Kings of all-things ultra-lightweight, Derbyshire based Terra Nova have set an impressive standard with products such as their staggering 720g Laser Proton Elite tent. Having already produced a range of packs for 2009, in 2010 they're going down their familiar super minimalist line and planetFear got our hands on one of their prototypes.
Picking it up I got that immediate, and almost magical, sense of lightness and the feel is very similar to some of the other ultra-light "parachute" material packs on the market such as the OMM. On first glance, most of the key features are there such as gel/bar sized pockets on the waist-band, water bottle sized mesh compartments and exterior bungees for compression and attaching additional kit.
Missing though is a traditional main compartment closure system, instead it relies on a Velcro fastening combined with a roll and clip similar to what you'd see on a dry-bag. A great idea from a safety perspective and for satisfying kit requirements on overnight races was making the whole pack out of light reflective material.
Loading up, I was surprised by how much the Terra Nova could absorb and, because of the closure system, almost all of the interior volume is available to you. However, I did struggle to fit in the standard kit I'd carry for a two-day Mountain Marathon and it's definitely more suited to day outings, ultras and longer fell/mountain events. Annoyingly, the Velcro did keep on closing itself and was quite tricky to prise apart. With cold fingers this could be a nightmare but Terra Nova assure us that on the production model there will be tabs to remedy this. The side mesh pockets happily and securely accommodated a couple of 750ml bottles.
With a full-load on board the pack still felt nicely compact and with the bungees cinched down sat snugly on my back. I did miss the security of a chest-strap and it's an ideal place to incorporate a whistle. However, setting off for a run, there was minimal bounce and everything, including the water bottles, stayed where it should.
Stripping the load down to what I'd typically take for a 20-30 miler on the hills, I did hit upon a problem. With the smaller load in I rolled the top down as far as I could, cinched in the bungees and fully tightened the additional compression sac. However, this left the bottom half of the pack, where the gear was, totally uncompressed. Putting the pack on, the load sagged down and bounced irritatingly against my back as I ran. Considering, that this sort of length outing and this sort of load would be my most regular use of the pack I was a bit disappointed. However, all it would take to remedy this would be either cross bungees extending all the way down to pack to an anchor point on the bottom or a vertical compression strap. This sorted, Terra Nova would have an excellent pack that I'd certainly use on a regular basis and give a full compliment of stars.
Since publishing the review we have been informed by the good folk at Terra Nova, that we were using the buckles to close the sac incorrectly. To clarify how the sac should be closed they have supplied an image to illustrate the point. Thanks TN, still gets 5 stars though.
|Terra Nova Laser 20L Elite|
|With the Laser 20 Elite Pack, ..|
|Weight? - 29/09/2009|
|Seems to me there is one over-riding reason to buy this bag, which unfortunately you don't mention.|
|Weight - answer - 29/09/2009|
|weight is a ridiculous 210g... I'll be using it for the Longmynd 50 ultra this weekend and posting some further thoughts and musings after that.|