As can be seen from the photo the Laser Photon is a hoop tent similar to the Hilleberg Akto. Hilleberg claims that theirs is the worlds most copied tent. They could be rigth. Like with the Akto the inner tent of the LP is attached to the fly and a couple of struts at each end of the tent that ensures that you get some space over your face and feet while being supine.
The inner tent is ripstop nylon next to the ground and mesh higher up. A pretty good solution that helps venting and still keeps the cold wind off your body while you are sleeping. There is a foretent with adequate space for cooking and storing gear, providing you do not have that much gear. But if you do you might not be into the Laser Photon anyway.
I found the tent a bit tricky to erect with a good fbric tension all over. I ended up not using the bungy loops provided for the tent pegs and putting the pegs through the cross grain loops holding the bungys instead. The pegs themselves seem to be a perennial laughing stock among users. They are very tiny and did not work well in Lapland. They probably work better on a good lawn behind your house. Instead I used my regular combination of pegs; mostle sheep shanks titanium and a couple of sturdier pegs where needed. The tiny pegs that come with the tent might work if you regularly put rocks on top of them to keep them in place, but I do not feel that the 5 grams per peg or so that you save by using them is worth this effort.
Another piece of less useful material was the protective sleeve for the hoop. A heavy and pretty amateurish addition to a nice tent, in my opinion. I skipped it completely, saving a bit of weight. Instead I mixed a bit of silicone from the building shop with white spirits and seam sealed the loop channel. So far no leakage in spite of quite a bit of rain.
The best thing in my mind about the Terra Nova ultra light tents are that they offer a light solution for backpackers who have a difficulty adapting to the thought that mountaineering tents need not be double tents. Many Swedish backpackers do not believe that anything but a double wall hoop or tunnel tent will keep them alive in the summer mountains. Interesting, since lots of people used single fabric A-frame tents while hiking in the mountains all over the world 40-50 years ago.
My current favourite tarptent is the Gossamer Gear The One, which I have used extensively. A couple of years ago I hiked 500 kilometers through the southern parts of the Swedish mountain range during three weeks with The One. It weighs 490 gram, which can compare to the 775 grams for my slightly stripped down Laser Photon. Pegs not included, but loop included for the Laser Photon. For The One I use my hiking poles as tent poles.
I find this slight difference in weight between a light single skin and a light double skin tent very impressive. In my mind this actually means that the weight difference between the two is of no great practical importance unless you are obsessed with using the absolutely lightest gear. Which I am not. So it is really more a question of preference and not weight if you choose the Laser Photon or a tarptent. But more on that later.
I always feel that the derogatory "gram hoarder" is only used to paint a riduculous picture of people that want to have light gear. Personally I claim to be a "kilo hoarder", which puts things in a better perspective for most people. They realize that they can save many kilos, which is meaningful, instead of a few grams, which is ridculous, by looking at lightpacking as an alternative. But since I have hoarded most kilos available, from a baseweight of around 18 kilos 8-10 years ago, to about 6 kilos today, I do not feel any extreme need to save another few grams.
I also think (I have not encountered storm winds in either of these tents) that the Laser Photon will withstand higher winds on the tundra than the GG One. So to sum this advantage up; the LP is a double wall tent that weighs slightly more than the very lightest single skin tarptents on the market and also has a good track record from other users for holding up well in strong winds. This means that it is definetely an alternative for the weight conscious but not too adventorous hiker.
Still, I would bring the GG One 9 times out of 10, compared to the Laser Photon. Why? Simple answer: Ventilation and condensation. Add to this that the One is similar to using a tarp with the foretent rolled up and is easier to erect and use.
In my mind there are two major disadvantages with the LP. One is that it lacks vents, the other is that the innertent door is turned the wrong way around.
Starting with the vents you can in fact improvise some vents, like on the photo above. You simply hook the bottom end of the croos grain loop into the small carabiner on the inside of the fly. Doing this at both ends lets air flow through the tent and minimizes condensation on the inside of the fly. I also always sleep with the main door of the fly as open as possible. If it starts to rain a bit during the night I close it slightly to avoid rain from hitting the inner tent and me. Unless the wind is strong you usually do not need to close the door completely.
This modus operandi has allowed me to spend most nights fairly comfortable in the Laser Photon. Condensation has in fact not been much of a problem except when it has been really damp weather. But I would wish for a top vent, and I would be willing to take the weight penalty this would incur.
I also used only the fly of the Laser Photon as a very protective and, I suspect, wind worthy tarp for the Vålådalen hike with the Nordic Lightpackers. It is amazingly light and spacious to use it this way and can be recommended. The fly on its own weighs a mere 340 grams including the end struts, and the hoop weighs 154 grams. Almost exactly the same weight as the GG One, but withoug bug protection.
Using the Laser Photon as a tarp is excellent both early and late in the season, when there are no bugs. However, during that Vålådalen trip we slept in the forest, where there was no wind. And it rained most of the time, to such an extent that it was no option to leave the door open. So in spite of the makeshift "strut vents" being used, condensation was prodigous.
OK, so what at about the door to the inner tent. Well, the door fastens at the bottom and has an arched zipper. This means two major disadvantages compared to the tent doors that fasten at the top and has a zipper at the bottom instead; L-type. One; when you want to get into the tent in bug season you have to open the whole great hole and crawl in, compared to crawling through a hanging curtain that will just open enough to let you through, hopefully scraping some mosquitous of your back in the process.
The second disadvantage of this particular tent door solution is in my mind worse. When the bugs are swarming I like to sit in my tent and cook in the foretent. This is also nice when the breakfast weather is less than inviting. It is then perfect to have a curtain of mesh hanging down, and having the zipper at the bottom unzipped. Very few bugs will find their way in down there and you can stick your hands out and stir the pot or whatever. The "non-curtain door" of the LP makes this impossible. In order to use your hands close to the ground you have to open the whole gate, from top to, almost, bottom. The bugs do love that, I will tell you.
Packraft and Laser Photon on a bright summers evening, near Abisko, Lapland.
To sum things up I find the Laser Photon a pretty good double wall tent, that feels reasonably safe and comfortable. Sacrifices have been made to save weight, you cannot expect everything and also low weight. It is a suitable tent for hikers who do not feel comfortable with a single skin tent or a tarp in the exposed areas of northern Scandinavia, but still do not want the weight of a 4-season bomb proof contraption for use in summertime. Since last year Laser Photon has been replaced by the even lighter Terra Nova Laser Photon Elite. Keeps you wondering what superlative will be added to the next edition. Superduper? Anyway, Terra Nova has managed to shave another 100 grams or so, which is impressive.
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