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Terra Nova Laser Competition Review

Prior to the Terra Nova Laser Photon Elite, the Laser Competition was listed by Guinness World Records as "the lightest two-skin (double-wall) tent." While no longer the record-holder, at just over 2 pounds, the Laser Competition is still among the lightest double-wall tents on the market.


Overall Rating: Recommended

The Terra Nova Laser Competition is a versatile double wall tent that is a lightweight 2 pounds, 2 ounces. It has a taut pitch and excellent wind stability and storm resistance. It is generously sized for a solo hiker and can accommodate people well over six feet in height. It sets up quickly and the inner tent can be left behind to save nearly a pound. Its vestibule is also well sized and very usable and there is enough room inside the tent for some extra gear (or a second hiker in a pinch). However, the Laser Competition lacks a high vent, which limits its ventilation, making condensation a problem, even with the ends pitched open to maximize airflow.

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by Doug Johnson |


The Terra Nova Laser Competition is a tent that a year ago held the Guinness World Record for "World's Lightest (double-wall) Tent". Although this title is now held by the nearly-identical Terra Nova Laser Photon Elite (2008), the Laser Competition, with its tougher fabrics, is still among the lightest solo double-wall tents on the market.

Weighing in at just over 2 pounds, the Laser Competition is more than just a lightweight experiment, however. It is a fully functional and eminently usable solo tent. It has a spacious interior due to its single-hoop tunnel design and dual carbon struts that maximize space at the ends. The inner and outer tents pitch at the same time, making set-up quick and easy. A taut pitch is also easy to achieve. By using the included pole hood and guy lines, it can also cross to alpine or winter environments and has solid wind stability in moderate winds.

Terra Nova Laser Competition Review - 1
The Terra Nova Laser Competition easily achieves a very taut pitch.

What's Good

  • Very lightweight for a solo double-wall tent - just 2 pounds, 2 ounces
  • Fly and tent body pitch as one with only one pole - very quick and easy
  • Inner tent is easily detached for a lightweight fly-only pitch
  • Carbon fiber struts maximize space at ends of the tent
  • Tunnel design creates usable interior space
  • Sheds wind, rain, and moderate snow with ease
  • 2.7-ounce pole sleeve hood provides rain protection for the zipper and side guy outs for alpine and winter usage
  • Vestibule is well sized for a solo hiker

What's Not So Good

  • Small door entrance
  • Requires ten stakes at a minimum (sixteen to use all stake and guy out points)
  • No high vent limits ventilation and leads to condensation
  • Ventilation options are difficult to manage from inside the tent
  • Included carbon fiber stakes break easily (current year model comes with titanium stakes instead)
  • No interior storage pockets




2007 Terra Nova Laser Competition


Three-season, double-wall, floored tent


Fly: Watershed SL silicone coated nylon, minimum Hydrostatic Head 4000mm
Inner tent: 6.6 nylon
Floor: Watershed silicone coated nylon, minimum Hydrostatic Head 7000mm


DAC Featherlite 7001 aluminum alloy: 5.0 oz (142 g)


Terra Nova carbon fiber stakes (now comes with 2 g titanium skewers)


Floor area: length 86.5 in (220 cm), width 24.5 / 36.5 in (62 / 93 cm), peak height 37.5 in (95 cm)

  Packed Size

19 x 6 in (48 x 15 cm)

  Total Weight
(includes tent, included stuff sack, twelve stakes, stake bag, pole sleeve hood and guy lines)

BPL Tested Weight: 2 lb, 5.1 oz (1.05 kg)
Manufacturer Specification: 2 lb, 1.8 oz (0.96 kg)

  Trail Weight
(includes tent, twelve stakes, excludes stuff sacks , guy lines, and pole sleeve hood)

BPL Tested Weight: 2 lb, 2.0 oz (0.96 kg)
Manufacturer Specification: 1 lb, 14.3 oz (0.86 kg)

  Fly-only Pitch Weight
(includes fly, pole, and six stakes only)

1 lb, 3.6 oz (0.56 kg)

  Protected Area

Floor area: 17.4 ft2 (1.62 m2)
Vestibule area: 8.4 ft2 (0.78 m2)
Total area: 25.8 ft2 (2.40 m2)

  Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio

12.1 ft2/lb


$370.00 US

(not tested)

Emergency repair kit: $26.00 US)
Groundsheet: $6.00 US

  Aftermarket Modifications (tested) - Fibraplex Carbon fiber pole set: $44.75, 3.0 oz
(85 g)

saves 2.0 oz (57 g) over stock pole;

  Backpacking Light AirCore NANO Dyneema Guy Line Cord Kit: $15.99

saves 0.7 oz (20 g) over stock guy lines


The Terra Nova Laser Competition is a double-wall solo tent that is similar in many ways to the Hilleberg Akto. It is a hoop design with a single aluminum pole at the center. To increase usable space, the Laser Competition uses a carbon fiber strut at each end for additional support while the Akto uses dual fiberglass rods at each end for a similar purpose. Both tents have inner tents that attach to the rain fly and pitch fly-first, meaning that the inner tent is protected when pitching the tent.

The Terra Nova and Hilleberg tents are also similar in dimensions (see image below). However, one big difference between the two tents is the weight; while the Hilleberg weighs 3 pounds, 2.4 ounces, the Terra Nova weighs a full pound less, at 2 pounds, 2.0 ounces (Backpacking Light measured trail weights). It is this trimmed-down weight that made the Laser Competition the former Guinness World Record holder as "the lightest two-skin (double-wall) tent," a title which is now held by the Terra Nova Laser Photon Elite (which is approximately 4.2 ounces lighter).

Terra Nova Laser Competition Review - 2
The Terra Nova Laser Competition (left) is similar in dimensions and design to the Hilleberg Akto (right).

The Terra Nova tent uses a silnylon rain fly and floor with a tent body that is made of nylon with no-see-um mesh panels for ventilation. The tent is not free standing, requiring a minimum of ten stakes, and sixteen stakes are needed to use all available guy outs.

Terra Nova Laser Competition Review - 3
The Laser Competition has a ground level pitch, which protects the inner tent and vestibule from rain splash. The vestibule (right) is well sized for a solo hiker.

One advantage of hoop tents is that you get excellent usable space for the weight because of the steep side walls. The Laser Competition is no exception; the inner tent follows the steep arch of the hooped pole on one side and is nearly vertical on the other, making it very spacious for the footprint.

The vestibule is generously sized for a solo tent. The 8.4 square feet are large enough for a pack, shoes, a stove, and other gear.

Terra Nova Laser Competition Review - 4
The Laser Competition is sized generously for a solo hiker.

Inside the Laser Competition, there is enough space for a hiker over six feet to stretch out without touching the ends. This makes it easy to stay in the tent for extended periods without feeling cramped. I also found it easy to sit up, though only in the tall center area.

The interior width of the tent is wide enough for a hiker and a medium pack or a dog inside the tent. While it is cramped for two adults, it is wide enough for my toddler-age son and I to sleep next to each other (it's our favorite father-son tent).

Terra Nova Laser Competition Review - 5
The tent is wide enough for an adult and a child, but too small for two adults.

The single carbon fiber strut on each end gives a 16-inch tall flat area on the ends of the tent. This creates additional usable space, as well as providing airflow between the tent body and the fly or additional storage space.

Terra Nova Laser Competition Review - 6
The carbon fiber struts create short vertical walls at the ends, which add to head and foot room (and makes a good spot for my two-year-old son Henry to sit).

To pitch the Laser Competition, you simply stake out one end, install the center pole, stake the other end, and insert additional stakes. The inner tent pitches with the fly, making set-up a breeze; I was able to pitch the tent in less than five minutes with minimal effort.

Terra Nova Laser Competition Review - 7
Carbon fiber support struts (left) add height to the head and foot ends of the tent. The inner tent attaches to the fly with toggles (right) and is easily removed.

The inner tent attaches to the fly with seven toggle clips and two quick-release snaps on the ends. Removing the inner tent is a two-minute job and gives extra inside space for cooking, preparing climbing gear, or other tasks. It is also possible to leave the inner tent at home, creating a spacious fly-only shelter that weighs just 1 pound, 3.6 ounces.

Terra Nova Laser Competition Review - 8
The inner tent is easily removed to create a spacious 19.3-ounce floorless shelter.

A drawback of the Terra Nova design is that the fly cannot be removed for an inner-tent only pitch. This limits options during warm or humid conditions. The fly also restricts views from inside the tent, and while the small door opening protects the inner tent during pouring rain, it is a bit of a cramped entry.

To enlarge the entry, the door pulls back with a toggle and a small piece of Velcro to maximize the opening. It is also possible to remove a stake and pull the doorway and fly back to further increase the opening, although I never tried this in the field.

Terra Nova Laser Competition Review - 9
The door pulls back with a toggle for decent views.

Terra Nova Laser Competition Review - 10
At the base of the door, an aluminum clip takes tension off of the zipper for easy closure- a very good idea!

Ventilation on the Laser Competition is a mixed bag. The inner tent has large triangular mesh vents on either end, and the door is half mesh, creating excellent airflow in the inner tent. The outer tent has limited ventilation options. Lower vents are created on the ends by releasing a stake and rolling up the fly below the carbon strut. However, you have to be outside the tent to open the ends, and it takes some practice to get it right without affecting fly tension. The biggest problem with ventilation, however, is the lack of a high vent on the fly. This severely limits airflow through the tent and leads to condensation problems.

During very humid conditions, such as snow camping, excessive condensation sometimes dripped on the inner tent and on one multi-day winter trip, I was forced to pack the inner tent separately because the fly was so wet. A covered high vent, such as that on the Hilleberg Akto, would make a huge difference in ventilation and condensation resistance.

Terra Nova Laser Competition Review - 11
The inner tent has mesh panels on the door and the ends for extra ventilation.

A unique feature of the Laser Competition is its removable pole hood. The hood is a length of waterproof nylon that attaches with lines to the pole ends and ties to the top of the fly in two locations with short cords. It adds 2.7 ounces to the tent, protects the non-waterproof rain fly zipper, and adds two side guy lines.

While a permanent zipper flap and guy lines would surely be lighter overall, the removable pole hood worked well and gives the option of saving a few ounces when conditions are milder and you plan to camp below the tree line. In windy or winter conditions, however, the extra guy lines need to be used, as they are essential for wind stability.

Terra Nova Laser Competition Review - 12
The removable pole sleeve hood protects the seam and zipper from rain and provides two side guy lines.

In the field, the Laser Competition had solid wind stability in moderate to high gusts due to its low height and tapered, aerodynamic shape. The pole hood and optional side guy lines are essential in these conditions. The ground level fly kept the inner tent dry in heavy downpours, even with the zipper open. When the tent was used without the pole hood, the non-waterproof zipper did let in the occasional drip, but it wasn't a big deal - I just had to remember to keep items in the vestibule away from this area during heavy rain.

Snow loading on single pole hoop shelters, such as the Laser Competition and Hilleberg Akto, is a drawback of the design. Heavy snows can pile up on the fly and lead to tent collapse. While the pointed ends of the Terra Nova tent minimized this concern, it is important to periodically clear the fly during heavy snow accumulations.

While the Terra Nova Laser Competition is an extremely lightweight tent, it is built with materials that stood up well to extended use in a variety of conditions. It is far more than an experiment to build the lightest tent - this is a fully functional and well built shelter. However, don't expect to find interior pockets, as those were sacrificed at this weight.

The included carbon fiber stakes are lightweight, but very fragile; I broke three on my first weekend using the tent and quickly traded for stronger ones. Apparently, Terra Nova had a similar experience with these stakes, because titanium stakes are now included with the tent.

Terra Nova Laser Competition Review - 13
The Laser Competition came with carbon fiber stakes which easily broke.

At $370.00 US, the Terra Nova Laser Competition is a functional and lightweight double wall solo tent. It is pretty expensive, but you get quite a worthy shelter for your money. For comparison, the $385 US Hilleberg Akto is similar in size, one pound heavier, but has an integrated pole hood, extra guy lines, and increased ventilation. Both tents have their strengths, but if weight is your primary concern, the Terra Nova is your best option.

During testing, I did a couple of upgrades to further decrease tent weight. First, I traded the stock aluminum pole for a Fibraplex Carbon fiber pole set ($44.75, 3.0 oz) which was durable and saved 2.0 oz (57 g) over the stock pole. Next, I swapped the stock guy lines for a Backpacking Light AirCore NANO Dyneema Guy Line Cord Kit ($15.99), which saved 0.7 oz (20 g) over the stock guy lines. After these two upgrades, the Laser Competition trail weight was just 1 pound, 15.3 ounces - extremely lightweight for a double-wall solo tent with this level of durability and usable space.

What's Unique

The Terra Nova Laser Competition is extremely lightweight for a fully functional double-wall solo tent. I also found it to be highly versatile, using it for high alpine climbs, winter snow camping, and summer backpacking with my son. While you may have to go with the Laser Photon Elite to get the illustrious Guinness World Record, the Laser Competition makes up for the added weight with more durable materials.

Recommendations for Improvement

While the Terra Nova Laser Competition is a very lightweight tent that didn't really cut corners to cut weight, the absence of a high vent is a serious drawback in ventilation and condensation resistance. I recommend that Terra Nova add a high vent to increase airflow and improve condensation resistance.

My other recommendation would be to replace the carbon fiber stakes that came with the tent with more durable ones. Happily, this has already been addressed by Terra Nova with their latest model.


"Terra Nova Laser Competition Review," by Doug Johnson. (ISSN 1537-0364)., 2009-03-10 00:05:00-06.


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Terra Nova Laser Competition Review
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Addie Bedford
(addiebedford) - MLife

Locale: Montana
Terra Nova Laser Competition Review on 03/10/2009 17:59:56 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Terra Nova Laser Competition Review

Matt Moore (TNUK)
( - F
Laser comp on 03/11/2009 02:45:23 MDT Print View

Hi Guys
The 2009 model also has new guy lines and improved locking sliders.
Importantly we have also added a two way zip on the main door which allows extra ventilation and should answer some concerns raised in this article. I have passed a copy of the article on to our designer to take on board the feedback

Sales manager
Terra Nova Equipment

Matt Moore (TNUK)
( - F
Laser comp on 03/11/2009 02:55:51 MDT Print View

Also note that the US reccomended retail price on the Laser comp is $370

Terra Nova Equipment

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
Re: Terra Nova Laser Competition Review on 03/11/2009 03:06:57 MDT Print View

Hi Doug

An interesting tent all right. I can't match your photos of the occupant - too old! :-)

But I am puzzled by the pole cover/hood thing. I don't understand it. More details?


Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
Terra Nova Laser Competition Review on 03/11/2009 03:30:05 MDT Print View

Something about the Brits being too lazy to do their own seam sealing...
(that is where the two panels meet, no other seams at the top)That is why like the Akto it is a bit difficult to get a nice taut look.
The sleeve also spreads the load from the guylines.
( just my opinion...)

Matt Lutz
(citystuckhiker) - F

Locale: Midwest
Condensation on 03/11/2009 06:10:10 MDT Print View

The lack of a top vent disappoints me. Weight be damned, the tent still needs to be functional when everything hits the fan.

Also - 10 stakes? That's far too many for my book unless I am using all of my guylines.

Miguel Arboleda
(butuki) - MLife

Locale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Re: Terra Nova Laser Competition Review on 03/11/2009 06:57:06 MDT Print View

I found, when pitching the Laser Competition, that it was hard to get the end struts positioned at the right angle so that the canopy fabric is taut. Anyone know what should be done to position the struts?

The pole sleeve cover really does work, it really does make the top of the tent more stable. Don't know how. It just feels more solid.

Forget the tiny titanium stakes that come with the tent! Like toothpicks! Bent the first time I used them.

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Re: Terra Nova Laser Competition Review on 03/11/2009 07:26:04 MDT Print View

Matt- thanks for your feedback. I'll see about getting the retail price changed. Good to hear about the 2-way zipper too; I could see this being a small help in regards to airflow and condensation.

Roger- it is a long strip of nylon with attachments at the end. It covers the entire middle seam including the zipper and attaches to the tent with three ties and loops over the pole ends. The side guylines pull directly on two of these tie attachments. I agree with Miguel that it works well.

Miguel- there is an adjustment at each end strut that tightens the strut against the inner tent. This has some impact on the outer tent tensioning. Beyond that, I use the end guyouts on the top of the strut independently of the ground level stake point. Together, this tensioned this part of the fly without concern. The tricky area I found was from where the strut attaches to the fly to the ground. Getting this small area to properly taut can be challenging (and impossible if the ground is very uneven). In high winds, if this small area is not fully taut it doesn't affect wind stability and I never noticed any flapping.

Good to know about the new stakes- they may not be much better than the carbon fiber ones included with this earlier model.


Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Re : Terra Nova Laser Comp Review on 03/11/2009 11:46:33 MDT Print View

I wouldn't worry too much about condensation.
I have had the Laserlite (the forerunner of the Comp) for years, and haven't found condensation to be any worse than other small tents. The Comp is one of the most popular 1 man tents in the UK, and our climate is very condensation friendly. If it was a major problem, the tent wouldn't be so popular.
Living in condensation hell (Scotland) you get used to condensation, and just deal with it. As most of the time i'm pitching in tree-less, exposed sites, there is usually some wind, (often too much!) to help control the condensation. I've used the Laselite on many 2 week treks with down bags, and never had a problem.
I think it's a great choice if you want a very light, double skinned tent.

Robin Evans
( - MLife
Laser Comp mods on 03/11/2009 12:55:28 MDT Print View

I've made a few tweaks that you might be interested in:

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Laser Comp mods on 03/12/2009 00:14:02 MDT Print View

Very interesting Robin. I especially like your method for cracking the door open for increased ventilation. Thanks for sharing!

Roger Caffin
(rcaffin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Wollemi & Kosciusko NPs, Europe
re the pole cover on 03/12/2009 03:10:55 MDT Print View

Hi Doug

Well, I have looked at all the pics I could find (easily) to understand this pole cover thingy, and all I can conclude is that if TN had made the pole sleeve and guy rope anchors properly in the first place the cover would never have been needed.

Very arrogant of me I know, but I simply cannot see why the original design should need a pole sleeve. While I have not had a Laser Comp pitched in my back yard, I have had some experience with pole sleeves and guy rope anchors. I guess they can always come out with V3.

My 2c worth.


Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: the Photon pole cover on 03/12/2009 07:57:48 MDT Print View

I share your opinion.

It's a re-hash of a Photon thread in January.

The question that remains is "Is there any way to improve the situation?"

I have seen references to aftermarket fixes in the UK but have never followed up.

Martin Rye - any links to services and photos?

Chris Townsend
(Christownsend) - MLife

Locale: Cairngorms National Park
Terra Nova Laser Competition Review on 03/12/2009 09:01:49 MDT Print View

I find the pole cover fiddly to use and I'm not convinced it's necessary. I haven't had any leakage through the seams without the cover. The pole guylines can be attached to the pole cover attachment points. I haven't used the tent in strong winds like this though.

Martin Rye
(rye1966) - F

Locale: UK
Re: Re: the Photon pole cover on 03/12/2009 10:49:11 MDT Print View

"Martin Rye - any links to services and photos?" ....does this help Greg?

I use the Laser which is the next one up in the range. Same, but bigger. The pole sleeve works. I find it adds stability. If the guy lines where attached directly via the pole sleeve attachment points it would be fine - I could not see any reason to doubt that, as they anchor the pole sleeve. I have been camping in very bad weather with other Laser users when the pole sleeve has come loose due to them not checking the anchors. Rain did leak in to the inner tent due to this. Some UK backpackers have seam sealed the pole stitching and not used the cover. The attachments for the sleeve should hold. Just remember to thread the guy line through the attachments each side of the pole for maximum hold. The bottom line is Terra Nova added it as they could not prevent water ingress with out it in my view. PTC is the man with the answers about this tent. He has a profile on on BPL. Be good to hear from Terra Nova on this and there reasons for the pole cover.

His web site has lots on the Laser Comp.

The Laser and Comp has a growing reputation for standing up to bad weather. Check:

Robin Evans
( - MLife
Pole cover on 03/12/2009 13:20:23 MDT Print View

I agree that the pole cover as it is supplied is a bit of a pain. However, if you use my line-lok system it is very easy to use. It turns a negative into a positive. With a properly tensioned pole cover, it seems more stable and the stress from the guying points is spread over a wider area by the two lines in the pole cover.

Having said that, I think the Akto pole sleeve is superior and less of a fiddle. The other issue I have seen raised on other fora is that attaching the guys direct can lead to failure. I don't know whether that is the case or not.

It is definitely worth using two guy lines at each end as it improves stability at very little weight penalty.

dave hollin
(backpackbrewer) - F

Locale: Deepest darkest Wales, boyo
Laser Competition review on 03/12/2009 18:56:41 MDT Print View

I have been waiting for BPL to do a full review of the Laser Comp so well done for that chaps.

In the UK, there is a long running discussion/argument over which is the better 1-man tent: Laser Comp or Akto.

I have owned both and think even forgetting the huge weight saving the Laser Comp is still a better tent than the Akto. If you look at the link above to the blog Backpackbrewer (me) it relates to a particularily nasty evening I spent in a Laser Comp and came out smiling. Basically, I rode out a 67mph storm in a Laser Comp and the pitch was still inch perfect in the morning. Ok so I added a few extra guylines as I knew a storm was coming but the tent was magnificent in its performance

As Mike Dundee states, in the UK we get a hell of a lot of condensation as a norm and even so its not that big a problem for the Laser Comp. I guess we are just used to it. Even tarps get condensation in the UK! :) The other thing we get is a rapid change in weather conditions, sometimes literally "4 seasons in one day". The Laser Comp is one of those tents that is a jack of all trades and I would happily take it just about anywhere and under most conditions.


it is really light and yet its a true 2 skin tent ie not jst a mesh inner with a fly. This is a very important feature in the winter
It goes up easily and gives a taut, eye-pleasing pitch
It is side opening
It packs down very small
Inner and outer can be separated
it sheds snow reasonably well
reasonable room and clearance in the inner
good sized porch
with 4 extra dyneema guylines, you can make this a 4 season or at least 3+ season tent for very little weight penalty (still less than a kilo)

if hit by really strong winds, the unsupported side panels can deform inwards. Admitedly, this didnt affect me until the windspeed rose above 50mph and started gusting.....
um.....struggling now
expensive, although if you look in the UK you can pick up one for around £190/$240

OK, so I'm a fan but seriously, this is one great tent that does a lot of things well.

Edited by backpackbrewer on 03/12/2009 19:05:29 MDT.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: the Photon pole cover on 03/12/2009 20:32:21 MDT Print View

Thanks for the links. I'm impressed. I hope I never have to experience it.

I did see that everyone is using the pole sleeve, and obviously a good thing too.

Now, if it just didn't seem like a kludged up afterthough, both in design and implementation. Maybe in next the iteration...

Doug Johnson
(djohnson) - MLife

Locale: Washington State
Re: Laser Competition review on 03/13/2009 08:27:36 MDT Print View

FYI: This tent was reviewed in Washington State, USA. I compared rainfall and temps from Seattle to Cardiff, Wales and found that temperatures and rainfall were very similar (which is what I suspected). Condensation should be similar between these two locales.

However, this tent was tested at elevations that far exceed the highest point in the UK and year-round with many nights on snow. In Washington, we often have rain at higher elevations when camped in snow. This is a real test of a tent's condensation resistance and the area where I found that the tent's condensation was the worst.

Just an fyi.

darren stephens
(darren5576) - F

Locale: Down Under
Scarp Comparison on 03/13/2009 13:17:20 MDT Print View

I’m impressed by the storm worthiness but concerned this would be a very hot tent. Does anyone think the lower skirts on the fly than the scarp would be an advantage in the high winds described? And I’m not referring to the scarp with cross poles as there is a large weight difference. Maybe a laser comp with 2 doors now it doesn’t have to worry about being the lightest tent in the world