Friday 11 November 2022

Ten Years of the Trailstar

Quinag, September 2015

On my walk with Tony Hobbs last month (see here) I realised that my Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar is ten years old and this deserved an acknowledgement. So here it is. In those years I've reviewed many tents and tarps but none has supplanted the Trailstar as my favourite for long walks. Indeed, I've used it on every walk of more than a few nights (and quite a few shorter ones) since 2012. It's travelled well over 2000 miles and been used on hundreds of nights and in some big storms and has never let me down.

Below Fuar Tholl in the NW Highlands on the TGO Challenge, May, 2012

Why do I like the Trailstar so much? Because, it's very light, roomy, and amazingly stable in stormy weather. I also like - no, enjoy, - the versatility. As it's a tarp rather than a tent it can be pitched in different ways. In particular it can be raised or lowered according to the weather - high for airflow, low too for wind resistance and to keep rain from blowing under the edges. 

A low pitch in very wet and windy weather above Loch a' Bhealaich on my Scottish Watershed walk, July 2013.   

The Trailstar does have a big footprint but I don't find this a problem as it's easy to pitch over rocks and bushes. I've even pitched on small sites with one side halfway up a bank. Working out how to pitch on awkward terrain is much more interesting than pitching a tent with a fixed shape.

On the TGO Challenge, May 2014. A wet and windy site in the Cairngorms.

I love the feeling of contact with nature and the landscape the Trailstar gives.It's airy and open. I usually sleep with my head at the door so I can look out at the night sky. If wind and rain disturb me I can quickly shift to the back, out of their reach. I do have a mesh inner which I use in midge season though. There are limits to how close I want to be with some of nature!

TGO Challenge, May 2016. Beside Loch Morar.

At 3500 metres below Mount Whitney on my Yosemite Valley to Death Valley walk, October 2016

On the GR5 Through the Alps, September 2018.

TGO Challenge, May 2019. Below the Mamores.

High in the Colorado Rockies, August 2019

After all this use the Trailstar is still in good condition. Only the little MLD label has faded and frayed. I smeared sealant over the seams when it was new - straight out of the tube, no messing with thinning or multiple layers - and it has never leaked. I'm hoping to be using it for many years yet.

On the Moine Mhor, Cairngorms, May 2022


  1. A very interesting variety of ways to pitch on most if not any terrain.As always,a nice selection of photos to go along with the text,thank you.

  2. Thank you, a great and inspiring review. Certainly worth considering as an alternative to the lightweight double wall or 1.5 wall tents many long distance trail walkers use (and with such durability silnylon beats DCF?). However the MLD innernet looks too small for 2 people, are other compatible mesh nets or inner tents available.

    1. I only know of one 2 person inner tent for the Trailstar, made by Bear Paw in Colorado.