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.

Recommended

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 |

Introduction

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

Specifications

Specifications

  Year/Manufacturer/Model

2007 Terra Nova Laser Competition

  Style

Three-season, double-wall, floored tent

  Fabrics

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

  Poles

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

  Stakes

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

  Dimensions

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

  MSRP

$370.00 US

  Options
(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

Performance

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.


Citation

"Terra Nova Laser Competition Review," by Doug Johnson. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/terra_nova_laser_competition_review.html, 2009-03-10 00:05:00-06.

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Forum Index » Editor's Roundtable » Terra Nova Laser Competition Review


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dave hollin
(backpackbrewer) - F

Locale: Deepest darkest Wales, boyo
condensation and the Laser Comp on 03/13/2009 13:22:42 MDT Print View

fair point

however, there are far worse places than Cardiff than for rainfall and condensation by a long way and I've camped in most of them! :->

Scotland and the middle to West of Wales are really bad. Warm and wet........

needless to say the Laser Comp copes with these climes quite well even without a dedicated fly vent

Derek Goffin
(Derekoak)

Locale: North of England
Terra Nova Laser Competition Review" on 03/17/2009 04:02:20 MDT Print View

"A laser comp with 2 doors" that allows cross ventilation if it is hot" try the 2009 Laser just out, 1.3 kilo. 2 person.

Martin Rye
(rye1966) - F

Locale: UK
Re: Terra Nova Laser Competition Review" on 03/24/2009 07:13:13 MDT Print View

At the cost of a narrower porch. It looks good on paper but is it any better than before?

Derek Goffin
(Derekoak)

Locale: North of England
Terra Nova Laser Competition Review on 03/25/2009 05:27:09 MDT Print View

Hi Martin,
I bought one because my older laser has pin holes in the groundsheet from camping on spiky Pyrenean grass. Thats fine again for dry Pyrenees but not so good for Scotland.
Why do you think the porch is narrower? I have tried both now and not noticed the difference, although I have not pitched both side by side and measured. I like the new tent. For 2 people the extra back door makes a difference. It wont be important when used for one person though. It does allow access to extra space under the fly and it does give the possibility of high fly vents on both sides of the tent, as both fly zips are double ended. There are slight improvements in the end guy line lengths but I dont trust the 2 gram pegs except for the corners. The ends of the fly now have a loop so you can override the vent system and tension the ends of the fly to the tape peg.
I have added my elastic pull outs for extra inner room at the ends for our heads and the loop on the ground band that I use to pull back the groundsheet for cooking. The Al hook and ring at the bottom of the door(s) have been replaced with very small plastic buckles.
The 2008 version has double ended zips too, without the back door

Martin Rye
(rye1966) - F

Locale: UK
Re: Terra Nova Laser Competition Review on 03/27/2009 20:45:12 MDT Print View

Derek Terra Nova on their web site have changed the layout and list the width as 40cm. The Competition is 50cm like the old Laser. I am glad they have improved the vent set up. I have down sized and got a Competition. Have a good year in the hills. The links show the change:

Before:http://www.uttingsoutdoors.com/?sections/campingtrekking/tents/?gclid=CNnYjs3MxJkCFc6T3wodDFsCTw

Now:http://www.terra-nova.co.uk/Product_Type/Tents/Superlite_Tents/Laser_Green.html

PS the new plastic door closer at the bottom of the door is not a good idea compared to the strong old hook set up. I reckon they will break.

Wolfgang Zeiler
(geala) - F

Locale: Hannover, Germany
no bathtub floor on 07/02/2009 03:45:25 MDT Print View

I used my TN Laser Competition with good results in Sweden so far. The biggest drawback of the tent in my opinion is that it has no bathtub floor. On a earlier trip, when I had a HS Rainbow with me (Swedish Fjäll is however not the ideal place for tarps or tarptents), I had to sleep one night on a very soggy meadow (more of a swamp) and only the bathtub floor saved me. With a TN LC that would have been not so nice.

Edited by geala on 07/02/2009 03:46:52 MDT.