snowy conditions.
Pole connections are a very fragile part of the tent. To prevent poles from tearing holes into the fabric we chose a system in which the poles are outside of the tent and the tent attaches with elastic ropes to them. This prevents you from pushing poles through a variety of openings in the tarp and damaging it.
Our tent also provides inner tent clip connectors, allowing us to remove the inner tent without unmounting the outer shell. It is quite useful in case we want to shelter from the rain or the sun for a short time, or if we want to let parts of the tent dry thorougly.
Pack size should obviously be as small as possible, ours is around 50 cm x 15 cm, not the smallest, but good enough.
Weight was one of our main criteria, we only compared tents with a combined weight between 1,8kg and 3,3kg. In the end we bought one that weights ~2,6kg.
Assembly time is quite important to us, a good self-standing tent allows us to setup our tent in two minutes, this is particularly useful when it is raining. Unmounting the tent in a similar time is also useful in order to let it dry without losing too much time before packing.
Ultralight trekking and bikepacking tents are usually flexible, multi-use, and well designed products where every detail is well-thought. Prices for such setups can vary from 400€ to +1000€, if you do your homework you can find a great deal on great quality products. It is also worth having a look at the warranty and choosing a manufacturer that will provide you with a 5 year, 10 year, or lifetime warranty in case something does break after prolonged use.
Did we miss anything? What is most important to you? Let us know in the comments!