Which hiking tent to choose for a bike trip as a couple? This is the question we asked ourselves when we had the opportunity to take advantage of a new bivouac tent.We then offer the result of our research: a comparison of the characteristics of 12 light trekking tents 3 people.
The purpose of this article is to compare the characteristics of these 12 trekking tents, 3 people, to explain how we chose ours, but also to help you find the hiking tent that suits you the most.
Why Are We Buying a New Tent?
It is more the opportunity that presents itself than the need to change; our current tent is very suitable for us. As you can read in our comprehensive Quechua Forclaz 3 test, its advantages are good layout, waterproofness, and good value for money. Its disadvantages for us are its non-self-bearing, its relative slowness of assembly and especially its weight (4.3 kg).
We are therefore looking for a tent that retains the advantages of the one we currently have (well laid out, waterproof), without its defects: it would be ideally freestanding, lightweight and quick to assemble.
Lucie’s parents are embarking on motorcycle roaming and want to buy a bivouac tent. They then offered to help them choose it and lend it to us when we travel.
This is an excellent opportunity for us to get to know the tents of the market, and especially to be able to use a better tent than the one we currently have!
The Comparison Method
1 ° Documentation
We began by rereading the chapter on the choice of tents in the Cyclo-Camping International Cycling Travel Manual.
The very good CCI manual contains a detailed chapter on the choice of tents. Accessible to the beginner, this chapter explains the classification according to the use, the resistance to the climatic elements and the form (see explanations below). He then gives the characteristics of the ideal tent of the cyclovoyageur, then explanations on the materials, the units and the different parts of the tents.
2 ° Selection of Tent Types
We chose the type of tent that we want according to the following criteria: classification according to use, resistance to climatic elements, shape, number of places.
Classification According to Use
Regarding This Point, the CCI Manual Lists 4 Classes:
The Light Hiking Tent: which has a minimum weight, for a comfort that is too,
The Hiking and Camping Tent: which is heavier than the previous one, but more comfortable (for example, it is possible to sit on a chair indoors or even stand up),
The Expedition Tent: which is too sophisticated for our use, we do not plan to go in extreme conditions for the next few years (and if that were to happen, we would choose another tent),
The Family Tent: which is of little interest to us traveling together.
When traveling, we love the freedom that the bivouac offers us. The condition for this is often a discreet tent, preferably with a small footprint to be able to find a location more easily. Do you see what we’re talking about? From those times where you spent 10 minutes in a forest to find a site big enough for your tent, and preferably without root in the middle! In addition, we prefer a light tent to a larger tent.
Our choice is therefore in a lightweight hiking tent.
Classification according to resistance to climatic elements
According to resistance to climatic elements, tents are classified as:
- The three seasons tent, not tolerating extreme cold,
- The four seasons tent, resistant to all cold and snowfall,
- The expedition tent, resistant to all weather conditions.
We do not expect in the coming years to leave in extreme conditions, as Sylvie Massart and Florence Archimbaud during their trip to Hokkaido, so we prefer to find the tent three seasons that will suit us best.
Classification According to Form
Four Forms of Tents Are Listed:
The Canadian: simple, light, inexpensive, but not using space at best.
Tarp: maximum simplicity for minimum weight, the tarp is more shelter than a tent (note: “tarp” means “tarpaulin” in English).
The Dome Tent: freestanding, often with a separate double-roof, which allows it to be used with the single room, the single-roof in “tarp” mode, or more generally with both.
The Tunnel Tent: non-self-supporting, often better optimized in terms of weight than the dome, the room, and the double-roof are generally supportive, but not systematically.
So we choose to look for dome or tunnel tents: the Canadian has a footprint too wide and tarp alone is too hardy (we prefer to shelter from the cold and mosquitoes if necessary).
Capacity: 2 or 3 People?
Even if we travel for two, we want a three person tent. Two-person tents often have the minimum width for sleeping (about 60 cm per person) and leave no room for business, which must be stored in the apse, out of the room, and therefore from the waterproofing of the floor mat.
For practical reasons, we wish to store a large part of our business in the room, that’s why we are looking for a three-seater tent.
We are therefore looking for lightweight, three seasons, three-person and dome or tunnel hiking tents.
3 ° Choice of Criteria
We have selected, thanks to the bike travel manual, criteria to evaluate the tents:
- Shape: Canadian, dome, tunnel or tarp;
- Dimensions of the room: length, width, and height (in cm);
- Abides : number and dimensions (in cm);
- Weight (in kg)
- Impermeability (in mm of water);
- Resistance of the canvases (in denier: unit representing the weight of the threads of the fabric and a priori its resistance);
- Theoretical resistance to wind (in km / h);
- Warranty ;
- Volume of the cover: length, width, height (in cm);
- Material of the fabric, the room and the carpet of soil ;
- Material of the hoops ;
- Exterior color ;
- Seam sealing device ;
- Eco-design (in%);
User opinions on tightness, moisture wicking, ease of assembly, and average rating (reviews retrieved from the comments section of online shops);
Which of These Criteria Are Most Important to Us?
Lucie’s parents are mainly looking for a small tent when they are stowed (for their motorcycle trip). For our part as discussed in the page on the tent of our guide My trip to cheap bike, the most important criteria for us are the weight, waterproofing / sealing/moisture wicking, dimensions the room, but also the resistance and the discretion of the color. The self-lift would be ideal because it offers many possibilities: pitching your tent on the sand, on hard ground or indoors for example.
The budget is about 200 € maximum.
4 ° Search Models
We searched the Internet for hiking tents 3 seasons, 3 people, tunnel-shaped or dome.
We searched for tents in different online shops, raking wide. Thus, the prices of the tents vary between 90 and 500 €. As we point out in the warning at the beginning of the article, the list is not exhaustive.
- Quechua Forclaz 3 (the one we currently own)
- The Quechua Quickhiker 3
- The Quechua Quickhiker Ultralight 3
- The MSR Elixir 3
- The MSR Mutha Hubba NX
- MSR Freelite
- The Bergans Fjell 3
- The Vaude Power Lizard SUL 2-3P
- The Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3
- The Jamet Dolomite 3
- The Salewa Latitude III
- The Ferrino Lightent 3
- 5 ° Synthesis of the tents in a painting
Assessment of Each Tent Model
Quechua Forclaz 3
It is the heaviest of the selection (4.3 kg), including a polyethylene floor mat and fiberglass poles, a more fragile and heavier material than aluminum. The heaviest, but also by far the least expensive at 90 €. The tent is a tunnel that includes two apses 44 cm wide.
Like the other Quechua tents of the selection, the waterproofness of the canvas is tested at 200 mm of water, which is very low in comparison with the other tents of the selection. On the Decathlon site, users’ opinions are divided on the sealing but positive on the ease of assembly.
This is the tent that we currently have and we have never had a problem with sealing.
Quechua Quickhiker 3
With its price of 130 €, it is the least expensive freestanding tent in this comparison. Composed of polyester, polyurethane, nylon and with aluminum hoops, it is lighter than Forclaz 3: 3.25 kg. The tent is a dome composed of two apses of width 40 cm.
Thanks to its pre-attached hoops, the tent is acclaimed by users for its ease of assembly, but opinions are divided on the waterproofness, including its floor mat (the fabrics are tested to 200 mm of water).
Quechua Quickhiker Ultralight 3
With its 2.6 kg, the Quickhiker Ultralight 3 is the pretty good name. Its relatively light weight comes from its 100% polyester fabric and aluminum DAC Featherlight hoops. The dimensions of the chamber of this tent tunnel/sarcophagus are correct, but its strong point also lies in its large apse at the front of 190 x 100 cm. Having an apse as wide is very practical especially for cooking, even to put his bike (s). However, it has only one door.
The tent is not necessarily ideal for the bivouac, with its large apse that can sometimes be difficult to deploy in wild camping when space is hard to find. Like the Ultralight 3, users are very divided on its tightness (tested at 200 mm of water), but positive on the ease of assembly, thanks to its pre-attached arches. Note the design made of 20% recycled materials. The Ultralight Quickhiker 3 costs 200 €.
MSR Elixir 3
The entry-level tent of the MSR brand has some of the strongest canvases in the selection. With a 68-denier ripstop coated polyester double-top, a 20-denier ripstop nylon inner tent and a 70-denier coated nylon floor mat, the tent are also quite heavy for a 3.1 kg tent. Like the other MSR of the selection, the Elixir 3 is a dome tent, so freestanding, with two lateral apses 76 cm wide.
The tent can be used in different ways: in classic mode with the inner tent and the flysheet, but also with the inner tent alone and in tarp mode with the double-roof alone for a weight of 1.92 kg (to be coupled with a footprint carpet). Users’ opinions highlight a high speed of assembly and a good water tightness of the fabrics (tested at 1500 mm of water for the double-roof and 3000 mm of water for the carpet of the ground.The MSR Elixir 3 costs 279 €.
MSR Mutha Hubba NX
It is one of the most spacious tents in the selection with its 221 x 172 x 112 cm inner chamber. The materials are treated: high tear resistant coated nylon for all fabrics, Aluminum DAC Featherlight for the hoops. The threads used can, therefore, afford to be quite thin (20 deniers for the roof and the inner tent, 30 deniers for the floor mat) which allows achieving a very lightweight for the large size of the tent: 2.19 kg. Despite the lightness of the threads, many opinions highlight the strength and durability of MSR Mutha Hubba.
Like the other MSRs of the selection, the Mutha Hubba NX is a freestanding dome with two lateral apses 76 cm wide. It can be used in a classic mode with the inner tent and the flysheet, but also with the inner tent alone and in tarp mode with the double-you alone for a weight of 1.66 kg (to be coupled with a carpet of ground Footprint). User opinions highlight the waterproofness of the tent (1200 mm of water for the double-roof, 3000 mm of water for the floor mat) and ease of assembly. However, a notice specifies an average evacuation of moisture. The MSR Mutha Hubba NX costs 445 €.
The Freelite series is the latest addition to the American brand MSR. Lower than the other two MSRs in the selection, the Freelite 3 has a maximum height of 96 cm. It is also much lighter, with only 1.64 kg in room + double-roof, and 880 g in tarp mode. The floor mat has a somewhat limited waterproofing compared to the other two MSR tents of the selection (1500 mm of water) and the double-roof a correct impermeability (1200 mm of water). The threads are quite light (15 deniers for the double-roof and the carpet of ground, 10 deniers for the inner tent) what a priori denotes a fragile canvas but which is compensated by nylon ripstop on the double-roof and the floor mat.
Like the other MSRs in the selection, the Freelite 3 is a freestanding dome, with two lateral apses of 76 cm, and exists in gray as in green. The tent is new (new 2016), it is difficult to find user reviews. The few reviews found on his little sister Freelite 2 were very positive. The MSR Freelite 3 costs € 459.
Bergans Fjell 3
The Fjell 3 from the manufacturer Bergans of Norway has a very special shape for a bivouac tent. This tunnel tent has a huge apse at the front of 160 x 155. Very practical for cooking and storing bicycles, it can, however, be difficult to install in bivouac when the flat surfaces large enough for the tent are rare. For its large size, the Bergans Fjell 3 has a reasonable weight: 2.9 kg, but his room is quite low: 90 cm high.
The canvases are all thick nylon for the outer fabric (ripstop 40 deniers) and the inner chamber (ripstop 30 deniers), and extremely thick for the floor mat (210 deniers). User reviews recommend the tent for its waterproofness (tested at 3000 mm of water and 5000 mm of water for the floor mat, one of the lightest tents in the selection ). The Bergans Fjell 3 costs € 329.
Vaude Power Lizard SUL 2-3P
The Vaude Power Lizard SUL 2-3P is the lightest tent of the selection with its 1.39 kg. Tunnel-shaped, so not self-supporting, it has a fairly long room, but not very wide (between 140 cm and 150 cm), correct height (105 cm at the highest). However, it has only one lapse of very small size: 30 cm wide.
Entirely made of coated ripstop nylon, the fabrics have rather thick threads for the weight of the tent, which is a plus point: 20 deniers for the double-roof, 15 deniers for the inner tent and 40 deniers for the floor mat. User reviews recommend this tent for its ease of assembly and waterproofness: 3000 mm of water for the flysheet and not less than 10000 mm of water for the carpet. The tent, therefore, has the tightest canvases of the selection, sealing reinforced by seams heat sealed. The Vaude Power Lizard SUL 2-3P costs 499 €.
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3
The Fly Creek UL3 manufacturer Big Agnes is a freestanding dome with a large single apse at the front of 91 x 91 cm. Fairly high (107 cm at the high point), the room is very long (229 cm) but not very wide (between 152 and 168 cm). Its big strength is its weight: the Fly Creek UL3 weighs only 1.59 kg and 1.1 kg in a tarp.
The fabrics are all polyamide ripstop coated, quality assurance. Users of Fly Creek UL3 praise its great ease of assembly but are a bit divided on the evacuation of moisture. Tested at 1200 mm of water for the roof and the floor mat, its waterproofness is average, no more for a tent at 499 €. The positive point however for its tightness, the seams are heat sealed, without the use of a solvent. Big Agnes shows its ecological will in its design, including the use of ecologically anodized DAC aluminum for the hoops.
Jamet Dolomite 3
The Dolomite 3 from the French manufacturer Jamet has excellent characteristics : a weight of 2.6 kg, a high water resistance of the canvases (3000 mm of water for the double-roof, 5000 mm of water for the floor mat), thick yarns that make up the canvases (70 denier for the flysheet, the inner tent and the floor mat), 8.5 mm aluminum poles, and heat-sealed seams. And all this for a minimum price of € 139: how is this possible?
One of the explanations may lie in the dimensions of the tent, which has the smallest room in the selection: 140 cm at the widest, 125 cm at the head, 95 cm at the feet. For a 3 person tent, it’s a little tight. The room is however quite high: 110 cm maximum. The tent has two small lateral apses of 35 cm.
The doors of the inner chamber are fully screened, which saves weight at the tent but reduces the heat stored in the tent. Positive point rare enough for a tunnel tent: the double-roof can be separated from the rest of the tent. No user advice was found on this tent, however for its little sister Dolomite 4000 a user stressed the tightness of the tent, while another evoked a poor evacuation of indoor moisture.
Salewa Latitude III
The Latitude 3 of Salewa is a freestanding dome with two 64 cm wide apses. The tent is made of coated polyester canvas and with aluminum and fiberglass hoops for a total weight of 2.8 kg. The materials used are therefore rather average compared to the other tents of the selection.
The yellow color can dissuade bivouac lovers. Few user reviews were found on this tent. However, they were positive regarding the ease of assembly and tightness (1500 mm of water for the double-roof, 3000 mm of water for the carpeted ground). The Latitude III of Salewa costs 199 €.
Ferrino Lightent 3
The Ferrino Lightent 3 has many advantages : low weight (2.3 kg) , waterproof fabrics (3000 mm of water for the roof and the floor mat), a huge room (235 cm long, 160 cm wide, especially 120 cm high), a double-roof canvas ripstop, and all for a very good price (especially considering its weight!): 195 € . However, it has several disadvantages: polyester fabrics, but especially … an inner chamber completely mosquito net.
The Lighten 3 is, therefore, a very good summer tent, but it is not suitable for light temperatures. This is what the user notices as well as that of the “Old” on the site of the Old Camper. This tunnel tent is recommended by users for ease of assembly.
The Top 3 Per Criterion
The Top 3 of the Lightest
- Vaude Power Lizard SUL 2-3P: 1.39 kg
- Big Agnes Fly Creek UL3: 1.59kg
- MSR Freelite 3: 1.64 kg
It is the German manufacturer who wins the palm of the lightest tent of the selection! With its 1.39 kg, the Vaude Power Lizard SUL 2-3P far ahead of its competitors: the Big Agnes UL3 Fly Creek (1.59 kg) and MSR Freelite 3 (1.64 kg).
The Top 3 Most Spacious Rooms
- Lightent 3: length 235, width 160, height 120
- Latitude III: length 207, width 180, height 120
- MSR Mutha Hubba NX: length 221, width 172, height 112
NB: the sizes given are in cm, we have made the classification according to the product lengths x width x height, but we should also take into account the shape of the rooms for a true approximation of the volume.
Regarding the volume of the rooms, it is the Lightent 3 that wins the competition (mainly thanks to its length and despite its small width), ahead of the Latitude III and MSR Mutha Hubba NX. Many reviews found on the Internet recommend MSR Mutha Hubba NX for its large interior space.
The Top 3 of the Most Spacious Apses
- Bergans Fjell 3: an apse of 160 × 155
- MSR Elixir 3: two apses 76 cm wide
- MSR Mutha Hubba NX: two apses 76 cm wide
- MSR Freelite 3: two apses 76 cm wide
It is no surprise that Bergans Fjell 3 wins the competition of the largest apse. With its huge frontal apse 160 × 155, this tent is ideal for storing equipment, cooking and even living outside the room. The MSR follow with their two large lateral apses 76 cm wide.
The Top 3 Most Waterproof Tents
Vaude Power Lizard SUL 2-3P: double-roof 3000 mm of water, ground carpet 10000 mm of water
Bergans Fjell 3: double-roof 3000 mm of water, ground carpet 5000 mm of water
Dolomite 3: double yourself 3000 mm of water, carpet 5000 mm of water
The Vaude Power Lizard SUL 2-3P wins another victory. Not content to be the lightest tent, it is also the one that best resists water. The Bergans Fjell 3 and Dolomite 3 follow with a double roof as impervious as the Vaude, but a floor mat much less waterproof than the German tent.
Note: here we only compare the tightness of the canvas, which is a part of the impermeability of the tent. Other criteria are important: the gap between the canvases, the tightness of the seams.
Conclusion: Which Tent to Choose?
Here is the reasoning that guided our choice among the 12 tents.
Room height: Maxime being large, we exclude tents whose maximum height is less than 1 meter (Quechua Quickhiker Ultralight 3, MSR Freelite 3 and Bergans Fjell 3);
Width of the room: we wish to be able to put material in the room, we thus exclude the tents whose width is lower than 170 (Bergans Fjell 3, Vaude Power Lizard SUL 2-3P, Fly Agnes Agnes UL3, Jamet Dolomite 3, Ferrino Lightent 3);
Impermeability: Quechua tents have a low tightness tested, so we exclude them also (Quechua Forclaz 3, Quickhiker 3 and Quickhiker Ultralight 3);
We, therefore, have three possible tents: MSR Elixir 3, MS Mutha Hubba NX, Salewa Latitude III. These are three freestanding domes, which we like.
The Salewa Latitude III is the cheapest of the three (199 €), but we have found almost no user reviews and we do not like its yellow color discreet bivouac
The MSR Mutha Hubba NX is for us the best of all the selection. Very spacious, light, using excellent materials, this tent garners many positive reviews, and is the tent chosen by the authors of ” Traveling by bike, Practical Guide of Cyclo-Camping “. The quality, however, has a cost: 445 €, too high for our budget.
The MSR Elixir 3 is a kind of Mutha Hubba NX in smaller, with slightly less worked materials, heavier, but especially less expensive. At 279 €, the tent is in the budget, and it is this tent that we have chosen!
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