This has become an annual event. Another year, another lighter Terra Nova tent. At a quoted weight of 865g, Terra Nova says the Solar Elite has ‘the lightest pack weight of any self-supporting tent’.
Terra Nova makes lighter tents and shelters than this, but it is the phrase ‘self-supporting’ that makes the difference here. This means either the inner or the outer of the tent can be pitched on its own. Pitching the inner, at 550g, is ideal for hot, dry, midgy conditions, found more often in the US. Pitching the outer only, at 580g, works well in hot, dry conditions without midges, which you get can in the UK but, again, more often in the US.
If you can predict the weather this tent is a good weight-saving option, but in the UK that is almost impossible, reducing the advantage of this feature. However, the Solar Elite’s key features for UK users are its ease of pitching, stability and space over Terra Nova’s lighter tents like the Photon Elite.
I stashed the Solar Elite into a rucksack and headed for the hills. The tent actually weighed 886g including the stuffsacks, guylines and spare repair sleeve for the poles. However, it usefully packed down about 7cm shorter than your average light tent.
The Solar Elite goes up very easily, so for anyone who has struggled to pitch light tents – including Terra Nova’s Laser Competition – this is a bonus.
It is also surprisingly stable and flaps much less than other light tents. The porch runs the length of the tent, providing good storage for one person’s gear. The narrow inner tent allowed 6ft me to sit up comfortably, like a bivvy tent with good headroom.
At £350 there are plenty of lower-priced, more spacious and lighter tents. So, I would say the benefits of the Solar Elite for lightweight campers here in the UK include of ease of pitch, great stability and a large living space.
Wet gear, a rucksack and boots can be stored in the porch of this model, which extends the full length of the tent, while still leaving enough space for you to cook.
The self supporting design allows the tent to be pitched inner-only or outer-only with the addition of a groundsheet. This can be a useful weight saver... if you can be sure of the weather!
The tent comes with titanium pegs that weigh just a gram each, but they ‘ping’ away if you are not careful. However when combined with this tent’s free-standing design they work well.
Sleeps 1 person
Design side entry semi-geodesic
Poles 8.5mm aluminium alloy
Flysheet nylon, 2000mm hydrostatic head
Groundsheet nylon, 3000mm hydrostatic head
Internal dimensions length 220cm; width 80cm; height 90cm
Packed size 39x12cm
Made in China
Stockist details tel. (01773) 837373; www.terra-nova.co.uk
Super-lightweight solo backpackers might prefer a lighter tent. But the Terra Nova Solar Elite’s ease of pitch, stability and space make it a fine option for most light weight campers.
Review by Graham Thompson
First published in Trail magazine June 2010