Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Topeak Bikamper

'Been planning another multi-day solo ride but this time I require a real tent, not 2 ground sheets cobbled together into a basha tent like I did for emergency camping on the recent Thailand-to-Singapore Ride. After a Sunday morning ride, Viki and Louis, of Cycle Craft, dropped the Topeak Bikeamper™ off at my place. Thanks, guys  :-D

One of the main reasons why I chose the SGD$230 Bikamper™ is its reliance on the bicycle frame as integral parts of its supporting structure. This is an added security bonus for me: if someone tries to take off with my bike at night, the tent will collapse on me, alerting me to the theft in progress. (Of course, the thief could replace the frame with a well-constructed wooden structure, but if you are that heavy a sleeper, then perhaps you shouldn't be solo camping, no?)

Rolled up, the tent is small enough to chuck on a rear rack, trunk bag, or pannier.

A great plus point of this tent is its versatility in mounting. Note the handlebar straps and stem band on the stuff sack.

These features allow the 1.63 kg (3.59 lb) tent to be mounted up front.

What's inside.

The yellow cord seems relatively useless, IMHO. An elastic loop would be better.

Left to right: tent, rain fly, tent pegs.

2 guy lines (plus 1 spare), 9 pegs (plus 1 spare), and fork anchor kit.

Fork anchor kit assembled.

Fork anchor kit secured into the ground.

Bike secured onto fork anchor.

Guy lines secured.

Head end of tent is stretched over the handlebars and secured by means of velcro straps.

In windy conditions, once the tent is secured at this step, there's little danger of it being blown away.

A wider view.

Inserting front wheel into tail end of tent.

The wheel slides into a special pocket sewn on the outside of the tent.

Zippers on each side envelop the wheel.

Pegs on either side assist in anchoring the wheel.

Tent erect. Mesh panels closed.

Note:  the tent is approximately 1+ inch lower at the tail end because the front wheel is a 26" rim with 1" slicks. The tent is designed for 26" rims with off-road tires or 700c wheels. I do not know if 700c x 45 wheels will fit.

Mesh panels partially open.

Mesh panels fully unzipped.

The tent has a single door on the right side. This means that unless you are training to be a contortionist, your sleeping bag should ideally open on the right side as well.

It's cozy inside. I.e. unless you're really petite, there's no room for panniers or backpacks.

The rain fly attaches to the tail end via a plastic buckle.

Attaching the fly requires a little more care in windy conditions: a strong gust could rip the fly off the plastic buckle and send it sailing to the blue yonder.

The sides of the rain fly also attach to the tent via plastic buckles.

A black elastic band helps secure a portion of the rain fly to the handlebar. The head end of the rain fly wraps around the rear of the saddle by means of a reinforced section (in the shape of a saddle) and a drawstring.

Rain fly installed.

What it looks like inside. Excuse the shorts, it's pleasant 21° C (69.8° F) today.

Head end of the tent.

I spent a couple of nights sleeping on my cousin's yard to test out the Bikamper™.

The first night, it was 10° C (50° F); the second, 9° C (48.2° F).

While I won't call the interior of the Bikamper™ claustophobic, changing clothes in the tent does require some flexibility. There's barely enough space to sit straight up without your head hitting the roof of the tent. The lantern loop on the top is useless for all but the lightest and smallest of lanterns. Hint:  don't even try it with the Black Diamond Apollo™ 3W LED Lantern.

The Campers Corner Ultralight 600 (750 grams) proved adequate to 10° C (50° F).

However, when the temperature dipped to 9° C (48.2° F), due to my low body fat (current BMI 17.4), I required the addition of a silk sleep sack, thermal underwear, beanie, wool socks, and silk gloves to keep warm.

For lower temperatures in higher elevations (since it's too late at this stage to get the Cocoon I or Cocoon II), I acquired a Mountain Hardware Lamina 20™ sleeping bag (1346 grams) that's rated to -7° C (20° F) from a local camping outfitter.

Packed, the AUD$250 Lamina 20 (19.05 cm x 38.10 cm) is significantly larger than the SGD$70 Ultralight 600 (14 cm x 23 cm), but its colder temperature rating will give me added security in the mountains. The Lamina 20 is also 596 grams heavier and 3.56 times the price.

Both sleeping bags have no trouble fitting into the Topeak Bikamper™. The interior of the tent is 200 cm (6 ft 7.8 inch) long, so it might be unsuitable for really tall individuals.

All in all, I am rather pleased with the product. While it is not as light as the MSR Carbon Reflex Solo, it has no poles to break, and provides some vestige of security for my bike.

Additional impressions may be added at a later date after extended field use.


Anonymous said...

Tents that use the bike frame have been around since the early days of cyclie camping (late 19th Century) but have never caught on because the disadvantages outweigh any potential gains.
The only security for your bike is a strong lock around a secure structure.

The Hilleberg Akto weighs in at 1.75kg and gives you space to cook under the porch and have two panniers inside with you. Being free standing it means you can leave it on site and pedal off for the day. It is also green and unobtrusive. Yellow and silver is an invite to anybody to come and take a look and steal your bike if they so wish. You'll know they are doing it from the kicking they will give you while you thrash around in the collapsing tent.

Anonymous said...

uber cool tent.. thanks for the comprehensive introduction.

Jasbir said...

Hey thats really cool. Thanks for sharing.
WRT sleeping bags, i suggest using The North Face Aleutian sleeping bag. Its cheaper than the one you mentioned but it too is good up to -7 degrees c.