Topeak Bikamper $225
The Good: No poles means less bulk on the trail. More head space than a traditional bivy tent.
The Bad: Very dependent on anchor points to hold it all together, soft ground is an achilles’ heel for this tent.
The Ugly: The words that bounced around my skull as I tried to get all the pieces put together the first few times, there are a lot of elements to setting up this tent.
Tents come in all shapes, sizes, and layouts to fit just about any adventure. From ultra-light to fully loaded there’s a tent for that. Topeak’s Bikamper is a 1 man bivvy tent designed with a unique twist – it uses your bike as the support structure, eliminating the bulk of poles completely. This tent uses a double-pronged stake secured to the forks to anchor the front of the tent, and the front wheel slides into a pocket at the foot to hold that side up. The screened tent is easy to access with a large side zipper, and is well ventilated. The included rain cover was fast and easy to cinch down over the bike seat and secure near the feet. There’s not much room inside to stow gear and sleep comfortably, and the rain cover only really stretches over the bike itself so be prepared to pack light and sleep with all gear inside if weather is anticipated. We took this tent out for a spin in Northern California and set it up in a few different scenarios to see how well it did. It packs down into a small bag that is nice to stash on a back rack or cinch to the handlebars, and without bulky poles it really stays low profile when packed. In the soft duff next to a ridge trail vista point, the tent was very difficult to set up due to the dependence on multiple anchor points to keep tension where needed (like the fork spikes). I could not get the fork spikes to really hold well in the soft dirt, and so the bike kept pitching over while pulling on the foot. Also, the two main anchor points on the end kept pulling out causing the wheel to fall over. After some very careful maneuvering, I had the tent set up for the most part, but a lean against the inner wall once again collapsed it on me. Once relocated to the hardest ground I could find, the setup went much better, but also, I was on the hardest ground I could find so a few comfort points went out the window there. Once familiar with the steps and set-up, and also aware of the need for solid dirt, it was much easier to pitch the tent, total time less than 10 minutes.
This unique design that works in a few specific scenarios, namely when a bike is coming along, and it’s ok to commit it to holding up a tent instead of leaving it free for that afternoon ride. While the design is interesting and caught our attention, in practice it seems to be too limited to really shine as a versatile travel bivy. For this price, there are quite a few lightweight bivy tents that aren’t limited to biking adventures.