Review: Terra Nova Superlight Solar 2.2

Normally I wouldn’t review a piece of kit this quickly; the tent is barely a month old. But this is a new piece of kit that is causing a lot of excitement and I have just finished using it for 14 nights, backpacking across Scotland. As usual Scotland’s weather helped put the tent through its paces.

TGO-2007-064
Superlight Solar vestibule in action in Scotland

For the last five or six years, my backpacking, two person, tent of choice was the Hilleberg Nallo. This is a fine tent and, indeed, regularly wins the best two person tent endorsement from both Trail and TGO magazines. But a few weeks before setting off for Scotland the door zip of the Nallo failed completely. There not being enough time to guarantee repair and return we decided to try the Superlight Solar 2.2, after reading a complementary review by Chris Townsend in TGO.

I should say, upfront, that the Superlight Solar is a superb piece of kit.

I’ve always been somewhat bewildered by the old-style Solar 2. It was an interesting tent but the door arrangement was such that one person often had to clamber over another to get out of the door which was simply – well – not cool.

The new Superlight Solar 2.2 is made of the same lightweight materials as the Laser Competition. As a result the tent comes in at about the 2 kilogram mark, but the tent has now gained a second vestibule. Now that each ‘resident’ of the tent now has their own entrance, and storage space, this tent has been transformed.

Vestibules

In practice the two vestibules work wonderfully. We were both able to organise our vestibule space to our own systems (which is something of a bonus when backpacking for days on end). Indeed, my own space was as cavernous as the vestibule in my Akto, in fact it was a pure joy to simply adopt my Akto arrangement in a two person tent. One of the vestibules is slightly bigger than the other but both are more than adequate. Add the vestibule space together and there is significantly more useable space here than in the Nallo.

Inner Tent

Our biggest shock when the Superlight arrived was the inner tent. This seemed significantly narrower than that of the Nallo. But in use the inner was more than comfortable enough. A bonus was that all of the inner tent was useable. When conditions are cold, and condensation is rife, the Nallo can present some problems. The inner and the outer fly are often close together and if you accidentally sleep against the side water can come through. The bottom cone section of the Nallo is particularly prone to this problem, meaning that it can often only be used for storing gear and stuff sacks.

Over the two weeks the Superlight Solar inner tent proved to be both spacious and comfortable; there were no water seepage problems. The inner is long, making it more than suitable for someone well over six feet tall.

Pitching Inner First

Pitching the inner first was also new to us. In honesty there are advantages to both this system and the other in which the inner and outer go up as one.

On a number of occasions we pitched the inner in torrential rain. While we were faffing about – and before we got really slick at putting the tent up – the inner remained dry and comfortable inside. There really was no problem in pitching inner first.

The system does have a real advantage when taking down the tent. The inner and outer can be easily stored in separate stuff sacks, keeping the inner dry. We continued to use the single sack that the tent came in and, even so, saw some benefit. Once the inner is stuffed away it is easy to shake down the outer and even in rain this seemed to shed quite a bit of rain. A sodden two person tent is dramatically heavier than its dry equivalent. Even so, a Superlite Solar – stored when wet – seemed lighter than the Nallo (after shaking down the fly). And having the two skins separate to each other meant that it was easier to dry out the fly during a day stop. If I’d have really been clever I’d have stored the wet fly in the mesh pocket on the front of my pack; no doubt it would have shed more water as I moved.

Stability

This year’s Challenge was pretty windy, indeed the wind speeds when we were in and around Braemar were pretty dramatic. I always pitched the tent with the inner length-ways into the wind; this helps keep both vestibule entrances out of the wind. But the Superlight Solar can take winds from every angle. Once up the tent takes on a kind of irregular hexagonal shape, which is very good for shedding wind.

In bad weather the tent was comfortable, stable and dry.

The Best Two Person Backpacking Tent Available?

There are certainly lighter two person tents available. The Big Agnes Seedhouse II is certainly lighter, but it’s vestibule is very small and cooking inside of it is pretty risky. When backpacking in Scotland like climates for days on end, the ability to cook inside of the porch is pretty important. The ME Ultralight is lighter but nowhere near as stable.

All in all we were both very impressed with the Superlight Solar 2.2. Split between two people the Solar breaks down to almost two loads of 1 kg each (tent and poles seperate). This meant that my own base-weight was on a par for last year’s solo Challenge, if not a little lighter.

I always thought that the Nallo was the best all round backpacking tent for two people. Both Kate and I are agreed that the Superlite Solar is better and that’s praise indeed!

The Superlight Solar 2.2 may well be the ideal, lightweight, two person, backpacking tent. I confidently expect to see a number of these on next year’s Challenge, such was the interest being shown in it on campsites.

Terra Nova have another big hit on their hands.

Terra Nova Superlight Solar 2.2
The ”hexagonal” shape of the Superlight Solar.

Comments

  1. markmcgladdery says

    Hi,
    Just trying to find out about the 30% off trade-in. I rang both Ellis Brigham and Taunton Leisure and both claimed to know nothing about it through their shops! Obviously would be a big saving, rather than going direct to Terra Nova.
    I’m probably being stupid – can anyone advise!? Ta!

  2. Phil Dean says

    The 30% discount is offered directly from T/N. Visit their Home page, then click, product information and then ‘the great tent trade in’ written in green.
    The use of my Solar is going well and i have now used it several times. There is some condensation but the usual amount with any tent. A pool of water sometimes forms on top of the inner but nothing too worrying. I have changed my Solar’s pegs with titanium ones with painted heads as suggested by Andy and I have married my Solar’s pegs up with my Laser Comp and I threw those silly things in the bin which came with the Laser!
    After I commited to buying my Solar from the Outdoor Shop I did find a slightly better price so I reckon that it is possible to find a price around £250. The Instructions which come with the Solar are pretty vague and I have just only realised this weekend that there is a front and back to this tent! I hear most saying that entry can be gained on both sides. I know this. I originally thought that the inner was symmetrical and have realised it is not when cooking in the porch with my jetboil. The tapes which accommodate the pole – should be red towards the front. I am really pleased with the Solar and it is a great tent.
    Good hunting for the best price.

    Phil

  3. Hi,
    i know this has already been asked but can you definitely put a bike in the larger porch either on it’s stand or flat. It would be nice to hear from somebody who has actually tried rather than assuming. I have the Akto but need a little more space and comfort as well as knowing my £1500 bike won’t have gone walkies in the morning.
    Many thanks.
    Peter
    PS. John hi, can’t seem to see your pix from the two links you left.

    • Hmm Peter I would need to check. My impression is that you could, certainly in the bigger of the two vestibules. The smaller vesitbule is still big enough to cook in if need be. I’ll see if I can find to check this out over the weekend.

  4. Good reviews it seems. I’m actually in Australia altho came across terra nova tents and have gone from being set on the quasar, now to the solar 2.2.
    One question I have though: will this be big enough for me at 6’5″ and my better half, who is 5’7″ and petite? Also, we are planning on using this in Tasmania over the summer (Dec down this end of the earth!) Is the Solar more suitable than the semi-geo, and slightly heavier, Quasar? I read somewhere the Quasar is more of a highe mountain tent

  5. Chris,

    For width the tent should be fine. I’m 6 foot and have quite a bit of space left over so you should be OK but you might want to just email Terra Nova to check.

    IMHO the Solar is a better option than the heavier Quasar. My Solar has taken a real pounding in the high mountains and has proved to be very stable.

  6. Thanks Andy – I also just read a review on Outdoors Magic about the Solar saying the door design made it easier for the taller …er… tenter.
    I am definitely swaying towards the Solar Superlight 2.2 – just need to work out the cheapest place to get one!

  7. Richard Burton says

    Would someone please tell me the weight of the inner and outer together, excluding poles and pegs? With our Voyager, my girlfriend carries the latter and me the inner/outer, which ways 2kG. Interested to see how much lighter I will be. Thanks.

  8. hi andy what is an accurate weight for complete tent including pegs that work!! ta peter ps whats best anybody has seen this for recently? many thanks

  9. hi what weight is this tent andy? with useable pegs?? and whats best price anyone’s seen recently?? many thanks peter

  10. Steve Fowkes says

    I actually emailed Terra Novas several years ago pleading with them to make the solar a 2 vestibule tent saying that it would be a winner – looks like they took my advice !

  11. Neil Patterson says

    I think that I might have bought one of the last Solar 2 tents. I bought it as a solo tent and it weighs in the same as the 2.2. It is a magnificent piece of kit. It is very stable in high winds and sheds water very effectively. Problems with pooling on the roof are most likely caused by the tension on the front guy ropes being too tight. This pulls what should be the slightly higher pole down too much and this can result in pooling.

  12. I think the same is true about the guys on the 2.2 Neil. As a general rule guy lines should be left with some slack in them.

  13. Hi – Thanks for all the posts on the 2.2. Realy really helpful – amazing that your pages came up Andy – thank you Internet. This sounds without a doubt the best tent for me, 2 up on a m/bike around UK. Currently found cheapest on http://www.uttingsoutdoors.co.uk for gbp 295.99 incl dely. Will give it a day or so before I buy.

    • N Papa — I’ve certainly had no problems using this tent. The two vestibules really do work well. Hope the ride goes well!

  14. thanks everyone!

    Quick question: Like another post I am weighing up between the Superlight Solar 2.2 and the Superlite Quasar. Would appreciate any more thoughts on which comes out on top. Thanks.

    • The Quasar is a kilogram heavier and is really in a different category — think more towards four seasons and heavier, winter, mountain experiences.

      It depends what your use is. For normal hiking and backpacking — even in winter — I would go for the Solar. Not only is it lighter but it has the two porch system which is superb for two people. Living with two porches over three, two weeks or even two days is far more comfortable. Pitching and unloading is easy because each person can keep their own system without interfering with anyone else.

      My Super Solar has coped with Pyrenean storms quite happily and has been used a fair amount in the winter without mishap.

      these are lightweight tents aimed at those who want to carry less weight and I’m not sure why you would want to carry the Quasar. Whether these materials are really up to real winter punishment I;’m not sure.

      So, for me, it would be the Solar!

  15. Hi Andy – thanks for the feedback. I went to try them both out yesterday.

    I was really surpised how narrow the solar is… fine for lying down but there was not much breathing space. Have you used it much with two people? Do the 2 porches really compensate for the smaller interior.

    I then tried the superlight quasar – so that comes in at 2.5 kg (same design as the quasar but same fabric as the solar). Much more space inside but the front and rear entrances, compared with the solar’s side entrances, were not as impressive.

    I am trying to make the solar work so I think the big question is how does it fair up for two people, or should i suck up another 0.5 kg for much more space.

  16. Ian – am not sure if you’ve already bitten the bullet and bought yet, but if not I can let you know (with the benefit of hindsight) I’d go for the extra space. While the Solar is lightweight and strong, there is limited space in there for sleeping. I’m 6ft 5 and while the length was fine while lying down I did often wake up face against the nylon! In summary, great tent but if I was buying again, I’d look for some extra width

  17. stefanve says

    Hello,

    I got this tent +/- 2 years ago after reading this review (they should give you a cut af the profits I guess 🙂 ) but I used it only once , we where planing to use it soon after but we never did. until last weekend. since I kept the tent in the back the outer tent is now wrinkly. we didn’t have any rain but I’m wondering if this could be a problem and if any thing can be done

    thanks,

    stefan
    The Netherlands

  18. Hi Andy. Brilliant review. Am considering buying this tent as want a bigger porch space than the voyager superlite.
    One question – although very light, terra nova quotes its pack size as 55x20cm, which seems a very large diameter for a tent this weight (voyager only 14cm diameter). Can’t find a shop that has it in stock to check it out for real, so any info on its size when packed would be great. Thanks.

    • Alice,
      The SS 2.2 packs into a oversize stuffsack. You’ll be grateful of this when things are wet. However, once packed you can ‘crunch’ the stuffack down considerqbly. Stash the poles separately.

  19. Good tent. I bought it a couple of years back. Haven’t used it that much as I prefer Hilleberg Staika unless weight is a huge issue. Great use of space though. Only one caveat: it has a flat roof and rain water can pool there, making the roof sag, and at best cause outer and inner to touch, causing condensation to drip through, or actual rain to drip through if you haven’t seam-sealed the fly. (Should the owner really have to carry out their own water-proofing on a £400 tent?) Terra Nova have made a slight ammendment to the fly (added a light tension band at the top to form a ridge when the rain falls) but this doesn’t quite work. Terra Nova say problems are down to ‘incoorect pitching’ but I say it’s incorrect design/testing/manufacture. Still a good tent but flawed. I would like to see Terra Nova have another go at refining the Solar 2.2 to solve this pitching problem because otherwise it’s excellent. I have much more confidence in my Staika, but then it is 3.7kg!

    • Paul, while it is true that a little water can collect at the top of the tent this can easily be pushed away fro inside of the tent. I’ve never had a problem with leakage and have never had to seam seal it. Next time you put it up do so in an area that is flat. Look carefully and you will see there is a natural slope in the roof. On uneven ground it is easy to counter act the effect of the slope!

      And no — they don’t tell you that in the manual!

  20. Thanks Andy. To be honest I’ve never been rained on in this tent myself, though a friend has; in July we both spent a week in a field in Sweden and it rained a lot. I was bone dry in my Staika, despite rising ground water causing groundsheet to float a bit, but the friend in the Solar 2.2 (who was camped on higher ground) did get dripped on in the night. I’m guessing it was condensation coming through because the fly was being pressed against the inner by the pool of water, but yesterday I seam-sealed it anyway in the garden.

    I spoke to Terra Nova last week, and in the course of ordering some replacement pegs was told the pooling is a pitching issue. I was given some advice about which holes to put which poles in to maintain that front-to back slope you speak of, but try as I might, the roof is still almost flat. It’s raining now and I’ve been standing in the garden looking at it, making adjustment and pouring jugs of water on the roof to test it. I think part of the problem is a kind of ‘puckering’ on the top seam at the front (the seam that runs parallel to the longer, blue pole) and that puckering makes the fly a bit loose and baggy right at the top, especially on one side of the tension band, allowing water to collect there. If the fly was taut there would be no problem and any water would roll off to the side.

    I think I’ll speak again to TN as I think I’ve got a bit of a stitching fault. This is actually the second flysheet; the original had much more obvious puckering in the same place (as if the thread tension on the sewing machine was too high?) Blacks swapped out the flysheet and this one is much better but still not quite right. I wish now I had been fussier and rejected the second fly as well.

    And yes, you can easily push the water off from the inside, but my friend didn’t manage to do that as he was asleep (which is reasonable) and so suffered a wet sleeping bag.

    (I do feel slightly guilty for making my friend test the tent for me! – I think I’ve never felt confident of it because the pitch never looked quite right when garden-tested, so I’ve always taken a tried’n’tested tent instead. I’d like to get it sorted though as the Staika is really too heavy for solo backpacking and I also have more trips to Sweden planned and would love to be able to go with hand luggage only.)

  21. Oh, and in answer to Alice, 5 measured the poles at 52cm long, and yes, the main bag is 20cm or so in diameter but that’s with the tent packed VERY loosely. It’s a light and compact tent and you could compress the bag down to 10cm I guess, or better yet, stuff the inner and fly into stuff sacks and carry the poles seperately.

  22. Update on water pooling issue: looking at your photographs Andy, I can see that your tent does not have the manufacturing ‘fault’ that mine has, and which I’ve seen on several other Solar 2.2’s. Your flysheet seams appear to line up well with the poles, whereas all other 2.2’s I’ve seen have the seams shifted (towards the back of the tent) by an inch or more, so that the top seam at the front is well behind the pole (about an inch in my case) and so that the side guying points are rear of the pole intersections by a good couple of inches. To my mind there is definitely a manufacturing fault here. I’m told by TN that the latest Solar 2.2 tents were made in one batch a couple of years ago and they have recently sold out. I’m guessing that yours was an earlier one (?) and that it was made a bit better. I think, with slight modification, which TN are happy to carry out, that this tent of mine will work fine in practice, but they have never (of course) admitted there was a manufacturing fault, and the fact that so many tents were allowed to go out to shops in the condition they were (at best, they were ‘seconds’) doesn’t inspire confidence for any future tent purchases. I’ve persevered because I think the design is great. I hope TN continue the tent and get it manufactured to a standard to match the clearly excellent design.

  23. The Wild Country tent you’re referring to is, I think, the Burrian. I bought one on Ebay a couple of years ago and it’s been nothing sort of superb. We did a 3.5 month cycle tour round Europe in most weather conditions and it never let us down once. I’m surprised Terra Nova dropped it; or perhaps they didn’t now that I’m looking at the Solar 2.2.

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