Brutally Honest Side-by-Side Comparison of Popular Solo Bikepacking Tents

I recently had the pleasure of bikepacking with two friends in the Anza Borrego Desert, and each of us happened to be using a different brand of popular bikepacking-specific solo tent. Between the three of us we had a Big Sky Soul, MSR Hubba Hubba, and NEMO Dragonfly, all bikepacking-specific versions.

Naturally we got excited and set them up side-by-side to compare, as any good bikepacking gear nerds would. We shared stories about our own tents from past trips, crawled inside each others’ to get a feel for them, and watched how they all fared during some very windy desert nights.

This post is a compilation of my notes from our campsite tent comparison party. Though not a complete review of any one tent, I hope this straight-to-the-point summary of their biggest differences and similarities will help undecided shoppers.

Our three bikepacking tents (Big Sky Soul, NEMO Dragonfly, MSR Hubba Hubba) on a quiet evening in the Anza Borrego Desert

The Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1 was conspicuously missing from our lineup (obviously we should have recruited a fourth riding companion). But I’m intimately familiar with the 3-person version of that tent, so I’ve included the HV UL1 in this writeup based on that experience and some research about the solo version specifically. 

I’ll also comment on the Big Sky Evolution, the side-door cousin to the Big Sky Soul. I’ve been using the Soul for years and love it, but all the other tents in this comparison have side doors, so the Evolution is a more natural comparison. 

If you’re interested in detailed reviews, you can find them here for the tents I’ve thoroughly tested:

When you buy through affiliate links in this post, I may earn a small commission. Thanks for your support! I always offer unbiased opinions based on real experience from the road and trail. Learn more.

Commonalities

It makes sense to directly compare these bikepacking tents because they have a lot in common. In the extended family of tents, these offerings are all fairly close cousins. Specifically they share:

Freestanding design: The main structure of all these tents can be pitched without stakes. Bikepackers like freestanding tents because we often find ourselves camping on hard surfaces (parking lots, porches, abandoned buildings…) but even on regular dirt it’s a nice convenience.

Short poles: Bikepacking-specific tents usually have shorter pole segments, around 12” long, so the whole bundle is easier to fit on drop handlebars or inside a pannier or fork bag. 

Double wall: These tents have a separate mesh and nylon inner plus an optional waterproof rainfly. This is the most versatile type of tent and best in really bad weather, though it’s not the lightest style.

Note that you don’t need a bikepacking-specific tent for bikepacking. Many folks are happy with ultralight backpacking-style tents like those from ZPacks, Gossamer Gear, Tarptent, and the like. You can also pack a regular tent with longer poles (typically around 18”) on a bike in most cases; it just takes a bit more creativity. But for long-distance rides and maximum versatility many of us do prefer the convenience of a freestanding double-wall tent with short poles.

For more on different styles of tents, see How to Choose a Tent for Bikepacking.

Now, on to the juicy details! 

Backs: Hubba Hubba, Soul, Dragonfly
Fronts: Dragonfly, Soul, Hubba Hubba

MSR Hubba Hubba Bikepack 1P

Product links: MSR, REI, Backcountry, Amazon

How it stands out from the others:

  • Feels the smallest of the four. Floor is a true rectangle (all the others are trapezoids) and width is 30”, only slightly wider than the narrowest end of the Copper Spur and narrower than any point on the Dragonfly. Soul has a smaller narrow end but much wider wide end. Hubba Hubba’s length is 85”, same as the Soul but 3” shorter than the Copper Spur or Dragonfly.
    • Best ready-to-mount handlebar bag. If you don’t already have one, this will save you money. Stable if mounted correctly, super easy to pack the tent in, has room for other gear.
    • Inner has more nylon and less mesh than the others. This makes it very warm and cozy in cool windy weather, but stuffy and hot in warmer climates. 
    • Least stealthy colors. The fly is dark green, but the inner’s white and red colors are very visible if the door is open or you want to leave the fly off for ventilation. 

    Similarities to the others:

    • Lots of pockets and gear lofts, comparable to the Copper Spur, which partially makes up for the narrower floor
    • Weight is similar to the Copper Spur and Dragonfly

    Unique feature: Only straight zippers, which should extend the longevity significantly (curved zippers are a common failure point, I’ve experienced it twice myself on different shelters).

    Read more: Detailed Review of MSR’s Hubba Hubba Bikepack Tent

    NEMO Dragonfly Bikepack 1P

    Product Links: NEMO, REI, Backcountry, Amazon

    How it stands out from the others:

    • Feels the biggest of the four. The floor is a trapezoid but just barely. With a width of 35” / 32” it feels more like a wide rectangle. The 88” length is on the generous side, similar to the Copper Spur, longer than the Hubba Hubba and Soul, shorter than the Evolution. 

    Similarities to the others:

    • Moderate amount of pockets and lofts
    • Moderate amount of nylon on the inner, less than Hubba Hubba but more than Copper Spur and Soul
    • Similar weight to Copper Spur and Hubba Hubba
    • Reasonably stealthy colors, except for small yellow accents. Probably next-best after the Soul / Evolution.

    Unique features:

    • Headlight pocket overhead with yellow fabric to diffuse light
    • “Landing Zone” tub, like a floor for the vestibule to keep gear dry in wet weather

    Annoyance: This model has unusually small velcro loops to attach the fly to the poles from the inside. This usually isn’t a big deal, but we had a few very windy nights and this made it harder for my friend to stabilize her tent.

    The below pictures are from an older model of the Dragonfly Bikepack. Colors and design have changed slightly; see the latest version here.

    Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1

    Product links: Big Agnes, REI, Backcountry, Amazon

    How it stands out from the others:

    • Quite roomy, just after the Dragonfly. Has the widest wide end (38”) and tapers to 28”, narrower than Dragonfly but wider than Soul / Evolution. 88” length is same as Dragonfly, a bit shorter than Evolution, longer than Hubba Hubba and Soul.

    Similarities to the others: 

    • Plenty of pockets, comparable to Hubba Hubba.
    • Similar weight to Dragonfly and Hubba Hubba.
    • Second-most amount of mesh on inner for ventilation (after Evolution / Soul)
    • Fairly stealthy color except for red accents. Stealthier than the Hubba Hubba, comparable to or slightly worse than Dragonfly, less stealthy than Soul / Evolution. 
    • Fairly versatile handlebar-mounted carrying bag, not as good as Hubba Hubba but better than others.

    Unique feature: Fly door can be opened on both sides and guyed out as an awning, nice for cooking in the rain.

    Read more (3-person version): Long-Term Review: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL

    Pic by Big Agnes
    Pic by Big Agnes
    Bikepacking Tents: Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3 bikepacking tent in high valley in Kyrgyzstan
    My pic of the Copper Spur HV UL3 (3 person non-bikepack version)

    Big Sky Soul 1P and Evolution 1P

    Product links: Soul, Evolution

    While the above three tents are very close competitors, these tents from Big Sky are more unique. I have extensive experience with the Soul (front-entry) and will also comment on the Evolution (side-entry) since it’s a more direct comparison to the three side-entry tents above.

    How they stand out from the others:

    • Significantly less expensive (over $100 less)
    • Several ounces lighter, more if you count the stuff sacks 
    • More minimalist design with few pockets, no lofts
    • Soul is only tent I know of with a freestanding vestibule
    • Evolution has a longer floor length than any of the others (91″)
    • Evolution is available in version with two zippered vestibule doors for excellent cross-ventilation
    • Very pronounced trapezoid floor with big difference between wide end (36”) and narrow end (24”). To me it feels roomier inside than Hubba Hubba, comparable to Copper Spur and Dragonfly. 
    • Handlebar bag isn’t intended to mount directly to bike (which makes it lighter).
    • Stealthiest colors, light sage green color blends in well and has no colored accents.
    • Smallest nylon-to-mesh ratio on the inner, good for a wide range of climates.
    • Structure uses two straight poles crossed in X shape, different from forked poles of others. Very simple to set up, but lack of cross pole at peak makes the head a bit narrower when sitting.
    • Made by a much smaller company.

    Differences between Soul and Evolution:

    • Soul has a front entrance (some love it, some hate it) and small but uniquely freestanding vestibule. If you’re all in on the freestanding thing, the Soul is the only tent I know of with a freestanding vestibule. 
    • Evolution has a more traditional side door and bigger vestibule, a bit better for cooking in when weather is bad.
    • Evolution available with two zippered vestibule doors, one on each side of the fly, for excellent cross-ventilation.
    • Evolution’s floor is several inches longer, a roomy 91” which is longer than any other tent in this comparison.

    Read more: Long-Term Review: Big Sky Soul 1P Tent

    The following are all pictures of my Big Sky Soul 1P with bikepacking-length poles.

    Picking Winners

    All these bikepacking tents are popular for good reason, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take a long bikepacking trip with any of them. That said, there are some specific cases where you might be happier with one or another. Here are the winners I would pick if the following concerns are a priority for you.

    Most room for tall people: Evolution, Copper Spur, Dragonfly

    Most room for wider people: Dragonfly, Copper Spur

    Lowest price: Soul, Evolution

    Lightest weight: Soul, Evolution

    Best handlebar bag: Hubba Hubba

    Warmest in cold weather (more nylon on inner): Hubba Hubba

    Coolest in hot weather (more mesh on inner): Evolution, Soul, Copper Spur

    Stealthiest colors: Soul / Evolution

    Most pockets and lofts for organization: Hubba Hubba, Copper Spur

    Most unique design: Soul / Evolution

    Comparison Table

    TentPricePacked WeightFloor SizePeak HeightOther SizesStuff Sack
    MSR Hubba Hubba Bikepack 1P$5002 lbs 13 oz85 x 30″38″2Phandlebar mount with spacers
    Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1 Bikepack$5002 lbs 13 oz88 x 38/28″38″2P, 3Phandlebar mount
    NEMO Dragonfly OSMO Bikepack$5202 lbs 11 oz88 x 35/32″40″2Phandlebar mount
    Big Sky Soul 1P Bikepack$3502 lbs 5.8 oz85 x 36/24″39″2Pultralight with compression straps
    Big Sky Evolution 1P Bikepack$380? (similar to Soul)91 x 36/24″39″2Pultralight with compression straps

    More Bikepacking Resources

    If you liked this post, you might also like these:

    Or visit the bikepacking section for lots more!

    About the Author

    Hi there, I’m Alissa, founder of Exploring Wild. I’ve traveled over 20,000 miles by bike and still can’t stop planning my next ride (and helping you plan yours). Pavement and panniers or singletrack and seat bag, I love it all. On my bike I feel free. Learn more about me here.

    Bike resources in your inbox?

    There’s more where this came from! Sign up here for occasional emails full of inspiration and information about bikepacking and bicycle touring.

    Town Day Checklist!

    Sign up to receive the free downloadable bikepacking town day checklist to help with your resupply stops:

      You’ll also receive occasional emails with other bikepacking and touring resources. I think you’ll like them, but you can unsubscribe at any time.

      Leave a Comment

      Item added to cart.
      0 items - $0.00