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Mountain Laurel Designs TrailStar Shelter Review
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Brendan S
(brendans) - MLife

Locale: Fruita CO
More good times in the Trailstar.... on 01/24/2012 19:56:09 MST Print View

Cascade Pass, Uncompahgre Wilderness, Sept 2011 watching and waiting out a crazy beautiful fast-moving storm on our anniversary...ts

Great shelter. My biggest complaint is the large footprint makes finding a suitable site a little tricky at times, but worth it if you're expecting some weather.

Luke Schmidt
(Cameron) - MLife

Locale: The WOODS
Cuban vs. Sil on 01/24/2012 19:58:18 MST Print View

I can't wait till that article comes out. One of my favorite parts about BPL are the technical articles.

Bobby Pack
(Piddler) - MLife

Locale: West Virginia
Re: Re: TrailStar Niche on 01/24/2012 20:03:48 MST Print View

"cuben, since not breathable would have more condesation"

I don't have any scientific data but It's been my experience that cuben has less condensation issues than silnylon.

Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Jerry... on 01/24/2012 21:30:09 MST Print View

>What happens if a heavy wind blows into the open side?

I had this happen in GNP. In the picture below, you can see our Trailstar in the far shadow, just below the snow patch. The storm ripped through Boulder Pass that night, creating a rockslide. We could hear boulders rolling down into the grass next to us (we were on a designated tent site).

The Trailstar was set in an open pitch, where one corner was elevated by a trekking pole. In the middle of the night when the storm hit, I had to get out and drop that corner. I re-staked that corner which gave me a flap of fabric from which I created a small door with the mid-panel tie out. It took only a minute. Basically, you just keep shifting the door as you re-stake. However, with the small door, it would take an awful lot of wind to cause an issue, so re-staking isn't a common thing.


Trailstar in the Porcupine Mountains this winter. With robust stakes, you can pound into frozen ground. It's not easy, but not any harder than the rock-hard tent sites we pitched on in GNP.

Steven Paris
(saparisor) - M

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Mountain Laurel Designs TrailStar Shelter Review on 01/24/2012 21:52:55 MST Print View

The TrailStar does have a large footprint but you can pitch any of the individual five points higher or lower than the others, like in a dense forest where having a to-the-ground low pitch is probably less necessary.

Here's a pitch in a Mt. Rainier campsite, pitched over a small log "table," and guyed out to a standing tree and a log:

Trailstar in Rainier

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Cuben storm-worthiness on 01/24/2012 23:37:18 MST Print View

I hope you're wrong about the durability and storm-worthiness of cuben, Ryan. My needs are for storm-worthiness over weight saving, and after exchanging a couple of emails with Ron, i went for the cuben version. As for durability, only time will tell.

Re-reading Ryans comments to David about poor workmanship on cuben shelters. As this is a Trailstar review, i can only assume his comments are aimed at the cuben Trailstar? If so, he should come out and say that. If not, why even mention it?

Edited by MikefaeDundee on 01/25/2012 00:06:29 MST.

joe newton

Locale: Bergen, Norway
@ Luke on 01/25/2012 00:20:06 MST Print View

"Any way to add a bug net to this?"

Yes. Oookworks in the UK manufactures a Trailstar nest:

Michael Martin
(MikeMartin) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: North Idaho
Re: Mountain Laurel Designs TrailStar Shelter Review on 01/25/2012 00:48:01 MST Print View


How would you rate the TrailStar against MLD's "Mids"? My Solomid is my favorite "go to" shelter for most conditions -- it was even one of my 2011 Staff Picks.

On paper, it looks like the TrailStar offers more space for the weight, and possibly greater storm resistance at the expense of pitching ease and zippered convenience. But, this is just speculation on my part. I have no experience with the TS.

Aaron Croft
(aaronufl) - M

Locale: Oregon
Oh Boy on 01/25/2012 01:06:20 MST Print View

"Its 17-ounce (482-g) weight precludes its use as a solo shelter for hikers that spend more time on virtual hikes than real walks in bad weather"

"It’s also available in a more stealthy gray silnylon and, for lighter weight, less durability, and more debt, Cuben Fiber."

I have the feeling that quite a few people are going to be pooping their pampers over these statements. Fun times.

I've been using a silnylon duomid for the past 6 months and have to say I love the simplicity of the setup. However, I've been tempted to pick up a trailstar for the summer months as it looks like a really versatile and fun shelter to have around.

Edited by aaronufl on 01/25/2012 01:07:54 MST.

Ceph Lotus
(Cephalotus) - MLife

Locale: California
Netting options for Trailstar on 01/25/2012 01:14:01 MST Print View

I have the Trailstar and love it - a roomy tarp for one person. I haven't used it in storm weather conditions. On the netting options, I had started another thread about that.

Netting options for Trailstar

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Mountain Laurel Designs TrailStar Shelter Review on 01/25/2012 01:51:50 MST Print View

I should soon have two Trailstars. One in each fabric. I have spent about ten nights under my silnylon one and have been very pleased so far. I have, however, not encountered any strong winds yet, but it is only a matter of time.

I have been thinking lots about bug options this week and still can't decide. I am tempted by a Pyranet 1 and have also been looking at the oookstar. I think that for now I will just stick with my bivy and headnet and see how it goes. I am also going to modify my MLD supelight bivy so that it has a larger mesh window. So far I have been lucky with sandflies, but have a trip coming up where they could be bad. If the bivy doesn't work out then I will look at inner options.

I like the simplicity of a bivy, but a bug net with extended sides would give a nice deep bathtub floor (one day I am going to need one) and some draft protection and may mean I don't need ever need to use a bivy. But I do feel I would be bit more cut off from my environment in this set up.

Edited by jephoto on 01/25/2012 01:53:08 MST.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Trailstar Cuben vs. Sil on 01/25/2012 06:24:28 MST Print View

@Mike: I hope the Cuben Trailstar is manufactured properly. Then, we can receive the weight saving benefits of Cuben while still having some good storm resistance. I haven't seen the Cuben TS yet, but I've seen other Cuben shelters made by MLD. They do them very well. It should be a very strong shelter, if fabric panels can stay tight in pitch.

You wrote: "Re-reading Ryans comments to David about poor workmanship on cuben shelters. As this is a Trailstar review, i can only assume his comments are aimed at the cuben Trailstar? If so, he should come out and say that. If not, why even mention it?"

Don't assume that. I haven't yet seen the Cuben TS. I'll mention brands and models specifically when we review them. I've already posted a photo of problematic Cuben workmanship here on the forums, and will be happy to keep you informed - in proper context. Why mention it? Because it's the #1 problem with Cuben shelters currently available.

@Aaron re: "It’s also available in a more stealthy gray silnylon and, for lighter weight, less durability, and more debt, Cuben Fiber."

Shop wisely when buying Cuben. There are different variants, different construction techniques, and different types of additional costs required (fabrics, increased labor). It's a lot of money to spend if it's not going to meet the expectations that you've set by using silnylon.

Regarding the Cuben TS, we'll see what "less durability" really means over time, but there is no question that extra TLC and manufacturing attention is required when using any Cuben that is 0.7 osy or less in a tarp - it's easy to puncture, seams wear out under load stress, and lack of stretch in the pitch means you have to pitch it right if you're going to get a howler, or you won't distribute stresses optimally. If Cuben is done right - you can achieve a wonderfully strong shelter. I have high hopes for the Cuben TS. If Cuben is not done right (e.g., bad seams) then you've just spent a whole load of money on something that can't take advantage of the fabric's inherent strength.

Edited by ryan on 01/25/2012 06:41:21 MST.

B. F.
(thrush) - F
Impregnate cuben shelters on 01/25/2012 06:35:24 MST Print View

Nice review. I would like a short comparission with a rectangle tarp, advantages and disadvantages or the design.

One thought about the issue "Snow sticks more on cuben": Couldn't you just impregnate the shelter (e.g. with a spray)? The effect will last longer on a shelter than on clothings because of the reduced abrasion.

Edited by thrush on 01/25/2012 06:38:25 MST.

carlos fernandez rivas
(pitagorin) - MLife

Locale: Galicia -Spain
less articles on 01/25/2012 06:44:46 MST Print View

"""BPL Staff,

Will an update to a "rolling" review article count as a new weekly article?""""


Clint Wayman

Locale: East Tennessee, US
Good Review on 01/25/2012 07:11:32 MST Print View

Thanks for the great review, Ryan! For what you get, the TS also seems to be a fairly REASONABLY priced shelter-- a major selling point for a quality piece of gear.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
Mountain Laurel Designs TrailStar Shelter Review on 01/25/2012 07:17:44 MST Print View

"If Cuben is done right - you can achieve a wonderfully strong shelter."

MLD has been working with cuben longer then most in the UL cottage industry and if anyone can do cuben right it is Ron. I'm looking forward to getting my cuben Trailstar and have no doubt that it will be a wonderfully strong shelter.

Michael Cheifetz
(mike_hefetz) - MLife

Locale: Israel
how do you pitch it with all 5 corners to the ground?? on 01/25/2012 08:57:51 MST Print View

Ryan said "...while still being able to pitch a symmetrical-to-the-ground shelter (with only one center pole) with full-perimeter wind protection"

I ran out and tried it (not the first time) and it seems like its impossible to do!!! its like there is always slack btw at least two corners.
I bought a used one here (maybe 2008 model?) so maybe Ron changed it

Also all the sides are the same length exactly (unlike what someone here mentioned in a diff thread)

Can someone let me in on how to pitch it like that....please


Travis Leanna
(T.L.) - MLife

Locale: Wisconsin
Re: how do you pitch it with all 5 corners to the ground?? on 01/25/2012 09:23:40 MST Print View

Michael, how high is your center pole? That affects how a to-the-ground pitch works so make sure it's not too high.

When I'm adjusting my Trailstar, I try to find a balance between three corners before I drive the stake. Let me explain. Pretend you're working on setting the stake for corner Y. Corner X is to your left, and corner Z is to your right. If you take corner Y and "swing" it back and forth you can see the tension tighten and slacken along both adjacent edges to corners X and Z. Don't completely tighten one panel while letting the other slacken. Rather, find a balance between the two, even if neither edge is very tight. As you adjust other corners the same way, you should get a tight pitch.

Sheesh, I hope that made sense! :)

It's not as bad as it sounds.

Also make sure that your center pole is as vertical as possible. For some reason if mine is tilted my pitch isn't as good. I think this might have to do with the fact that it's a symmetrical shelter.

Michael Cheifetz
(mike_hefetz) - MLife

Locale: Israel
Awesome on 01/25/2012 10:33:56 MST Print View

oh - im glad i caught on to this.

working now...guess i need more training time

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Stakes for Trailstar on 01/25/2012 10:47:17 MST Print View

I have my TS pitched today in a good old fashioned Montana winter wind storm. We had gusts this morning to 70mph, but at my location, the max gust was only about 55mph.

To deal with 50+ mph winds, I've found that shelter tension needs to be a minimum of 20-25 lbs at each stake. In very high winds, the forces that get transferred to the stakes are in excess of 40 lb, which is generally beyond the normal capacity of any 6 or 7 inch skewer, tube, or V-stake in all but frozen soils.

What are you all using for your "storm" stakes?