Sunday 4 March 2012

Cuben Fibre Trailstar

The Trailstar tarp pictured in my last post has attracted some attention, including requests for other pictures so here is a selection. The first four were taken in the early morning in Glen Feshie after I'd lowered the Trailstar during the night due to a strengthening wind. The centre pole height was about 1 metre. Thanks again Tony for the loan of this tarp! 

These two photos show the first practice pitch with the centre pole at 1.2 metres.


  1. Hi, Chris.

    Did you happen to weigh the cuben Trailstar. MLD's scales have been a bit idiosyncratic in the past. I think they are posting the cuben version at 180g lighter than the silnylon version. I wonder if this is a saving which is worth making, even for an ageing hiker who needs to shave as much weight as possible if big hills are to be climbed. The silnylon version looks more shapely and mine hasn't rattled.

    A downside of the silnylon Trailstar is the largest stitch holes I've ever seen. This is the first shelter I've needed to seam seal. Is the cuben version bonded?

  2. Thanks Chris for posting more photos.

    @Zed The Cuben Trailstar is bonded, thus not needing to be seam sealed. Mine weights 303g without guys on my scales. I guess it's up to the individual to decide if the weight saving is worth the premium.

  3. I agree with Simon on weight, give or take a couple of grams, my TS is 301g, ie, the ones in these photos ;-)
    Add in guylines and pegs.

    I'm still blinded sided by how good Chris pitched it!


    PS - pasting my link worked this time. Just as well I don't just give up :-)

    Fab stuff Chris. I feel very proud to share this with you.

  4. Tony's Cuben Fibre Trailstar weighs 404 grams with guylines. The guylines are quite thick and some are very long. I'd replace them with 2mm Dyneema, which is much thinner and lighter. The stuffsack weighs 17 grams.

    The pegs I used weighed 90 grams with stuffsack (including two spares). The groundsheet, a very old well-worn silnylon one (I used it on the Arizona Trail in 2000), weighed 231 grams. So my total weight was 742 grams.

  5. Thank you, all, for the information.

  6. Love these shelters and the fact there light weight, as for me I dont use trekking poles I would have to add this weight too? so 742 grams + poles =??? now it aint light weight but an excellent shelter for all weathers

  7. Poles are 600 odd grams.
    My alloy Pacer Poles = 694g.
    Not weighed my carbon poles yet. Maybe 100g lighter.

    I know Steve Horner uses a secondary glazing sheet from Wickes as a groundsheet. I got one. Cut in half 58g.

  8. Hi Chris, When would you not use it ?

  9. Alastair, I would use it in most place at any time. The only drawback I can see would be on narrow and small sites as it does cover a big area. However being a tarp it's flexible enough to adapt to this, unlike a fixed shape tent.

    Tony, I wonder how long that Wickes sheet will last. The weight is good.

  10. I am on my second Wickes Double Glazing sheet after over 40+ nights out. I could still use the original, it had just got very dirty and torn the corners only. I still have the original and will clean it at some point and could still use it.

    Interesting that with pegs and original guy line its only 200g lighter than the silnylon (mine 694g). I've pitched mine in some places I think I would struggle to pitch a cuben which according to Ron is slightly more fussy about the pitch.

    I need to update my Trailstar review, with a few more things that's happened since the original review.

    I may buy the cuben version at some point in the future though.

    1. Steven, I have lots of heavy guy on it.
      Chris, when I switch guy to 2mm will that save quite a bit if guy

      PS - my last comment not worded well, sorry.


  11. 40+ nights is impressive for the Double Glazing sheet. I'll have to get one!

    Looking at pictures of the silnylon Trailstar (I've never seen one of these) the curves between the corners show the stretch. I guess it's easy to tighten the guys and remove any wrinkles or looseness. You can't do that with the Cuben Fibre one. The position of the peg is crucial.

  12. Thanks Steven for info.
    Chris, if you get a sheet keep us posted on how it goes.

    I think it was pegging position that flummoxed my pitiful attempts.

    Chris, baring in mind you not seen a silnylon TS, do you think the cuben is potentially much trickier to pitch? Rather than virtually the same, as we sort of thought originally.

  13. Tony, I don't know just how much easier the silnylon Trailstar is to pitch. The stretch obviously makes a difference but I'd need to pitch one to see how much.

    Thinner line would save a little weight though not very much. It would make the guys slide through the LineLoks much more easily.

  14. Just 'listening' in on you guys.

    This is top notch reviewing here. Am currently trying to decided on Silnylon or Cuban and am leaning toward Silnylon for it's slight flexibility advantage. I don't like the thought of pitching the apparently less forgiving Cuban in less than ideal conditions (wind, pitch area etc)

    Not sure the weight saving (and additional costs) are worth it for the more 'average' hiker? Seems the Silnylon Trailstar is a great way to step forward from more traditional shelters while the Cuban is for the dedicated ULer?

    Thoughts welcome.

    1. My predictive text fails on Cuban (Cuben)

  15. Chris, I agree with you. I'd choose the silnylon. With guys and pegs the weight difference will probably be well under 200 grams.

    The Trailstar is also a great step forward from other tarps as it's so much more weather resistant.

  16. Colin Ibbotson6 March 2012 at 06:22

    Chris be careful using 2mm dyneema with this shelter. It won't work well with the fitted linelocs and will slip in a storm (particularly when wet). Trust me, I've tried all the alternatives! Its best to use what MLD supply as it NEVER slips. Because of the size of the Trailstar and its lack of guys the pressure on the pegging points is greater than most shelters and you don't want to skimp on pegs or cord. The only Trailstars i know of that have failed in a storm were because of pulled pegs. Because I only use the Trailstar in bad weather i use 9" stakes on the seams. Mid panel is less critical.

    As for the choice between silnylon and cuben thats something we will be able to answer better next week when we get to see them both side by side. From what I've seen so far the cuben Trailstar has more limited pitching options. Every 120cm pitch in cuben has a large gap at the bottom making for a draft night, silnylon on the other hand will pitch corners to the ground at 120cm but leaves a smaller gap mid panel. At 100cm they look similar and both pitch well. It will be good to see how quickly they both pitch, my moneys on silnylon winning here!

    As for poles the Trailstar works well with the lightest hiking poles. I've used mine with Gossamer Gear Lt4's since new which at 200g/pair are about as light as they come. They are fine in a low shelter like this and I've never been worried about them snapping in a storm (unlike when used them in the taller Duomid). There is certainly no need to use 600g+ poles.

    Looking forward to seeing one in the flesh!

  17. Fascinating stuff Chris.

    Quick logistical question.

    If setting up the tarp as a basecamp and heading out to visit some hills using your trekking poles, can you collapse the tarp securely, or is it a more sensible option to bring an additional tarp pole from MLD or similar supplier?

    Dave Porter

  18. Wow, what fab replies.

    Colin, the yellow guy line on there is Ron's.
    The green my paracord from Amazon.

    I sort of colour coded it and knot coded it at the rear. The rear line is green with two knots on the end. The mid tie points next to it are yellow with one knot in end. That way I know which way to turn it to find the very rear pegging point.

    I expect Chris has noted this.

    There was method in my madness :-)

    It's particularly interesting what you say about the 2mm cord.

    I can't wait to hear back how it all goes.


  19. Colin Ibbotson6 March 2012 at 09:31

    Dave. The tarp poles supplied by MLD for some of his other tarps are not suitable for the Trailstar. They are way too flexible and would not support a shelter like the Trailstar. They are also not height adjustable which is very important if you want to get the most from this shelter.

    I wouldn’t leave a shelter like the Trailstar pitched unattended for long periods because of its open door. Should it be particularly windy and it changes direction to your open door then you could be in trouble...

    I believe it is possible to pitch the Trailstar perfectly flush on all sides (no door) but have never tried it.

  20. Chris,
    Will midges be a problem at night sleeping under the tarp?

  21. Colin, I've tried 1.2 and 2mm Dyneema and the latter seems to hold okay. I'll bring some next week (we're going to compare the silnylon and Cuben Fibre tarps).

    I've used Pacerpoles with the Trailstar because that's what I use anyway. I'm sure any other trekking poles would be okay.

    I left the tarp up last week while we went up Mullach Clach a'Bhlair. I was fairly certain the wind wouldn't change! My groundsheet was pegged to the ground and there were no light items that could have blown away. My sleeping bag was packed up in case rain got in. If I was leaving the Trailstar for long, or on a campsite, I'd try pegging it to the ground all the way round or use an inner tent.

    When I went up Mullach Clach a'Bhlair I left my trekking poles holding up the tarp. I often don't use poles on day walks anyway. I guess you could collapse the Trailstar over your gear but it would flap in the wind.

    The Trailstar offers no protection against midges! In midge season I would use an inner tent like the one made by Oookworks.

  22. I am currently lucky enough to own both versions. I haven't pitched the cuben one yet, as I have been too busy and used the silnylon one on my last trip. I had my youngest boy along and had visions of him destroying my new cuben wonder.

    In terms of guylines I have found the same as Colin. Lighter lines do seem to hold OK, but at other times they don't, so I always use the MLD supplied ones. I also use 9" Easton nails on the main points.

    So far my Trailstar seems to have been sprayed with a storm repellent and I just haven't been able to test it in high winds.

    I may end up keeping both versions, but if I only keep one it will be the silnylon. I look forward to Colin and Chris' feedback on both versions. I can't think of two better people to be looking at my favourite shelter :).

  23. Just looking at the 120cm pitch and it looks different from the silnylon version pitched at 120cm. The door looks a lot narrower and higher and of course there are the big gaps. I have usually pitched mine at 120cm unless I was very sure there will be no wind. I did pitch it at about 100cm one night and found the interior space was compromised.

  24. My experience after switching to lighter line (kelty triptease) was not all that encouraging, given that tight pitching is essential is shelters of this type (mine is the silnylon version). The linelocs themselves have been a real revelation, but the kelty line tended to slip when wet. Having misplaced the original line I've used some of the thicker line from Hilleberg and been very happy with it.
    Although I haven't seen the cuben version I have to say that given the choice of one or the other (cost being no object) I'd stick with the silnylon one. If 200g is that much of an issue I think that it can be shaved from other areas of most (but not all) people's kit with less of a reduction in utility and convenience.
    All in all, my favourite shelter, even with it's currently less than ideal (for my tastes) midge-proofing opportunities, but that's another thread in itself.........

  25. Hi Chris

    Which do you prefer?

    ...Trailstar, Doumid or Akto???



  26. Hi Justin, outside of midge season the Trailstar. For midges the Akto (or Scarp 1). I haven't used a Duomid yet. I have the OookWorks mesh inner for the Trailstar - when there are midges I'll try it.

  27. Using 2 mm dyneema will work consistently only if you tie off with a half hitch next to the line-loc. this will prevent any slippage.

  28. Hi Chris - on Moel Siabod this weekend the string winds pushed my centre walking pole over collapsing my silnylon trailstar on me. Anyway to stop this ?

  29. Chris - this weekend on Moel Siabod the strong winds pushed my centre walking pole over and collapsed the silnylon trailstar on me - not easy to escape the ookworks inner and erect it again in the dark - any tips to avoid this - external guy line on centre ???!

    1. I've not had this problem Graham. I have had the centre pole pushed down so hard the sections shortened but I've never had it blown over. A guyline from the peak of the Trailstar might help. In strong winds I do have the centre pole fairly short anyway.