Terra Nova Laser Compact 2
What makes a good packboating tent? For me doing a bit more Scottish sea kayaking than packrafting these days, super light weight is not that crucial. Better to have something that is easy pitching and spacious so you can sit out rough weather. And then when some packrafting does turn up, have the ability to use just the fly or inner to save weight and bulk. On occasions I’ve used a cheapie tent’s inner as a mozzie dome, just as long as I remember to keep it weighed down before frying up the brekkie on a windy morning in Shark Bay (left).
A couple of mates have used the legendary Hilleberg Nallo for years, so when I found one cheap in the US I gave it a try. Sure, for me the Nallo (left) may have been OTT in an ATGNI sense, but with its reputation and residuals, I knew I’d not lose on it.
I liked the Hillie’s all-in-one pitching, the options to pitch outer (with footprint), inner only (or an optional inner mesh that was also included). This made it as potentially as light as my old Black Diamond Lighthouse, but much roomier. I also like the roomy front end and porch.
I thought it would fit the bill, but getting caught out one winter’s night on the Postman’s Path on the Coigach (below) proved that, while it may stand up to 60-mph blasts like they say, its unsupported flanks flapped like the flags outside the UN building during Hurricane Sandy. My hardcore mate crammed himself into his bivvy bag (left) and had a quieter night, even if he could barely move. On a windy nor’western night, for all that money the Nallo was no quieter than my old Black Diamond.
On top of that, the Nallo may claim to have a floor that’s 220cm long (a minimum requirement for me) and have a huge porch, but the way it slopes down at the back where the blowing wind presses (right, and in the video below) meant I still ended up with an annoyingly damp end to my sleeping bag. Just like the too short Lighthouse.
I’ve since read that Hilleberg recommends pitching a Nallo porch into the wind, but as this discussion suggests, that seems rather counter-intuitive – unzip the door and the thing will fill like a sail while blasting you with horizontal rain every time you get in and out.
They say the Nallo-style tunnel design gives the lightest weight for volume. I’m not sure that’s true anymore, and those unsupported flanks make a racket plus inside, my Nallo was always a saggy affair (right), however I pitched it (left). While paddling the Slate Islands I took the chance to get some good ebay pics and sure enough, flogged it for more a little more than it cost me.
It was good to try the Nallo experience for free, but now I had a better idea what I wanted for my current camping prefs: the Nallo’s better attributes but not in tunnel form. I considered four-pole mountain tents like the famous Quasar or more obscure Crux X2 Storm, but the doors were small, they didn’t do inner or outer only, and prices were a bit high for my low level of usage. Crux’s foam spacers to separate the inner and fly to enable better airflow was an interesting idea – or an admission that condensation was a problem.
More tent spotting uncovered Vaude’s Odyssee which used a similarly stable 3-pole set up while having many of the other features I sought.
Vaude Odyssee L 2P
The Odyssee ticked all the boxes for my sort of camping out of boats or riding a moto.
• Inner and outer attached helps speedy, all-in-one pitching
• 3-pole system copes in strong winds and makes a taught, flapping-reducing pitch.
• Almost self-supporting so can be easily repositioned or pitched on hard surfaces which can’t be pegged
• The steep back end may catch more wind but means the full 220cm inner length can be used. This is a great feature for me – no more diagonal agonies or damp sleeping-bag foot from pressing against a sloping inner, as on the Nallo.
• You can pitch just the outer, saving 700-odd g*, if insects, moles or temperatures aren’t an issue – and I’m pretty sure you can pitch just the inner (saving nearly a kilo) as a mozzie dome.
• Scrunches into a football-sized bundle and the poles break down to 44cm for compact packing.
All these attributes along with the reasonably light weight – ready to go at 2.6kg made the Odyssee 2P a great-value and versatile 1 or 2 person tent. It’s only 280g heavier than my Nallo, and while I presume the fabrics are inferior (“30D ripstop Polyester Silicone/PU coated 3000mm head; floor: 70D Polyamide PU coated 7000mm head”) it was much less than what my Nallo would have cost new.
* My dimensions may not match other sources
The inner ‘washing line’ and loops to attach an optional roof net are handy, as are the pockets by the door. The 75-cm deep porch is smaller than the Nallo but roomy enough, and the zip arrangements make it easy to control ventilation and maintain privacy. I’ve not had much condensation, but that must be just luck and breezy nights. Even with a breeze, the Nallo was terrible for condensation, partly because the flysheet ran right to ground level. The other night, gusts over 20-25mph in the Odyssee woke me up and I lay there thinking ‘she cannae hold, Cap’n’ until I remembered my earplugs and soon fell asleep. I’m told most modern tents with < 4 poles will make a noise in strong winds. As long as you know it’s as well lashed down as can be and can take the hammering, just turn over, plug up and pass out.
First time out one peg bent when pressed in by foot. So I pulled out my bombproof MSR Groundhogs with nifty pull-out loops (right).
The Odyssee takes about ten minutes to pitch without hurrying and some faffing with the footprint (from the old Exped), and will stand with a minimum of two pegs staking out the porch. Two more at the back help make good tension, and using every dang loop and all six guys needs 16 pegs – you’re now ready for a gale and I suppose a pole will snap before it rips (there a pole repair sleeve included).
Other small annoyances are the two long poles catch the fabric pocket seams at the back – make sure the pole ends sit fully in the end of the pockets or you’ll over-tension them when clipping in the front end. And the pole-end locating pegs sometimes come away on the elastic cord which can be fiddly to reposition with the cord knot. I’ve fixed that with a dab of rubber glue.
I’ve only had normal rain until 2018 when I used it on the Tarn without the inner. In really pelting rain verging on hail a light spray came through the fly and there was the odd drip from the seams. Had I used the inner would have settled on that and evaporated later, but it didn’t so all was a little damp. The flat roof doesn’t help. I wonder if even a 3000mm hydrostatic head (over twice normal) is not enough for really heavy and prolonged downpours. I see the Kerlon 1200 on the Nallo is rated at 5000mm. When I got home I sealed most of the roof seams and sprayed it all with Nikwax. We’ll see if it made any difference on the next big downpour.
Inner hangs from the fly; pitches all in one, like a Nallo
Can pitch inner or outer only
Roomy inner in all dimensions
Long, flat roof gives good headroom
Roomy porch; quite easy to get in and out
Stable 3-pole set up
Boring old green
Bendy stock pegs
In pelting rain a light spray passes through the fly if no inner used. Since re-proofed and seam-sealed
Collapsed poles are a bit long at 44cm