Tents for Backpacking and Bikepacking

tents for backpacking and bikepackingSandra has asked me to recommend some good tents for backpacking and bikepacking. Sandra will be attending my Intro to Backpacking event in Harriman State Park in a few weeks and was required to ask a question to get off the wait-list.  I require participants to ask a question in order to get off the wait-list.  This gets them invested in the event ahead of time.  The event is hosted with Hudson Valley Hikers. 

Tents for Backpacking and Bikepacking

Thanks for asking about bikepacking.  I usually recommend trekking pole tents.  Trekking pole tents are really great because they set up with trekking poles and don’t need you to carry an extra pole. This is a great example of the dual-use principle of ultralight backpacking.  Trekking pole tents may not be the most suitable for bikepacking, but I have a few ideas for you.

Single Person Tents for Backpacking and Bikepacking

I really like tents by Tarptent. Tarptent is a cottage manufacturer based out of the bay area started by an engineer named Henry Shires. Most of their original tents were single wall tents that weren’t suitable for the high humidity and rainfall of the northeast. For the last few years, Tarptent has offered several models of wonderful double wall tents that do just great here!  One of the nicest things about Tarptents is that they pitch quickly in one piece, so the inside stays dry when you set it up in the rain.

The Tarptent Notch's narrow profile allows it to be set up in small spaces around crowded backpacker sites.
The Tarptent Notch

The Tarptent Notch is a single person trekking pole tent that performs excellently in almost any 3-season weather.  It is difficult to describe the Notch’s design.  It is like two elongated pyramids squished together. You sleep between the poles that hold up the two points. Tarptent offers a set of folding carbon fiber poles for use when bikepacking.  You may also consider the Notch’s cousin, the Moment.  The Moment replaces the Notch’s trekking poles with a hoop. The dedicated hoop pole makes it a little heavier than the Notch but provides a little more space inside.

Tarptent Moment

Two Person Tents for Backpacking and Bikepacking

Tarptent also makes some larger tents that are worth considering. The Stratospire series is very similar to the Notch, but these tents offer more sleeping space and much larger vestibules. The Stratospire 1 sleeps 1-2 people, while the Stratospire 2 sleeps 2-3. Both of these are trekking pole tents, so you need to carry the optional dedicated poles to use them for bikepacking.

Stratospire 1 from Tarptent

We should also consider the Six Moon Designs Haven tent.  The Haven is a double wall trekking pole tent. It is lighter and has more sleeping space than the Stratospire 1, but may not be as sturdy in very heavy weather. It’s also a bit tricky to order because Six Moons makes you buy the tarp and the inner-tent separately.

Six Moons Haven

Over the last few years, Big Agnes has come out as a major competitor in the ultralight market and offers a variety of tents that are nearly as light as cottage industry tents. These name brand tents offer a few significant advantages. While most of the ultralight cottage brand tents require stakes to stand up, most Big Agnes tents are free-standing or nearly free-standing. This means you can set them up more easily on hard ground or on platforms and they don’t fall over when someone trips over a guy line. You can also buy them at major retailers like REI which offer excellent return policies.

Big Agnes has a confusing array of models. I would stick with the Fly Creek or Copper Spur tents for 3-season backpacking or bikepacking in the Northeast.  A big disadvantage to this type of tent is that you always set up the inside first, which means it gets wet while raining.

A free standing tent by Big Agnes is a great tent for backpacking or bikepacking.
A free-standing tent by Big Agnes

Hammocks for Backpacking and Bikepacking

Much of our conversation so far has centered around each tent’s skeletal system.  The Notch, Stratospires, and Haven tents are held up by trekking poles. The moment has a large hoop to hold it up. The Big Agnes options each have dedicated pole systems that make them free-standing. Let’s now consider a sleep system that requires no poles at all: hammocks.

Backpacking Hammock
Keeping cozy in a backpacking hammock!

Hammocking has a variety of advantages, most of which I discuss in my hammocking post. Hammocks don’t require any poles to set up.  Hammocks can be set up over rocky or uneven ground. They pose less impact to the environment. Many people find them to be more comfortable. A specific advantage of hammocking while bike packing is that you can store your bike underneath you and protect it from the rain. The disadvantage is that you need trees.

A tarp over a backpacking hammock
Warbonnet’s Edge Tarp provides intermediate level protection for at a reasonable weight.

The hammock I recommend is the Warbonnet Blackbird. It’s among the lightest options, simple to set up, and has a convenient internal shelf for storing a few items at night, like your phone, headlamp, and book.

4 thoughts on “Tents for Backpacking and Bikepacking”

  1. I would add the ZPacks Duplex to the mix of tents mentioned here, as it is one of the popular tents on the AT and is frequently carried by hosts of Intro to Backpacking events ?

    1. I should add, the other reason that I didn’t recommend Zpacks is that they’re single walled. I’m not 100% onboard with using single wall tents in the Northeast where rainfall and humidity are high. Maybe after a few more trips observing your success I’ll change my mind.

  2. I bike pack often, I prefer a folding bike as I can keep with me in the tent and it suits trains, buses, etc. The advantage of the Notch is that you tie the bike to the pole so it doesn’t fell over into the fly or the inner, prop it up against the pole and tie to the pole. You’d do that on the side you dont intend to get in/out. Example picture: https://photos.app.goo.gl/hn5614248McxorYy7

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