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.
The Terra Nova Laser Competition easily achieves a very taut pitch.
- 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)|
|19 x 6 in (48 x 15 cm)|
|BPL Tested Weight: 2 lb, 5.1 oz (1.05 kg)
Manufacturer Specification: 2 lb, 1.8 oz (0.96 kg)
|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
|1 lb, 3.6 oz (0.56 kg)|
|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
|Emergency repair kit: $26.00 US)
Groundsheet: $6.00 US
Aftermarket Modifications (tested) – Fibraplex Carbon fiber pole set: $44.75, 3.0 oz
|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).
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
The door pulls back with a toggle for decent views.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.