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Review: Sea To Summit Telos TR3 Backpacking Tent

Tent in woods with fire and chair

 

A unique, well ventilated and highly versatile lightweight backpacking tent

Since its long-awaited release in 2021, the Sea To Summit Telos TR3 Backpacking Tent has turned many a head in the backpacking world and is a highly sought after addition to any lightweight setup. Boasting a never-before seen Hangout Mode, unrivalled head room and excellent ventilation, it really is no wonder. But is the groundbreaking design and superior livability enough to make this the only tent you’ll ever need? Read on to find out.

Sea To Summit Telos TR3 Backpacking Tent: The stats

Weight:2.1kg / 4.7lbs
Pack size:6 x 19”
Material:15-denier ripstop nylon
Sleeping dimensions:230 x 181 x 147cm / 90.5 x 71 x 58 in
Entrances:2
Vestibules:2
Overall rating:

Features of the Sea To Summit Telos TR3 Backpacking Tent

Poles

Tent ridge poleThe whole pole set is connected together – an excellent way to not lose poles! This also makes it easy to put up, along with colour-coded pole ends that correspond with the inner tent connection points. The ridge pole, which goes from entrance to entrance, raises upwards instead of downwards, providing a load of head room in the vestibule and in the inner tent. All the poles are ultra-strong lightweight DAC NSL poles.

Materials

Tent fabricAll the materials (tub floor, mesh inner and rainfly) are mega lightweight and packable. The tub floor has an HH (Hydrostatic Head) rating of 2500mm and the rainfly has a PeU (Polyether Polyurethane) coating which benefits the longevity of the fabric by reducing the amount of water the fabric takes in, compared with PU.

Hangout mode

Hangout modeThe rainfly can be put up without the inner tent and converted in a semi-open shelter. This requires the use of walking poles (or canoe paddles!) or you can buy specific Hangout Mode folding poles separately. It’s a really smart way of adding a ton of versatility to the tent usage and comfort to tent users, especially in wet, windy or super sunny conditions.

Rainfly doors

TentAs with most tents of this style, the rainfly door features two-way zippers and a storm flap over the zips to protect from driving rain. The zip extends out into the middle of the vestibule, which can make it tricky to stay free from drips when opening and closing from the inside of the tent. I’d prefer the zip to be at the side.

Internal storage / pockets

Tent pocketsThere are only two storage pockets on the inside of the tent which are both spacious enough to store small items. However, there are also popper buttons near the pockets that allow the tent carry bags to be attached and used as more storage pockets. Neat! Plus, the ceiling features loads of gear loops along the seams from which a gear loft (bought separately) can be attached, and lanterns and drying lines can be hung.

Pole feet

Tent pole feetA really nice design feature is the system used to attach the poles to either the inner tent or just the rainfly. The pole feet slot into a hole in the clip attached to the inner tent or a small clip on the outer tent. And the outer tent clips easily onto the inner tent clip when both sections of the tent are put up together. Quick, easy and intuitive.

Vents

Tent ventAt the highest point of the outer tent is a large vent which draws in fresh air when open and keeps condensation at bay. This vent can be zipped closed when needed. There’s also a tie-back toggle on the lower half of the rainfly doors which can be used to raise up the rainfly and let air in during wet weather or when you need privacy.

Storage and lightbar

Lightbar in tent ceilingThe tent is divided into three parts each with individual stuff sacks. This allows for the tent to be fairly shared between three. It also makes packing much easier. As mentioned, the stuff sacks turn into storage pockets inside the tent. Additionally, the pole bag can be attached to the ceiling of the inner and transformed into a ceiling light by simply chucking in a headlamp or two!

 

Inner tent

Sea To Summit Telos TR3 Backpacking Tent review

During the last 5 years I’ve been lucky enough to spend many nights sleeping in, arguably, the two best lightweight backpacking tents on the market: the MSR Hubba Hubba NX and the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV. They’re both excellent tents and I’ve failed to find any significant faults with either of them, though I do have a favourite! And then in 2021 the Sea to Summit Telos TR3 came onto the market, boasting “unmatched space, ventilation and versatility” and design-features like nothing the market has seen before. As you can imagine, I was pretty excited to get my mitts on this bad boy and see what all the fuss was about.

In the summer of 2022 I spent 5 weeks with the Telos TR3 as my nightly accommodation, bike touring across Europe. It’s also accompanied me on a couple of weekend backpacking trips and a canoeing trip in the UK. So, do I love it as much as I thought I would? Almost.

Tent with washing outside

Livability

The TR3 is designed for three people. However, I’ve only shared it with one other person and feel that, although it would be perfectly fine for three adults for the odd night or two, anything longer would be a little too cosy. For two adults it’s a dream, accentuating all the pluses of this style of tent in terms of livability, and then some.

The main appeal for livability is the amount of head room inside. I thought the Hubba Hubba felt capacious, offering 39 inches of internal height. But the TR3 provides another 11 inches on top of that! This is thanks to the Tension Ridge pole which raises upwards at its ends where most other tents bend down towards the ground. This provides near-vertical walls in the inner tent and extra height at the entrances. It also gives the feeling of spaciousness which is actually more valuable than you might realise on extended trips.

When it comes to the footprint of the inner tent, the 90.5 x 71 x 58 inch area of the inner tent is on the very cosy side for three campers. The tent tapers right down at one end which means that everyone would have to have tapered sleeping pads to fit in. So be sure to measure up before you buy either the tent or a new pad.

If there’s only two of you then it’ll feel cavernous! And you can afford to bring along the most luxurious, wide sleeping pad you can!

Man sitting next to tent

Versatility

Aside from the generous internal headspace, the TR3 is sure to raise eyebrows in a few other areas too. Most notably, the variety of ways in which it can be set up. The Hangout Mode is the most obvious of these and is a super valuable way to seek shelter from the rain. However, for sun protection, we tend to use the Hangout Poles (which we bought separately) and guy lines to extend the vestibule doors sideways. This creates shade and a degree of wind shelter and also adds some privacy when camping at campsites. This method is less effective in the middle of the day when the sun is high in the sky. But it’s a simple solution in the morning and afternoon sun without having to alter the whole tent configuration.

Tent with shade

Another appealing design feature is the three separate tent bags. For bike touring this was ideal as we could carry one part of the tent each inside a pannier and then store the poles directly on one of the pannier racks. It also means that if you only want to set up the inner tent, you don’t have to unpack the whole thing.

Tent in bags

Ventilation

Summer camping in mainland Europe can get very hot so we very much enjoyed the excellent ventilation. As we were on campsites most of the time, we tended to pull the rainfly all the way down every night for privacy. But the zippered top vent, in combination with the low door vents, create good airflow and prevent heat panics on the hottest of nights!

Weatherproofness

The summer of 2022 has seen drought throughout Europe. As such, there have been few opportunities for the TR3 to endure any significant rainfall. However, I’ve not been super impressed with how well it has dealt with the little rain that there has been. The rainfly fabric becomes slack and loose at the first sign of moisture. This results in the rainfly touching the inner mesh and eventually water drips through. This has even happened a number of times when there’s been a heavy dewfall, leaving little faith that it will stand up to bad storms!

To ensure that the rainfly is as taught as possible, all the tabs on the inside of the rainfly need to be attached to the poles, lots of time and care needs to be taken to ensure the tension is even and correct, and all the guy lines need to used (you’ll need to bring a couple of additional stakes for this). This certainly helps with the slackness. However, there are still a couple of spots where the rainfly sits too close to the inner mesh and dripping is inevitable.

Additionally, water pools very easily on the top of the vent flap.

Tent with doors open

What I love the most about the Sea To Summit Telos TR3 Backpacking Tent

For me, it’s the versatile design that makes the Telos stand out from the crowd. The ability to set up in Hangout Mode, the venting options and the option to set up rainfly first, as well as other small design features like the storage bags, all make this an excellent tent for spending lots of time in.

What I don’t love so much about the Sea To Summit Telos TR3 Backpacking Tent

The questionable waterproofness is a big turn off for me. In hot and dry conditions this isn’t an issue, as even a few drips from dew will dry out quickly. However, I’d certainly think twice about taking it bike touring in wetter climes.


Woman cooking outside tent

Verdict

I really want to give this tent 5 stars. It’s a dream to spend lots of time in, offering a ton of versatility and great ventilation all at an exceptionally low weight. And it really does feel super spacious and comfortable for two adults. However, for those likely to be camping, backpacking and bike touring in wet conditions, the questionable waterproofness of the rainfly is something to seriously consider. As such, the Sea To Summit Telos TR3 Backpacking Tent gets a respectable (but could be better) 4 / 5 stars from me.

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Sea To Summit

Disclaimer: Cool of the Wild received this product free in return for an honest review. We only recommend gear that we love from companies we trust and we are under no obligation to give a positive review. All thoughts and opinions are that of the reviewer and we are in no way influenced by the brand or company.

Joey Holmes

Joey Holmes
Joey is based in Cornwall, UK, and runs Cool of the Wild. She can’t get enough of being outdoors – whether that’s lounging around the campfire cooking up a feast, hitting the trail in her running shoes, or attempting to conquer the waves on her surfboard – she lives for it. Camping is what she loves to do the most, but has also spent many hours clinging to the side of a rock face, cycling about the place, cruising the ski-slopes on her snowboard, and hiking small mountains and big hills.

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