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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Terra Nova Laser Competition > Test Report by Mike Wilkie

TERRA NOVA LASER COMPETITION TENT
TEST SERIES BY MIKE WILKIE
LONG-TERM REPORT
September 21, 2008

CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE FIELD REPORT
CLICK HERE TO SKIP TO THE LONG-TERM REPORT

TESTER INFORMATION

NAME: Mike Wilkie
EMAIL: foreverwild1885 at yahoo dot com
AGE: 32
LOCATION: Davenport, New York (USA)
GENDER: M
HEIGHT: 5' 8" (1.73 m)
WEIGHT: 148 lb (67.10 kg)

Hiking for me started at an early age, as I was always an avid camper and being a young Scout began my backpacking obsession. Living in the Catskill Region backpacking has become serious for me over the years. I camp, hike or multi-day backpack through the Catskill or Adirondack Wilderness every weekend. As a mid-weight packer I'm always prepared and use a tent for overnighters. Being an aspirant of the Catskill 3500 Club and Adirondack 46ers, peak-bagging is now my favorite outdoor activity. My long-term goals are to complete long distance thru-hikes.


INITIAL REPORT

PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS

Manufacturer: Terra Nova
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.terra-nova.co.uk
MSRP: US$489.00

Manufacture Measurements
Listed Weight: 1 lb 1 oz (940 g)
Listed Packed Size: 4.72 x 18.11 in (12 x 46 cm)

The following are measurements have been recorded by the tester.
Measured Weight: 2 lb (850 g)
Measured Packed Size: 19 x 5 in (48 x 13cm)
Center Pole Packed Weight: 3.5 oz (99 g)
12 Titanium Pegs Packed Weight: 0.07 oz (2 g)
Flysheet and Inner Tent Packed Weight: 1 lb 6.5 oz (638 g)
Pole Sleeve Hood Packed weight: 3.2 oz (91 g)

Dimensions - measurements were taken from the longest points recorded by the tester
Inner Tent Floor Width: 86 in (218 cm)
Inner Tent Height at highest point: 34.5 in (88 cm)
Inner Tent Floor Depth: 38 in (97 cm)
Porch Width: 84 in (213 cm)
Porch Height at Highest Point: 34 in (86 cm)
Porch Depth: 18 in (46 cm)
Left and Right Triangular Windows: 9 x 9 x 11 in (23 x 23 x 28 cm)

Other details from the product page found on terra-nova.co.uk:
Person: 1+
Season Rating: 3 Season Backpacking
Waterproof pole sleeve cover included
User range: Ultra lightweight backpacking, Mountain marathons
Pitching: Simultaneous flysheet and inner pitching
8.55mm DAC Featherlite pole


IMAGE 1
Image courtesy of terra-nova.co.uk


INITIAL IMPRESSIONS

Even though it was expected, the light weight of the packaged tent was surprisingly impressive. The Terra Nova Tent arrived quickly for a package shipped overseas via the regular postal service. The Laser Competition was well packaged and arrived in perfect condition.

I immediately opened the package to inspect all contents and review the instruction manual. All parts were accounted for. All of the components of the Laser Competition came neatly packed in four separate stuff sacks. The largest stuff sack contained the flysheet and inner tent. One sack contained the DAC Featherlite pole, another stuff sack stored the optional pole sleeve cover and the smallest contained the 12 carbon fiber pegs. The three smaller stuff sacks can comfortably fit inside the largest with the flysheet and inner tent .

The Terra Nova Laser Competition is described to be an ultra lightweight tent that previously was lightest in its class. Terra Nova also states that this has been confirmed by Guinness World Records. In recent claims Terra Nova stated on their website that their Laser Photon is to be the lightest tent in the world.

The user range for the Laser Competition is for ultralight backpackers and adventure racers. They advertise the tent to accommodate 1+ persons, but I personally feel they should leave off the +.

In my opinion a second person can utilize the tent in an emergency situation but wouldn't receive a good night's rest, especially if one person rolls much during sleep. After I initially erected the tent, my wife laid down inside the tent beside me. It was cozy at first due to the fact that we had to snuggle close to stay off the inner walls. We then realized it would be difficult for us both to be reading at the same time like we normally do when before we kill our headlamps and fall asleep. I know I would not want my buddy sharing the tent unless it was an emergency situation. It's a bit to close for comfort. However, my wife and I will properly test the tent during overnight trips during field testing. I will report more on this then.

Terra Nova has a PDF factsheet located on the Laser Competition web page that I felt contain valuable information. Much information found on this factsheet can not be found in the description or specification page of the Laser Competition. This factsheet contains more specs, features and materials used. The snapshot below is the actual PDF factsheet.

IMAGE 2
PDF Factsheet




The nylon of the tent feels thin and is extremely light weight. Thin enough to make me question the durability of the tent. I will surely sweep the areas where the tent will be pitched especially in these dense brush areas here in the Catskills. Currently I am using a heavy duty plastic (painter's plastic) as a ground cloth as I like its waterproof capabilities and light weight. I have cut the plastic down to match the footprint of the inner tent to reduce weight and the possibility of catching rain that can wet the bottom of the groundsheet. Terra Nova custom designs a footprint for the Laser Competition that I have been debating on purchasing. The cost of the footprint plus international shipping to the US is a bit costly. Besides, my wife's birthday is coming soon and I don't think she would appreciate me buying a gift for myself right now. I may have to wait to purchase it until my birthday in July. That maybe more bit more excusable.

Since the Laser Competition has only one center pole and it is held up and open by pegging it out this would classify it to be a hoop tent. The draw of the left and right pegs, guy lines and short inner poles pulling off the center pole is how the tent is held open. Pegging out the remaining peg loops on the inner and fly widens the inner tent floor space and keeps the flysheet taunt. The flysheet can also be used alone without the attached inner tent. I believe this could be called a tarp tent while still utilizing the center pole. I may have to try this option out during field testing when I need to drop my pack weight and gain more daily mileage.

IMAGE 9
Inner short pole and adjustment strap



IMAGE 10
Inner tent attached to Flysheet by loop and toggle.












There is only one aspect about the tent that was unexpected when during the initial inspection. The pictured Laser Competition on the Terra Nova website looks to have a thick, tough skin on the flysheet. That is not the case as I have described above the look and feel of the nylon.

READING THE INSTRUCTIONS

The tent pitching video found on the product page for the Laser Competition and the instruction manual supplied with the tent seemed to me a bit vague. However, after the initial set up I found that they weren't vague at all that the tent is just simple to erect. Within minutes the tent was not perfect but up and useable. With some minor tuning it was ready to go.

TRYING IT OUT

After the several times pitching the Laser Competition I feel I have perfected the pitching process. I have also found a few different ways to maximize ventilation inside the tent.

IMAGE 6


Instead of opening the door inward and using the inner toggle to hold it open (pictured above) I found I can fold the door out toward the back of the tent (pictured below). I used one of the tie loops for the optional pole sleeve hood to toggle the door open. This required me to undo the front and left peg of the flysheet.

IMAGE 7
Flysheet door folder out and back.

IMAGE 8
Flysheet door toggled open to hood loop.




The other method of increasing ventilation is to undo the right flysheet peg loop and thread it around the guy line just above (pictured below). This will allow the right point of the flysheet to fold upward exposing the inner tents mesh window.

IMAGE 11
Right peg loop of flysheet threaded around guy
IMAGE 12
Exposed right window with flysheet folded upward

IMAGE 13
The two windows measured 9"x9"x11" (23x23x28 cm)




By applying these methods I have increased ventilation by exposing the left, right and door mesh windows. Opening the door on the fly out and back like this also makes for an easier entry and exit of the tent. Of course I would only use these methods if weather was permitting.


TESTING STRATEGY

During this test period for the Terra Nova Laser Competition Tent I will be backpacking to mountain summits all above 3500 ft (1067 m). I can expect some extreme and adverse weather conditions in these mountainous areas.

My plan is to thoroughly test the Laser Tent for its durability, functionality, usefulness, ease of use and most of all comfort and protection from the elements. I will also make assessments of any special or unique features this tent may possess or contain.

As I do backpack every weekend, here are some of my definite trip plans:

Slide Mountain Wilderness Area
I have planned a 28 mile (45.08 km) mostly a bushwhack loop trek traversing 8 Catskill Mountain high peaks. This will be a challenging 3 day trek where I will be camping out for two nights along the way. Both camps will be set just below 3500 ft (1067 m) in elevation (NYS DEC rules for that time of year). In the following order below is the list of the 8 mountains that will be climbed along with their summit elevation.

Table - 3847 ft (1173 m)
Peekamoose - 3843 ft (1171 m)
Lone - 3721 ft (1134 m)
Rocky - 3508 ft (1069 m)
Balsam Cap - 3623 ft (1104 m)
Friday - 3694 ft (1126 m)
Cornell - 3860 ft (1177 m)
Wittenberg - 3780 ft (1152 m)

Big Indian Wilderness Area
During another overnight peak bagging trip I will be setting up and hiking from a base camp for 3 days. Below are the summit elevations of the 3 mountains I will traverse during this trip.

Big Indian Mountain - 3700 ft (1128 m)
Balsam Mountain - 3600 ft (1097 m)
Eagle Mountain - 3600 ft (1097 m)

In addition to the above overnighters I will also test the Terra Nova Tent during an overnight canoe trip down the West Branch of the Delaware River. This easy paddle route will take us 25 miles (40.25 km) through New York State wilderness just west of the Catskill Park.

Aside from my listed trips above I venture out into the backcountry every weekend. The Terra Nova Laser Competition Tent will undergo ample testing, for I commit to use it on each and every trip I take during the test period. I will be sure to perform any test possible to explain its quality, durability, ease of use, comfort and protection from the elements.

SUMMARY

The Laser Competition is definitely an ultralight tent. But, after some extensive research I have found similar class tents lighter than the 2lb (850 g) measured weight. I found a 1-2 person ultralight tent sold in the US with an advertised weight of 27 oz (765 g). This even beats their lightest tent in world the Laser Photon record. I do believe Terra Nova holds the Guinness World Record but I also believe there are other tents out there that have not been recorded.

I did find the light weight of the tent impressive as well as the unique design. However, I am a bit nervous of the durability of the lightweight nylon against abrasion here in the mountains and dense forests. I currently can not find any flaws with the Laser Competition. I can only list some pros at this time.

Pros
Ultralight weight
Able to use flysheet alone as a tarp tent
Easy pitching application

Cons
None at this time


This concludes my Initial Report. The Field Report will be amended to this report in approximately two months from the date of this report. Please check back then for further information.


FIELD REPORT

FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

The Terra Nova Laser Competition Tent was used and tested at the following locations.

South Hill State Forest: 3 day/2 night car camping trip
Elevation: 1900 ft (579 m)
Weather: Day 1 - 80 F (26.67 C) high humidity - Night temperature 68 F (20.00 C)
Day 2 - 82 F (27.78 C) partly cloudy with afternoon thunderstorm
Campsite: Under tree cover with cleared bare soil/sandy site

Gilbert Lake: 3 day/2 night car/base camping and day hiking
Elevation: 1550 ft (472 m)
Weather: Day 1 - 85 F (29.44 C) partly cloudy and breezy at times
Day 2 - 79 F (26.11 C) humid and overcast
Campsite: High grass ground cover shady on day 1, day 2 moved to sunny location

Whites Road Trailhead Parking: 1 day/1 night car/base camping/day hiking
Elevation: 1100 ft (335 m)
Weather: 79 F (26.11 C) day - 62 F (16.67 C) with heavy rain at times, wind gusts periodically
Campsite: Under tree cover, sandy/soil clearing

I have logged 5 nights of tent use during this period of the test series. During the 3day/2 night car/base camping trips the tent was left erected for the entire trip. At Gilbert Lake the tent was moved on day 2 to a location where the tent can catch some morning sun.

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

My experiences with the Laser Competition Tent have varied during the field uses with the different camp locations, terrain and weather conditions. During field testing the tent performed well by protecting me from the elements, offering quick shelter when needed for the changing weather conditions and its light weight in my pack. I did however have some issues and concerns with the tent performance as you will learn through out this review.

Tent set-up
Erection of the tent has become easier and faster with my experience. The tent quick set-up provided shelter in hurry when needed. I did find that the tent does require some additional adjusting that can be time consuming. It must be adjusted to make the fly sheet taunt and keep the inner tent from sagging. This can be done by repositioning the pegs and adjusting the inner strap on attached to the inner tent. This can become a tedious task, especially during adverse weather.

If the tent is not adjusted properly during gusty winds the fly sheet sounds like it will take flight. Once taunt and fine tuned the wind and rain rolls right off the fly sheet. I was impressed with how the tent handled winds with its tunnel-like design.

The tent pegs have proven to be weak and flimsy. They don't work well in rocky terrain. I have already bent two. Fortunately they are pliable and I could easily bend them back to a straight form again. After the testing series I will surely invest in a peg set more durable for my rocky terrain here. I almost lost a peg on a couple of occasions in grassy locations. However, if they weren't painted orange I wouldn't have found them as easy.

Tent take down
Packing up the tent is quick and it fits neatly in the supplied stuff sack. It can be a bit tedious because I found the tent needs to be folded a few times and then rolled to pack neatly. When rolling, I start with the inner tent poles and continue to fold in tightly to the size of the stuff sack. The Featherlite pole has worked well thus far offering minimal pack weight.

Testing weather conditions
I found the tent offers great shelter from rain and wind. During heavy rains the inner tent stayed dry and all my gear was protected from any wetness. I did opt to leave the optional rain hood at home one trip when it was needed during an afternoon thunderstorm. There were some slow drips seeping through the seam of the pole sleeve. It was a quick storm so only a few drops made it way through the inner tent. For all future trips I will be sure to carry the rain hood and would no longer be optional for me during any possible rain.

With any humid conditions and high temperatures over 70 F (21.11 C) the tent can become quite uncomfortable. The fly seems to trap heat and moisture turning the tent into a portable sauna. At times when temperatures were high and no wind or breeze was available I had difficulty getting to sleep. Even with the tent open for maximum ventilation (as explain in the Initial Review) I still needed to exit the tent for some fresh air.

The trapped humidity caused condensation to accumulate on the inside of the fly sheet. Surprisingly the inner tent always stayed dry and never collected any of this moisture. When lying down to sleep I kept my face close as possible to the mesh window in hopes to catch any breeze of fresh air.

Camp locations
In the various locations where the Laser Competition was used I experienced a few issues as well. On grassy campsites I had condensation issues again. This time I believe this was caused by the dew collected on any grass under the fly. This only occurred after dusk and throughout the night until morning temperature burned the moisture off. Again this moisture was collected on the inside of the fly sheet. The inner tent still remained dry and free from any wetness.

When camping at this grassy site I decided to move the tent on day two to catch some morning sun to help wick the trapped moisture away. This did help dry up the condensation faster but also heated the inside of the tent to an unbearable temperature. Now I was dealing with the trapped heat issue again. Just after noon the tent was shaded by tree cover for the remaining hours of the day bring down the tent's inner temperature.

Tent size
Terra Nova advertises the Laser Competition to be a 1+ person tent. As I stated in the Initial Review, this tent should only be listed as a 1 person. The tent is just large enough for my sleep system and me on the sleep system. Being that I an 5 ft 8 in (1.73 m) tall I only have a few inches to spare when laying down. My wife tried climbing in with me and we found it impossible to stay off the inner tents walls. Fortunately the inner tent hangs several inches away from the wet fly sheet. Luckily I was able to keep my wife comfortable (happy) with the backup tent I had in the car. I truly feel Terra Nova should leave off the + on the 1+ and leave it up to the user to allow a partner to share the tent in an emergency situation.

The vestibule offered just enough space for my pack and gear. Having the door open most of the time for ventilation left me only with have of the porch space except during heavy rain. It then offered plenty of room to stow my boots and other various gear out from the elements. This let me have maximum inner tent space for comfort.

SUMMARY

It ahs been a pleasure thus far carrying the Laser Competition Tent with its minimal pack weight, space and allowing me to practice light and fast techniques. I can escape the elements quickly with the tents fast erection process and providing shelter. However I still need to practice my adjusting of the tent skills for a more rapid secure shelter when setting up during adverse weather conditions.

My biggest complaint about the tent is the little amount of ventilation offered. I feel this tent can be superior in its class if more venting capabilities were incorporated. It seems to me that the tent was designed for its successful light weight and not for functionality and performance.

Pros
Lightweight
Fast set-up
Tunnel-like design (for wind)

Cons
Ventilation issues
Trapped heat in warn weather
Trapped moisture under fly sheet

TESTING STRATEGY

August and September are big backpacking months for me as they offer me much time to spend in the wilderness. I have many backpacking trips planned for the next two months affording much more time testing the Laser Competition Tent. Long overnighters and canoe camping trips through the Catskills during this next testing period will allow me to further evaluate my current findings as well as any new ones if any.

This concludes my Field Report. The Long Term Report should be completed by 9-23-08. Please check back then for further information.


LONG-TERM REPORT

LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS

The Terra Nova Laser Competition Tent was used and tested at the following locations.

8/17 - North/South Lake - Northeastern Catskill Park
2 day/1 night car/base camping
Campsite elevation: 2100 ft (640 m)
Weather: 85 F (29.44 C) mostly sunny

8/24 - Pond Mountain/Dagget Lake - Southeastern Adirondack Mountains
4 day/3 night base camping at Dagget Lake
Camp elevation: 930 ft (283 m)
Weather: 80 F (26.67 C) sunny and clear (perfect summer camping conditions)

8/31 (Labor Day Weekend) - Pond Mountain/Dagget Lake - Southeastern Adirondack Mountains
4 day/3 night base camping at Dagget Lake
Camp elevation: 960 ft (293 m)
Weather: Around 54 F (12.22 C) at night and up around 78 F (25.56 C) mid day
Light rain during second night

Above I have logged 7 nights where the Laser Competition Tent was used in the field

PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD

The Laser Competition continued to perform well as it offered fast and lightweight shelter during this final leg of the test series. It has proven to be durable as well as packing down small taking little pack space. While I did continue to have ventilation and moisture issues I did however find new features that the tent contains offering better performance and functionality.

I continued to have the same moisture and condensation issues as explained in the earlier reports due to the limited venting capabilities. Moisture can be reduced by selecting a campsite with little or no ground vegetation such as grass. Sandy or dirt grounds can greatly reduce the collection of moisture under the flysheet. This can be an issue however if camp locations are limited. During these past few months the nightly temperatures have dropped and it seems to have helped to reduce the trapped moisture as well. It appears in colder temperature much less condensation collects under the flysheet. Still when moisture is a concern it forces me to remain careful not to touch the inner tent to the wet flysheet.

As stated in the Field Report, the inner tent offers only enough space for one person. My sleep system covered just about the entire inner tent floor. However when I removed the inner tent I found the flysheet can be used alone as a tarp tent, affording much more room to spare that can accommodate the second person.

Using the Laser Competition as a single wall or tarp tent has greatly improved its function and performance. As a tarp tent ventilation was greatly increased minimizing the amount of trapped moisture and condensation. Also as a tarp tent the pack weight was reduced substantially by eliminating the inner tent, inner tent pegs and inner tent poles. However with the use of the inner poles better venting can be obtained.

My suggestions to Terra Nova would be to advertise the use of the tent as a tarp tent as well as a double walled tent with use of the inner tent. I feel this could be a good selling feature for them in the U.S. as it seems many tarps are used for shelter here. They should also express that a second person can use the tent comfortably when erected without the inner tent. I now prefer to Use the Laser Competition as a tarp and leave the inner tent at home.

Terra Nova may also want to consider putting out as tarp tent in the future as it can be superior with their innovative designs and ultralight materials.

SUMMARY

Learning how to use the Laser Competition as a tarp tent has greatly increased its usability and offers better function and performance. This adds more versatility to the tent then described making it much more valuable to the buyer.

As a double walled tent I continued to have moisture and ventilation issues, but the tent still offered a lightweight, fast setup and durable shelter. The tunnel-like design performed well during high wind offering much protection from the elements.

As a tarp tent weight was substantially reduced and venting was increased. This brought more function to the Competition and added to my comfort in the wilderness.

Pros
Use as a tarp tent by eliminating the inner
Lightweight and ultralight as a tarp tent
Innovative tunnel-like design

Cons
Ventilation issues
Trapped moisture under flysheet
Can be hot in warm temperatures

CONTINUED USE

I will continue to use the Laser Competition as a tarp tent for now. As I gain more experience with the tent I will determine use of the inner tent in the upcoming cold temperatures. For now I prefer to use it as a tarp tent.

Since I did experience issues in warmer temperatures, summer use of the tent may be limited. However it will remain as my main or most used tent (as tarp tent) since it helped me to greatly reduce my pack weight and offered me a fast shelter when needed.

This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.

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