The “bike tent” is a very special form of outdoor camping equipment designed for bicycle travelers of all shapes and sizes. The main advantage (hypothetically) to this type of tent is that, unlike a traditional tent which is held in place with a series of metal poles, the bike tent requires no tent poles and is held in the air with the use of a bicycle, motorcycle or a pair of hiking poles.
I’ve reviewed other bike tents in the past, but none of them have ever been any good. They were either too cheap, too gimmicky, too difficult to set up, too dangerous to get into, or lacked the waterproof qualities you would find in other high-end tent designs.
That being said, the new Üpon Nova bike tent, which was sent to me specifically for the purpose of this review is, by far, the best bike tent I’ve ever used. Here’s why…
Substantial weight savings – The Üpon Nova weighs 1.3 kilograms (or 2.87 pounds) and packs down to a rather small size for a two-man tent – making it ideal for bikepacking expeditions of all shapes and sizes. Because the Nova lacks the extra weight that most tents posses from the use of metal tent poles, there is a decent weight difference between this tent and many of the other two-man tents of its same size. For example: When compared with the MSR Hubba Hubba NX 2-Man tent (which weighs 1.54 kg at its lightest), the Nova is a little bit lighter, but not very much.
Relatively easy set up – Setting up a bicycle tent like the Üpon Nova is not as straight forward as many traditional tent designs. After setting up the Nova just a single time, however, the process of erecting the tent a second and third time becomes way, way easier. Simply stake the tent into the ground, inflate and insert the included air pillar, then secure your bicycle in place at the head of the tent by using the guy-lines and tent pegs to position in the bicycle in its proper place. The tent can also be held in position with the use of a motorcycle or a pair of hiking poles – meaning you can use this tent for more than just bicycle camping expeditions.
Spacious interior – The Üpon Nova is advertised as a 2-person tent, and is indeed large enough to sleep two people in relative comfort. Like most 2-man tents, the sleeping arrangements inside the Nova are pretty tight for two people, as your bodies take up most of the floor space – leaving little room for additional belongings. Luckily, there’s lots of space outside the tent (under the rain-fly/your bicycle) to store backpacks, panniers or any other items you might be carrying with your on your bicycle camping expedition. Even though the tent is advertised as a two-person tent, it could be comfortably used by a single individual, with lots of space inside for the storage of food, packs and personal items.
Two-door entry – Because this is a two-man tent, it’s nice that the Üpon Nova includes not just one, but two exterior entry doors – one on each side of the tent. Each door is equipped with a rainproof covering, which can be rolled down in the event of poor weather, and a ventilated mesh screen, which can be opened up in warm weather or rolled shut to keep the bugs out. The major plus to the two-door entry, however, is the simple fact that two people can enter and exit the tent without either individual having to crawl over the other in the middle of the night.
Well ventilated – As I just mentioned, the Üpon Nova has two large doors on each side of then tent, and each of these doors has a mesh mosquito netting on it, allowing you to open the doors up and get some air inside inside the tent when the weather is warm. In addition to these two exterior doors, there is also a much larger mesh opening at the head of the tent, which really allows the air to flow. Because of all this ventilation, it should be noted that the tent is not meant to be used in cold-weather conditions. Instead, the Üpon Nova is perfectly designed for warm-weather bicycle camping trips. (Think SUMMER!)
The Üpon Nova is well-thought out, it’s big enough for two people, it’s relatively easy to set up with some practice, and it could be used on a bicycle camping trip to actually save you a little weight.
That being said, there are some weaknesses to this tent, as is the case with almost any product on the market.
Won’t hold in strong winds – Because the tent is held in place with an air pillar (which is little more than a balloon-like tent pole) and a few guy-lines holding your bicycle in an upright position, I worry about the use of this tent in strong winds. Not only could the tent blow over in high-wind conditions, but I worry about the bicycle falling on you when you are laying down inside the tent. Waking up in the middle of the night with your bicycle’s handlebars smashing into your teeth would be a terrible way to end your bike camping adventure.
The bicycle falls over too easily – If your bicycle has a kickstand, this will make the setup process for the Nova a whole lot easier, as my bike is not equipped with a kickstand and it fell over several times before I was able to finally secure it in a safe position. Frankly, this is my biggest fear with the Nova. If your bike doesn’t have kickstand and you don’t secure it 100% correctly, there is a good chance the tent will blow over or be knocked down on accident – causing injury to the occupants inside.
Requires the bicycle to stay erect – Because the Üpon Nova bike tent requires the use of one or more bicycles to hold the tent in its upright position, I wonder what you’re supposed to do if you reach camp, set up your tent, and then realize you forgot to pick something up at the local supermarket. While a bicycle camper using a traditional tent with tent poles would be able to easily jump on his or her bicycle and ride back to the store, someone using the Üpon Nova would be forced to take their entire tent apart just to cycle a short distance back to the supermarket.
(It should be noted that the Üpon Nova can be erected with the use of hiking poles instead of a bicycle, which might be good for those wishing to use this tent while on hiking or backpacking expeditions, but won’t come in handy for anyone traveling by bike, as very few bicycle campers will also be carrying a set of hiking poles.)
The air pillar is a point of weakness – Just like any good sleeping pad, inflatable pillow or blow-up pool toy, the air pillar included in the Üpon Nova is a point of weakness. It works pretty well (straight out of the box) to keep the bottom-half of the tent in position, but I worry about the pillar’s long-term reliability. If the pillar were to develop even the slightest leak, you might find yourself waking up in the morning with the tent laying on top of your body, rather than being held in the air as it’s supposed to be.
Not tested in heavy rain – Finally, I have not tested this tent in heavy rain and I’m not sure how it would perform in those conditions. Unlike so many other high-end tent designs, the Üpon Nova does not have an interior mesh/mosquito-proof core covered by a waterproof rain fly. Instead, the Nova‘s yellow exterior material acts as the one and only barrier between you and the outside elements. The doors consist of both a mesh and rain-proof covering, which is good, but the rest of the tent is vulnerable to rain and snow.
Overall, the Üpon Nova is probably the best bike tent I’ve ever used. I like the size of the tent, the weight that it packs down to, and the way one or more bicycles can be used to keep the tent in its erect position.
Perfect for summer/beach use – While the Üpon Nova is probably not going to be used by experienced ultra-lite bicycle tourists, I could see this tent being used by beach goers, those participating in a short bikepacking expedition, or those camping in near perfect wilderness conditions. A large ground space is needed, little wind, and some practice in setting up the tent. Once you have those three things, however, the Üpon Nova is definitely a bike tent design worthy of consideration.
PLEASE NOTE: This tent was sent to Bicycle Touring Pro for the purpose of this review.