Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Sue and Martin above Zermatt - 2018

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Terra Nova Solar Competition 2 Tent


I’ve been thinking about back up for my aging Phoenix Callum Hord tent for a while, and Webtogs Ltd kindly lent me a Nemo Obi last year (sadly I returned it shortly before they went bust).  The big advantage of Obi was that it fitted more neatly into my rucksack than the Callum Hord, though other features may have given rise to problems in stormy weather.

Anyway, I’ve now taken the plunge, and on Terry Abraham’s advice I bought this offering from Terra Nova.  List price is £400, Sports Direct are selling it for £320, and Field & Trek have some in stock for £280 plus a ‘free gift’.  (Anybody want a very large and heavy Sports Direct mug?  It’s available for collection.  I suppose they must own Field & Trek.)

The tent arrived very efficiently – almost within 12 hours of being ordered.  Then it sat on our bedroom floor for a couple of weeks before I finally got round to putting it up on the lawn yesterday.
It’s designed to accommodate two people, and I’m sure it would do (as does the Callum Hord) at a push.  In dry weather it might be nice to use the inner and not bother with the flysheet, but I doubt I’ll do that.


From the front it looks a bit like a cut down Nallo, but any resemblance to that tent ends with the configuration of the poles.  There’s a ridge pole attached to A-poles at front and rear, so the tent should be pretty rigid.


It’s quite tall and thin, so pitching the tail into the wind will be important, and as you can see from the picture below a couple of extra guys will be needed to avoid undue flapping from the large expanse of fabric on each side of the tent.  I’m not sure why Terra Nova don’t supply the requisite guy lines – they just supply two for the front and one for the back – although in calm weather none of these guys may be needed.  The tiny titanium pegs may struggle in bad weather, so I’ll be supplementing those with some beefier ones.


Whilst it’s against the rules (Terra Nova’s advice, anyway), I tend to use the porch of my tent for cooking.  There’s plenty of room here, and the front door shown below can be fully opened.


The tent weighs about 1.2 kilos, so I’ll be saving nearly a kilo over the Callum Hord, which given my plans for the summer (TGO Challenge/Pyrenees)will be quite handy.
I’ll report in more detail on my experiences with the tent in due course, but Terry has already used one extensively and has written an excellent review here.   I commend anyone considering buying this tent to read that comprehensive review.
This is the full specification from Terra Nova:

Solar Competition 2 Tent
Offering a stable pole design and ample sleeping space, this
results in a performance tent for serious backpackers.
Sleeps: 2
Season Rating Spec: 3 season backpacking
Free standing?: Yes (tent can be pitched without guying out)
Minimum Weight: 1.1Kg (2lb 7oz)
Packed Weight: 1.17Kg (2lb 9oz)
Pitch Time (estimate): 5 mins
Number of Porches: 1
Number of Doors: 1
Pitch Type: Inner pitch first
Packed Size: 40cm x 15cm
Flysheet: Si/Si Nylon R/S 5000mm
Floor: Si/Pu Nylon R/S 6000mm
Poles: 8.5mm / 8mm DAC H-pole
Pegs: 14 x 2g Titanium
Guylines: 3 x Reflective with Clamcleats
Compatible with Terra Nova FASTPACK system (fastpack weight: 705g)
Note: Due to the super light nature of the material used in the tents construction we are unable to factory seal the seams in a conventional method. However they are positioned and sewn in a way that minimises water penetration and it's possible to add further protection yourself, with seam sealer, to fully waterproof the tent.
£400.00 RRP

New in 2011 the Solar Competition 2 is the perfect compliment to our lightweight Terra Nova range.
It is a simple, quick to pitch lightweight backpacking tent. The tent uses high specification DAC poles and Terra Nova Competition fabrics on the flysheet coupled with our durable lightweight groundsheet. With its stable pole design the Solar Comp 2 offers ample sleeping area and porch for storage, together with exceptional weather protection. Ventilation options front and back for comfort, a fast free standing pitch, and super light weight construction result in a fabulous performance tent for serious backpacking enthusiasts. For travel hot/dry conditions the free standing inner tent can be used on its own. Footprints to extend the life of the groundsheet and extra pegs for bad weather can be purchased separately.
Features: * Small pack size, * Full-length porch area, * Split-pole tail provides enhanced stability, * Innovative inner-tent shape creates
maximum space, * 2g Titanium pegs, * Compatible with Terra Nova Fastpack system.

PS I won’t be changing my pen name to ‘Solar Competition 2’ any time soon – perish that thought!

Update 1 – October 2013
The tent has now seen most, if not all, of its use this year – 10 nights on the TGO Challenge, and 15 nights in the Pyrenees.  The biggest challenge was met on a calm evening in Scotland, when my mis-use of a fire steel nearly set the tent on fire.  My repair to the resultant hole using a small piece of nylon and some seam sealer worked fine.  I’ve slept well throughout those 25 nights, although none of them can be described as testing, there being insufficient wind and rain to slacken the guys enough to entice me out into the wet.  I added two side guy lines and a front guy that got in the way, so I just used it occasionally as a washing line and kept it handy in case of the storm that never came.  The tent is certainly nice and roomy for one person, and any condensation failed to do more than slightly dampen the foot of my sleeping bag.

Update 2 - Easter 2016
The tent blew down in a wind in the Lake District, after breaking a crucial pole. Luckily we were also using two Hilleberg Nallo tents that withstood the wind and had space for the person who was in the SC2. I then encountered serious problems getting a replacement pole from Terra Nova. Whilst I will continue to use the tent, I can no longer recommend either this tent or Terra Nova.



Alan Sloman said...

Thanks for this, Martin
It won't be long before I need to replace Wanda Warmlite and I've been looking around for a while.

I had narrowed the search down to a Silnylon Trailstar (with Oooknest), or a Silnylon Khufu (again with a nest) or an ultralight TN Voyager. I had ruled the SC2 out as I thought it looked vulnerable to cross winds.

It's all very well pitching a tent tail into the wind, but the wind will invariably change direction & strength - even Wanda struggle occasionally from this sort of shift.

Fortunately I don't have to change tents quite yet - Wanda is a tough old bird - but I will be interested to hear how your SC2 fares, as it seems to tick a lot of boxes.

Thanks Martin

afootinthehills said...

I'm not in the market for a new tent, but this does sound interesting and I look forward to hearing how it copes on the Challenge, if put to the test.

I hope the 'new' Webtogs is OK to deal with because I've just bought two pairs (one pair for Lynne) of Targhee II Mids from them!

Callum Hord said...

The Voyager is heavier, Alan. A significant factor for those of us who are starting to feel our age! I hadn't seen the SC2, except in Terry's review, so I bought it purely on his recommendation. I think it'll be stable enough for me - it'll certainly be more stable than the Karrimor Marathon that I was thinking of taking on the Challenge. I'll give you a report in Montrose, though I'm not expecting any testing weather in May.

Gibson, I think certain of Webtogs Ltd's assets were bought by someone who may have been a director of the old company but who wasn't directly responsible for its downfall. I've not bought anything from them since the liquidation, but if you spend enough, and use your credit card, you shouldn't lose any sleep. (This is a reminder to edit my gear reviews, as the liquidator has failed to reply to my very basic questions.)

AlanR said...

Hi Martin,
Looks like a Voyager front with a Big Agnes rear. I like the space and the porch with good head height.
Obviously Alan’s comment about wind direction is true and as long as pegging is minimal it should be quite easy to turn the tent if needs be. I have only ever had to do this once with the TT Moment.

Alan S, if you are seriously thinking of the Voyager speak to Mick and Gayle for a user opinion. i had an interesting chat with Mick last time we met about this very subject.

Callum Hord said...

Alan R, if it's windy I'll have it securely pegged down and it'll just have to cope with changes in wind direction. My experiences of trying to turn tents in such conditions have all met with failure!

BTW Alan, I'm very tempted by the UL7 we discussed yesterday...

AlanR said...

That’s surprising MArtin. I was out last year or the year before on one of the worst nights i have ever slept out. I was on a campsite and i would guess that 75% of tents were blown down. I turned the moment with little difficulty in the dark too. Shows how good the Moment is.

If you want to borrow the UL7 to try it out, feel free.

Callum Hord said...

I'm an expert at converting a tent (full of gear) into a wind sock!

Thanks for the UL7 offer; I may just get one, based on the good reviews.

Gayle said...

Alan S - I shall resist using Martin's blog's comments for a post about our Voyagers, but (as Alan R suggests), if you are thinking of getting one, I'm happy to share our experiences. The Vera Voyager and Susie Superlite are still our tents of choice, but the Superlite does have some disadvantages.

Martin - Given our experience at the end of our E to W walk (just before we bought that 99p plastic dust sheet when we were with you in Fort William...), I would recommend that you seal the seams sometime before you achieve eighty five nights of use of the tent! My theory may be flawed, but I do reckon that the stitch holes become enlarged with extended use, which is why we didn't leak at all for so long, and then leaked so extensively.

Callum Hord said...

Thanks Gayle, I know Terry had no problem, but I suspect you may be right. I'll seal the seams.

Martin Rye said...

If worrying about cross winds then a Khufu like a DuoMid will suffer as well as your new tent Martin. After all any pyramid design that has a short side and long side will result in a steep flat surface catching the wind.

I personally like outer first pitching Martin, so would not always like that tent. But having looked at one I do think it is a good tent. Terra Nova have a bad habit on some of their tents of having the bathtub ground sheet lacking depth – thus being useless if there was a bit of water build up. Yours is ok.

The tent is like a well proven Big Agnes design. But I feel it has a better porch design. It also has a good footprint size for tight pitches and could be used say in the USA on platform camps with ease. A tent that can travel well. Fine choice. Hope it works out well.

Alan the tent you should look at is the Scarp 1. Weight without the crossover poles is the same as Wanda, yet it’s as stable and the crossover poles will make it unbeatable. I have said it many times I regret selling mine seduced with the Trailstar at the time. I am saving for a new Scarp 1. It was and is that good.

Callum Hord said...

Thanks Martin. I guess we all have our own 'tent requirements', and given that I have little fear of cross winds or pitching inner first (it only took a few seconds to get the fly on when I tried it for the first time), the SC2, with a full length sleeping mat, should be excellent for my purposes.

Unknown said...

Hey Martin, what is your hight?
I'm 6.3 tall and I'm whondering if the Sc2 would fit for me...

Regards, Florian

Callum Hord said...

Florian - sorry about the delay, comments on old postings need my approval and I only look for them very occasionally. I seam sealed the tent today and it seems great for my 5ft 8inch height. You may find it a bit tight - your feet may touch the fabric where the tent slopes down at the rear. You should just about fit, though. I'll try to remember to comment at the end of next week when I start to use it on the TGO Challenge.