If you’re planning on touring and considering a night or two under the stars, finding a decent tent that’s compact enough to transport on a motorbike can be tough. Not only do you have the standard tent construction to consider but you need to think about weight, storing bike kit (that’s usually wet!) and keeping your bike close by.
Thankfully, the market for motorcycle touring tents is enjoying a bit of a surge. We used to only have a couple of choices for lightweight tents but with modern materials getting better, tents are getting lighter and more companies are producing motorcycle-specific versions with bikers’ needs in mind.
Some tents even come with garage sections to park your bike overnight, while others provide larger vestibules for storing your panniers and kit outside of the main sleeping area but still protected from the elements.
Standard Tent Buyer’s Checklist
When you’re buying any tent, these are the features you’ll want to have:
- Wind and waterproof flysheet
- Breathable inner tent (to stop condensation)
- Sturdy poles
- Strong guylines
A Biker’s Basic Tent Buying Criteria
- How many people does it sleep?
- What’s it physical when packed?
- How much does it weight?
- How much does it cost?
- Can you park your bike in it?
We’ve answered these questions in our easy-to-read key stats for each of our picks below.
Motorcycle Tent: Additional Features To Consider
If you’re buying a tent for the bike, you have to think about how you’re going to carry it and what you want it to be able to do, over and above a ‘normal’ tent.
Pack size: the tent needs to be small enough to fit in your panniers, top box or strapped behind your seat.
Porch/vestibule: A large area separate to the sleeping quarters to place your helmets and other gear overnight.
Weight: Unlike camping with a car to transport your equipment, choosing a lightweight tent will limit the load on your bike.
Of course, if you’re only planning on roughing it for one night, you could always pick up this dome tent for £15; but don’t expect fantastic weatherproofing!
We’ve picked some of the best tents for motorcyclists, to suit any budget and carrying requirements.
This tent is a complete bargain. It’s a 3-pole tunnel tent with a large porch area for storing your helmet, luggage, and wet boots.
It sleeps two and yet it’s lightweight and it packs down into a really compact size and weighs just 3.5kg. It’s small enough to easily stow in your motorcycle pannier to be strapped to your pillion seat. Claimed to be 100% waterproof, with taped seams for extra protection. Some owners claim it’s not that well made and that’s a common complaint when it comes to cheap tents but as long as you’re careful when erecting it, it should last a good few outings.
It’s not quite big enough for you to park your motorcycle completely inside but you could back a good half of the bike into the porch area to keep it close by. This Coleman Cortes 2 tent is a great choice if your budget is on the small side or you’re just off for a couple of nights and don’t want to shell out on something a bit fancier.
If you’re after a bargain, a simple dome tent big enough for 4 will fit 2 riders plus all their gear nicely; and it’ll take you a maximum of 10 minutes to put up. While it does have a porch of sorts, you’ll want to zip this closed at night This example has a separate vestibule for gear so you’ll be more comfortable in the sleeping area. The pack size is compact and will happily fit in a large pannier or top box.
If you’re going it alone and don’t mind missing out on the headroom, this compact and lightweight adventure tent is about as small as it gets. But check out the dimensions because it is very compact.
It takes less than 5 minutes to put up. Also, it has a side storage area for your gear. With robust steel pegs and flexible fibreglass poles, it can withstand a windy night too.
Reviewers question the build quality and waterproofing but if you’ve only got one trip planned and you just want somewhere to lay down (pass out?) for the night, this’ll do the job. It’s about the lightest motorcycle tent you can buy.
Designed for bikers but you can’t park a bike in it, the Khyam Biker is a three-man tent but has plenty of room for two bikers. With side pockets within the sleeping area for your items, a large porch area to fit your stuff and enough headroom to be comfortable, this tent is worth the price.
Designed with a Quick Erect System, the poles are sewn into the flysheet, so the tent is up within seconds. The only downside, the packed tent is large, and the weight may be too much for some but it gets a RiDE magazine recommendation, which some bikers will value.
A favourite amongst bikers for its large vestibule at the front, low ceiling sleeping area to keep in the warmth and stability, the Galaxy 300 is a good 3 season tent.
You could get a folding chair (and a table!) in the porch, meaning it’ll be a decent place to hang out if the weather’s terrible. You can also back park of your bike into the tent, giving you something to hang your kit on and a bit more peace of mind.
The only downside is, the pack size on a little large for storing in panniers and having seen the feedback from owners, it takes a good half hour to erect!
It may only be made for one, but the Goose is a well thought out, handy piece of kit. Fully waterproof canvas outer construction with a large wing that attaches to your bike for a canopy.
If you thought the pack weight was bulky, that’s because it comes complete with a high-density foam mattress and built-in sleeping bag, meaning you don’t have to worry about any extra weight and storage space.
We like the ethos behind this tent; made from quality old-school materials that are built to last, it might be a bit on the heavy side but its makers claim it’ll last more than 20 years.
If you’re touring with more gear, investing in a 3 person tent could be the answer thanks to the extra space in the sleeping area. The Redvarz Atacama Expedition is another great tent that provides security for your bike as you can partially park it in the porch area.
With a compact size, it fits nicely on your rack/top box ready for your next trip. The motorcycle bay is large enough to fit the back half of an adventure bike, including its panniers. The solid frame does well in windy conditions, and the seams have been treated to prevent leaks. A lot of what you’re paying for is the weight – or lack of it. If you’re looking for a lightweight motorcycle tent, this is a decent option.
TENTS YOU CAN PARK A MOTORCYCLE IN
Some bikers like the idea of being able to park their motorcycle in their tent. It’s not just a posing thing, I can see the logic. You can zip the tent up and keep your bike away from prying eyes. You can keep the bike closer to you, so you don’t have to worry about it overnight and tents that can store a motorcycle have a parge porch, meaning you can hang your kit on the bike, to dry it off.
This tent might be expensive, but it’s designed to house 1 – 2 riders plus an adventure size bike WITH panniers. The large canopy area has full zips to protect your privacy and your bike from the elements. The large sleeping area will fit 2 people plus additional gear, and a handy vestibule is suitable for leaving your wet gear. Set up is claimed to take under 10 minutes while the large space allows persons over 6” to stand comfortably.
So small, this tent folds down to 29cm long so it would fit inside a large top box or pannier no problem. The weight is incredibly light for a 3 person tent which does make you wonder about its durability.
The Starlite 3 is suitable for spring to autumn and features a mesh net to protect you from the dreaded midges. The manufacturer’s claim that pitching time is under 10 minutes but having read some owner reviews, many say that it’s very hard to pitch single-handedly, so if you’re travelling solo, maybe this isn’t the tent for you.
Complete with a large porch area that is suitable for storing your helmet, panniers or rolling your bike in for more security and to hang your kit on.
This tent gets mixed reviews, with many saying the quality of the fabric isn’t great and that it can tear or perish fairly easily. We put it in this guide as it’s cheap (at around £150) and not everyone has £500 to spend on a tent. If you only want to use it a few times, you’re not planning on battling monsoon conditions and you’re able to pack it away carefully, then it’ll be up to the job. It’s roomy enough to park a bike in and store your kit.
Why smaller isn’t always better
When it comes to touring, the gut-feeling is that you can’t afford to take up unnecessary space. So lots of bikers shop for the smallest, lightest tent they can find.
There’s one major issue with a small tent.
If the weather’s rubbish, you’re going to be wet and you’ll have to stash all of your wet kit in your tent with you, which will be unpleasant at best. Your kit probably won’t dry out overnight and you’ll be sleeping in a bubble of rancid humidity.
The other issue when it comes to space – or lack of it – is that if you have a compact tent and the weather’s rubbish, you’ll have little option but to spend your evening cooped-up in your tent.
If you buy a tent with a porch area, like the Vango we have chosen above, you can at least open up the folding stool, stretch your legs, enjoy a beer and keep your sleeping compartment dry.
Super lightweight tents cost a huge amount more. For example, the lightest two man tent we could find weighs around 500g but costs a whopping £600. However you can get a tent weighing around 2.5kg for £80.
A solo rider will need a two-man tent, in order to comfortably store your gear and sleep at the same time. A two-person tent will be tight for two bikers, so think double the capacity to have a comfortable trip.
Stuff some clothes in your tent's storage bag to use as a half-decent pillow.
Wet kit won't dry in the sleeping compartment, it'll just make you sticky and sweaty. You need to store it in the outside area, so the airflow can help remove the moisture.
Tents that promise to be up and running in seconds sound great but in reality if you practice a few times, you can get any tent up in well under 10 minutes. Often the easy-up tents pack larger - due to longer tent poles - and are more expensive too.
Your motorcycle makes a good tent peg. If it's windy, you can use your bike's sidestand to help secure your tent from blowing away.
Cooking in your tent is asking for trouble. If you are doing to cook, make sure you buy a tent with an outer vestibule, so that you don't steam out your tent or risk tipping your cooker over inside your tent.
The compact camping table
One of the things we love about motorcycle camping is the challenge to pack enough kit but not take the kitchen sink. Travelling light is always good.
We couldn’t write a guide on the best biker tents without mentioning this cool camping table from SW Motech. It connects to their panniers to form a sturdy table on which to eat your dinner from, play cards on or just organise your stuff on.
It folds away and fits into the lid of the panniers too. Smart!