Outdoor Gear Objects of Desire #2
Posted by Neil | March 30, 2011
The Terra Nova Quasar
This object of desire is not just some shiny piece of kit, but actually had a place in a significant moment of my life; the start of my love of the outdoors...so allow me to take you back to the halcyon days of my early teens, around 1994.
I was just starting my Bronze Duke of Edinburgh Award with my local Air Cadet squadron and we'd reached the expedition practice, so I was packed with gear and sent on my way. Reaching our camp-site we pitched our borrowed tent (an old cotton Force Ten which weighed a tonne - if you've used one you'll know what I'm talking about) when I noticed the Silver DofE group with a compact yellow and green marvel which they seemed to pitch within minutes with no fuss. Best of all it looked sleek, aggressive and most of all, strong. Being a curious sort I wandered over to have a poke about and my love affair with the Terra Nova Quasar began.
Lacking money through my late teens I concentrated on climbing, running and day-walks and eventually found myself working at an outdoors shop (where I have remained for the past 11 years) and at this point, surrounded by tents of all sizes and shapes, I became aware of exactly how awesome and special the Quasar really is.
The Quasar is to me, a perfect form of design, beauty and function. If someone asked me to draw a picture of a tent, I would end up drawing a Quasar!
It uses four aluminium poles which cross in 5 places through continuous poles sleeves, in a geodesic design (why geodesic designs are so strong is a matter for another blog though), and this provides simply exceptional strength and wind-resistance.
One of the best experiments I saw was that when pitched, you could press down (very hard) on the central point of the tent and it would hardly move. When correctly pegged it could resist a good kicking from the sides (to simulate wind obviously), and it was still light and small enough to be easily carried by two.
The Quasar has stuck by the same basic design for over 20 years, and this is a testament to its performance. It is also one of the very few tents in which a version is made in the UK rather than mass-produced overseas, and the UK versions are made individually so perfection can be achieved.
Over the past two decades the basic design has remained unchanged, but technology has of course advanced and ever the pioneers, Terra Nova have updated the Quasar to include the latest in fabric and pole specifications to help reduce the weight.
By today's standards the Quasar is not lightweight (approx 2.15kg per person) as such but the heavier duty inner and flysheet are actually hugely beneficial to both durability and overall strength; it is after all an expedition/mountain tent, rather than a lightweight backpacker's tent, and is designed to take mountain winds, 4 feet of snow piling on top of it during the night and goodness knows what abuse a team of DofE members can throw at it. I for one, nearly set one on fire one night with a gas-stove incident!
Thanks to the timeless and exceptionally strong design Terra Nova used to Quasar as a baseplate to launch a series of tents based around it, and allowed the original mountain version to cater for most eventualities.
>> The Terra Nova Super Quasar, which allowed an extra person in, or roomier living space for two (the Quasar design is not what you'd call a 'spacious' tent...because that adds extra weight and makes the design less efficient.)
>> The Terra Nova Quasar ETC, which has a much larger porch.
>> The Terra Nova Superlite Quasar, which is the latest addition and uses the design of the Quasar, with the fabrics of the Laser range, and reduces the weight to only 1.25kg per person, whilst still allowing the tent to be stronger than just about anything in the same weight bracket.
So to finish my story, I shall say that I saved up my beans, and even after testing a lot of different tents over the years, my heart was still set on a Quasar, much like the child who always wanted a Ferrari. The Quasar is my bench-mark in testing tents, and the question I used when selecting my tent was, "what does it do better than a Quasar?" The answer was usually...not much, other than weight or cost less! Don't get me wrong, I'm not completely biased, I know there's a lot of tents out there and most fulfil their aims perfectly...but the Quasar has been my object of desire for 10 years!
Eventually, much as my heart wanted an original, bad-ass heavy-duty Quasar, my head led me to the lighter Superlite Quasar which would allow my partner and I additional space in our packs, and less weight for baggage allowance. So far it's accompanied me on week long treks around Scotland, Wales, Slovenia and Norway, and I have found nothing at all to fault in it.
I live in fear that one day I'll do something stupid and poke a hole in the groundsheet or fracture a pole, but the other really great thing about Terra Nova as a company, is their customer service and repairs. It seems they enjoy making their tents almost as much I enjoy the opportunity to sleep in them!
In fact I'm looking forwards to my next adventure just to have to opportunity to admire it, and the joy of feeling protected in the wilderness, whatever the weather. Now to decide where to take it next!