The Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar is the best shelter I’ve ever had…by a long shot. I’ve owned and extensively used both the silnylon and cuben fiber versions, with roughly 160 or so nights of use, and I’ll be taking the cuben fiber version out on the PCT this spring. There’s simply no other shelter setup that offers more space, versatility and livability for the weight. In fact, the Trailstar is so good it was the inspiration for my first YouTube video: Cuben Trailstar Setup.
I’ve had many backpacking shelters over the years- too many. My first serious backpacking tent was a Sierra Designs Lightyear 1, which was one of the first double-wall shelters to break the 3lb barrier. I’ve had several Tarptents, a Lightheart Gear SoLong 6, nearly every shelter offered by ZPacks, including the Solplex and Duplex, and numerous tarp setups.
I started the Appalachian Trail in 2016 with a ZPacks Duplex, and after experiencing a number of issues, specifically with strong winds, I replaced it with a silnylon Trailstar that I found on BPL for $150. This was one of the single best decisions I’ve made in my backpacking career, as it’s completely changed my approach to backpacking.
It’s incredibly lightweight – my cuben Trailstar weighs 12oz with guylines and a stuffsack. The living space is absolutely palatial for one, incredibly livable for two, and can sleep 4 in a pinch. As an afternoon storm shelter, you could easily fit 6 or more seated hikers in the Trailstar. I’ve never been more comfortable in a backpacking shelter, though the Lightheart Gear SoLong 6 comes close.
The storm-worthiness of the Trailstar is where it really shines. It’s been through oceans of rain, loads of snow and had shed plenty of wind. Rated for up to 70mph winds, my silnylon version has seen 60mph gusts with no issues. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t scary, but I didn’t feel the sense of urgency to pack up and get the hell out of there. As we know, sometimes winds shift direction through the evening or in the middle of a storm, and it’s incredibly easy to re-orient the door of the Trailstar on the fly.
Many people feel the the Trailstar is better in silnylon than it is in cuben fiber, and I concur that is more user friendly in silnylon, but not necessarily better. It is easier to set up with a tighter pitch and in different variations of height and door pitch, but the same results can be found in the cuben version, it just takes a bit more understanding of geometries and perhaps a bit more work. For me, this tradeoff is worth the half pound of weight difference, and I will be taking my cuben fiber Trailstar on the PCT in mid April. Since I’ll be cowboy camping on the majority of nights, the decision is further justified.
Whatever your choice, you’ll be incredibly hard pressed to find a better, more spacious, versatile, stormproof shelter for backpacking in even the most challenging environments.
Pick up your next dream shelter from Ron at Mountain Laurel Designs here: