Choosing A Tent
With the seemingly infinite number of tent models to choose from, one of the easiest ways of finding the right tent for you is by identifying those that are not. As you examine various sizes, models and features start eliminating those that don't suit your needs. Choosing a tent that meets your requirements will be much easier once you've narrowed down your choices.
Before you make a decision in choosing a tent you must know what you're looking for. Or at least have a good idea. Let’s look at some tent features you should take into consideration.
The most important criteria when choosing a tent is making sure that everyone fits comfortably inside. It's important to note there is no standard in the outdoor industry when it comes to the size of a tent and it's advertised sleeping capacity. Different tents showing the same sleeping capacity can vary noticeably in size. It's a good idea to test out the tent before purchase. If testing is not an option use a measuring tape to draw out the floor of the tent to get an idea of the size. Don't forget to consider the size of the occupants as well. For motorcycle camping, smaller capacity tents are ideal as they usually take up less packing space on the bike. Look at materials and construction as these drastically affect the packed size of the tent.
It is possible to find larger capacity tents that are small enough to fit on a bike in order to accommodate groups and families wishing to sleep in the same shelter. The tent fly and body could be carried separately and other gear could be distributed between bikes. However, the larger the tents capacity, the more expensive it will be to find one made of materials light enough to have a small packed size convenient to carry on a motorcycle. You may be better off with two smaller tents than spending the money on a larger capacity tent.
Season of Use
Most tents are advertised for 3-season use and are ideal for motorcycle camping. Tents rated for 4-season are designed to handle more extreme winter conditions. This means protecting its occupants from low temperatures and higher wind speeds. They achieve this by replacing large breathable mesh panels with solid breathable membranes, strong fabrics and extra guyline attachment points. Most motorcyclists will not be riding their bikes in conditions where such a tent would be needed making this less relevant to motorcycle camping. But for those willing to brave the elements, 4-season tents are worth considering. However, the same features that make such tents capable of handling winter conditions make them less ideal for summer use. They're much bulkier than their 3-season counterparts. The lack of large mesh panels, thicker materials and wind resisting shapes make 4-season tents less breathable in warmer conditions which will lead to condensation.
Weight and volume are important factors when choosing a tent for motorcycle camping. A sure way to reduce both weight and packed volume while maintaining the same interior space is by choosing a higher quality material. Keep in mind that lighter materials such as Silnylon or Cuben fibre will be more expensive than traditional nylon or polyester tent fabrics. Lighter materials can also be less durable and require additional care when packing and pitching the tent. For more experienced or adventurous campers, a lightweight tent is worth the investment. For less experienced campers or those who only go out once or twice a year, a more conventional tent made of fabrics such as nylon is usually a better option.
Tent Design and Features
Tents come in all shapes and sizes. Knowing which features you need is important in choosing your shelter. Here are important details to consider regarding the design of the tent.
The tent fly is the layer of material that protects the occupants of the tent from the elements. Features such as canopies and vestibules allow gear to be stored outside of the tent, while still being protected from precipitation. They also give the occupants somewhere to put on footwear and rain gear when the weather is less favourable. On some tents the covered area is large enough that a small stove can be used to cook meals*.
Vents that are cut in the fly are a great way to increase the ventilation of the tent while limiting exposure to wind and rain. Many tents have a vestibule that can be left open to increase air circulation. However, some models make it impossible to keep the doors open while it is raining, creating condensation problem during poor weather. Tie out points to secure additional cordage during windy conditions is also a benefit when camping in exposed windy areas.
*Use extreme caution when operating a stove near a tent. Most tent fabrics will melt or even burn when exposed to high temperatures.
The pole structure of a tent will determine the packed size of the shelter, as well as the time it takes to setup. Free standing tents are the most popular as they are usually the quickest to pitch, and can be setup without guylines. They can also be moved after being setup, to find the best spot at the campsite. Non-freestanding tents are more popular with ultralight hikers who substitute complex pole structures with guy lines and trekking poles for extra support. These tents can be used for motorcycle camping but require more careful campsite selection.
Most tents have either one or two doors. There is no significant benefit in having only one door for a motorcycle camping tent. The only advantage is a slight reduction in weight. Two doors make accessing the tent much easier, and help reduce the chances of waking other occupants when getting in or out of the tent. The number of doors is more of a preference choice as there are more than enough tents of either category to choose from.
The peak height or celling height of the tent is one of the main features that affects the livability of the tent. A higher ceiling height allows occupants to sit upright which is important when spending time side the shelter. It also makes it easier to change clothes inside the tent and organize gear when setting up or packing up.
The floor of the tent is subjected to the most wear and must therefore, be made of durable materials. Most tents have a bathtub floor, which means that the floor material continues a few inches up the wall of the tent. This is important to prevent water from entering the tent in wet conditions.
Although the floor of the tent is usually thicker and more waterproof than the fly of the tent, no tent is 100 percent waterproof. Using a tent footprint can prevent most leaks as well as increase the durability of the tent. Some tents have the option of purchasing a footprint made specifically for that model, however, it is not necessary to purchase that specific footprint. Always choose a ground tarp or footprint that is slightly smaller than the floor of the tent. This will prevent rain from running down the walls of the tent, and pooling underneath the floor. The need for a tent footprints is a debated topic amongst experienced campers. But with a motorized vehicle, the added durability and weather protection from a ground tarp is worth considering.
Storage Inside The Tent
When choosing a tent, it is important to consider the amount of equipment that must be protected from precipitation. Large vestibules and canopies are great at protecting backpacks, storage containers and footwear. Mesh pockets and overhead gear lofts are excellent ways of organizing small items such as flashlights, water bottles, books and phones. Some tents come with these features, and others are sold as aftermarket accessories.
Accessories will usually not be the determining factor when choosing a tent but are something to consider. Gear lofts for the inside of the tent, expanded vestibules or gear garages and even footprints are examples of accessories that should be considered when choosing a tent.
The price of the tent is usually a good indicator of the quality of the tent and its materials. Spending more money can buy you a lighter, more durable and more functional tent. For most campers, choosing a good quality affordable tent is the best option. These tents usually range from $200 to $500. Beware of tents that are under $200 as they tend to be made of lower quality materials. Be aware that some high-end ultralight tents have achieved minimal weight by sacrificing durability, but this is not the case with every lightweight tent.
- If you like to sleep in, chose a tent that has a darker colour. Brightly coloured tents such as yellow or red become very bright in the morning when the sun shines on them.
- If you plan on pitching your tent on sandy ground consider purchasing specialized tent pegs for such conditions.