Terra Infirma

The picture shows two tents pitched beneath Coroghon Mor on the beautiful isle of Canna. The picture was taken late one evening at the very end of May this year when I visited the island with Fiona, Dougal and our friends, Clare and Sarah. Both tents were mine – a Terra Nova Voyager and a Terra Nova Voyager XL. I pitched both of them.

It was a blowy old night in the tents and it was still very windy the next day when we went for a bracing walk along the high cliffs around the island’s coast. It was, however, a long way short of storm conditions otherwise we wouldn’t have been able to undertake our walk along the exposed 200m-high cliffs. When we came back from our walk one of the tents – the XL – had blown into the sea, the Voyager and a Crux two-man tent pitched nearby were unaffected; thankfully our possessions were rescued by the lovely Julie McCabe. Julie and her partner, Stewart Connor – the island’s NTS warden, loaned us sleeping bags (ours were wet) and a cheapo Eurohike tent, thereby rescuing us from our predicament. That night the Eurohike survived a windy night where the £500+ XL had given up the ghost.

In my opinion the tent blew away because of the combination of its larger (than a standard Voyager, for example) profile and its lightweight build. Arguably the tent’s lightweight, titanium pegs are also inadequate to withstand a strong wind. The XL is sold as a four-season tent and claims to have ‘great stability in windy conditions’. It doesn’t.

After two months of correspondence – emails, letters, phone calls – during which various employees of Terra Nova have claimed that I must have failed to peg the tent out properly and even that I should have used pegs other than those supplied (!), I have been offered a 35% discount off a replacement, which I declined. My insistence on a 100% refund was rejected in an email sent this afternoon. They’ve lost a customer, but they obviously don’t care about that.

I’ve always rated the Voyager and I want to be able to buy British products where viable, but I can’t accept such poor treatment from Terra Nova. I don’t have a lot of money and losing an expensive tent like this is a bit of a blow. What a shame that Terra Nova don’t care.

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21 responses

    • Cheers Martin, thanks for your kind offer. I’ve still got my Voyager and a one man tent too, so I’m alright for the minute, thanks. I’ll be needing something bigger next time I go camping with Fiona and the dog though…

      A belated happy birthday though! How old?

  1. Buy a euro hike!.Go on Pete….You know you secretly want to.Its like a kebab after a couple of pints. Its the right thing to do.I always buy a eurohike after a good night down the pub! I ,ve got three now and I dont even go camping that much anymore.
    Being serious…its a cracking tent for the money and its so easy to pitch. Stand up to most conditions except a proper storm.Even then it just falls over and becomes a pancake.
    Ps would not like to be the guy that has to survey inside those castle ruins above the tents.Almost vertical grass path up to reach it.Even put Alex off attempting it.

    • Hey Bob! I actually witnessed a daft lanky basket called Adam, I think, run up to the ruin and slide down again in a pair of Chelsea boots, fer gawd’s sake. Claimed that he had a fear of heights and was determined to conquer it. Quite a spectacle.

  2. That’s Terra -ble customer service from Terra Nova, they should bow their heads in shame. Its obvious those pegs were not upto scratch (they rarely are on lightweight tents). Take your custom elsewhere Pete. If buying stuff online I can recommend http://www.ultralightoutdoorgear.co.uk/home.html
    I had a year old inflatable pillow which started to leak and it was immediately replaced. The TGO Challenge also killed an expensive pair of Rab waterproof trousers and they replaced them without quibble as well. Support the good guys!

  3. Hi Pete
    Those ‘lightweight titanium pegs’ – are they the skinny needle variety? The first thing I do with any tent is to dump the pegs supplied with it and go with Tornado titanium pegs from Clamcleats. You can hammer these things into a block of wood and they don’t buckle or bend.
    I reckon Terra Nova *do* have a point. Those skinny little skewers are rubbish, unless you are driving them into stony ground where they lock themselves in.
    At the back of my Stephensons Warmlite tent I use a 10 inch MSR snow peg, or if conditions are really crap I drive a trekking pole in to act as the main peg. No matter what the design, a tent can only be as stable as the way it is secured to the scenery.
    On the other hand – that extended front extended portion of your TN tent does look like a huge un-braced sail compared to the rest of the tent. That bit *really* does need to be pegged down securely. If it were to work loose it would drag the test of the tent with it.
    So – I suppose I side with Terra Nova. It *is* pretty obvious that the skinny titanium pegs they supply are not man enough for the job. However, they should say this. I have never seen a manufacturer mention this though… apart from Stephensons, of course.

    Bite the bullet and take their offer.

    • Hello Alan

      I always like a bit of balance. I can’t quite see where it is that you think Terra Nova have a point though. The ground where the tent was pitched was firm with good purchase, the tent was firmly pegged and guyed, the pegs are obviously shite.
      Being more interested in the actual camping and walking bit I suppose I’m a bit uninformed when it comes to the whole ‘kit’ business. On the other hand I’ve thirty years experience of camping in all manner of conditions on all sorts of terrain and never had this happen before. We bought the XL especially for low level camping in Scotland – extra space in wet conditions, but too big and lightweight for up high.
      The pegs supplied with all my previous and current tents have always done the job so I just imagined that if we’d bought a £500 tent that claims to be a four-season tent with ‘great stability in windy conditions’ then I’m entitled to expect it to stand up in a reasonably strong wind with the pegs supplied, ne c’est pas? No? Well silly old me.
      TN added insult to injury by insisting that I must have pitched the tent incorrectly and not pegged it out properly so I’m not going to bite the bullet and accept their inadequate ‘offer’.
      Thanks for your comment, Alan.

  4. Hi Pete
    I am not sure if my email was read in the way I intended it to be – I wasn’t meaning to be confrontational Pete; I was trying to be helpful. I just really believe that you used the wrong pegs in the given conditions.

    For instance – you wouldn’t consider using those pegs if you were camped on snow, would you? No – you would use snow anchors or huge great pegs. Equally, you wouldn’t use those skinny pegs on a beach, either.

    Unfortunately, with all this rush and hype to constantly save weight, most tent manufacturers supply stupidly useless tent pegs with their tents, to get to some imagined miraculous low weight so we all rush out and buy their lightest tent. A good example of this are the incredibly useless pegs supplied with the Laser Comp. I believe it’s up to the user to use the correct pegs. I also believe that the manufactures should make this very clear when they sell you the tent, which they patently do not.

    The tent certainly looks ‘fit for purpose’, but the pegs do not. I suppose your best line of discussion would be the fact that they did not explain this with the product supplied and have a duty of care to do so.

    On another tack, I don’t understand why you are having these discussions with Terra Nova, the manufacturer. Wouldn’t you be better served by having the discussion with the place you bought it from? The Sale of Goods Act should give you protection. The shop should be keen to keep your custom and fight TN on your behalf.

    Good luck Pete and don’t give up.

  5. No confrontationalness (!) imputed Alan, I’m just very miffed. I hear what you’re saying but I wouldn’t be camping on a beach in the XL and although the Hebrides can always surprise you, deep snow in May is highly unlikely. I felt that it was reasonable to expect the tent to do the job in the conditions with the pegs supplied.
    You’re right, the pegs are rubbish, but given that this is the case this should be made explicit by the manufacturer as you say – this is a line of argument I’ve pursued with TN.
    I also feel that the useless pegs are only part of the problem – as I’ve said, the combination of the tent’s large profile combined with its lightweight build is also a factor. I maintain that I had a right to expect the tent to stand up in the conditions.
    I’ll be off down to Cotswold with the remains of the tent once TN return it.
    Thanks for your reply, Alan.

    • Cheers for the kind offer Alex, I use my father in law’s discount card – 15%. I’m not buying though, just seeing if Cotswold are interested in pursuing matters with Terra Infirma.

  6. Get a Trailstar Pete, loads of room for you, Fiona and Dougal. You can ever fit several million midges and a fair few ticks in there. Perfect for your Scottish trips………….

    • Hello Bongomaster! I’ll look forward to seeing your Trailstar Midge Hotel thingumy jig in action; sounds like you need an inner though, in which case doesn’t it actually become a good old fashioned erm tent?

  7. Poor show from Terra Nova I’ve always rated them highly but obviously profits before customer service is their motto. I agree that the pegs supplied are not really suitable as they bend and cut through the turf.
    Still enjoying your travels
    Dave & Moira

    • Hello Dave

      Yes, it’s a bit boring the old tent saga, I’d move on but I’ve got my teeth into Terra Nova as I’m of the opinion that they owe me a tent. Anyway, how’s it going with youse, anymore Hebridean trips planned?

      Cheers, Pete

  8. Pete – The only problem I have had with customer service on our travels have been with Brooks of England. My saddle is falling apart after 7,000 miles and they do not want to help. Big Agnes USA – our tent provider have been exceptional – problem with a zip – new inner in the post in 20 mins. Exped -England customer service – had to beg and plead for replacement. N.Z. – 2 days after earthquake hits office and new pad in the post in 10 mins. Exped USA – new pad overnighted 700 miles. There is a pattern emerging.

  9. Hello Mr Sanders County! You’re right. What TN are failing to appreciate is that they will lose custom over this – not just mine. I’ve recommended their tents to loads of people in the past. Not any more. The search term ‘Terra Nova Voyager XL’ has bought a couple of peoplee to the site, where you’d imagine they’d see enough to put them off. I’m very disappointed with TN, but I’m not done yet…

  10. I bought a new Quasar after my previous one wore out after a decade of use. After about 6 uses I snapped a pole whilst putting it up (on a sunny, still campsite) Sent it back to Terra Nova who said it wasn’t covered under warranty as it was my fault. I emailed customer services to give further details as I didn’t think they understood the circumstances. Hadn’t had a reply a week later so rang them – they hadn’t got round to opening my email!
    After discussion they still failed to accept fault, they did offer to replace the pole as a “goodwill” gesture but I had to pay for the repair to the inner caused by the pole ripping it when it snapped.
    Such a shame as I thought their tents were bombproof and I expected customer services to think so too.

    • Thanks for your comment, David. Sorry to hear that you’ve also experienced duff service from TN. I’ve just got my money back from the retailer where I bought the Voyager XL, they looked at the tent and immediately refunded me. See this recent post: https://writesofway.com/2011/09/01/semi-geodesic-tart/ What a contrast. Seems that TN have a ‘never accept fault’ policy. It’s a poor attitude and will serve them no good in the long run, I feel.

  11. Likewise, the retailer (Outside in Hathersage) were very helpful and somewhat surprised by Terra Nova’s response. They are going to discuss the matter with the T.N. rep as this sort of customer service could well put them off stocking T.N. kit.

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