Rating: 5 / 5
The Mountain Laurel Designs Patrol shelter in translucent green Spectralight (Cuben fiber) is, by far, my favorite single piece of gear after 2180 miles and 98 days on my Appalachian Trail thru hike. I came to rely on my Patrol shelter so much that I actually avoided the wooden AT trail shelters in favor of tarping even in the rain. Believe me we had plenty of rain this year on the A.T.! The advantage of the Patrol shelter in rain was it's simple and flexible setup options. For heavy winds and rain I would set it up wide and low. If the night looked questionable I would set it up higher for ventilation and found i could lower it down while still underneath (inside) easily by moving the stakes and adjusting the line locks. I used a bug bivy inside my Patrol shelter most nights to exclude creepy crawlies and this was easy since the patrol shelter has four hang hooks along the ridgeline to rig my bivy.
The patrol stood up to massive cloud bursts, heavy winds that toppled nearby living trees, 1/4 inch hail, and loads of rime ice.
The spectralight material never stretched or absorbed water. Never once did it leak a drop. Condensation was minimal to non-existant. On rainy mornings I would pack everything up under my patrol shleter and just before i walked away i would take the patrol shelter down, shake the water off, and stuff it into the mesh pocket on the outside of my pack. Tha way i could set it up in the rain later and get underneath set up while never having to expose my gear (packed in trashbags inside my backpack) to the elements. The simplicity of not having a zipper or door to deal with really grows on you. When I set it up especially low for high winds and rain I would get everything taut and then simply loosen one of the front side line locs to squeeze under the shelter. Adjustments are easily made from under the Patrol shelter so long as you have solid stake points. I can honestly say my Patrol shelter never collapsed or pulled a stake out. Then line locs a crucial to success as they allow you to move stakes without having to re-tie knots. Tensioning is a breeze.
One intersting aspect of the Spectralight was it's translucent properties. I could actually see stars 9though blurry) through the material on clear nights and lightning bolts on stormy nights. The light green shade of Spectralight proved to be very stealthy on the A.T.
After 2180 miles and having been set up over 70 times, my Patrol shelter is in perfect condition. The only wear visible is to the guy lines themselves which show a bit of weather related fading and fraying. The linces are not sewn to the Patrol shelter, they are simply threaded through the line locs so replacement is simple.
I used Leki trekking poles to support my Patrol shelter and had absolutely no problems with this setup. Being able to adjust the front trekking pole height and guy lines while inside the Patrol shelter was a MAJOR advantage when conditions changed drastically during the night.
As for pitching this tarp, it was easy on every kind of slope, flat or not. In fact i tend to pick bumps or slopes to avoid puddling when it rains so that i almost never had perfectly flat ground to pitch my Patrol on. It never posed a problem to getting a taut pitch.
I recommend using all 9 stake out points for stormy weather. The one at the apex of the front pole really helps keep the ridgeline taut under heavy wind.
Also I found that the further my guy lines were staked out the stronger the pitch of the shelter so don't cut your guy lines too short. I used about a four foot guy line for the beak, a five footer for the front ridge apex, 2 footers for the front corners, 1 footers for the middle sides and rear corners, and a three footer for the rear apex line.
Vargo titanium stakes were used for eight of the stake outs and 1 oversized aluminum stake for the front apex pullout.
It sounds like a lot of stakes and hassle but it really never was at all. It never took me more than 2 minutes to get the shelter standing and sometimes 2 more minutes to tweak things if a big storm was looming.
I set up my Patrol in the following order:
Plant my front trekking pole in the ground at the desired height.
Stake out the front beak line.
collapse my second trekking pole and stake out the rear apex line and rear corners.
Stake out the front corners and front apex line.
stake out the middle sides.
Climb inside and hang my bug bivy from the inside of the Patrol shelter.
My Mountain Laurel Designs Patrol shelter is THE finest shelter I have ever used. This shelter never flapped in the wind even once. The design is superb.
The Spectralight is absolutely worth the extra money as it is: lighter, stronger, absorbs NO water, stealth green color, and never sags or stretches.
A further trick with this shelter was to use a trekking umbrella as a "door" under the beak. It was not a neccesity as there is plentey of overhang from the beak to protect the open front but sometimes it was nice to stop the wind or create a "bombshelter" out of my tarp in massive thunderstorm downpours.