Laser Competition – some critical thoughts

by backpackingbongos

My camping experience last weekend shed some major doubts in my mind on the Laser Comps capabilities in bad weather.  You can read my post on the trip here.  Whilst camping the first night the weather was much worse than anticipated.  Although the comp did not actually collapse the noise that it made whilst flapping in the wind was so loud that I barely slept the entire night, this then impacted on my enjoyment of the rest of the weekend as I was totally knackered from lack of sleep.  On the second night I discovered that the pole that supports the end of the tent had ripped away from the ground sheet of the inner leaving a hole.  Now this is something that perhaps happened whilst tensioning the pole guy rather than storm damage.  If this is the case then the fault was down to poor construction as stitching should not fail whilst tensioning a tent to get a taut pitch, especially in a tent such as the Comp where correct tensioning is essential in getting a perfect pitch.

DSC02238

As my sewing skills are not up to much I will get in contact with Terra Nova to see if they will repair it for me under guarantee.  I have had the tent since August 2006 so fingers crossed they will not refuse.

Now I do have a confession to make – I never really fully bonded with my Laser Competition tent.

The only reason why I have continued using it over the years is because it is so light, it really has made a difference to my pack weight.  So in that respect it has been great.  However I have never really enjoyed actually sleeping in it.  Firstly it can be a real bugger to pitch and if you don’t get it right it will be a mass of baggy material.  I have spent many a breezy night with its material slapping me a across the face with each gust of wind.  Secondly I find the inner to be just on the bareable side of claustrophobic.  Being fairly tall I find that the inner tent is just a little bit close to my face for comfort.  I have also had great problems with condensation when using the comp as there is no real practical way of venting it without leaving the fly door open, which I often do if it is not raining.  When totally sealed I find that condensation forms on the inner tent above my head and torso, this then dampens my down bag when I sit up.  This got so bad that I brought a lightweight bivvy bag to use inside, this helps but them negates the benefits of using a lightweight tent in the first place!  Finally after a wet condensation filled night I want to disconect the inner from the outer to stop the inner tent from getting wet whilst packing.  This is really fiddly to do with the end poles being conected to both fly and inner tent (well not on mine now!).  I therefore end up stuffing the whole lot into my sack meaning I have a wet inner tent when packing the next night.

On the positive side the headroom in the Comp is great in the centre of the tent, I can fully sit up without slouching.  The porch is also huge for a tent of its size, much bigger than the Akto

For years and years (since 1999) I have used a Hilleberg Akto tent that has always performed superbly and has never let me down.  The only negative has been with the weight, I have an old model that weights in at 1.8kg.  It has stood up to winds that were so strong that I could barely stand and monsoon strength rain storms.  Hundreds of nights on the hills and it is still going strong (ok the pole is now a bit of a weird shape due to a rather lively gust of wind).  It is about time that I got reaquanted with it, a bit more weight in the sack but at least I can go back to camping on mountain summits without a worry.

But saying that I have had my eye on a Scarp1……………………………………………

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19 Comments to “Laser Competition – some critical thoughts”

  1. Let us know what TN say about the tear failure. I always feel that their ‘guarantee for the lifetime of the tent’ is nigh on impossible to interpret when you think of the conditions it might be exposed to, in practice it must come down to what they think is ‘fair’ and how old it is.

    I know what you mean about ‘bonding’ with a backpacking tent: it’s your friend on your back, your safe haven from whatever the weather throws at you, and you do develop a sort of relationship. With the LaserComp mine is a love-hate one inclining more to the side of love: while pitching and depitching it the air is often blue with colourful language, but once pitched and inside I love it in spite of some minor complaints!. I’m 5ft 7.5ins but if I was taller the pointy ends would make the inner a bit close for comfort when lying down.

    The Scarp1 looks interesting, it has the overall boxy shape of an Akto but only weighs 1250g – the material must be incredibly thin I would think.

  2. Just sold my Comp on Ebay. After using it a lot for a 2 years I finally decided Id had enough of it.
    Reasons..
    Never felt secure in it in bad weather
    Components fiddly to use with cold hands ie stupid pole hood!
    Pitching when wet and tired an annoying experience
    Getting sodden through condensation dripping through to inner tent
    Having to replace poor components with ones that actually work, ie pegs!

    I suppose the only thing I loved about that tent was the low weight . Using my Nallo 2 now as a solo tent loads of room but big pack size. I sold a macpac Microlight about 10 years ago as I was skint but Im thinking back how easy it was to pitch how good it was in bad weather and how comfortable and secure I felt in it…. I wonder what the weight of one of those is now!

  3. Geoff, I will email TN and see what they say. Not holding my breath but may be pleasantly suprised – you can never tell!

    I really want to like it more, it will still come out with me but from now on only when I know the weather will be good or I am camping lower down.

    The more I read about the Scarp1 the more I like the sound of it.

  4. Richard – I cannot praise the Akto enough if you are looking for a new 1 man tent. Not as light as the Laser Comp but there has to be a trade off somewhere.

  5. Akto looks a great tried and tested tent, but a Microlight is a lot cheaper! I sent my laser comp back to Terra Nova a few months back as the stitching had pulled out where the inner and outer connect via the fiddly tensioning buckle near the carbon fibre end strut, got it back within 3 days repaired and no charge fantastic service. Best to phone first if you need the tent back quickly.

  6. Yep the downside of the Akto is you need to take out a small mortgage to buy one.
    I have just fired off a quick email to Terra Nova with a pic of the problem. Hopefully their customer service will remain consistent and it will get repaired no problem.

  7. Just in case you are considering a newer 1.5kg incarnation of the Akto, mine is lying idle in the closet. I only used it a few times. I had it modified with mesh panels at either end to improve the woefully inadequate ventilation of the inner and it did help considerably with the condensation.

  8. Was that just an offer to give it away Geoff?

  9. I have had a similar love-hate relationship with my Comp. After so much modification, I’m now coming to love it. Well I’d have to, wouldn’t I?

    The three vital mods I think are:
    1) lineloks on the polehood cords, transforms the polehood from a nuisance to a real help in stabilising the tent and easy to adjust.
    2) Double guys at the end, makes the end pole rock solid, helping to reduce flysheet flap.
    3) Threshold adjustable cord, will save zip failure and helps keep tension on the fly even.

    It is also worth using the porch groundsheet as it greatly enhances the useable space.

    Unfortunately, the Comp is never going to be a quiet tent in a blow. It will stand up to bad conditions, but at the cost of flapping furiously.

    It also took time for me to get used to being confined at the head end. I’m 5’9″ and I don’t think I’d want to be much taller in the Comp.

    If the weights were the same I’d chose the Akto for its stability and extra room inside, but it’s 0.5kg heavier, which is a lot.

    If I was going for stability alone and forgetting weight, I’d go for the Soulo. In fact I’m tempted to get one for winter, but most of the time, the Comp is the best.

    When I was in the Carneddau with Alan, Mick and Gayle, M&G’s Voyager suffered a bent pole in very gusty conditions whereas my Comp was unharmed (but it was noisy!).

    Alan’s Warmlite looks a fantastically strong tent but I do like a proper double skin tent and a porch.

    For me, there’s yet to be a tent on the market that ticks all the boxes, especially combining stability and low weight. The Scarp looks interesting but I’m not sure about the flysheet not reaching the ground.

  10. You should love your Comp after all that work you have put into it Robin! If I was not so lazy I would have a bash at doing some myself.

    One of the attractions of the Scarp is the fact that it has loads of airflow. In the Akto I always sleep with the end vents open as I like fresh air in the tent. In the Comp when fully sealed up I feel a bit stuffy and sometimes wake with a bit of a headache. I am someone who sleeps with the bedroom window open even in midwinter. So the raised fly may work for me – unless I suppose it it really cold and windy but maybe the inner would cut out the breeze a bit.

  11. I’ve always been impressed by TN’s weight, but was never happy about the inevitable way the tent cut was put together to achieve it.

    Hence my continued use of my Akto, which has high wildcamping designed into it as a proven fact.

    (And yes- we continue to bond every time we go out, particularly after the last Lakeland outing. I love it to bits)

  12. It’s easy to mimic the end vents of the Akto by using a bit of cord and a cord lock to raise and lower the ends. It takes 10 minutes to rig up.

    http://blogpackinglight.wordpress.com/2009/05/31/shelter-and-sleeping/

    The mesh in the Comp makes the inner of the Comp more airy IMV.

    My concern with the Scarp is that in certain situations the wind might get under the fly and cause problems.

  13. BB,
    Heh-heh, I don’t feel inclined to give away a tent that was so expensive (even more so with the mesh mods). On the other hand I’m quite sure that if things go true to form it will lie in the closet gathering dust forever.
    If you think it might be a good option I would accept a low price. I’m thinking of buying a lightweight down top which will cost around 90 quid, it would be nice to pay for that with the proceeds.

    I was keeping the Akto for wild weather, but thinking about it some more, I’ve been surprised at the stability and resilience of the LC, and if the forecast was so bad that I was seriously worried about it, I wouldn’t be out there anyway.

  14. Geoff I think that you may have got yourself a deal there. I will email you 🙂

  15. I left the Akto to get a Laser and now a comp. Dave woods points out they are recommended to be pitched pole into the wind not the low pole end. I pitch low pole into the wind. I think PTC is a fan of that way. What way did you pitch into the wind?

    I don’t find the comp hard to pitch and to get it tight as well. It is a flexible tent with a good following to its name. The Akto has a lower head hight and smaller porch. But if it is your thing go for it. Scarp 1 with a flysheet made to come down to the ground would be superb by the way.

  16. Martin I also pitched low pole into the wind. I have gone the other way to you with tents. Akto to Laser Comp back to Akto. When I get the comp repaired it will still come out with me on trips when the weather is good or if I am heading to bothies and want a back up shelter. I just lost faith in it!

  17. I gave up on my Laser (Standard) after 2 months, similar issues to yourself, awkward to pitch even on a good day, condensation on the inner even with the end vents open and worst of all having to pack the inner inside a soaking wet fly. Just before I sold it I had come up with a mod that enabled me to easily remove the inner and pitch fly only, in fact it made pitching slightly easier as the weight of the inner wasn’t dragging on the fly.

    http://maceachain.blogspot.com/2009/05/more-laser-mods.html

  18. Richard – not being able to easily remove the inner when packing is a real pain when it is wet – a good mod on your blog.

  19. James, I know you got the new Akto already, but this might make your hoarding instinct awake in a new way:

    http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=22056

    A Scarp 1, seam-sealed + the crossing poles and hasn’t yet been set up. Its 250$. I would buy it, if…

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