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Gear Photos

Gear Review: Terra Nova Solar Photon 2

Tax return burning a hole in your pocket? How about blowing it on a feathery-light shelter for two?

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I’ve carried tent poles that are heavier and bulkier than the Solar Photon 2. If you’re looking to lighten up this year, this tent is worth considering.

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People were consistently astounded by how light this tent is. Considering the packed weight (which includes tent, fly, poles, stakes, stuffsacks and repair kit) comes in at under two and a half pounds, it’s certainly an understandable reaction.

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The compact design and lightweight materials make it easy for one person to carry, set up, and even clean (as pictured). Unfortunately it also meant that I got stuck doing all three while my girlfriend relaxed by Yosemite’s Merced River.

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Full disclosure: This tent is not for the claustrophobic. There is enough room to sit up and change, but don’t buy this and expect the Taj Mahal.

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Interior organization is limited to two corner pockets, but if you’re traveling light, you shouldn’t have too much extra gear anyways. Lengthwise, there was also room for my 6’0″ frame and extra gear at the foot of the tent, so I didn’t feel too cramped.

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The tent is supported by a single Y-shaped hubbed pole, and clips make for a quick and easy setup. The hub design creates enough headroom at the front of the tent, but the walls slope quickly towards the back.

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Some of the weight savings can be contributed to the lean 8/8.5mm DAC Featherlite poles. They’re a lot skinnier than most poles you may be used to, but they didn’t feel weak. I suggest carrying a pole splint just in case, though.

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Although it’s technically a freestanding tent, the inside feels a lot roomier and you’ll get better ventilation if you stake out the bottom corners. I wished for extra stakeout points half way between the front and rear stakes for an even tauter pitch.

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Although they appear to be titanium toothpicks, these are actually the stakes, which obviously help slash the overall weight. I was pleasantly surprised when they held their ground well, just as long as I pressed them all the way into the dirt.

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Terra Nova markets this as a 3/4 season tent, which explains the limited amount of mesh. But I’m skeptical about the frame’s ability to endure even a light snowload, so I’d consider this a three-plus-season tent. (Note: My testing took place in April.)

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There wasn’t any rain fly leakage after an overnight downpour in Yosemite. The hooded vent provided adequate ventilation, and it also let me sneak a peek outside to check conditions without getting wet.

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The vestibule is hardly gigantic, but we were able to fit two lightweight weekend packs and two pairs of boots. Of course, the gear blocked the entrance, but climbing over it is a small price to pay to keep everything dry.

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The tent is stable when fully guyed out, and it stood strong during a blustery night above Yosemite Falls.

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Bottom Line: If you prefer uber-light to uber-luxurious and want three-plus season performance, the Solar Photon 2 is the exemplar nonpareil.

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The Specs
Packaged Weight (Tent, Poles, Fly, Stakes, Stuff Sacks, Repair Kit):
2 lbs. 2 oz.

Photos and text by Will Rochfort.

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