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(The Gear Loop) - Going thru-hiking with your whole family is never going to be an ultralight affair. Heck, our back can testify to that! Taking a toddler on the trail with you means that sub-10kg pack goal will remain just a beautiful dream. However, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t invest in some lightweight kit to aid your adventures.

When it comes to cutting down your total pack weight, there’s no better place to start than with your tent. Often the bulkiest and heaviest piece of kit in your rucksack, it’s easy to knock a kilo (or more) off the scales with a more premium offering.

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The Gear LoopSea to Summit Telos TR3 review photo 25

And they don’t come much more premium than the Sea to Summit Telos TR3. But, can this lightweight, yet feature-heavy, three-person shelter live up to the hype?

Our quick take

At this price point, there probably aren’t any lightweight backpacking tents that provide this level of polish. The simple design and reassuring sturdy aluminium clips both make setup of the Sea to Summit Telos TR3 a doddle and point to a tent that will likely last you for years of adventures if properly looked after.

The lightweight fabric choices could potentially prove an issue in the long run though and, in combination with the large apex vent, they can make for a pretty chilly night during the UK’s spring and autumn seasons. We certainly found ourselves wrapping up warmer than normal when the temperature dropped lower than 8°C.

That said, the thin-yet-tough nylons proved tough enough to withstand the rocky wild camps of Dartmoor, and coped with early morning rain at altitude with aplomb (all while keeping the overall pack weight to a minimum). If you’re looking for a family thru-hiking tent, we wouldn’t look much further than the Telos TR3.

Sea to Summit Telos TR3 review: the perfect partner for three-up family adventures

Sea to Summit Telos TR3

4.5 stars - The Gear Loop recommended
For
  • Unrivalled internal size
  • Freestanding design provides incredible versatility
  • FairShare storage design is brilliant
Against
  • Proprietary pegs are painful to use and hard to see
  • Gargantuan size prevents pitching in certain spots
  • Question marks over longevity of 20D groundsheet

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In the Loop

Here’s everything you need to know about the Sea to Summit Telos TR3:

  • Full dimensions: 134 x 333 x 232 cm
  • Floor area: 3.69m2
  • Floor dimensions: 230 x 181 cm
  • Internal height: 128 cm
  • Groundsheet fabric: 20D Silicon-PeU Nylon Ripstop
  • Floor hydrostatic head: 2500mm
  • Flysheet fabric: 15D Sil-PeU Nylon Ripstop
  • Flysheet hydrostatic head: 1200mm
  • Minimum trail weight: 1921g
  • Total weight: 2118g

Carrying your FairShare

Before you’ve even unpacked the Telos TR3, Sea to Summit plays one of its aces with the FairShare storage system. The constituent components are split into three separate bags: the flysheet in one, the inner in another, and finally the pole system and pegs in the third.

The Gear LoopSea to Summit Telos TR3 review photo 1

The flysheet and inner bags couple together with a simple aluminium clip on each, while a pocket on the outside of either bag keeps the slender pole sack in place. When attached to one another, the whole kit measures 15cm by 15cm by 49cm (which is hardly girthy).

However, we found you can make even better use of the space inside your pack by uncoupling the trio and packing them separately. Alternatively, the modular nature of the design means that you could share the component bags over two or more packs, if you were looking to share the load with a hiking partner.

The Gear LoopSea to Summit Telos TR3 review photo 2

If we had any complaints about the packing, it would be that the single-piece pole system can be tricky to get back in its bag neatly. Also, it would be nice if the flysheet and inner packs had external compression straps to reduce their packed size further (though this would add weight). Neither anywhere close to deal-breakers though.

Pitching perfect

Thanks to its minimal design and freestanding nature, pitching the Sea to Summit Telos TR3 couldn’t really be simpler (a life-saver after a hard day’s hiking, or when your other half is entertaining a tired toddler at camp).

The Gear LoopSea to Summit Telos TR3 review photo 3

The DAC Featherlite NSL system has colour-coded poles that correspond to the Quick Connect aluminium feet found on the corners of the mesh inner. The pole ends simply pop into these ferrules, before two cord loops hang the inner onto the unique Tension Ridge.

Mounted with upswept wings, this section of the pole frame (co-penned by DAC owner, Jake Lah, and Sea to Summit head honcho, Roland Tyson) ensures that the walls of the inner hang more vertically than any other freestanding tent.

The Gear LoopSea to Summit Telos TR3 review photo 10

The upshot of this is a remarkable ceiling height inside (allowing our 6ft 1in frame to easily sit up without pressing the inner against the flysheet) and general feeling of space that we were unaccustomed to with most backpacking shelters.

After clipping the rest of the inner on with simple plastic clips, the 15D Ripstop Nylon fly attaches to the inner’s Quick Connect feet with aluminium discs, anodised in corresponding colours. The only difficulty with the fly is keeping the fully-taped seams in-line with the poles. But it’s not a huge problem.

The Gear LoopSea to Summit Telos TR3 review photo 17

As well as the standard pitching mode, the Telos TR3 can also be erected as an inner only if you wish to sleep in full view of the stars. While conditions in the UK rarely allow this, we did find pitching the inner alone made for a perfect child play pen.

The flysheet can also be erected first, keeping the mesh inner dry if you’re forced to set up camp in inclement conditions (waaaaay more likely). While we got lucky during most of our testing, this proved a lifesaver atop one of Dartmoor’s tors.

The Gear LoopSea to Summit Telos TR3 review photo 21

Just be careful when using the Ground Control pegs. While super secure for the tent, the open cross-section design makes them pretty painful to push into the ground with your palm, and their neutral colour often blends into the ground of your pitch. It might go against Sea to Summit’s minimalist style but, it’d be cool to see these in a brighter shade so we don’t lose any when packing up.

A home from home

Thanks to its ridiculously roomy internal dimensions, the Sea to Summit Telos TR3 had more than enough space to house all the kit required to take two adults and a toddler on a multi-day thru-hike.

The Gear LoopSea to Summit Telos TR3 review photo 10

The heavily tapered roofline on the two vestibules made the Telos tricky to get into and out of though (we brushed morning dew over ourselves on more than one occasion when getting out) and it can be a bit of a squeeze if you’re using it as an overnight home for a large thru-hiking pack.

Inside, the inner and flysheet bags clip into the walls to provide some extra little storage satchels (perfect for glasses, baby bottles or as a post-hike beer holder). The pole bag also attaches to poppers in the ceiling to create the Lightbar.

The Gear LoopSea to Summit Telos TR3 review photo 6

Pop your head torch in and it’ll diffuse the light to prolong your evenings once the sun dips below the horizon. It might be seen as gimmicky but, it’s a neat touch to bring a little home comfort to the Great Outdoors.

Weight watchers

While described as "ultra-lightweight" by Sea to Summit, we’re not sure the Telos TR3’s lightest trail weight of 1.92kg really puts it into that category. Although that's being very picky.

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While it’s not portly, it’s surprisingly heavy considering the use of a relatively thin 15D nylon for the fly and 20D for the floor. In comparison, the Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL3, (another popular three-person option) tips the scales with a trail weight of 1.59kg, despite utilising similar grades of ripstop fabric.

At the other end of the scale, the MSR Mutha Hubba NX (which also features a full cover fly) is only another 0.1kg or so heavier, despite utilising thicker 20D and 30D fabrics on the fly and floor, respectively.

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That said, neither of its direct competitors offer quite the same internal height and sense of space. The Big Agnes features plenty of plastic clips too, which is unlikely to have the same longevity as Sea to Summit’s beautiful aluminium hardware.

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To recap

Like so many of the other innovate products in the Australian brand’s inventory, the Sea to Summit Telos TR3 includes a number of neat design features that, while appearing gimmicky, do actually prove useful out in the wild. What’s more, the level of polish in its execution definitely helps to justify the £600 price tag; details like the anodised aluminium componentry (colour coded to help aid setup) and the excellent DAC-made pole system are a few standouts.

Writing by Josh Barnett. Editing by Leon Poultney.