Whiteburn's Wanderings

One man's wanderings backpacking around Scotland plus the odd digression

MLD Trailstar

I love my MLD Trailstar!  Even on a morning at -7C!

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I think Colin Ibbotson’s words from his Trailstar Review say it all.

“This is the lightest, largest, most storm-proof sub 1kg shelter I have ever used or seen, and quite possibly on the planet. Stability is so good that I cannot think of any other shelter even at up to three times its weight that could match it”

I started looking for a new shelter in 2012 having been using the Wild Country Zepheros 1, a cheaper version of the Laser Competition, not a bad tent and at ~1.5kg a fairly respectable weight but it did feel like being in a coffin at times.  I was looking for a solo shelter that was around 1kg with more room and above all good in bad weather.  I spent a lot of time on the internet doing research (I found Ten Pound Pack a particularly good site) and not finding a tent that seemed to fit the bill then I stumbled across the Trailstar.  I’d not used a tarp before having the preconception that they were for Ray Mears and the bushcrafters but I was to be educated, I think Colin’s review finally swung it.

I’ve used the sil-nylon version for over a year now for over 90 nights wild camping; winter through summer; rain, hail, snow, gales and of course the Scottish midge; the more I use it the more enamored I get and the more confident in its ability to withstand almost all the weather Scotland can throw at it.  It was a bit of ‘novel’ experience sleeping out the first time without being fully enclosed, perhaps even feeling little threatening.  Now it’s become the norm, there’s something about feeling connected to the outside even if it’s just laying in bed watching the rain pour down or the snow blowing past.  One of the biggest novelties is space, more than sufficient for two, its huge; at first I’d ‘lose’ things, unlike sleeping in a coffin where everything had its place, now I’ve become a little more organised.

Some decry the Trailstar for requiring a large site, I’ve never had a problem, yes on some pitches I’ve had to encompass humps and bumps, heather, big tussocks and even large rocks, so long as I have a reasonably level spot to lay down on that’s fine; it can be a bit more of an issue when a nest is used but not overly so.

For my 2 – 3 nights jaunts I’ll pair the Trailstar with the MLD Superlight Bivi for winter to guard the sleeping bag against blown snow or the Borah Gear Bug Bivi in summer for midge protection, for longer trips in the midge season I’ve also used the heavier but more comfortable Bear Paws PyraNet 1.  Having the ability to mix and match to suit the season and conditions provides me with comfort while keeping the weight to a minimum (850 – 1100g).

There’s a fair number of ‘how to pitch’ guides available on the net but I thought I’d share my slight variations:

Set up

I’ve configured my Trailstar with ~ 60cm guys on ALL ten tie out points, each guy has a loop in one end and a double knot in the other.  The double knot maintains a short tail when the guys are loosened to full extension allowing easy tensioning with gloves and having only one loop ensures I get the right end for a speedy setup.

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The longer entrance guy is not fixed but a 2.4m length of 2mm dynemma with a lineloc and an Alpkit Micro Carabiner.  The guy is clipped to which ever point happens to turn out to be the entrance and the pole tip insert through the carabiner (no knots).  I’ve found this arrangement to be quite efficient as it eliminates the need to find the upwind seam if a permanent long guy is fitted (a lot of people use a different coloured guy for this purpose); more significant is the ease which re-pitching can be achieved if the wind shifts (I’ve had it happen on a number of occasions, it’s usually dark and raining, but having said that I’ve found that even a strong wind shifting +/- 45deg isn’t really an issue), it’s a simple matter to un-clip the guy and re-position rather than have to either completely re-pitch or start re-threading lineloks.  There’s probably a 6g penalty doing it this way but that’s something I can live with for the convenience.

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The one thing I’ve learned is that good stakes are essential, they take a lot of load; I carry six Easton Nano Stakes plus four Alpkit Ti-pins.  I’ll replace the Ti-pins with Vargo Ti-Nails when I anticipate really hard ground, like camping in forestry, or with MSR Blizzards for snow.

I’ve also added a small loop of cord on the exterior apex, it serves as a peg out point when packing the Trailstar away in windy conditions; stick a peg through the loop and then concertina the open end, saves a lot of frustration!

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Pitching: I can’t match the 1.5mins that MLD claim, it usually takes me around 3mins, the following photos show a ‘real’ pitch on a blustery evening on the ‘beach’ at the west end of Loch Avon in the Cairngorms

Step 1: Decide pitch height (anticipated wind conditions) and set poles accordingly, with my rig I’ll set the entrance pole about 5cm shorter than the centre.  I’ve pitched the Trailstar at various centre pole heights from 110cm (windy) to 135cm (balmy with pole set on a rock).

I’ve more recently took the lazy man’s approach and just used 110cm (~43″) for both poles, the same height as I have for walking, this height gives me ample head room and maintains slight through ventilation (this is the height in the photo’s);  It works well if using just a ground sheet and/ or a bivi bag, the PyraNet inner does really like a 120cm.

Step 2: Stake out the Trailstar loosely at the primary points, the seam lines, starting on the upwind corner seam.

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Step 3: Clip the entrance guy in position and set pole in position, I find setting the entrance pole loosely in position first it makes it easier getting in and out.

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Step 4: Set centre pole in position.

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Step 5: Adjust main staking points and tension guys, check to make sure that the centre pole is vertical before fully tensioning.  I’ve found the key to getting a good taut pitch is to ensure the stakes are in line with the seams.  On low height pitches and a dry tarp it’s necessary to have 5 – 7cm tensioning left in the guys to take up any slack if it rains.

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Step 6: Stake out the four secondary points if required, it does help reduce a bit of flapping in high winds……your done.

One of the great advantages of the Trailstar comes in bad weather, once it’s up; throw the sack inside, climb in and get sorted; plenty of space to get the bed set up, lounge about, and cook. The reverse also applies, everything can packed away in comfort, out of the weather, and then the tarp dropped in a couple of minutes.

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4 comments on “MLD Trailstar

  1. Adam Bentley
    April 14, 2014

    Great article! Purchased a TS recently so just waiting for it to arrive. Thanks for the tips 🙂

    • Paul Atkinson
      April 14, 2014

      Thanks, I’m sure you’ll be pleased with the TS.

      • Adam Bentley
        April 14, 2014

        I’m sure I will. The upto 10 week wait is a bit of a downer but I have heard its well worth it 🙂

  2. Pingback: MLD Trailstar Pitching Mod | Whiteburn's Wanderings

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This entry was posted on October 16, 2013 by in Gear, Reviews and tagged , .
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