Our regularly updated packing checklist for motorcycle camping gets a lot of visitors, so it only makes sense that we should review each of the items mentioned. Today we start with the most common icon in motorcycle tent camping, namely the tent itself. Allow us to elaborate on three prospect motorcycle camping scenarios, each divided by total rider numbers so as to inspire a more sensible purchase that respects both your finances and available storage.
“If you're riding solo (and even if otherwise), get the smallest possible tent you can tolerate that's made from the lightest materials possible.”
My original goal while searching for a tent and base tarp holds anchor somewhere between budget, durability and sustained use. Our family tent, made of cheap “big box store” materials, is now retired to floor-tarp status in the garage. Even if that weren’t the case, backyard tents such as these are fragile yet heavier, with a storage footprint that demolishes the motorcycle touring efficiency meter.
Choosing the best tent for motorcycle camping is all about group size, meaning solo travel vs. otherwise. If your motorcycle tour is a personal journey, you might only need enough room for yourself and a helmet. As numbers increase, however, so do the personal space requirements.
What’s more, there’s no reason to deny yourself a six-person tent on a solo ride if that’s what you want! Motorcycle camping is a pleasure and every rider has their individual demands. Have your cake and eat it too (though that could get a bit messy when stowed in your panniers).
Going Solo: Single-Person Tents
I mention again that it’s a battle between price, strength and longevity. If money’s no object, Terra Nova’s “Laser” one-person tent makes use of the latest in lightweight materials and packs as though it includes a portable hole. Apparently, it’s also compatible with their “fast pack” system.
As a moderate camper, I can plainly state that less expensive options of worthy caliber do exist. My choice for a compact and affordable single-person motorcycle camping tent lands squarely on the Eureka Solitaire. Even though it’s sleeved, setup is quick and she’s sturdy to boot.
The Solitaire’s structure requires only two poles and a quick-connect rainfly. To resolve entryways for it’s small size, two zippers are provided at the front and along the top, making access easily convenient. It weighs more (2.9 lbs) but packs small compared to it’s similarly priced competition.
Dynamic Duo: Two-Person Tents
With all of the gear that’s required for long distance sport touring motorcycle travel, a two-person tent really equates to three. If you’re a more intricately organized person, that point might be moot but after a full day of riding, I personally prefer “throwing” together a tent before “piling” my gear in it’s designated area as opposed to dealing with some labyrinth of exacting articulation. Speaking from experience, it’s after the ride when the more precise details of “how to what” go numb only to be met with a struggle after sunrise, so the K.I.S.S. method definitely plays.
Keep It Simple Stupid.
None of this justify’s abandoning the possibility of a compact and lightweight solution. That’s why you started reading this post to begin with! Well, there are plenty of decent options on the market.
Repeating the pattern, you big spenders out there might find the Hilleberg Nallo 3 an excellent investment. It’s uniquely stable layout is supported by lightweight Kerlon 1200 fabric and 9mm poles. Moreover, it’s space-to-weight ratio perfects the form and function platform.
For the rest of us (myself included), Kelty’s Grand Mesa 3 marks the perfect balance between purpose and wallet. It’s free-standing clip connected design makes for easy setup without the hassle of sleeves bunching along the poles (of which there are only two). The rainfly fits onto the ends of each before being tied off at four separate vinyl loops.
As far as packing is concerned, the GM3 weighs in at just over 6 lbs and compresses without any trouble into a 7″x22″ travel bag. With a bit of creativity, there’s likely a way to fit it into one’s top case (my Shad SH45 included). All in all, this tent’s great and serves it’s purpose well for both family camping and multi-rider touring.
The More, The Merrier: Many-Person Tents
Maybe it doesn’t seem logical to pack a tent of larger scale than those already mentioned above but remember: one tent can be divided between bikes. Not only does this ration responsibility in caravan form, weight distribution is somewhat lessened for each individual rider. Cooperation is key, so be sure everyone knows what parts they’re responsible for!
Wenzel’s Evergreen model (6-person) is an affordable option with a better than average reputation. Said tent and it’s dome design may be converted to two rooms as needed. It sports a “gear loft” for electronics and the like while boasting a ten-year manufacturer’s warranty.
At the same time, Kelty offers their Acadia 6, delivering an incredible bang for the buck. Unlike the Wenzel, there are almost no sleeves on the Arcadia. It’s clips are far more convenient plus they allow for a free standing design that’s quick to stow. In short, the higher price triples the quality.
Kelty makes reliable products that are as simple to the end-user as can be. It’s for that reason that I feel their tents outperform some of the more elite “National Geographic grade” brands. It’s a matter of quality for price and Kelty shows affection for their demographic in that regard.
Motorcycle Camping Tents Summary
It’s pretty simple, really. If you’re riding solo (and even if otherwise), get the smallest possible tent you can tolerate that’s made from the lightest materials possible. As your group’s population builds, consider whether or not you want to share tent space. Either way, each of the motorcycle camping tent suggestions above are money well spent.
If you’re not riding alone, divide the tent hauling responsibilities among the total so that no single motorbike is overloaded. As sport touring riders, we love our spirited acceleration and lean angles. That’s hard to do if your motorcycle becomes a “two-wheeled SUV” deligate.
For information about other items to bring, don’t forget to read over our packing checklist. It brings clarity to basics, namely food, clothing and shelter before going anywhere near the perhaps unnecessary luxuries. Bookmark it too, as it’s updated whenever better products become known!
What Motorcycle Camping Tent Do You Use?
Obviously, tents available to purchase aren’t limited to those mentioned above. Which ones have you tried? What did you like (or dislike) about them? Your input is invited. Post an article!