The perfect Mountain Leader tent? (Written Nov '18, updated Aug '19)
I spent months procrastinating over which tent to buy. I wanted a really light one person tent. A proper tent though, not a total coffin like a hooped bivi because they’re not conducive to a happy night in typical UK weather.
Step up the Nordisk Telemark 1, I’ve reviewed it previously but I’ve now used it for a season of Mountain Leader courses.
I wanted to love it. I did love it. I no longer love it.
It’s a 1 main pole tent, with 4 mini poles that stay attached, which is asymmetrical in profile.
In typical Clarkson fashion I’ll flatter the Nordisk with praise to start with…
It’s 880 grams and packs really small, that makes me very happy! I can carry my fair share of weight, and have done over the years, but I’d rather not. My last tent of this type was the ubiquitous Terra Nova Laser Comp which is about 1kg. The Nordisk is noticeable lighter and smaller when packed.
Despite it’s lightness and packed size it feels relatively spacious in side, plenty of length for all 6’3” of me, plenty wide enough to have shuffle room and space for kit. I can also just about sit up in it – not that you’d always want to… see later on in the review! The porch is fine as well, plenty of room for an empty pack, wet stuff, boots, cooking and curled up Cocker Spaniel. These type of tents are never going to have cavernous porches but this one is good and although I don’t really use the feature, you can make the porch slightly bigger at the expense of inside space as the inner is on a slider. What I really like about the interior is that the ends are square so you don’t have the inner fabric right in your face, unlike my older Laser. What else inside? Well it’s got a decent pocket which feels like a luxury after the zero pockets in the Laser and the zippers come with pull tags (had to put my own on the Laser). The inner door works well and like any other tent can be secured back. Thats about it for the inner.
The outer has proved to be completely waterproof after a season of Mountain Leader courses and it’s easy to pitch the tent nice and tightly. The door works well, the pole slides through easy enough and it pitches inner and outer together, keeping the inner dry if rain is coming down.
(Not that bad really) I had to put another couple of guy lines on the Nordisk to help keep it from flapping in poor (normal!) weather. This is a real bugbear of mine, I wish tent manufacturers would all just ship the finished article especially at this price point. While the tent is pretty stable it has quite big panels which have no guy line options so the tent inevitably becomes a bit flappy in breezy weather, although it seems better than the Laser. The flapping however leads to the outer touching the inner.
Condensation. Condensation. Condensation.
This tent is, sadly, flawed. I have never had a tent come remotely close to being this bad for condensation. I knew it could be an issue before my purchase but I told myself I’d be good at leaving the outer door vent open (it has a stiffened peak), I don’t spend a massive amount of time in the tent (night nav fun times on ML courses!), I keep wet stuff in the porch, I don’t cook a lot (one pan of water) and it always seems to be windy on ML weeks (thought this would keep a good draught going).
Every morning though, it’s an issue. My sleeping bag gets wet. I get “rain” drops on my face, when I sit up or touch the inner fabric I get wet. On it’s last outing I had to resort to using my spare dry t shirt to wipe down the inner.
ML training courses involve 1 night camping, so it’s manageable. ML assessment courses are 2 nights and the condensation becomes a bigger problem. On the plus side it does dry quickly…
The silly thing is, I still love this tent and I want it to work! I don’t know what I will replace it with. The Laser Comps slap me in the face when it’s breezy as my heads always right at the end due to my height. I checked out some of the MSR lightweight ones and reviews talk about massive condensation issues. Maybe a Hilleberg? They’re expensive but I don’t mind spending the cash if they’re going to work.
We’ve only got one ML course left this year so I’ll definitely persevere with this tent for one more exped, but I may well change allegiance next year. 880 grams though!
Nordisk Telemark 1 LW, RRP £400 (available closer to £300)
(Paid for myself)
2019 Long term update!!!
I’ve used this tent quite a lot now, in all sorts of weather and so have a good idea of how it performs.
I was very excited when I bought this tent. It’s 830 grams, packs super small and has a good amount of space for the type of tent it is.
Pitching the tent is doddle, inner and fly together and just the one lightweight pole, peg out the 4 corners and you’re done. In comparison I always found the Terra Nova Laser a little bit of faff to get nicely square and taught. I’ve added one guy line on either side and this helps with stability a little when the wind picks up – it’s a shame it doesn’t have more potential guy points though, the large panels are pretty prone to being flappy. A few minutes and your mini home is up and ready.
Open up the side entrance door and you see the inner can slide in and out a little so you can alter the floor space to porch size ratio, I always make the inner as big as possible, and it still leaves plenty of space for kit and the dog. You can do something funky with the porch using the mini end poles, but I’ve never bothered.
Inside the space is ok. Long enough for me at 6’3”, plenty wide enough (even if the dog’s allowed in when the weather’s poor). The head space in the end is better for me that the Laser, its a much nicer shape, which means I get slapped in the face by tent fabric a lot less! It sounds minor but its got a massive side pocket for your bits and bobs too which is ace, a small point but it makes life loads easier.
So far so good, however in true Jeremy Clarkson fashion though, there’s a big but…
When the weather is not great, this tent sucks. When the wind blows the outer touches the inner, add in some rain and it’s virtually impossible to not get a wet sleeping bag. That’s just lying still as well! When it comes to getting dressed in the morning or whatever, you’re definitely going to touch the sides a get wetter. It keeps the rain off just fine, but the problem of outer touching inner is a big one.
Condensation. Good grief this is sometimes virtually unmanageable. I try and get the outer zip as open as possible, but I use it in the UK, it’s often wet so it can’t be cranked right open. Some mornings I wake up and am literally getting rained on from condensation, someone messaged me to say they take a bevy bag with them…
The trouble with the negative points is that they effect my nights sleep, so I’m not as fresh and raring to go compared to if I’ve had my regulation 8 hours.
Would I recommend this tent for UK mountain use? I don’t think so. The trouble is though that these kind of tents are inherently a compromise, I’ve never found the perfect one. With a good forecast I’m going to continue using this tent, but I’m in the market for a new slightly larger, slightly heavier tent for when the forecast is not so good, maybe another Terra Nova Voyager Super Lite.