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Tent Review
TERRA NOVA VOYAGER XL


Introduction

Terra Nova Voyager XLThe requirements for a good cycle-touring tent are pretty simple: it needs to be lightweight - ideally less than 2.5kg for a 2-man - easy to pitch, absolutely waterproof and stable in high winds. What my wife and I discovered when we pedaled from the UK to Central Asia is that you also need a big porch to store your kit in. We didn't have one and ended up having to leave most of our panniers outside the tent every night.

With its extended porch, the new Voyager XL from Terra Nova looks like a tent that ticks all the above boxes. We put it to the test on a 2 week self-supported cycling tour of northern Scotland.

Design

Voyager XL
Sleeps: 2
Rating: 4 seasons
Weight: 2.43Kg
Poles: 4 x 9mm DAC
Flysheet: Nylon Hydrostatic Head 6000mm
Grounsheet: Nylon Hydrostatic Head 7000mm
Price: RRP 490, Web 390
The XL is essentially a three pole geodesic tent with a single hoop of a tunnel tent added on the front to enlarge the porch. This design works much better than it sounds - you get a lot of extra room for not much more weight. Unlike some of the tunnel tents it competes with, the inner is free standing, which is handy for hot dry countries where you don't want to bother with the flysheet.

Pitching

Terra Nova Voyager XLPitching the XL is quick and easy. The inner goes up first as for a standard geodesic by inserting the three poles into the sleeves and securing them to eyelets. I particularly liked the small channels cut into the ends of poles that help secure them in the eyelets.
There was a long blue strap attached to the rear of the inner tent, which we couldn't figure out what to do with and wasn't mentioned in the pitching instructions. Eventually we decided it was supposed to clip on to the front hoop of the inner to stop it slipping forward.

Once the inner tent is up and pegged out, the fourth pole is inserted into the sleeve on the outside of the flysheet and secured to form the hoop of the porch. The flysheet is then slipped over the inner and the whole thing pegged out. The neat little tensioners on the guy ropes help make this a very quick process.

At first sight I thought the lightweight titanium pegs looked a bit weedy and wouldn't be up to the job if we had to pitch the tent on stony ground. But in practice they worked fine - they were plenty stiff enough and seemed to find their way between stones more easily than the thicker alloy alternatives.

Performance

Terra Nova Voyager XLIt rained every day of our two-week tour of Scotland, so the XL's waterproofing got a thorough testing. Sitting out torrential, gale-driven rainstorms I had nothing better to do than look for leaks, but I never found any evidence of water getting through the flysheet. And, when we were dumb enough to pitch the tent in a dip that turned into a puddle overnight, there was no seepage through the bath tub ground sheet.

Neither did we have any problems with condensation. There is good separation between the flysheet and the inner, so they never touched, and the sizeable vent at the front ensured a good airflow. One thing we did notice was that the large surface area of the flysheet made the rain sound worse than it really was.

The tent proved very stable in high winds. I had been concerned that the extra length might be a problem in side winds, but with seven guys the tent felt bombproof where ever the wind was coming from.

Use

Terra Nova Voyager XLOver our two week trip we found the XL really well suited to cycle-touring. Split between the two of us two, the 2.43 kg weight was easily manageable. The cavernous porch proved a real boon. We were able to fit all 8 of our panniers in it with room left over for one person to sit in it. In bad weather we were able to change in and out of our waterproofs without getting the inner wet. And with two entrances, there was always one where we could sit and cook out of the wind.

One of the few things we weren't a 100% happy with were the zips on the porch entrance flaps. These felt just a bit too flimsy and jammed on the nearby fabric several time. Once closed, these zips are secured with little fiddly plastic catches and velcro tabs, neither of which seemed worth having.

We liked the inner tent a lot. The white, nylon fabric gives it a light, airy feel and made it a pleasant place to sit out bad weather. For a lightweight tent, it is comfortably spacious for two people and their kit. There are neat corner pockets at ceiling level on either side and the person the right has a cavernous pocket lower down - it would be nice if there was a similar one on the left. It wasn't exactly sub-zero in Scotland in May, but it was chilly enough for us to appreciate how snug the inner was once it was zipped up.

Quality

Apart from a few loose threads on the inner zip, we couldn't fault the workmanship on the XL.

Verdict

Score: 9/10
All things considered, the Vovager XL is a great tent for two-person cycle-touring or trekking. It's light, spacious, 100% waterproof and very stable in high winds. The only minor criticism I have is with the quality of the zips on the flysheet. From a wet two weeks in Scotland to a round the world trip, this is a tent I would be more than happy to have in my panniers.




Copyright © Tim Barnes 2007