Monday, February 18, 2008

First Product Review- Topeak Bikamper

Yes, these tents do actually exist.  The only thing rarer in this world is the elusive Surly Big Dummy (which may, or may not, ever show up).  When I was researching for the trip, this was a tent I was interested in but couldn't find any information on.

It has both good and bad points.  We'll start off with the tent itself.

This tent is incredibly light.  My packed weight was right at 2 pounds.  Incredibly compact as well.  It fit perfectly on the small Nitto Campee front rack that I had on my Cross Check (it's the silver rack above the front fender on the other pics- the tent is the grey bag).

Inside that grey compression bag is a silver bag that contains the tent, stakes, and poles.

Topeak actually did a really nice job on the storage bag.  Separate pocket for stakes and the two diminutive tent poles.  While there is a larger mesh lined pocket for the tent itself.


The tent actually lays out quickly and easily.  I can get it completely set up in about 5 minutes.  There are really only 4 parts.  The tent, the stakes, the poles, and the odd tire shaped parts.


The tire shaped parts are tubes covered in mesh and support fabric.  The smaller one is a 16 inch tube, while the larger is a 26 inch (or 700c) tube.  Both tubes were included with the tent, an unexpected surprise.  As a side note, this also helps with your overall weight as one of your spare tubes can be this one.  Since they only hold about 15 psi, even if you shred one of your spares it will probably hold up well enough to support this tent after you patch it.

A pretty ingenious design really.  Helps reduce the number of poles needed to set up the tent.  This not only saves on weight, but the space needed to pack the tent down.
The tent stakes out very easily.  With vents located on each end.  Airflow is not a problem with this tent.

Bryan referred to these tents as space coffins.  Fairly close to the truth.  However, it does have the nice option of a hood scoop.  It really helps with the air flow.
Also, you'll notice on the side of the tent is this odd tie down (On the right side of the pic).  At first I just assumed it was for ventilation only.  However I did learn another perk to this design.  Bernie, if you read this before you get back... it also helps shed water and adds support in the middle.  Something it would have been nice to know about in Hamilton.









Entry is from the side.  In addition to the side, there is a nice mesh.  There is more than enough ventilation, however I felt just fine when the temps were in the low 30's.  Just orient it appropriately with the wind.

Here is the view from the inside.  It is more than long enough to get comfy in, there is also more head room than I expected.


The high points of this tent:

1. Incredibly light- a 2 pound shelter is nothing to sneeze at.

2. Packs down very small- It is about the size of a football, perhaps a bit smaller.

3. Quick and Easy to set up.  Takes me about 5 minutes, or a bit more.  

4. Carries an extra tube for your bike.

5. If you have do any stealth camping, this tent offers an incredibly small silhouette that would be incredibly easy to conceal with just a little bit of work.  Especially if the foliage in your area happens to be yellow and silver.

6. There is no fly for this tent.  A great plus if you're trying to throw up a tent quickly to beat a rainstorm or the like.

The low points of this tent:

1. It is basically a beefed up Bivy shelter.  If you are claustrophobic, then this is not the tent for you.

2. It can be a bit cramped, when you put in your Thermarest pad, and a nice thick sleeping bag you will feel pretty close to the roof.  However I think my summerweight bag would be just fine in this tent.

3. There is no vestibule.  Your equipment will either have to sit out in the open, or you will need to bring a small tarp to cover it up.

4. Not much room to change clothes.  Changing clothes in this tent is probably pretty much akin to throwing on some clothes under the bed and preparing your escape while an enraged husband is looking in the closet for you.  Merely speculation on my part, but both situations seem pretty uncomfortable.

5. If you want a footprint for this tent, you'll have to come up with something on your own.  I haven't seen anything on the market yet, but I'm sure you could find something.

6. While this probably isn't much of a problem it is worth mentioning, the included tubes have schrader valves.  If you don't have a compatible pump, it can be blown up manually with provided adapter/cap.

7. There is no fly for this tent.  In this instance, the single wall construction can be a bad thing.  When I was sleeping in my tent through the rainstorm, I fared pretty well.  However, my shoes were touching the sides of the tent and they got a little wet.  I think it was mainly condensation, but a double wall tent or a tent with a fly probably would have prevented with this.

Overall, I like the Topeak Bikamper EXP.  While it doesn't offer me the same room as the Big Agnes Seedhouse SL1 (the other ultralight tent I was considering), or a Hennessy Hammock (which seems to be wasted money in most parts of Texas)... I think it will serve me well.

If you're  looking for an ultralight touring tent for cycling, that is fairly easy to set up and offers simple shelter on the road, then this could very well be the tent for you.


10 comments:

Truman said...

In space, no one can hear you snore.

Nice review. You might consider putting that up at CGOAB.

Anthony Siracusa said...

Thanks for the review. Been considering buying one of these guys, and based on the needs I have and the review you have provided, this seems like the tent. Thanks!

josue said...

thanks for the review! covered all the points i had questions about. looks pretty cool.

Hasty! said...

Glad you guys found the review useful.

When I bought this tent, there was absolutely no information about it other than what I could find on the Topeak website.

It's been a great little tent. I did another tour with it late last year and lived out of it for over a week. It did just fine. It was rainy and cold on that tour too.

Maybe one day I can go on a tour when the weather is actually nice.

If you have any specific questions you want answered feel free to contact me. I 'll do my best.

Krystal said...

I'm considering a month to two month tour this summer, and this tent caught my eye. Your review is super helpful.

What do you think about living in the tent all summer? Do-able?

Can you use the bike to attach the tent to, and then not use poles? How does that work?

I appreciate any words of wisdom!

Hasty! said...

Krystal,

Glad you found the review helpful. I'll try to answer a few of your questions.

1. Can you live in it all summer?

Depends on your personality. If you're using the tent to sleep in and escape the occasional rain shower and don't mind being cramped, then it's fine. I'm a big guy, right at 6 feet tall and about 235 pounds. I pretty much fill this tent up. However, a summerweight bag would give more room. If you're smaller than me ( and it seems like every touring cyclist in the world is) then you're ahead of me on the curve already.

I'm the kind of person that will bring a book on tour with me and hang out in the tent on a rest day. While it can be done with this tent, it's not the most ideal situation.

A close second to hanging out in the tent is for me to put a dry sack just outside the entryway. Sort of like a doormat. I spent most of my time lounging on that whenever we were hanging out, eating, talking, etc... Sort of a vestibule with no cover if that makes sense.

2. Using no poles? I really wouldn't suggest it. You're not saving any space or weight, and just making things more difficult. There are two poles, one is 10 inches long unfolded and the other is probably 14 inches. Together they weigh less than a granola bar.

They fit nicely in the provided bag and serve a definite purpose. Plus, you can set up your tent and run into town to make a grocery run if needed without having to mess up your tent. The first version of this tent needed the bike for support. I think the two extremely small support poles are a huge improvement.

I wish I could do a late spring/early summer tour and use the tent like it was intended. Meaning nice weather, no snow, no ice, and no cold cold rain. That said, I would use this tent again... however I'd like to use the Seedhouse SL1 and do a serious comparison. I think I could survive in this tent if I was doing a fair weather tour... although two months would be stretching it for me. With the ventilation options this tent has, I think it would be pretty comfortable.

Thanks for commenting on the review. It pleases me greatly to know that people are finding it helpful.

If you want more pictures, questions, etc... just shoot me a message and I'll give you all the information you want.

Chris.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the very comprehensive review. I can now make an informed decision.
Cheers
Kev (www.explorebybike.blogspot.com)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the review. Like others I have not found much info, and on the basis of this review may well buy one.
Just one question; you said that in rain you wre dry, do you think it would stay that way in a serious sustained downpour or heavy thunderstorm?
Many thanks
Andrew

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the Review. i was having a hard time trying to find a review anywhere and i will take your tips and hinters and use them if i get this tent.

Anonymous said...

this is a great review, very helpful, i will be buying this before the big trip this spring.