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How Critical Is Tent Pack Size For Bicycle Touring?

Old 12-23-12, 10:05 PM
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estasnyc
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How Critical Is Tent Pack Size For Bicycle Touring?

I've begun looking acquiring a two-person tent for touring and am taking note of the pack size - the pack length in particular.

How important will this be for choosing a tent?

And which would be the better orientation to mount one on a pannier rack? Having it line up with the frame or rotated ninety degrees to stick out on the sides?

(It's my understanding that a backpacking tent will roll up into what is essentially a cylinder having length and diameter once packed.)

From what I've measured on one of my bikes, the handle bars are what stick out the furthest from side-to-side with a length of 16.5 inches. There are a few tents that do have a comparable pack length but not many.

Meanwhile, I'm finding nice deals for some used tents on Craig's List but am also finding that the pack length will typically be about 24 inches.

Should this be a deal-killer?
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Old 12-23-12, 10:14 PM
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The tent can be placed lengthwise on top of the rear rack if you're concerned about it making the load too wide. And it's only the poles that determine the tent's pack length - they could be strapped lengthwise to the top of the rack and the rest of the tent packed in a much shorter stuff sack.

The tents I use for bike touring happen to have rather short pole sections (12 - 16") and fit inside my panniers, but I wouldn't see it as a major issue if the poles were longer. I'm more concerned about the weight of the tent and the interior size.
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Old 12-23-12, 10:25 PM
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Is there any reason that I couldn't just get a new set of poles with shorter sections?
not made?

20" should not be longer than the width of rear panniers on the rear rack.

Last edited by fietsbob; 12-24-12 at 01:59 AM.
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Old 12-23-12, 10:44 PM
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A tent which packs to 24 inches long is not going to be a problem for bike touring. Put it sideways on top of your rear panniers and it won't be too much wider than your rack and panniers.

On my bike, the rack and panniers, at their widest, will work out to at least 18 inches and probably more. The tent would add no more than three inches on each side of the bike. It won't be a big deal.
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Old 12-23-12, 11:00 PM
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Your panniers will stick out further than your handlebars. I mount my tent perpendicular to my rack deck. The ends do not overhang past the panniers but it make it a pain to get into my panniers without unloading all the bulky items from the deck. Arkel makes a bag that holds the tent vertical but I never figured out why. I considured replaceing my 24" pole sections with 18" sections from Quest Outfitters but it won't make an improvement in how I pack.
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Old 12-23-12, 11:21 PM
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I've checked out Quest Outfitters' website. Looks very promising in case I do become unhappy with any used tent purchase that I may make.
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Old 12-23-12, 11:47 PM
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cheap tents..............campmor.com

http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/...0226_200368342

Last edited by saddlesores; 12-23-12 at 11:48 PM. Reason: no reason
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Old 12-23-12, 11:49 PM
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I've toured both ways with the same tent on the same tour -- parallel and at right angles to the centreline of the bike.

I would, in general, opt for the parallel method. As Bezalel says, placing it at right angles interferes with opening and closing panniers, getting to stuff inside those panniers, and removing the panniers from the bike if you have to get on a train, for example (getting to the release mechanism on the panniers can be a chore, and then lifting off the pannier quickly is really problematic).

The only advantage to putting it at right angles is to put another bag on the rack, and that only makes access issues to the panniers worse.
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Old 12-23-12, 11:49 PM
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This is the tent and the rainfly in sil-nylon compression sack. The tent is a Sierra Design Lightning 2@ 4 lbs total. While tent package size in not critical, I prefer a compact package. This tent bag is less than 12" long. You would be surprised how small a compression sack can make your tent package.


Tent in Blue sack, pillow in gray, sleeping bag in green/yellow, sil- nylon footpring/tarp in small gray bag, Pro4 Thermarest in orange. All fit in rack pack, including poles. However, I usually just slide the poles under my bungee cords. Everything, including the rack pack, weighs <10 pounds.


Nice compact, waterproof package. It is really easy to unclip the 2 bungee cords and remove the pack to access panniers. I very seldom need to get into the rear panniers until reaching camp. I keep items that I need to access during the day in the front panniers or bar bag.

Last edited by Doug64; 12-24-12 at 12:13 PM.
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Old 12-24-12, 09:16 AM
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As Prathmann noted, the tent body can be separated from the poles.

I prefer to put the tent body and fly in the pannier because the tent body and fly have a high density (amount of weight for the volume) and I like to pack my panniers with the most dense stuff in the bottom of the panniers. I put a duffel on top of the rear panniers with the lightest density stuff and since my poles are long the poles go in that duffel too.

Thus, I roll the tent body and fly into a cylinder that fits in the pannier instead of a cylinder that is as long as the poles.
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Old 12-24-12, 10:01 AM
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My Hilleberg Akto packs down to 23" long. I place it sideways on the rack so I can also fit a sleeping bag and 1/2 a foam pad. It can also go lengthways when using a summer weight sleeping bag inside the pannier.
I have used a cheap Gelhert Solo which packs down smaller to 15 1/2". I can fit this inside my rear pannier (together with a sleeping bag) for summer camping.

You can separate the poles from the fabric, tie the poles to your racktop or top tube and stuff the fabric (dont roll it) into a smaller stuffsac.
Wet tents take up more volume so the Akto has a generous sized stuffsac.

People tour with tents of all shapes and sizes. A lighter and smaller packsize is better for travelling, a larger tent is nicer for camping. 24" packsize is really no problem.
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Old 12-24-12, 10:50 AM
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It really depends on how much other 'stuff' you insist on bringing with you. Personally for loaded touring I might go with four panniers, but the tent would be inside one of them and there'd be nothing of consequence on top of the rear rack. I use Arkel's and have some GT54's with the vertical bag mentioned earlier. It was never designed for a tent. It was intended to hold a Thermarest and tent poles. Some Arkel's are heavier than other empty bags, but its the total weight of the bags and contents that determines loaded weight. A big tent is still lightweight if that's sll you're bringing. On the other hand- 80 lbs of lightweight equipment still weighs 80 lbs.

Suggest you review your goodies and use a little imagination. IMO a footprint AND a sleeping pad is redundant. So is bringing a pillow if you have extra clothes you can slip into a pillow case or tent bag. So is a sleeping bag if you bring fleece layers anyway. Depending on the temperature range - even that can be unnecessary.

Tools and spares can also be minimized if you've done a complete teardown on the bike and have put some miles on the components afterwards. If you have a serious enough incident that requires major tools or involves physical injury you're probably going home anyway.

Just keep in mind that there are stores all over every country - other people do live there! You're there to have fun and thats the one thing you can't pack ahead of time. Keep your mind on what you want to do - not what you think you have to bring.

Last edited by Burton; 12-24-12 at 10:54 AM.
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Old 12-24-12, 12:14 PM
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Twenty-four inches is no problem mounted across a rear rack. Most panniers are almost that wide across the full width.



The tent is on the lower left of the stack in the picture. Above it is an inflatable Thermorest pad. Continuing around the stack clockwise is a near full-size pillow and a warm sleeping bag. I don't always carry that much bulk up there, but it was cold and wet for part of that trip and I slept well. It wasn't heavy, just bulky.

BTW, nylon web straps are the key to load stability. They cinch down tight and don't move like bungee cords.

There have been times where I was tempted to remove my tent poles from their bag, partially assemble them, and strap them across the back to make a wider car-scratching porcupine look when cars weren't sharing the road very well. I've never felt like I was too wide on a touring bike.
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Old 12-24-12, 12:24 PM
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As Burton alluded, but without directly stating, everything should be capable of doing at least two functions. That way you cut down on overall volume, weight, etc. As to tent, I use a German Army shelter half. It rolls up about the size of a sleeping bag and I fit it perpendicular as seen on the pictures of the "Challenge" and the "Big Dummy" at http://www.janissaries.net/janissary/bikes.htm .
It weighs just short of a metric ton and packs all across the back deck. It has no floor so I carry a tarp for a floor. The reason that I use it is that it has gone through some pretty bad storms (rain, wind). I have been reading a book listening to my fellow campers complaining about the rain spalling or just plain leaking into commercial (family) tents. The tent poles are four telecoping pieces so this thing can be folded/packaged just about any dimension that you want.
The tent is visible in the middle of this writeup. http://www.janissaries.net/ikvmelota/AER_VW6.htm
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Old 12-24-12, 12:30 PM
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Originally Posted by saddlesores View Post
cheap tents..............campmor.com

http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/...0226_200368342
Couldn't agree more, Santa came early this year bringing a Big Agnes Seedhouse SL2, nice price for a tent that doesn't normally get marked down much. It really packs small and sure is lightweight. Watch out hills!
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Old 12-24-12, 12:52 PM
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If you want a tent cheaper than even the offerings of Campmor and you live near an REI, keep an eye out for a used gear sale. That insane return policy they have translates into lots of slightly used, sometimes slightly broken gear. If you're minimally handy, you can get incredible deals; think 80% off as a starting place.
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Old 12-24-12, 01:06 PM
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if it is important, Hennessey Hammocks fill the niche, needing No poles.
http://www.hennessyhammock.com/

Note: Cheap tents may have Fiber glass poles , they may be longer than 2',
as mostly the buyers use trucks to carry their gear..

and they have snapped in windy places.

Last edited by fietsbob; 12-25-12 at 11:54 AM.
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Old 12-24-12, 03:48 PM
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It depends on personal preference and what else you are carrying. Personally I watch the ounces and don't worry too much about the bulk. Carrying a tent longways or crosswise is fine IMO, but some folks insist everything fit in their panniers.
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Old 12-24-12, 04:37 PM
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Originally Posted by xyzzy834 View Post
There have been times where I was tempted to remove my tent poles from their bag, partially assemble them, and strap them across the back to make a wider car-scratching porcupine look when cars weren't sharing the road very well. I've never felt like I was too wide on a touring bike.
HA!

I'm actually concerned about maneuverability through tight spaces but forgetting to take into account the extra width that the tent may require.

The situation that you envision could get hairy if the driver were to jump out and see the damage to his car. What's a good spray to use on bears or any other wild animal? This could become another good application.

Last edited by estasnyc; 12-24-12 at 06:15 PM.
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Old 12-24-12, 06:22 PM
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I just Stuff the tent in a front pannier. Poles the rear rack.

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Old 12-24-12, 07:05 PM
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Not critical to me. Currently my tent rides on the front rack strapped down with the sack running the same direction as the bike. I have larger tents with longer poles that were mounted across the bike, with the bike, taken the poles out and stuck straight up in a back pannier pocket. Whatever works best for you. I have done a few shorter tours with no tent, just a large piece of 4 or 6 mil plastic for shelter.

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Old 12-24-12, 08:49 PM
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Originally Posted by 10 Wheels View Post
I just Stuff the tent in a front pannier. Poles the rear rack.

Nice rig!
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Old 12-24-12, 08:55 PM
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Originally Posted by Burton View Post
Nice rig!
Did NY to LA on it.

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Old 12-25-12, 12:11 AM
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Originally Posted by estasnyc View Post
I've begun looking acquiring a two-person tent for touring and am taking note of the pack size - the pack length in particular.

How important will this be for choosing a tent?

And which would be the better orientation to mount one on a pannier rack? Having it line up with the frame or rotated ninety degrees to stick out on the sides?

(It's my understanding that a backpacking tent will roll up into what is essentially a cylinder having length and diameter once packed.)

From what I've measured on one of my bikes, the handle bars are what stick out the furthest from side-to-side with a length of 16.5 inches. There are a few tents that do have a comparable pack length but not many.

Meanwhile, I'm finding nice deals for some used tents on Craig's List but am also finding that the pack length will typically be about 24 inches.

Should this be a deal-killer?
Did a couple short tours with a Kelty 3-person tent (about 7 lbs, 24" long packed). A bit overkill for the solo touring that I do but it was free. It fit fine on the top of rack...don't remember for sure if I put lengthwise or crosswise. On a longer tour I'd get something lighter but the roominess is nice, I can throw my stuff inside, have room to stretch out etc. Also the tent is green & has fairly thick walls, a bit of privacy that some lighter tents don't have. A lot of tents are bright colors which works against stealth camping, & even in state park campgrounds I like the more discreet color.
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Old 12-25-12, 06:51 AM
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I do think tent volume and for that matter any item's volume matters. But it's just a balance, if you want a big roomy tent, then other volumes need to be kept small. I read that many folks are packing the tent inside panniers, I don't think this is such a good idea, or at least there is a better way. Tents are almost always wet in the morning and I don't want wet stuff inside my waterproof bags, I always pack my wet tent in a mesh bag on top where it can breath and dry a bit during the day. Wet stuff inside confined spaces can get funky on hot days.
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