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Reviews > Shelters > Tents > Terra Nova Laser Competition > Test Report by Tom Callahan
TERRA NOVA LASER COMPETITION TENT
For the past 20 years I have lived off and on in Washington State, backpacking in the Cascade Mountains. I get out regularly on day hikes and multi-day trips and usually try to include a good off trail scramble. During the winter I get out snowshoeing at every opportunity. I also enjoy glacier climbing, summiting prominent peaks like Mt. Rainier (14K ft/4K m) and Mt. Baker (10K ft/3K m). My pack weight will range from 15 - 50 lbs (7 - 23 kg) depending on the season and the length and type of trip.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Terra Nova
The tent arrived in a waterproof plastic shipping bag. Removed it from the shipping bag and everything was packed inside the tent stuff sack. I was impressed right away with how little the tent weighed and it's small size. Even though a few of the tent's actual specifications that I measured exceeded some of those listed on the web site, it was still smaller and lighter than I anticipated. Then as I pulled it out of the stuff sack, there was a lot of tent, such that I was optimistic it would provide a roomy shelter.
The rain fly, tent, and floor are all made of a lightweight ripstop nylon. The floor nylon is the heaviest and has a waterproof coating. The rain fly nylon is of a lighter weight and also has a waterproof coating. The tent body is made of the lightest weight nylon with no coating, and so is likely very breathable. The floor seams are sealed from the inside. Zippers are light weight, made with nylon teeth and metal sliders and pulls. The tent body is attached to the rain fly by means of toggles on the tent which fit into nylon webbing loops on the inside of the rain fly. The tent has two 48 in (122 cm) carbon fiber poles, one at each end. These came already attached to the tent body, in place with nylon webbing end pockets and a shock cord. These are removable but ordinarily stay in place when packing the tent.
The tent comes with 12 titanium pegs, 5 1/4 in (13 cm) long, which go into their own small stuff sack. The tent pole is constructed of 8.55mm DAC Featherlite aluminum in 8 sections, 15 3/4 in (40 cm) long. The pole sections are connected with a shock cord and came with a stuff sack. The tent's pole hood is a separate component, made of nylon and also comes in its own stuff sack.
Stitching, webbing, grommets and seams are all of sound construction. I didn't observe any loose threads, stitching was straight. All webbing is attached securely.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
The tent comes with an English language instruction booklet. The instructions cover all the tents made by Terra Nova. The booklet provides very clear directions for basic pitching of the tent. In addition to the pitching instructions, the booklet had very good information about proper care, use and storage of the tent.
TRYING IT OUT
I set the tent up in the backyard to check it out. Having watched the video instructions on setting up the Laser on the Terra Nova website, plus looking at the directions that came with the tent, it went smoothly. Once the tent was up it looked just like the one in the video.
After all the pegs were in and the guy lines tightened, something didn't quite look right. Then I realized I needed to reach up and tighten the webbing that runs from the end of the tent to the top of the carbon fiber pole at its attachment point on the underside of the rain fly. This is a little awkward because you must undo the rain fly where it attaches to the pegs at the end of the tent, then lay down on the ground and reach up under the rain fly to make this adjustment. I found out later you can make this adjustment from within the tent, with the tent door completely unzipped. However it is still a bit of a reach.
I then attached the pole hood. This is the first tent I've ever used that has this component. Its purpose is to provide waterproof protection across the rain fly where the pole sleeve seams are located. The hood lays along the pole and ties to 3 pair of nylon web loops along the top of the rain fly. The pole hood is then secured down on each end by means of a guy line and pegs. In addition to securing the pole hood, this helps secure and stabilize the tent.
The tent is accessed through a single vertical zipper door in the rain fly. This opens to a vestibule (or "porch" as it is referred to in the manufacturer information). The vestibule is 20 in (50 cm) at its widest point, and curves inward towards the ends of the tent. The tent door is semicircular in shape extending from the top of the tent and down to each side, nearly to the tent floor. It unzips along this upper edge by means of a zipper with a double slider. The upper half of the door is mesh and the bottom half is nylon. For ventilation, in addition to the mesh panel in the door, the tent also has triangular mesh panels at the head and foot of the tent.
When I crawled into the tent, there was ample room to lay down. The tent walls curve inward but did not touch my head, feet or sides. It was a little close to my head, though. In the middle of the tent, towards the back, was spare room for some personal gear within the tent, but likely not enough room for my pack. My pack should fit into the vestibule, though. When I sat up, my head touched the top of the tent before I was fully upright.
Taking the tent down was easy, just reversed the set up order. All items fit back into the stuff sack without a problem.
INITIAL REPORT SUMMARY - May 19, 2008
Overall I am very enthusiastic to test the Laser Competition Tent. It is indeed very light weight and so I'll welcome the ability to shed a few pounds from my pack. The tent goes up easily and I look forward to learning how to fine tune it to ensure it sheds water and ventilates properly. It also seems roomy enough for one person and a comfortable amount of personal gear.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I used the tent on 4 different trips for a total of 5 nights during the Field Testing period.
The second time I used the tent was in the Olympic Mountains, prior to climbing the south Brothers Peak. This time camping on bare ground at 3,600 ft (1,100 m). Temps were around 60 F (15 C) in the evening and dropped to around 40 F (4 C) during the night. Relative humidity was less than 50% and no rain. Winds were calm for this trip and all following trips.
The third trip was a night at Cougar Rock Campground in Mt Rainier National Park, part of a Rainier summit climb. I was camped at 3,000 ft (900 m) and was lucky to find a site with enough bare ground to pitch the tent. Temps that night were around 50 F (10 C) and dipped down to about 40 F (4 C) by morning. No rain that night and relative humidity was less than 50%.
My fourth trip was a 2 night outing in the Cascade Mountains. This trip was in late July and the snow pack had finally melted away such that I was able to camp on bare ground at 4,500 ft (1,400 m). Temps during the day were around 80 F (27 C) day and at night lows were around 45 F (7 C). No rain occurred but it was very foggy with high humidity on the first night.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
I have been pleased with the performance of the Laser Competition tent. All materials have held up well during testing. I have not seen any sign of wear or stress on the nylon tent body and rain fly, on the seams or on any of the nylon straps and loops.
During the the night spent in the Olympic Mountains I intentionally left the rain fly down at the ground at the head and foot of the tent. Sure enough condensation built up on the inside of the tent as well as the rain fly. After that test, I always pulled the ends of the rain fly up. This provided ample ventilation such that I did not have any moisture build up inside the tent, even on those occasions when humidity was high and heavy condensation built up on the inside of the rain fly. I found a simple way to use a small twig as a toggle to hold up the ends of the rain fly, attaching the elastic at the end of the rain fly to the guy lines at each end of the tent. This worked quite well, holding the rain fly up high enough to provide the needed ventilation.
I encountered rain only on one trip during this phase of testing. The tent did provide good waterproof protection, there were no leaks, no water seepage into the tent. This also happened to be the trip where I was camping on snow. The tent floor provided complete waterproof protection, even when my body temperature inside the tent was causing the snow to soften and melt beneath me.
I was a bit skeptical about whether the thin, titanium pegs would be able to penetrate the rocky soils of the Cascades. They worked surprisingly well and I was able to fully sink the pegs into the ground nearly every time. Their small size seemed to allow them to wiggle around the small gravel-like rocks that I so frequently encounter. On occasion, though, I would have to reposition a peg or leave it sticking out of the ground a bit due to rocks.
I like the interior room provided by the tent. There was ample room for sleeping and the bump out in the back of the tent provided a good place for extra gear such as boots, jacket, etc. My dog came along on my last trip and there was plenty of room for her on a small blanket next to me. Even without the dog along, there was not enough room for my pack in this space, however. But that was OK because my pack fit well in the vestibule. So while there was ample room for one person plus some gear (or one person and a medium sized dog) in this shelter it is accurately described as a 1+ person tent. I think it would be extremely tight to attempt to use this tent for a 2 person shelter.
I liked the vestibule arrangement for this tent. As noted above, it provided ample room for my pack. I like having my pack in the vestibule, since it not only keeps it out of the weather, it also makes the pack and its contents accessible while I was in the tent. I also like the vestibule because it provided room to stow wet outer wear and muddy boots, eliminating the need to bring these items into the tent.
The opening to the vestibule, via the vertical zipped opening, provided easy access to the vestibule space as well as to the tent. I liked how the rain fly flap is held back with a toggle with a hook and loop fastener tucking the flap up and further out of the way. I also liked the full double zipper of the tent door. Fully unzipping the tent door created a large opening which enabled me to enter and exit the tent easily.
In terms of packing, the tent, poles and pegs stowed nicely in the stuff sack The tent packed down nicely. It fit well in my pack, not taking up too much room and I liked the low weight of the tent.
This tent has been designed to keep the weight low while still providing camping comfort. So naturally there are some compromises. For example, to save weight there are no gear loops or pockets inside the tent and there is not a means of adjusting the rain fly ventilation from inside the tent. I would be willing to add a little bit of weight to have these features, but this is just a personal preference. These small features aside, I have enjoyed the amount of room and protection this tent provided, all in a small and light weight package.
FIELD REPORT SUMMARY - July 22, 2008
Overall I have been pleased with the Laser Competition tent. It is a small light weight tent that affords good protection from the elements for myself and my gear. The tent sets up quickly and easily and, due to its compact size, requires a small clear flat spot for set up.
LONG-TERM TEST LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
I camped out with the Laser Competition tent on 3 outings, for 4 addition nights during the long term testing period. All trips were in the Cascade Mountains of Washington state. For all these trips I had sunny days and clear nights with relative humidity less than 50%. So while this was very fortunate as far as back packing goes, it was not great for testing purposes as I was never able to really check out the tent's ability to handle rainy weather.
My second trip was into the central Cascades again, this time for a 2 night outing, camping at 5,000 ft (1,500 m). Day time temperatures ranged from 65 to 80 F (18 to 27 C). Night time temperatures were around 40 F (4 C). This first night winds were calm and the second night they got up to around 15 mph (24 km/h) at times.
The third trip was an overnight in the North Cascades National Park. I camped up at 5,800 ft (1,800 m). Day time temperatures only reached 65 F (18 C) and at night it dipped down to around 35 F (2 C). There was a light breeze that evening, just enough to rattle the rain fly.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELD
This tent performed extremely well during this phase of the testing. The tent materials all held up well. I did not have any issue with the nylon stretching, all seams and peg loops stayed intact. The tent pole, tent pegs and guy lines all functioned properly.
As I used the tent during this testing phase I became more familiar with it. I learned that I would get good ventilation from pulling up the ends of the rain fly and holding them in place with the twig toggle described in the Field Report section. If the winds were really light, or the air not moving much at all I would unzip the vertical zipper on the rain fly. This would provide sufficient air flow such that I never over heated in this tent. I should note, I always fully zipped up the tent door on these outings, one for testing purposes and, two, just to keep the bugs out of my tent. So the concern I voiced in my Field Report that I could not adjust the end ventilation from inside the tent was not really an issue for me. Now I was careful to orient my tent in the proper direction to take advantage of the predominant breeze, especially when there was not much air moving. This always seemed to work well and I slept at a comfortable temperature at night.
The pole hood became less of an issue for me the more I used the tent. I continued with the practice of just leaving the pole hood in place, attached to the tent. When I took down the tent the pole slipped out easily, past the pole hood loops. And likewise when I put the tent up, the tent pole just went though the pole sleeve and slid past the pole hood attachment points. Also, I got to thinking that since the rain fly stays attached to the tent, this really helps to make for a quick and easy set up. So much so, that the extra effort required to attach the pole hood is not much more work than having to put a rain fly on a tent as its own separate step, which is the case with most double wall tents.
I continued to enjoy the amount of interior space provided in the tent. I found it just the right combination of sleeping space, with room for my boots, extra gear like a jacket, and most importantly my dog on her blanket next to me. I also continued to use the vestibule to store my pack. It was really convenient to have my pack under full cover, placing it in the right half of the vestibule. The pack fit in there well enough so that I had unrestricted access in and out of the tent via the other half of the vestibule.
I continued to do well using the thin, titanium pegs that come with the tent. I was able to make them work in soft soil and most of the time in the rock ground I encountered. During my trips I would bring along a few full sized aluminum pegs as insurance. On one outing I had to use a couple of my "insurance" pegs because the ground contained large rocks that were too much for these small pegs. It was actually quite difficult to get the full size aluminum pegs into the ground at this location.
I was slightly frustrated at times when grabbing for the zipper pulls. The pulls do not have any cord or webbing to make them easy to grab. This is in keeping with the minimal intent of this tent, cutting weight where ever possible. I just found these small metal zipper pulls hard to use when my hands were cold or when I was wearing gloves.
The other thing that frustrated me about the tent was securing the rain fly door in the open position. It just seemed to be a long reach that was needed to secure the toggle on the door flap to the loop on the outside, center of the tent body. During my use this season I could never get the hang of quickly and easily reaching in and securing the toggle. I would try with one hand and invariable I would have to crawl part way under the rain fly and use two hands to do this. I think it is a combination of the long reach plus the small toggle and loop that makes this such a challenge for me. This was definitely not something I could do with gloves on, even when using two hands. Once the flap was secured with the toggle, a small hook and loop fastener gave the rain fly an extra tuck out of the way that made for easy access to the tent.
I still missed not having any gear loops or gear pockets. This tent is purposely built to have minimal weight so I can appreciate these are not a tent feature. I just miss them as a little creature comfort I've become accustomed to in my other tents.
LONG TERM REPORT SUMMARY - Sep. 22, 2009
I have been very pleased with the Laser Competition Tent. It is simple to set up and I've gotten very good at erecting it quickly with minimal fine tuning needed. Best of all I love all the room it provides both inside the tent and in the vestibule. To have all this room in such a light weight package that stuffs down so small makes this my favorite tent. The tent materials have all held up well so I anticipate getting a lot of use out of this tent on many future outings.
I will continue to use the Laser Competition as my 3-season tent. Its light weight and compact size make it a good fit in my back pack. I also like the room it provides, both in the tent and the vestibule. Now that the test is complete I will be adding some cord loops to the zipper pulls to make them easier to grip, I might consider stitching in a couple mesh gear pockets and, or some gear loops to the inside of the tent. So far I have learned to live without them but they are a nice creature comfort that will add minimal additional weight to the tent.This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2009. All rights reserved.
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