What's The Best Motorcycle Camping Tent For You?

What's The Best Motorcycle Camping Tent For You?

When you’re buying gear for motorcycle camping, defining your priority is a key place to start. Finding the balance of pack size and comfort or convenience of gear is the trick. There are so many different types of tents from shapes, sizes, designs, features, and materials it can take a bit of research to find which tent you feel works best for motorcycle camping. Our goal is to simplify the selection process by breaking it down into key groups tents fall in so you can prioritize your needs. As we go through these, think about the relationship between tent size and bike size. There’s a small, middle, and large group similar to small, middle, and big bikes, each with their pros and cons.

Here we go! Another BEST article from Moto Camp Nerd, and if you’ve followed us for a while, you know what we are going to say. Best is relative to you and your style of camping and riding. I’m glad we got that out of the way because yes, we sell awesome camping gear for motorcycle camping but our primary goal is to make your motorcycle camping experience enjoyable.

Here are some of the questions we ask riders when helping them select a tent that works best for them and find out what their priorities are. So ask yourself:

Do you prefer a freestanding tent? Easier to setup but more poles than a tarp tent. Staking out a tarptent in rocky or sandy terrain may be difficult so the freestanding tent has an edge on versatility. 

How important is pack size and weight? Small means you can pack it inside your panniers instead of throwing it over the back seat. For us, this is priority since we ride 2up a lot and space is precious.

How much internal space? Do you want to stand up in the tent or bring all your gear in with you? The more inside room means it will pack larger.

How many nights per year do you camp?  Riders can get away with using cheaper tents if they only plan on camping couple of times a year in fair weather. If you’re camping every weekend, or weeks on end, get a quality tent.

What’s your budget? Buy once, cry once? This sort of ties into the above mentioned with quality. If you can’t afford a top of the line tent that's ok. There are several great entry level tents that won’t break the bank, but you will sacrifice the pack size and weight for cost.

Before we jump into the types of tents, I want to cover materials and double wall tents real quick. 

Double Wall Tents

Double wall tents are the way to go. They help reduce condensation inside your tent, and all the tents we sell and recommend are double wall tents. These are the tents you see with an inner tent and outer rainfly that goes over the top. This puts 2 walls between you and outside, versus a cheaper family style tent that’s an all in one setup as shown below.

The first picture is single wall tent and the second is a Copper Spur HV UL2 Bikepack Tent.

copper spur bikepack tents

Tent Materials

Most tents are made from polyester, nylon, and dyneema. I’m leaving dyneema tents out of the article for now as it breaks into the UL camping gear and those tents are upwards of $800 and are not very practical for motorcycle camping. I’m not saying that they aren’t good tents, but there are tents that go further for less for moto camping needs. If you want to keep an eye on your weight, spring for a nylon tent over poly. Depending on the denier count, nylon is typically thinner and lighter than the poly version making the tent lighter and pack smaller. 


+Stronger than poly

+Lighter weight

-Higher cost

-sags when wet


+Cheaper than nylon

+Naturally higher hydrostatic head vs nylon

-Thick/heavy compared to nylon = packs larger

PRIORITY: Small Pack Size and Light Weight 
Group: Small and Light Like a Dual Sport

If your #1 priority is getting the smallest packing tent for motorcycle camping, you’re not getting a tent that you can stand inside. Getting a tent with more room = more material = more weight and larger pack size. Tents that fall into this small group would be bikepacking tents, backpacking tents, and UL backpacking minimalist style tents and tarp tents, that are not free standing.

Bikepack tents are becoming more popular as their pole segments are cut down making their pack size relatively small compared to standard freestanding backpacking or family style tents. 

Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 - Dual sport rider’s favorite

small camping tent for motorcycle camping

When it comes to semi-freestanding tents, this one is the smallest and lightest packing coming in at just under 3lbs packed in a 13”x6” bag, poles and all.

HV = High Volume
UL = Ultra Light

Depending on how much gear you bring into your tent may determine which version, but the safe bet is go with a 2 person tent. For me, it’s enough room for a 25” wide pad, with room on the side for my helmet, boots, and small bag with clothes or nick-nacks. For what it’s worth, there’s minimal weight and space savings with the 1 person tent so we suggest going with the 2 person.

+Fits in almost any pannier system.  

+Nylon tent  = Small and light packing

+Easy to setup

- 1 Front Door and 1 Vestibule

- Semi-freestanding so the rear corners need to be staked out

Learn more about the Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL2 Bikepack Tent

Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 / UL3

Just like the Fly Creek, this is a semi-freestanding bikepacking tent, BUT the key difference is the Tiger Wall has two side doors with vestibules. This also has the short poles making the pack size 13”x7” and weight in just over 3 lbs.

+Fits in almost any pannier system.  

+Nylon tent  = Small and light packing

+Easy to setup

- Semi-freestanding so the rear corners need to be staked out

- High cost

Learn more about the Tiger Wall UL3 Bikepack Tent


Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1/2/3 Bikepack - BEST OVERALL

The Copper Spur HV UL Bikepack is Big Agnes’ top tier tent. This is a true free standing tent, that comes in 1, 2, and 3 person sizes. This is a nylon tent so you’re still in the lightweight category saving weight but that extra material adds girth to the stuff sack making the overall pack size 13.5”x7” which still is relatively small and still light at 3.5 lbs.

+Fits in almost any pannier system.  

+Nylon tent  = Small and light packing

+Easy to setup true freestanding

+So many pockets and features

- Even more expensive

Learn more about the Copper Spur HV UL Bikepack Tent


Other Backpacking Type Tents

Some other tents in the small packing, lightweight category would be tarp tents, and pyramid tents that use one or two straight poles along with staking the tent out under tension. 

The above pyramid tent is from a brand recommended to me by a rider I met who really enjoyed it. You can see and learn more at River Country Products.

Key Points

+Ultralight under 3lbs for most setups

+Minimalistic and small packing

- Not as easy to setup as freestanding tents

-Staking in sand or rocking terrain may prove difficult

PRIORITY: Balance of Pack Size and Cost
Group: Middle Weight

So now we are starting to slowly transition from the small light tents into the heavier and larger packing tents. As we progress you’ll see the pack size, weight, and internal space increase.

Big Agnes Blacktail Hotel Bikepack 2 /3 - BEST BASECAMP MOTORCYCLE TENT

With this tent you're getting a massive amount of garage space with its large vestibule to store all your gear. This is a free standing inner tent that has the rain fly creating a huge storage area. The hoop that makes up the garage space does have to be stake out. This tent makes a great basecamp tent that you can setup, throw all your extra gear in, and run off riding for the day and come back to camp later while still maintaining a relatively small pack size. Now, this is a polyester tent so even though it’s the bikepack version with small pole segment, the additional thickness of the materials and extra pole makes for a thicker pack size coming in at 14.5” x 8.5" and weighing in just over 7lbs with the footprint.

+Compact enough to fit into larger panniers.

+Large vestibule for storage.

+Lower price point than other bikepack tents.

+Poly has a higher hydrostatic head.

-Heavy due to being made from poly and extra poles.

-Large rain fly vestibule has to be staked out.

-Vestibule is only tall enough to sit under without a chair

Learn more about the Blacktail Hotel Bikepack Tent


Kelty Late Start 2P


Next on the list would be the Kelty Late Start 2 tent. This is an excellent entry level tent because of the price point for the quality. For $160 You get a freestanding, aluminum pole tent, with taped seams, a rain fly, but only 1 door. This is also a fan favorite because the pole segments are 16” making it still relatively easy to pack into larger panniers. I’ve had one customer tell me he loves it on his CRF250L shoved down one leg of the Giant Loop Great Basin Panniers. 16" x 7" pack size weighing in at 4.5lbs.

+Great entry level tent with good price point.

+Shorter 16” pole segments make it easy to fit in panniers

+Double walled tent with taped seams.

-Heavier due to being made from poly = 5lbs

-Only 1 side door

Learn more about the Kelty Late Start 2P Tent

Alps Mountaineering Helix 2 Person Tent

This is another tent that compares right along side of the Kelty Late Start tent. Since we don't have this one in stock yet, we are getting mixed specs between a 16" or 18" pack length and 6" girth. Either way, with shorter pole segments it makes packing easier. These tents are actually nylon with 2 doors, coming in at  $280, almost double the cost of the Kelty but only weighing in at 4lbs.


PRIORITY: Cost and Standing Space
Group: Large - Heavy Weight 

Now we are moving onto the area of tents where packing size doesn’t matter. Pretty much all the above-mentioned bikepack tents from Big Agnes also come in a backpacking version that has a standard 18” - 22+” pole segment. There are way too many good tents to list that fall into this category of freestanding style tents with longer pole sets. The benefit of these tents is that you can save money by getting a non-bikepack version of the same tent if you don’t care about the longer poles, and they come in nylon and poly materials so you can save even more going the poly route over nylon.

I will mention here we are also getting into the realm of small packing vs good quality vs cheap. Sort of like the saying, “fast, cheap, reliable, pick 2” the same general rules apply here. If you go cheaper, don’t expect the convenience of a smaller packing tent. If you go for quality, don’t expect it to be cheap. You get the idea.

 Big Agnes Wyoming Trail 2

This tent is going to give you this nice big sitting area outside of the tent that you can actually sit in a chair without your head hitting the rain fly, as opposed to the blacktail hotel. This is a popular option for those who want to get out of the rain and have some room to spread out while you hang out. The disadvantage of all this room is going to be your sacrifice for weight and pack size. These pole sets are 20” long and the pack size is 20.5" x 11.5" x 8" and weighs in at just over 12lbs, oof!

When you get a tent with poles that won’t fit in the panniers, you can get a specialty bag like Mosko Moto has, and strap the poles on the luggage system or to the frame rails. I’ve even seen riders use zip ties to attach it to their frames. Then stuff the tent into a smaller bag and store in your choice location. 

Another option would be to get a large dry bag like the Giant Loop Tillamook or Sea to Summit Big River Dry Bag, that's long enough to hold the tent in its original bag, and throw it over the back seat or rear rack.

This won’t really work for campers and riders who travel like us. We travel 2up, and use a hard top case/trunk as our storage for kitchen gear and food. This covers us when we ride to areas with rodents, raccoons, and bears, that may require a hard container for food storage. Things to keep in mind.

Something a little different that I am personally excited to try out is a pyramid or tipi tent. These have one singular pole in the middle to keep tension to the edges that are staked out. These are popular are winter and hot tents with wood stoves. You can get them with and without an inner tent. The inner tent gives you a barrier from the ground when it rains, and the mesh keeps the bugs out while still letting air flow. The benefit of these would be not having as many poles to deal with, and you can find them with a large ceiling height give you room to stand in the middle.


+Extra head space to stand while changing

+Less materials than a large dome tent

-Needs to be staked out

-Most of the time the inner tent is sold separately

And last but not least, we will move onto the behemoth of all tents, the family style and tents for your motorcycle. I will always push riders to do what works best for them and if you have plenty of room to carry a large packing tent, so you can have a large spacious tent to hang out in, then please, by all means you do you. 


Everyone knows about the redverz moto tent. These large and spacious tents sleep you and your motorcycle together out of the elements. These tents pack relatively large and weight more than the Bikepack tents BUT they provide plenty of walk in space for you and your moto without having to get on your hands and knees to crawl into a tent. Pack size from their site says 21" x 10" at 14lbs.

Family Tents

And here are some more large tents to easily walk in and out of with plenty of room for all your gear and accessories. Again, large tent, large pack size. Expect an entire duffle bag over the back seat to carry these. BUT If you have the room to spare, and you enjoy all that free space, you have options!

Why didn’t we mention these types of tents?

Well, there’s nothing wrong with getting one of the cheaper tents if you’re just starting out, or if you’re only going camping once or twice a year in fair weather. Most of them are single walled polyester tents that are more susceptible to condensation build up and water pooling inside the tent floor than double walled tents. BUT If you really want to get into motorcycle camping, I recommend trying to use a friends tent to see if you even like camping, and then start with a cheaper double walled poly or nylon tent like the Kely Late Start, Alps Mountaineering, or any free-standing backpacking tent from a reputable brand. Big Agnes, Sea to Summit, and NEMO are brands that have quality products that they stand behind. Simple design changes, good zippers, taped seams, and good DWR make the tent more enjoyable and make camping easy. 


Final Recommendations

So let's bring it in. If your priority is weight and space, go for an UL backpacking style tarp tent or bikepack tent and keep in mind that you’ll sacrifice being able to stand up in your tent.

If you’re prioritizing stand up room in the tent, go big with a family style or tent you can park your moto in with you. You’ll essentially be sacrificing your pack space and weight for comfort.

If you’re getting started, or don’t need the smallest or biggest, meet in the middle with a standard dome tent. You’ll sacrifice some pack space, and some extra roomy comfort for a middle ground tent.

After riding all day, camping should be the easy part, and that’s what we are here for.

If you ever need assistance or have any questions about buying gear for motorcycle camping, feel free to email, call, or message us on social media.


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