Terra Nova Laser Ultra 1 Review

Terra Nova upped the ante again, The World’s Lightest Tent record went from one of their tents to another. Using new fabrics, an evolution of their successful Laser design and big slice of bravado, it’s the Laser Ultra 1.

A few basics first. The dimensions are the same as the Laser Photon 1, a tent that I’m very familiar with. This means that internal space is pretty good depending on your height, at whisper under six feet it does fine for me, the width is good as the shape bows out in the middle letting you move around and get a lot of gear inside.
The general layout is the same too, it’s the fabric that’s big thing. This is a good call, a trusted design to try out the new material.

The first time I pitched the Ultra was on frozen snow. I really didn’t know what to expect, but the familiar method I use for pitching any Laser worked as well as ever, better I should say. The flysheet pitches differently to a Photon or Comp, the fabric has an inbuilt tension of sorts, which kind of translates into a shape-memory, it just wants to pitch well and consequently the Ultra goes up and tensions quick using the internal and external adjusters.
The fabric is Terra Nova’s “Ultra” fabric, although folk are saying it’s Cuben fiber, it’s a development of that. The 3000mm hydrostatic head it comes with is absolutely fine for the UK and that thin crinkly appearance doesn’t match either the soft feel or the surprising quietness the fabric has, even in the wind it lacks the “Laser wind rip” that I’m so used to.

The single pole is a thin and light affair made in Scandium Alloy, same as my full-sus mountain bike frame so I’m happy with that from my experience of torturing the bike without issue. The poles at the ends are carbon and here they fold in half which makes for easy packing, indeed the main poles fold very short as well. The days of awkward tent poles strapped to the outside of a pack seem very distant.
Ventilation is via the half-mesh inner door and the adjustable end panels. These are great, the flysheet can be pulled up and fixed open so that the little internal mesh panels effectively open onto the outside world, it really adds to the fresh are throughput. It does help with condensation as your damp breath and night vapours (?!) can slip away, but temperature changes and the smallness of the interior will mean some dampness at times. I’ve had both frozen rain falling from the inner when I sat up in the morning and a completely dry tent too.

The guying has the regular layout, doubling-up the inner and outer with short bungees and guys with extra guylines at each end and at the centre. These days we have decent reflective guyline and the brilliant Camcleat adjusters, those who remember the original washing line and cub scout adjusters of the Laserlite will be glad.
The guys that secure the centre pole can be attached to the tent itself or the optional pole cover. I haven’t fitted optional the pole cover which I normally do and it’s been fine so far without it. The pole cover weighs 58g in its pouch which is nothing, and if I wash sure of minging weather I’d fit it.
While we’re on weight, the daft 1g titanium pegs weight 20g in their bag, but I’ve never used these ones. They do work fine on grassy pitches, but these days I carry a mixture of titanium nails and aluminium Y-pegs with every tent I use, dependable and they have cords attached which makes my fingers glad every time I break camp.

The most important weight is 576g. That’s the tent and the poles together in their stuffsacks. Not a lot is it? The whole tent is tiny when it’s ready to pack, you can get it into the lid of a lot or rucksacks.
But there’s still space to live, as I said above the internal space is fine, in fact it’s better than the identically sized photon as it’s lighter inside due to the see-through Ultra fabric giving no sensation of being cramped at all. The same feature brings some other odd stuff, you can see the moon and stars through the tent, and the I saw the shape of the raven that stalks me through the Highlands clear as day when it passed low overhead.
The porch is smaller than the Lasercomp, to keep your pack completely inside you have to sit it on its side, but there’s still plenty of room to have all your gear accessible and to keep the door clear for getting in and out. Talking of the door, the double-ended outer zip is such a good idea on a laser, it lets the steam out and stops the cold coming in.

I’ve had the Ultra in the wind and it seems quite happy. The Laser design flexes away quite happily even when the pace gets up, but like I said above, the Ultra fabric seems to react a little differently. It’s a different fabric so I know that’s kinda stating the obvious, but as a long-time Laser user it does has a different feel and a softer sound, it’s not often I’ll sleep though high winds in Laser.
That Ultra fabric makes up the floor too, and that’s very odd when you’re not expecting it, I thought the floor was missing at first. Terra Nova must think the fabric’s tough enough for the wear it’ll get here, and it definitely seems less slippy than some, sleepmats have been staying put.

The technical and practical are one thing, but a tent has a sole function and that’s to serve as a shelter in the outdoors.
The Ultra is a fantastic shelter. It has simplicity, a usability and a comfort that defies it’s weight and pack size. The Ultra fabric is light and strong, but a revelation has been the airiness it brings to the tent. Just by allowing more light inside it changes the character of the tent, making the Ultra more pleasant for sitting out a storm or spending continuous nights inside on a longer trip, quite apart from the fact you’d be carrying less than 600g of tent with you. Maybe there’s a case for making the Photon’s flysheet yellow.
The weight and the tiny packsize make the Ultra a killer lightweight or fast and light shelter, but it’s more than that, it doesn’t feel compromised to hit it’s targets, it’s still a proper tent and that’s how I approached it. 

£650? That’s what it costs, whether any of us can afford it or not isn’t going to change just how light or how much damned fun this tent is to use.

78 thoughts on “Terra Nova Laser Ultra 1 Review”

  1. That packing thing has always been something I think about, I never roll or fold tents, they always get randomly stuffed for trips and storage to avoid recurring fold etc

    I hope the HH does stand up, imagine this fabric going elsewhere if it proves it’s got durability.

  2. Only just noticed that there is now a Laser Photon 2 as well (I’m not the most observent card in the pack, admittedly)

    A little bigger (longer and more end height) and a little lighter than a Laser comp, but more expensive and with a smaller porch

    so best in the “laser tent for tall blokes with a little more money to spend and a small rucksack” category.

    I presume its a great tent but I think Terra Nova are in danger of out-niching themselves

  3. so best in the “laser tent for tall blokes with a little more money to spend and a small rucksack” category

    Sounds like me actually (apart from the more money to spend bit)

    Just checked – its about the same weight as the Laser Comp 1 (but with more internal space and less porch space).

    Any practical difference between a big photon and an small competition (apart from the bigger one flapping more!)?

  4. It’s all kinda filling in the gaps between the models with more models, like Innov8.

    Not sure about the differences in a practical sense, I’ve seen some of the models pitched but that was a while back.
    The porch size could be the decider for me, back to the MSR’s again, internal space is squeezed to get a huge porch, Terra Nova have gone the other way. It’s down to how you distribute your gear I suppose.

    But, the bigger the Laser the more it catches the wind, not an issue most of the time but for higher and more exposed stuff it might be.
    You do learn to tune the rattle out :o)

  5. speaking about the “2” models, considering that the tent in this review is the “ultra 1” no doubt there is a 2 person version in the oven.

  6. All these micro niches are getting a touch insane, but there’s still a tiny space there for a photon 1 Tall ;)

  7. A photon 1 tall?

    Would that be a photon 1.5?

    Why don’t Terra Nova simply do a PHD and offer a design your own tent service?

  8. If they used that fold-up ventilation system from the flysheet on the inner tall folk could stick their head or feet outside :o)

    I wonder how a Laserlong would be? Would it still be symmetrical or would one end be longer with a longer carbon rod for extra headroom maybe?
    Interesting idea, I bet there’s market waiting for a Laserlong.

  9. The photon 2 is 10cm longer than the competition 1 and 10 cm higher at either end. That is pretty Laser- longish

  10. Aye, it’s a bit like a Comp with a small porch. I’d ditch the 2-person idea from the Photon 2, make the length and heights the same but shrink the inner and get a bigger porch. That’s a little less fabric too.
    But I suppose I’m missing the point of them having a proper sub-kilo 2-person tent, so I still say they should do a Laserlong as well. I’d have one.

  11. Trade me that excess inner space for ~10cm extra headroom and we might be talking. But suppose no chance as it wouldn’t be the worlds lightest in any category :)

    I did have some hope when I saw the Ringstind ultralight (as the light is 110/240) but they cut the headroom all the way down to 90cm.

  12. I haven’t seen the Ultra in the flesh, but a groundsheet made of that material has got to be ridiculous. I’m happy with my LaserComp groundsheet for instance, but judging by some of my pitches, anything thinner is getting dodgy.
    Colin Ibbotson in his recent review has found serious issues with the Ultra, including the ethereal groundsheet and construction method.

  13. Read the review and I dunno, experience tells me different in several places.

    The wee pegs are perfectly usable in rough ground, always have been, I’ve used them for a dozen nights or more over 900m and they work fine, I just can’t be arsed with the extra work to get them placed well so I’ve ditched them for all the Lasers :o)
    Stability only in gardens? The photies above prove different, I feel as confident in pitching the Ultra as I ever have in a Comp.

    The construction is one thing I did wonder about with the Ultra fabric, the main seams are stitched with double lines of plain stitch and four layers of fabric, the whole thing does have a good bit of stretch about it so I’m hopeful that any stress will be spread between the different fabrics and the stitching itself. Time will tell.
    Floor durability, aye, it will come apart, I can see areas of stress on the floor of mine.
    This is going to be a personal issue I think, most of my tents have floor damage, including holes, to some degree and I don’t get water ingress because I don’t pitch where I’m going to get it, even on ice or snow you won’t get it because you won’t melt it through a sleepmat.

    He also cheekily left out the weight and cost of trekking poles in the MLD comparison :o)

    It’s a good review, and no righter or wronger than this or anyone else’s.

    Durability is something we’ll know about through time and also by what gets uopdated for next year.
    What I love is the big leap forward, the reaction from other brands and what Terra Nova do next is going to be great for us.

  14. Good debate

    You are a man steeped in laser heritage. Colin is a tarp advocate extrordinare, so you are coming from different starting places. You camp high in all weathers in Scotland and that is your ‘parameter’.I don’t know that much about Colin, but he has a reputation for being uber – ultralight so I suspect that that might mean more low camping than high camping ( but I’m guessing).

    The interesting thing was that chris ‘akto’ townsend challenged his review, so his thoughts – as a user- are probably more in line with yours.

    Finally- as a footnote- I was oot on Sunday/ Monday and have rarely seen the Scottish mountains so wet. A single skin, nae bathtub groundsheet, tarp would have been a miserable option in such conditions, while a tent with a porous grounsheet would not have been terribly attractive either.

    An infrequent variable in this equation, but a varible nonetheless

    As a foo

  15. Hello,

    I’m searching for the cheapest price to get a Laser Competition or Photon. Long time ago there there was a great price at Field & Trek with 145£. Doas anyone know a store with good end of season sale price for me?

    This Blog is great!

    best regards, mocca (germany)

  16. I know Terra nova were selling last season Photon’s direct from their website for around £250 recently and you can get Comps for around the same online from the UK.
    ebay UK is worth a look too, I saw red Comps for £225 recently.


  17. Thank you for your answer. I know the prices on ebay. But 250£ is a lot. Ok, in Germany they are much more expensive, but i hoped to get a hint for a real good sale price on UK Store like the F&T price in former days. I keep my eyes wide open ;)

    Thans a lot, mocca

  18. Bad time of year for real tent bargains. Cheapest new Laser Comp I’ve spotted from an on-line independent is £224 but I’d bet there’s no availability if you try to order. I was looking last autumn & almost went for TN’s tent trade-in scheme (look under Product Information on their site). They claim a 30% reduction on RRP for trading in ANY old tent in ANY condition, as long as it’s complete. That means £224 for a current Laser Comp, plus the small cost of sending them your – or someone else’s – old tent (if you choose the right courier).
    Don’t know of anyone who’s actually bought under this scheme, though, so there may be a catch? The small print seems fair enough.
    I eventually refurbished the vintage Laserlite & then found an unmissable deal on a current Laser. Must say the Laser is great for extra inner tent space & I peg the groundsheet back to create more porch space for cooking. Weight is comparable to the old Laserlite which isn’t getting much use these days….

  19. It does sound like a good deal that trade-in, and Terra Nova are still making on the deal as they sell at full retail, so that extra margin will cover the admin for whaever they do with your old tent, charity, scout groups maybe? Hope so.

    The old Laserlite does feel beefy these days! Changed my life that tent, I’ll love it forever.
    This year at some point I’m having a meet with all the Lasers, going to get the Lite, Comp, Photon and Ultra on a summit somewhere :O0

  20. Hello everybody. I joint the Laser Owner Club . I got a Laser Comp in excellent condition for a very good price at outdoorsmagic Forum. Looks like never been used. Can’t wait to test it in the wildernes.

  21. Hi Mocca

    Buying that tent is like getting a free pass for endless fun and adventures. A wee lightweight tent makes life in the mountains so much easier and fun. I’ve said it before, getting that first Laserlite changed everything for me.

    Let us know how you get on with it!

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