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Terra Nova Laser Tent Review

With the 2.47-lb (1.12-kg) Laser, Terra Nova takes aim at the lightweight backpacker that wants to travel in comfort. Will the Laser hit the bull’s eye, or will we just be blinded by the light?

Overall Rating: Average

This rating has been awarded for the good design, very low weight, and fast set-up of the Terra Nova Laser. As the only way that two people can share it is to forgo standard width pads, I do not believe that it will received as a two-person tent to the main-stream backpacking community, though two weight conscious UL packers with custom trimmed pads may be willing to give it a go. It does make a very nice solo shelter in decent conditions, though condensation proved to be a problem in inclement weather.

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by Ray Estrella |

Terra Nova Laser Tent Review

Editor's Note: BackpackingLight has also reviewed the Terra Nova Laser Photon Elite and the Terra Nova Laser Competition Tents.

Introduction

The Laser, from Terra Nova Equipment, is the company’s lightest two-person tent. In fact it is one of the lightest two-person double-wall tents in the world. Updated in 2009 to include some “comfort” improvements, the Laser makes use of lightweight materials like its 1.34 oz/yd2 (35 g/m2) silnylon fly to achieve a BPL measured trail weight* of 2.72 pounds (1.23 kg). How does the Laser do as a three-season backpacking tent? Let me shine a light on it...

*Note: Terra Nova’s trail weight is stated at a lower weight of 2.47 pounds (1.12 kg). As their trail weight does not include stakes, and my testing indicated that at least six are required for set-up, the BPL trail weight is higher.

Design and Features

The Laser is comprised of a solid breathable ripstop nylon inner tent that is pre-attached to its silnylon fly by means of toggle and loops. Set up is extremely fast. Just thread the single aluminum pole through the sleeve at the middle of the tent and attach each end through the metal grommet at ground level. Stake one end, pulling up the attached carbon fiber strut and then do the same at the other as you pull the hooped pole upright. Boom, it is now standing. From here you need to attach as few as four or as many as ten more stakes, to fully utilize all of the Laser’s space. Did I say “stakes”? The Laser actually comes with a dozen tiny titanium pegs that look like a very thin shepherd’s hook. At two grams each, they are without a doubt the lightest anchors I have ever used (more on them later). The stake loops on the Laser are made from elastic cord that stretches quite a bit. I never figured the reasoning behind the elastic rather than a more secure (tight) regular braided cord.

Terra Nova Laser Tent Review - 2
Top Left: The inner tent is held to the fly by loops and toggles. Top Right: At the ends are inside tensioning straps that pull the inner tight. Bottom Left: While the vestibule is small, it has plenty of room for a backpack (like my Exos), boots, and small gear. Bottom Right: The other side has no real storage space to speak of.

The carbon fiber struts at the ends can be removed to allow the Laser to be compressed, but I found it more of a pain putting them back so just left them in place. This does make for a long packed tent at 22 inches (56 cm), and it needed to be packed vertically in all my backpacks.

The Laser has no hooded vents. Ventilation is handled by opening the vestibule doors or by adjusting the height of the fly from the ground at the two ends. Terra Nova has an interesting way to adjust this height from inside the tent to keep from having to brave the elements for additional (or less) ventilation. Cords running into the tent go through a ring and grommet, making a pulley system that will allow the ends of the fly to lift when the yellow cord is pulled. Pulling the black cord closes it again. Like a kid with a new toy, I entertained myself for about ten minutes opening/closing, opening/closing (and repeat) the first time I set it up. To take advantage of the exposed air, a triangular mesh opening is found by pulling the Velcro-attached nylon covering it.

Terra Nova Laser Tent Review - 3
Top: The diagram courtesy of Terra Nova shows how their unique ventilation system works at either end of the Laser. Bottom Left: A pull of the yellow cord and the end goes up, letting lots of fresh air in and giving a view through the mesh opening. Bottom Right: The neighbors are looking! Quick - pull the black cord to pull the fly back down to the ground.

The Laser comes seam-sealed from the manufacturer, but the pole sleeve is not water-tight. A black waterproof pole cover is included that takes care of this problem, thankfully. Also included are storage sacks for the poles and stakes and the 1.0-ounce (29-g) stuff sack to put all of it in.

Specifications

Year/Manufacturer/Model 2009 Terra Nova Equipment Laser 2 Person Tent
Style Three-season, two-person, double-wall tent.
Fabrics Body: rip-stop nylon
Floor: 5000mm PU coated rip-stop nylon
Fly: 4000mm silnylon w/ UV inhibitor
Poles and Stakes Poles: One 8.84mm DAC Featherlite NSL pole; 5.7 oz (162 g), 2 carbon fiber struts
Stakes: 12 ea 5.1 in (13 cm) titanium pegs, total weight 1 oz (24 g)
Dimensions Length Listed: 91 in (230 cm)
Width Listed: 35.5 in (90 cm)
Inside Height Listed: 37 in (95 cm)
BPL Verified: 88x34x33 in (224x86x84 cm)
Packed Size 6 x 22 in (15 x 56 cm)
Total Weight Listed Weight: 2.73 lb (1.24 kg)
BPL Measured Weight: 2.82 lb (1.28 kg)
Trail Weight Listed Weight: 2.47 lb (1.12 kg)
BPL Measured Weight: 2.72 lb w/ 6 Ti skewers (1.23 kg)
Protected Area Floor Area Measured: 20.75 ft2 (1.93 m2)
Vestibule Area: 7 ft2 (0.65 m2)
Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio 10.2 ft2/lb (2.1 m2/kg)
MSRP US $498.00 (as of 3/22/10)
Options Laser Groundsheet Protector
Website http://www.terra-nova.co.uk

Terra Nova Laser Tent Review - 1
From the outside, the Terra Nova Laser is a truly symmetrical tent. Inside the only difference is that one side has a larger door which opens on a small vestibule. As can be seen above, the Laser will not accept two standard width sleeping pads.

Performance

Terra Nova Laser Tent Review - 4
Top: My first trip in California saw the Laser in solid rain for seventeen hours. The condensation that night was possibly the worst I have encountered. Bottom Left: But the rocky soil did not play well with the tiny Ti pegs. They bent easily, plus pulled out of the sand/dirt/rock soil with little effort. I had to find rocks to help keep the tent set up. Bottom Right. Even with standard Ti stakes, high winds cause the tent to flex so much that again I resorted to rocks to help keep things in place.

I have to say up front that fall/winter/spring of 2009-2010 has been a doozy for testing tents. It has been one of the wettest that I can remember and both the states I bounce back and forth to each month (California and Minnesota) have received much heavier snow fall too.

When setting the Laser up for the first time in Minnesota, where the ground is clay, the stakes worked fine. The ventilation system worked smoothly and repeatedly with no problems. But on my first trip with it in California’s Cleveland National Forest, I had reality hit me in the face. Like most of the areas I hike, it was quite rocky, predominately granite. The stakes would either hit rock and immediately bend or, when I could find a clear path for them to go in, would just pull back out. As I was setting up in the rain, I got very frustrated. After bragging to my brother-in-law how fast the Laser sets up, imagine my chagrin when I finally had to give up and go in search of small boulders (which were scarce) to tie to the ends. This was the last time the tiny stakes accompanied me on a California trip.

The night in Cleveland NF was very cold and rainy. It had snowed much of the day above 4000 feet, so I stayed at 3600 feet and only saw sporadic snow, but lots of rain. The temperature was 42 F (6 C) when I set up the Laser, and it dropped to 31 F (-1 C) during the night. Condensation was already building up under the fly before I even turned in for the night. As I added my body heat, it even got worse. There was no wind to speak of, and by 3:00 a.m. the inside of the inner tent was collecting water on top, which was seeping through. I believe that this night just took the record for most condensation in one spot for me.

A trip to the Santa Rosa Mountains saw 25 F (-4 C) with mild winds. I brought a dozen regular titanium hook stakes and the tent went up great with them. I had minimal condensation in the form of some frost at the top of the fly. Twenty-five miles (40 km) of trekking south found me a few thousand feet lower in elevation and in some very strong winds. I had a tough time setting up the tent. I used eleven Ti shepherd-hook stakes trying to strengthen the Laser with guylines. The wind really caught on all the flat areas of the tent. I watched the elastic stake loops stretch back and forth with each gust. The sides flexed so much that the guyline stakes were getting pulled out of the ground. Again I resorted to using rocks to help, but this time there were plenty to be had, lucky me…

A trip to the Angeles National Forest saw me once more unable to get where I wanted due to snow, so I stealth camped at a lake I wasn’t supposed to be at (do Rangers read this? Uh oh…). The damp sand actually worked OK to hold my stakes once I pushed them deep into it with my foot. I could not pull the ventilation cords but that was OK. I kept the fly open and was completely dry inside, although there was some moisture inside the fly from all the humidity from the wet sand and the lake right there.

A last trip to Fisherman’s Camp in the Northern Cleveland NF saw the Laser’s first truly nice evening (can I get busted for tent-abuse?).

Terra Nova Laser Tent Review - 5
Top: Stealth camping in the Angeles NF. When not being rained and snowed on, the Laser is a very comfortable shelter. Bottom: Ah, a nice spring day in California. This is what the Laser is made for.

Assessment

The Laser has been a bit of a mixed bag for me. I like the idea of it much more than the reality of it. I know that the conditions were certainly not the best, and I spread this test out as long as I could to try to place it in nicer spots.

The dimensions listed are not correct. As seen in the table above, they are off all the way around, but it still worked fine for me. I only used the Laser as a solo shelter. I would need to really, really like the person I was with to use it for two.

There was plenty of length for my pad and one of the two quilts I used with it over the course of the past four months. When elevated by my pad, my size eleven feet were OK at the ends, and I had room to sit up without scraping the top of the inner tent.

The ventilation could be better. In heavy rain, you can’t open the vestibule door to get any kind of draw going, and the lifted ends just don’t seem to be able to do it themselves.

I really like the size of the Laser as a fast solo tent. During the course of testing this, I was asked to plan a trip around Washington States Wonderland Trail. After talking to locals who told me the mandatory camp sites have excellent staking terrain, I decided that the Laser would be the tent I took so as to have a fast set-up that keeps the inside dry. However, for my Sierra Nevada and local mountains, I think I will grab something else.

Terra Nova Laser Tent Review - 6
Top: My regular NeoAir pad and long Arc Specialist quilt fit fine in the Laser. Bottom Left: My big feet clear the walls at the ends as long as I stay centered. Bottom Right: While I have plenty of head room, the weather is too nice to sit in the Laser now. Take the picture and get out of there, Ray.

Dare to Compare

In terms of comparisons, the Laser compares to the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 and the MSR Carbon Reflex 2. The Laser sets up more quickly than either tent and weighs less than the Carbon Reflex, which costs the same as the Laser in US dollars. The Carbon Reflex does give more room for its extra weight. The Fly Creek is not only lighter weight than the Laser, it has the most room of the bunch and costs much less.

Manufacturer and Model Terra Nova Laser Big Agnes Fly Creek SL2 MSR Carbon Reflex 2
Manufacturer Trail Weight1 lb (kg) 2.47 (1.12) 2.12 (0.96) 2.81 (1.28)
Backpacking Light Trail Weight3 lb (kg) 2.72 (1.23) 2.39 (1.08) 2.98 (1.36)
Fabrics Floor: 5000mm PU coated rip-stop nylon
Fly: 4000mm silnylon w/ UV inhibitor
Body: rip-stop nylon
Floor/fly: 1200mm PU/silicone coated ripstop nylon
Body: nylon & polyester mesh
Floor: 40D nylon 66, 10,000mm PU
Fly: 20D 1000mm PU/silicone coated nylon
Body: 20D nylon 66 & 20D polyester mesh
Poles One DAC aluminum pole
Two carbon fiber struts
DAC Featherlite NSL pole system with one hub Two Easton FX carbon fiber poles
Dimensions4 LxWxH in (cm) 88x34x33 (224x86x84) 86x52/42x38 (218x132/107x97) 84x46.5x40 (213x118x102)
Floor Area ft2(m2) 20.75 (1.93) 28.0 (2.6) 27.1 (2.52)
Number of Vestibules & Area ft2(m2) 1 - 7 (0.65) 1 - 7 (0.65) 2 - 14 (1.3)
Floor Area/Trail Weight Ratio5 ft2/lb (m2/kg) 7.63 (1.57) 11.71 (2.41) 9.64 (1.97)
Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio6 ft2/lb (m2/kg) 10.2 (2.1) 14.64 (3.01) 13.8 (2.81)
Cost US$ 498 350 500

Notes:

1Manufacturer Trail Weight - This is the minimum weight as listed by the manufacturer. Different companies may include different components in this weight.
3
Backpacking Light Trail Weight - This is the weight of tent, rain fly, poles, and stakes needed for basic set-up. It does not include stuffsacks, extra guylines, extra stakes, or repair kit.
4
Dimensions - maximum Length x maximum Width x maximum Height (LxWxH) In the case of odd shaped floor a double measurement is given for head and foot (H/F). The numbers are as verified by BPL and may differ from the manufacturer's stated dimensions.
5
Floor Area/Trail Weight Ratio - This is the floor area divided by the trail weight.
6Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio - This is the floor area plus vestibule area divided by the trail weight.

What's Good

  • Light weight
  • Quick set up
  • Small packed size
  • Green color nice for stealth/blending

What's Not So Good

  • Stakes do not work well in rocky areas
  • Condensation problems
  • Very difficult to put two people in it
  • Listed dimensions not correct

Recommendations for Improvement

  • Send bigger stakes
  • Add a high vent

Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at no charge, and it is owned by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.


Citation

"Terra Nova Laser Tent Review," by Ray Estrella. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/terra_nova_laser_tent_review.html, 2010-05-04 00:01:00-06.

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

Locale: Montana
Terra Nova Laser Tent Review on 05/04/2010 14:19:34 MDT Print View

Companion forum thread to:

Terra Nova Laser Tent Review

Rog Tallbloke
(tallbloke) - F

Locale: DON'T LOOK DOWN!!
Re: Terra Nova Laser Tent Review on 05/04/2010 14:32:43 MDT Print View

Looks like a fair review. Would the Fly Creek stand up to the same winds better or worse in the reviewers opinion?

Calum Pallister
(calum) - F
Review comments comparing the TN Comp and TN Laser on 05/04/2010 15:13:04 MDT Print View

I use the smaller TN Competition to sleep two when fell running and I bought the "larger" TN Laser for more leisurely camping with my girlfriend. Unfortunately the TN Laser uses the same size pole as the TN Comp and the inner offers only marginally more room than the TN Comp, whilst the vestibule is significantly smaller. I don't have a problem with the wind stability and condensation, both of which can be managed with experience. However I agree that the tent is a little bit disappointing in practice because it is still too small for two (You can j-u-s-t get two 165cm neo-airs side by side, full length ones won't fit). It is best to sleep top-to-tail to make the most of the space. PS my layman's explanation for the elastic tie outs is to reduce stress on the fly when there are big gusts of wind.

Timo Anttalainen
(timoa)

Locale: Finland, Espoo
laser competition on 05/04/2010 16:39:55 MDT Print View

Terra nova laser competition works for two... Me and my girlfriend(ex) can sleep in competition. With normal laser, me and my friend can sleep in it, but nothin else can't do. If i take my jacket off i have to do it outside.

It's a great tent!!!

Edited by timoa on 05/04/2010 16:40:28 MDT.

Willem Jongman
(willem) - F - M
not a tent for two. on 05/05/2010 06:15:26 MDT Print View

Of course Mountain Marathon racers use very small tents, but for everyone else I don't think a two person tent that does not accommodate two regular size mats is a useful concept. For the same reason I do not think the similar new Vaude Power Lizard hits the sweet spot. The new Exped Synmat basic is of course a bit narrower (48 cm) than regular size, but I for one would not want to confine myself to just one type of mattress. And even so, they would not fit into either the Laser or the Power Lizard.

Of course, one can view these tents as more spacious solo tents, but if that is what they are for, I would rather sacrifice some floor space and gain some height and perhaps have a larger entrance.

Willem

Derek Goffin
(Derekoak)

Locale: North of England
Terra Nova Laser Tent Review" on 05/05/2010 09:45:16 MDT Print View

I thought this was backpacking light! 2 short neoairs fit in a laser and 2 short expeds do when I fitted them in a corset that squeezes them together and compresses the back corners. We use it for long trips. We are 5'9" and 5'7", there is plenty of length. We use bigger Ti stakes and wish there was top ventilation. We have added the missing guys and are impressed by its ability in wind down its length. It is a warm tent.

Martin Rye
(rye1966) - F

Locale: UK
Re: Terra Nova Laser Tent Review on 05/05/2010 10:51:27 MDT Print View

The Laser is able to take a lot of punishment from strong winds with the extra guy lines added. The condensation issue is no where as bad as a Akto. I have used both extensively and the Laser is way better in terms of managing condensation. Two person tent indeed if you want it to be and Derek has proven that with his wife many times. As a large one man tent it is proven and I regret trading down to the Laser Competition which is not as good in my view as the Laser.

Raymond Estrella
(rayestrella) - MLife

Locale: Northern Minnesota
Wind on 05/05/2010 11:35:21 MDT Print View

"Would the Fly Creek stand up to the same winds better or worse in the reviewers opinion?"

Rog, I have had the Fly Creek in some stiff winds but was able to place it tail into it. In all honesty the Laser did better than my Seedhouse SL2's which share the same geometry with the FC2. I spent a night at 10,000 ft in winds that kept pulling the stakes out of one side. After the third time I gave up and supported the walls with my knees to keep it from collapsing the tent. The Laser did flex a lot but spilled the wind better than the Seedhouse from the sides.

Lynn Tramper
(retropump) - F

Locale: The Antipodes of La Coruna
Re: Re: Terra Nova Laser Tent Review on 05/05/2010 14:34:35 MDT Print View

Agree a two person tent is what you make it. We routinely "top-and-tail" and in this position you can fit two people much better into a narrow space, especially if they have short mats (TorsoLite anyone??)

Denis Walsh
(kd7kgc) - F

Locale: Northern Rockies
Lazer Review on 05/06/2010 07:33:32 MDT Print View

It would seem to me that a tent that is good in "decent conditions", but doesn't meet protection needs well in "weather", just isn't that necessary. A tarp (BackpackingLight, after all) will do a fine job in "decent conditions". I'm just sayin'.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Lazer Review on 05/06/2010 08:04:49 MDT Print View

"After talking to locals who told me the mandatory camp sites have excellent staking terrain, I decided that the Laser would be the tent I took so as to have a fast set-up that keeps the inside dry. However, for my Sierra Nevada and local mountains, I think I will grab something else." [my emphasis]

So, rather than take different stakes, you would choose to take a different tent?

Perhaps something freestanding for zero-worry setup?

Edited by greg23 on 05/06/2010 08:05:24 MDT.

Ed Tyanich
(runsmtns) - F - M
Lazer on 05/06/2010 09:19:49 MDT Print View

Good, informative review.

Here are a few of my comments on using a Lazer:
Overall I do like the Lazer. It's spacious as a solo shelter and definately tight for two but does work, but then I've used a Tarp Tent Contrail for my wife & I plus a 70 lb labrador.

I have had my Lazer in some very stiff winds with no problems and as far as condensation goes, more venting would be good but the Lazer is a big improvment over single wall.

The stakes it comes with are nearly worthless in my opinion.

The first couple times I pitched the Lazer,I thought there was way too much "fiddle factor" to get it pitched, but once I got the hang of it it isn't much different than any other tent.

Raymond Estrella
(rayestrella) - MLife

Locale: Northern Minnesota
Re on 05/07/2010 08:55:53 MDT Print View

"Perhaps something freestanding for zero-worry setup?"

Exactly, Greg. I prefer a freestanding tent when on a lot of rock.

Wow, Ed. That's a full Contrail!

James Loy
(jimbluz) - M

Locale: Pacific NW
Terra Nova Laser Tent Review on 05/07/2010 10:03:41 MDT Print View

Thanks for the thorough objective review, Ray. I agree with everything you say except I find mine to be a royal pain in the ... to set up. I'll take my Akto anyday, especially with the net inner. If anyone is interested, I'll sell my unused Laser with BPL titanium stakes at a good price!

Tom Bender
(shovelman) - F

Locale: Out East, sort of
Good Configuration on 05/08/2010 06:11:12 MDT Print View

This configuration, with a center hoop and struts in the ends works terrific for the Tarptent Moment which sets up in 5 minutes with 2 stakes. Seems the Laser could be improved by adopting that stake and line arrangement.

Derek Goffin
(Derekoak)

Locale: North of England
Terra Nova Laser Tent Review on 05/08/2010 07:54:53 MDT Print View

I am happy to have added stakes to the Laser. I feel that security in wind is what I need not 2 stake set up. Each to his own though

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: Melbourne
Terra Nova Laser Tent Review on 05/08/2010 17:24:22 MDT Print View

the Tarptent Moment which sets up in 5 minutes with 2 stakes.
???
How about 49 seconds ?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CWZQKivY2SA
Franco
OK, I can't do that in the bush, still it can be done...

John Coyle
(Bigsac)

Locale: NorCal
Terra Nova Laser Tent Review on 05/10/2010 13:02:42 MDT Print View

I own a Tarptent Moment and the only way it would take 5 minutes to set up would be if a person consumed a fifth of Jameson beforehand.

Aaron Sorensen
(awsorensen) - MLife

Locale: South of Forester Pass
Re: Terra Nova Laser Tent Review on 05/18/2010 18:30:02 MDT Print View

Is this De Ja Vue from just a few months ago?
I mean seriously, are there any other tents out there that people actually buy that could be reviewed?