Wednesday, 28 September 2016 10:18

Terra Nova Southern Cross 2 Tested and Reviewed

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Terra Nova are probably best known for their range of ultralight and competition tents these days but that's ignoring a huge heritage in solid 4/5 season tents like the Quasar. The new Southern Cross 2 is the latest addition to this line and looks set to become another classic.

Southern Cross 4

What Terra Nova say:

The Southern Cross 2 tent is a completely freestanding lightweight tent suitable for 4 season backpacking. The Southern Cross 2 takes its design inspiration from the award winning Laser range of lightweight tents but includes an additional pole to provide extra stability and structure. Due to its 100% freestanding nature, pegging is kept to a minimum when optimising its strength / weight ratio. The tent has 2 doors and 2 equal size porches enabling easy access and exit for both occupants and plenty of storage space for kit. Pitching is quick and easy as the flysheet and inner are erected as one and the flysheet and groundsheet are fully taped providing complete waterproof protection. There is a spacious inner and porch, the porch door can be fixed open in several ways to provide the most suitable weather protection for the current conditions.

Specifications

Sleeps: 2

Season Rating Spec: 4 Season Backpacking

Free standing?: Yes (tent can be pitched without guying out)

Minimum Weight: 2.1Kg (4lb 11oz)Kg (4lb 10oz)

Packed Weight: 2.29Kg (5lb 1oz)Kg (5lb 1oz)

Pitch Time (estimate): 5 mins

Number of Porches: 2

Number of Doors: 2

Pitch Type: Fly and Inner pitch together

Pitch Time: (estimate): 5mins

Packed Size: 47cm x 16cm

Flysheet: Watershed R/S 30D Si/PU 5000mm

Floor: Waterbloc 10000mm

Poles: 8.64mm TN Reflex

Pegs: 10 Alloy 15g

Guylines: 4 x Reflective wth Clamcleats

Inner Door: Half Mesh

Test and review

The Terra Nova Southern Cross range of one and two person tents is of a high standard. Straight out of the packaging, our first impressions are that this tent does not skimp on durability and strength in the fabrics used. The stitching and overall finish is of excellent quality. The Southern Cross 2 carries a £490 price tag so I was keen to see if it lives up to the usual quality offered from Terra Nova.

The Southern Cross 2 is a 4-season shelter and the first thing I look for in this class is the floor. The 10000mm hydrostatic head Waterbloc fabric is fully waterproof and reassuringly thick. A good way to test this is clambering about the shelter on a wet morning and there was no moisture ingress from the small surface area created by my knees. Unless camped on sharp ground, the tough floor should negate the need for any footprint protection, thus keeping pack weights down.

Southern Cross 6

The tent is free standing, pitched in one and is very easy and quick to assemble. I timed it at 4 mins 20secs on my first mountain camp. The colour coded blue pole goes smoothly into place in an adequate sleeve, creating the classic single hoop design used by Terra Nova and other manufacturers, but then the outer is brought into a taut and excellent profile by the red outer poles and simple clips pull it all together. There is some obvious shuffling of the poles into position and final guying to do, but to erect the tent this quickly on a solo trip is reassuring for winter use, enabling you to get straight in out of any severe weather. The flysheet can be made to stand freely, thus offers a fast and light option without the inner and provides a LOT of space and would suit minimalists using bivvy bags.

Southern Cross 7

Simple toggle and ring attachments mean the inner can be fastened in reasonably quickly if you have split the weight between different packs. This option also allows users to get sorted after an activity and then put in the inner later if necessary. The inner tent attachments are elasticated, so to give some flex when individuals move around in the tent. The pegs supplied are adequate, but you can shave some grams down by upgrading to your own titanium pegs. As the guy points are minimised to just 4 lines, I would use long snow pegs in winter for extra security, as I find simple round pegs slip too easily. The clam cleat locks on the guys stayed put all night.

Once inside the tent, it is nicely laid out. It is possible for two people to simultaneously sit in each generous porch area with a squeeze and get out of any unwanted or wet gear, before getting into the main sleeping area. Each porch is ample for winter climbing kit on one side and a cooking/admin area to the other end. I’d be reluctant to cook on petrol stoves in extreme weather with the porches zipped, due to the obvious risks of fumes and flares on priming, but there is ample ventilation from either end of the tent to manage cooking with care on alcohol or smaller gas stoves if you really have to. The porch doors either side are opposing, so I would prefer to have a kit store on the prevailing weather side and to use the sheltered porch for general access and cooking in more harsh conditions. On the windy evening I used the tent, I had a decent amount of shelter to cook with the door fully open. The inner is a pleasant white fabric and on my solo trip I had a luxurious amount of space, if you can be bothered to tote the weight alone. The sleeping area is fully rectangular so you can ‘top & toe’ to any partner, making it easier to live in and socialise.

Southern Cross 1

The two small gripes I have with the tent are about the inner compartment. Firstly, the inner storage is at an absolute minimum, with two fairly small pockets at opposing ends and these tend to lean over when any heavier items such as a phone are placed in them. The compromise here is the porches are huge. There are some tabs to make a small washing line in the centre of the ceiling, but again this is minimal. Secondly, despite a decent sized sleeping area, the profile of the tent means that each end of the inner is quite low. I found that despite adjustment, the inner fabric sagged easily onto my face at times when sleeping fully to one side and this may be problematic on two person trips if condensation issues occur. I’m a measly 5’5" tall, so I found that I could shuffle down the ample length of the inner, but very tall users may experience some issues here.

That said, one of the tent’s strengths among many is its excellent ventilation. For its first outing I used the Southern Cross on a gusty night on Kinder at 601m, with 40mph winds, so a stiff breeze got through the hooded vents at either end. Each outer vent is meshed; as are the triangular inner vents and I feel that spin-drift issues should be avoided in full winter conditions. The large inner vents are bug meshed with a simple velcro closure on a triangular flap that just folds down to the floor. The two inner doors are half meshed too, so the tent feels very airy and dry when pitched in wind. A nice touch here would be to have half-moon zipped panels, to offer the choice of closing up the inner in extreme cold, but the weight is again being kept down by the designers. In more humid and calmer conditions all the doors can be clipped open and it feels very comfortable when set up like this. The outer doors are storm flapped, with Velcro closures. For belt and braces, there is a small clip fastener at the base of each door to stop the doors being forced open in high winds. These outer doors can be clipped back onto the red poles making access easy, or even to make a small awning by using a walking pole and a guy-line which increases the usable area yet again. The apex of the inner is a good height and sitting upright is possible, but you’d probably want to take turns on a two person trip when all the doors are closed.

Southern Cross 5

The Southern Cross 2 is impressively quiet in higher winds. For a tent with a reasonably large footprint and of decent height, the flysheet pulls very taut. The outer of the tent is kept in check by tensioning bands that run to all corners and across the centre. With just the four corner s pegged out it already felt solid and once the seemingly minimal four guy points were in place, it sat nicely with hardly any budging. It remains to be seen what its upper wind limits are, but I would happily describe the tent as fairly ‘bombproof’. The 30 Denier flysheet fabric teamed with a strong pole system create a taut pitch that makes the Southern Cross very stable. Pitching the vents windward did allow some cloud cover and light rain to be pushed through onto the inner vent through the night, which made me think I will try it side on in harsher weather and see how it copes. The vents do velcro shut, but the guy point is attached to the vent cover, so I felt committed to having the windward side pegged out.

Southern Cross 3

Overall, I really like the Southern Cross 2 and it deserves its 4-season badge. There were no fiddly set up issues and striking camp is very quick. Simple adjustments yielded immediate results. The living space inside means I can envisage two person trips being really comfortable. If like me and you enjoy winter adventures, you can spend a long time indoors at night and I think the Southern Cross has a great use of liveable space. You can feel where Terra Nova have saved weight with a rigid and minimal pole system, yet not compromised on overall strength and structure through a careful choice of lightweight and high quality materials. The Southern Cross 2 a very capable all round mountain shelter and I look forward to putting it through its paces in a British winter.

Last modified on Wednesday, 28 September 2016 12:13