July 13, 2011
Last month Terry, Martin and myself spent an afternoon with Terra Nova. For committed gear geeks it was a most enjoyable few hours. One of their reps spent a good hour showing us their product line, including a few that are brand new for next year. There were three products in particular that caught all of our eyes. A sign that a mainstream British manufacturer is finally catching up with what is on offer from ‘Cottage’ industries in the U.S in terms of design and materials? This is what grabbed my attention that afternoon.
Voyager Ultra 2
I have to admit that this is the first thing that I spotted amongst the rows of tents. Whilst the rep talked about each product in turn I could feel my eyes drifting further up the field. Basically it is the classic voyager but with Terra Nova’s new Ultra fabric (read Cuben?). What is astonishing is the weight with a stated 880g (min) / 920g (max). The claimed hydrostatic head for both the fly and floor is put at 10,000mm, most definitely waterproof! The dimensions are pretty much the same as the standard Voyager with the exception that it is 9cm narrower at its widest section. I would really like one but it is most definitely out of my budget at an estimated £1,200. Yes you read that correctly! Some photos below with Martin providing his modeling services.
Quasar 55 Pack
It is probably telling of our individual backpacking style when Martin was drawn to the Quasar 45 and myself to the Quasar 55. I loved the look of this pack and it was exceptionally light for the volume. Could this be a sign that Cuben may become more mainstream in the future? (and hopefully cheaper too). Made from their Ultra and Matrix fabrics it has an ample 55 litre capacity. The stated weight is 540g (Min) / 850g (Max). It has a PE back system with a single strut alloy frame. I think that the only thing that let it down was a rather flimsy hip belt, I would prefer to see something more substantial on a pack of this size. It will be interesting to see how they carry when fully loaded up once in production.
Solar Competition 2
Out of all the tents that I could actually afford to buy, I think that this would be the one I would go for. In my eyes it shares some similarities with those in the Big Agnes range of tents. It is sold as a two person tent but I think it would be much better suited as a roomy one person backpacking tent. It pitches inner first and has a pretty distinctive profile, it will be interesting to see how it copes with a side wind. The weight is what would make this tempting at 1.1kg (min) / 1.17kg (max). Not much more than the classic Laser Competition but far roomier and in my eyes less claustrophobic. Tempting if I was ever in the market for a one person backpacking tent (I already have too many!).
Cuben Bivi bag?
We spotted this folded neatly on a table and initially thought that it was a small stuff sack. Further investigation and a bit of unravelling revealed a cuben bivi bag. This thing was light, really light. The cuben on the top had a texture to it that reminded me of the compostable bags I get for food waste. Terry was keen to see how strong this material was by attempting to push a pen through it, he was stopped just in time by one of the reps! It will be interesting to see this once in production.
We all really enjoyed the few hours we spent there. The Terra Nova staff were very welcoming and patiently answered the barrage of questions thrown their way. It was good to have the company of Terry and Martin, thanks for the invite Terry.
I’m sure that they will both do a write-up today, you can check out their blogs Terrybnd and Summit and Valley.
June 22, 2011
I have just spent a very agreeable afternoon with fellow bloggers Terry and Martin being shown Terra Nova’s new product range for 2012. Some very technical fabrics were fondled extensively and we got an exclusive look at some new kit that has yet to be unveiled. As you can see from the pic below it was a tent fanciers wet dream!
There were three products in particular that got me salivating extensively. Unfortunately we have been sworn to secrecy until July 13th, the day before the Friedrichshafen outdoor show where they will be unveiled. All I can say is that very soon the sort of products that currently can only be purchased through overseas ‘cottage’ manufacturers will be available through a mainstream UK company. Some damn fine lightweight kit coming out. There is one particular piece which may well see me trying my luck on the lottery, if you fancy buying it you should perhaps think about saving your pennies now! All I can say is there is a real classic in a new material coming in at an astonishing weight…………..
There were a couple of tents on display that caught my eye that are available now, the main one being the Solar Photon 2. A two person free-standing tent for under a kilo is pretty good in my eyes (although you would have to be on intimate terms with whoever you share it with!). For one person it looks like lightweight luxury. However next year it looks like something is coming along that is even better…….
On the budget end of the market the Wild Country Zephyros 1 is great value for money at around £100. Very similar to the Laser Comp, it weighs in at 1.4kg and does not need the pole cover due to the seams being taped. I wish that backpacking tents were this light and cheap when I first started wild camping.
Finally Terry shows the reason why he has such a strong female following on his blog……………
Cheers for the invite mate.
Some cracking stuff will be revealed on our blogs come July 13th, a minor blogging exclusive!
August 17, 2009
I have just received my Laser comp inner back from Terra Nova, repaired and as good as new. I sent it off three weeks ago after the cord that holds the carbon fibre pole tore through the groundsheet and became detached. I have always been a bit dubious about the meaning of ‘life time guarantee’ as this leaves things to the discretion of the manufacturer. My tent was exactly three years old and I was expecting Terra Nova to charge for the repair. You have to send the faulty item back to them with the receipt and a form detailing the fault / damage. Shortly after posting I got a prompt email from them saying that it would be repaired under guarantee. I asked them if they could re-enforce the cord on the other side whilst doing the repair, which they have done. I suppose that we so often put up with poor customer service that we end up surprised when things go in our favour!
June 13, 2009
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.
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……………………………………………
March 29, 2009
I brought my Laser Competition tent pretty much as soon as it came out but could never really fall in love with it. I always ended up taking my tried and tested Hilleberg Akto on backpacking trips. When backpacking through wild and remote places you really do need to feel confident about the gear that you are using. However recently I have read loads of blogs where the authors really rate the usability and stability of the laser comp. This and the fact that it weighs considerably less than the Akto persuaded me to give it a second chance.
I will be doing a 6 day east to west coast crossing of the Northern Highlands in 3 weeks which means carrying 6 days of food. Weight is therefore a major consideration so I decided to dust off the Laser Comp for my backpack last weekend. I ordered some Vargo titanium pegs and added some north face ‘v’ pegs to replace the carbon fibre ones with the annoying tips that come off. When packing the night before I noticed how much smaller and easier it was to pack than the Akto.
We found a great high moorland camp in the Yorkshire dales on a level grassy area. I was surprised when I managed to get a perfect pitch first time. I think using ‘v’ pegs to secure the end guys really helped, pulling them as taught as possible. I used separate pegs on the inner end poles this time pulling them out as far a possible. This all helped to get the perfect pitch.
The night was still and cold and I awoke to find the inner wet through with condensation. I cursed when I sat up and brushed the hood of my sleeping bag against the inner wetting it. The foot of my bag was also damp as it had also been touching the inner tent. I fell back to sleep and was woken at dawn by a strong wind and a fine drizzle of condensation was being shaken onto me. However the tent shrugged off the wind and I dozed for a couple more hours.
When I got up I wanted to find a solution to the condensation problem and dry out the tent before packing. I had the idea of unpegging the end facing the wind and clipping it to the inner pole tensioner. This looked pretty neat and the tent soon dried out. Next time I use the comp and it is not raining I will do this on both ends to see if it will prevent condensation from forming.
My planned backpack next weekend should give me an opportunity to try this out. Yesterday I also received a Rab ultra bivi which is sold as a sleeping bag cover. It weighs in at only 225g. This should hopefully stop any damp patches on my down bag and will replace the plastic survival bag that I carry – so no weight gained!