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Mountain Laurel Designs TrailStar Shelter Review
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Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Stakes on 01/25/2012 10:51:29 MST Print View

I'll be using a MSR Blizzard at the corner pointing into the wind. It does double duty as my 'potty trowel. The other 4 corners will be the Easton 8/9" stakes. Ti Shepherds hooks for the mid guying points.

I should add that this is for snow free terrain.

Edited by MikefaeDundee on 01/25/2012 11:06:01 MST.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
Stakes for Trailstar on 01/25/2012 11:01:34 MST Print View

For three season use I've had good success with MSR Groundhog stakes with very few stake failures in exposed high wind conditions.

For winter conditions I use MSR Blizzard stakes. I also use my Lightning Ascent snowshoes dug in and used as a deadman.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
Potty Trowel as a Tent Stake on 01/25/2012 11:07:52 MST Print View

Mike, so do you wait until the wind dies down before you p00p?

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Potty trowel on 01/25/2012 11:12:23 MST Print View

I can usually 'hold out' till required, Ryan. :)

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Storm Stakes on 01/25/2012 11:22:10 MST Print View

I don't own a Trailstar yet, but when I camp in strong winds in any of my shelters, I will use mostly found objects to supplement my stakes.

I don't trust most any stake alone unless the ground is very firm or I can wedge them into cracks in rocks or roots.

It is usually easy to find some heavy rocks around, but I did have to bury branches in loose sand in a few cases.

I never assume that my stakes will be required to provide 100%.

One of my hiking partners is Bryce, an active participant on BPL, and he never bothers to even bring any stakes. I know others that have the same policy as well.

I bring some small light stakes, just to help speed up setup.

Aaron Croft
(aaronufl) - M

Locale: Oregon
Silnylon vs cuben on 01/25/2012 11:24:30 MST Print View

@Ryan: If I buy a trailstar, it will be in silnylon. I still can't buy into paying twice the price for a fabric that I have to baby and worry about. I've been stoked with my silnylon duomid, so I see no reason to make the switch. That money could be better spent on getting out onto the trail. For me, anyways.

Edited by aaronufl on 01/25/2012 11:30:29 MST.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
trailstar stakes on 01/25/2012 11:31:31 MST Print View

We don't see the wild Chinook winds you do up there Ryan, but I have been pleased using MSR Groundhogs for the main guyouts and shepherds hook stakes for the midpanel guy points on my Trailstar.

Did any of you remove the stock Linelocs? What cord are you using? I have the stock line on mine but find that it gets difficult to manipulate in cold weather and rather stiff, moreso than lighter line I've used in past shelters.

Diplomatic Mike

Locale: Under a bush in Scotland
Guyline on 01/25/2012 11:37:52 MST Print View

I use 2mm Dyneema with other MLD linelocs, even though i think they are meant for 3mm line? If the linelocs are the same on the Trailstar, i may do the same.
I usually have different colours on guylines on my shelters, so i can pick out the one i want easily in bad weather. The 'into the wind' guyline, and the 'door' guyline, will be different from the rest.

Not all 2mm Dyneema is equal. The stuff i use has a nice grippy sheath.

Edited by MikefaeDundee on 01/25/2012 11:40:37 MST.

Nico .
(NickB) - MLife

Locale: Los Padres National Forest
Another happy trailstar owner on 01/25/2012 11:43:55 MST Print View

Beautiful photos Ryan. The yellow sil really looks nice for photographic purposes. The clarity/sharpness of the images is impressive. I assume you shot these with the Sony camera you've been reviewing? Compelling evidence to reconsider my leanings towards the Pany G3...

Anyway, onto my TS comments...

I've had my TS for about a year now and I've been really pleased with it. I haven't pushed its limits in any spectacularly bad weather but it has held up through any rain, snow, hail, wind, etc. I've experienced with it so far with no problems or complaints. I don't need a shelter that can shed major snow... worst I stand to experience is maybe a 6" storm (which would be heavy by my area's standards), but wind/rain proof is important for winter/spring camping around here.

I think the biggest benefit in the shelter for me is its versatility. Since I recieved it, I've used it for all but a couple of trips. It's palatial as a solo shelter and has comfortably fit another adult plus a 100 lb dog on a few trips. I've used it pitched really high (w/ long guylines) as a shade structure for day hikes and lake-side lounging. I've used it pitched low for stormy/windy weather. I find even a "standard" pitch with the center pole set around 125 cm is pretty darn stormproof if there's not lots of wind. I've used it by itself and with a Bearpaw Pentanet 2 when I want a lot of bug-free enclosed space.

Yeah, it might be a little heavy as a solo shelter, but the versatility and simplicity is awesome. As I use it in more and more conditions, I'm getting more comforable with the idea of ditching my other shelters (2 down, 2 to go) and sticking with just the TS as my one shelter to cover all of my needs.

For stakes, I typically use MSR Groundhogs for the corners and Ti skewer stakes for the mid-point tie-outs. In really soft, loose ground (like beach sand), I've gone with a larger snow stake (like Mike it doubles as my poo trowel) for the corner pitched into the wind. There's been a few times where I've had to use the stakes as deadman anchors of sorts weighed down with rocks and that's worked fine too.

Eugene Smith
(Eugeneius) - MLife

Locale: Nuevo Mexico
"Mountain Laurel Designs TrailStar Shelter Review" on 01/25/2012 12:37:20 MST Print View


I made that leap last year in purging all tarps and using the Trailstar as my only shelter, it sure makes the decision making process leading up to any trip easy, grab and go. I'm going to hold out and see how this works. The TS will obviously not be the ideal shelter in all circumstances, nor the lightest option, but so far I've found it to be an exceptional solo+ shelter for 3 season NM use for all those reasons you mentioned Nicholas.

Jeremy Gus
(gustafsj) - MLife

Locale: Minneapolis
Beak for Trailstar? on 01/25/2012 13:23:36 MST Print View

Have any of you TS users considered using a removable beak on the shelter similar to the HMG Echo I. In fact looking at the dimensions, it looks like it would fit perfectly. It would probably be pretty finicky to get all the angles right, but might make it more snow worthy and would provide more coverage.

Martin Rye
(rye1966) - F

Locale: UK
Re: Beak for Trailstar? on 01/25/2012 13:33:40 MST Print View

You don't need more coverage. Sleep side ways to the door way back and keep the entrance low. No bad weather will get you back there. Thats the reason this shelter is so good. You want views from this shelter as you wake up.dawn

Randy Martin
(randalmartin) - F

Locale: Colorado
One shelter for all conditions on 01/25/2012 13:38:18 MST Print View

I switched last year to the GoLite Poncho Tarp. That was my first move into Tarp camping. I was generally pleased but had a chance to experience the scenario of hiking in the rain and then having to make camp in the rain. I survived but got a little wet while making camp and it made me think about a bigger tarp.

I really am seeing the TS as a do it all shelter for one person. I still might just take the poncho for those 1/2 night trips where weather is perfect, but in the high country of Colorado there are very few days in the summer where you can truly say there is no chance of storms. Unfortunately it means adding 17oz to my base weight because I would still take the poncho (7 oz) as my rain gear.


James Marco
(jamesdmarco) - MLife

Locale: Finger Lakes
Mountain Laurel Designs TrailStar Shelter Review on 01/25/2012 13:40:32 MST Print View

A really excelent review and follow up!

"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, but, I suspect, offers a weather-resistance-to-weight ratio that may best a pyramid tarp and easily clobbers any cottage-made solo tent on the market - nearly all of which fail miserably in high winds, interior space, and under substantial snow loads."

This is a great initial impression. I like my tarp. It weighs almost 17oz as is. So, I do not get worried about about shelter weights around a pound and is good for the wife and I. I worry more about food weight for a week or two.

Thanks, Ryan!

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Mountain Laurel Designs TrailStar Shelter Review on 01/25/2012 13:47:12 MST Print View

I am using 9" nails for the mains points (one member of the band stands on each line) and 6.5" Ti stakes for the other points. So far this has been fine, but I have not had any mayor winds on trips. If I was expecting extreme conditions I would swap the Ti stakes out for Y stakes that came with my Golite SLa 6.

I think it is time for a testing session. Luckily I live in a very windy area (wellington NZ), so it should be easy. I tested the Duomid on a hill near my house and decided to switch to the Trialstar soon after. However, the nine inch nails did hold well.

I look forward to Ryan's UL shelters in the wind report. @Ryan - are those stresses measured or estimated?

Interesting link.

Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Beak on 01/25/2012 13:55:03 MST Print View

I have a Zpacks cloud kilt, which when folded into a triangle fits the door space, with a low pitch, quite well. Haven't tried it in practice yet as I would need to make few mods to it, but I think it would work. I also use it as ground sheet for getting in an out of the Tstar.

As has already been said I am not sure it is really needed.

Ryan Jordan
(ryan) - BPL Staff - MLife

Locale: Greater Yellowstone
tension stresses on stakes on 01/25/2012 13:58:19 MST Print View

Those stresses are measured using load cells inline with the guy line.

Henk Smees
(theflyingdutchman) - MLife

Locale: Spanish Mountains
Wait until the wind dies down before.... on 01/25/2012 13:59:35 MST Print View

>Mike, so do you wait until the wind dies down before you p00p?<
Not necessary. I know we’re all different but, in my case, I do my business every morning as soon as I wake up (or at least within the first 5 or 10 minutes after getting up). Since I know I’ll be going, I use my heavy stake [MYOG – like a deadman anchor – double use as potty trowel] in the evening, before staking out my tarp, to dig a cathole. After digging, I use my trowel/stake at the rear corner of my tarp [GoLite Lair 1] that’s pointing into the wind. In the morning my intestines will -normally- urge me to do my duty first; when finished I’ll take the tarp down, retrieve my trowel/stake and fill up the cathole again. Simple as cake.
BTW, whilst my current tarp is a GoLite Lair 1, I hope this will soon be substituted by a MYOG Cuben CT3.5K.18 (own design).

Stephen M
(stephenm) - MLife

Locale: The Deep Frreze
MSR Blizzard Stakes on 01/25/2012 14:23:47 MST Print View


I was pitching a TT Scarp 1 in 60mph and the supplied Easton stakes would not hold, I had 2 Blizzard stakes (which i normamly use on the guys) and pegging these on the Windward corners kept it firm.


Jason Elsworth
(jephoto) - M

Locale: New Zealand
Mountain Laurel Designs TrailStar Shelter Review on 01/25/2012 14:36:42 MST Print View

Those stresses are measured using load cells inline with the guy line.

That's what I love about BPL.