My first night under my MLD Trailstar

I had been looking forward to this weekend for a while because besides visiting family in North Wales I was intending to wild camp with my new Trailstar shelter. The primary purpose of this wild camp was to test my MLD Trailstar. However, I also had with me a new Exped SynMat 7 UL sleeping mattress and some instant backpacking food that I had just received from Outdoorsgrub to try out. I was also closely recording how much I had used my little gas stove to figure out how much gas (roughly) I will need for the TGO Challenge; more on that in a later post.

By late afternoon on Saturday the light was already beginning to fade when I left my car in Penmaenmawr and headed off to the top of the hill behind the small town. I was not out for the walk particularly as it was not going to take long, or much effort, to get to the 400m or so top (although it is good training none the less) but the purpose was to spend the night under my new Trailstar shelter. The location is pretty exposed and can be very windy catching the westerly and northerly winds whipping across the Irish Sea.

MLD Trailstar

It did not take me very long to be at my intended pitch, the middle of a stone circle known locally as the Druid Circle. For some reason there is no heather and the grass is short having been grazed by sheep and wild ponies.

This will be a good test for both me and the Trailstar; strong winds, hail and rain, cold temperatures and 14.5 hours of darkness.

It was almost dark as I pitched the Trailstar. I had read blogs, watched videos and pitched it once before and knew it would be quick and easy … and it was. I put the first gorgeous gold coloured 9 inch stake (‘peg’ does not do it justice) into the ground at the rear corner, into the wind. Then pegged the next two corners one either side of the first, and then finally the front two either side of the front side (side of the pentagon shape) pegged slightly closer together to allow a little slack for the front opening. I set my trekking pole to 110cm and raised the roof. A quick clove hitch on the other trekking pole and the door was raised.. and we are nearly done already. Just a case now of tightening the corners with the attached line locks to obtain a really tight shelter. It was nearly perfect first time. A slight adjustment to the two stakes near the opening and that was almost it. I pegged the center of the four sides down to help cut down the drafts. Very quick, and in very windy and wintry conditions. I was most pleased, not that I had any doubts, that I could pitch it so easily.

I took my Hilleberg Akto footprint with me as a groundsheet and I also took my bivvy bag. The bivvy bag was in case it rained a lot and the seams leaked; I had not yet sealed the seams, and because it would provide a little extra warmth in these conditions (whether it did or not I am unsure). I pumped up my new Exped SynMat 7 UL and settled down to have a cuppa and make some dinner.

After I had eaten I was starting to feel chilly and slipped into my sleeping bag to keep warm. It was early evening and it was dark. There were another 13 hours of darkness to go. It felt like a test of my sanity or that I was being punished for something, it was going to be a long night…

… and it was. The evening was the worst part and I should possibly have taken some reading material or my mp3 player. I tried to sleep but was not really tired yet and I was getting cold and bored.  The Trailstar was great though. The strong gusts of wind were not troubling it at all and the large hail was bouncing off the drum tight silnylon, I was pleased and not the slightest bit concerned about the Trailstar. I have spent windy nights in my Akto worrying whether it and I would survive but I had not such concerns about my Trailstar, it was solid.

Around 10 or 11pm the wind changed direction a little and started blowing from the side quite a bit. It wasn’t blowing in but was making the opening flap around a lot and make a lot of noise. I decided to move the door. It was easy enough and quick. A slight adjustment of a couple of the pegs and repositioning the trekking pole and it was done, nice and easy. Outside it looked like it had been snowing, it was white everywhere, but it was in fact hail stones covering the ground rather than snowflakes.

MLD Trailstar

The rest of the night went more quickly. I seemed to sleep for an hour or so before waking up freezing cold. A quick jiggle around in my sleeping bag to warm up and I was off back to sleep again. I kept checking the temperature during the night and it varied between zero and 3 degrees C. I realised my 3 season down bag was not up to the job but the extra clothes I was wearing made it bearable. I had removed my bivvy bag for the last couple of hours to see if it would make any difference to the warmth becuase I suspected it might have been compressing the down. My sleeping bag did puff up quite a bit bit I didn’t really notice any difference in the warmth, or should I say degrees of cold! The Exped SynMat worked well. It was comfortable and I barely felt any cold through it so I was very happy with that. I slept for the last couple of hours to about 6.30 at which point I made a cup of tea and warmed up a bit.

I was grateful for the daylight that soon followed. Much of the hail stones had now melted but there was still a nice little patch round the Trailstar to prove that it had been there! Taking the Trailstar down was quicker than putting it up and I was soon heading back down the hill to my car.

The Trailstar was great and I had a great experience. I was chuffed to have camped wild underneath it in winter, I survived (mentally) and feel stronger for the experience. It is quite something to open your eyes in the middle of the night and look straight out of the opening at the hail covered ground. It was as solid as a rock in very windy conditions, I know my Akto would have been blown about considerably. It did not leak, although I will still probably seal the seams. It was quick and easy to pitch in cold difficult conditions and the gold coloured stakes look amazing!

If you want a bomb proof shelter, like using a tarp and a bit of fresh air blowing around, and like the immediate views when opening your eyes in the middle of the night and in the morning, then I can highly recommend the Trailstar from Mountain Laurel Designs.

24 thoughts on “My first night under my MLD Trailstar

  1. Sounds like you had a good but slightly chilled night. Time to try out a new down bag?

    Well done for giving it a go!

  2. Having seen Martin Rye’s Trailstar on our recent trip to the Yorkshire Dales I was mightily impressed by its stability. I must be a bit slow, but it’s obvious now you mention it, but it’s also a piece of cake “turning it around” – I would hate doing that with a normal backpacking tent.

    I am a total convert to this shelter. I think it would be amazing with an Oookworks inner as well – I realise that you would lose the options of height adjust-ability, but I think it would give a perfect all weather solution – perhaps no quite as good in the snow, but you can always kick that off from the inside…

    • It didn’t take long to realise it was rock solid when the gusts came, very stable, and I could have pitched it 10cm lower too. The only thing that added a mere few seconds to move the door was the fact that I had used black paracord instead of the bright yellow stuff that came with it (because it is lighter) and it was a little difficult to see in the dark.

      I didn’t need an inner last weeknpend and I would not have used one had I opened one. I think I’ll only use one when there is the strong risk of bugs (midges and ticks on the TGO Challenge for example but I’ll see how it goes.

  3. So now you have your own portable plastic cave – fabulous – and you can move the door too!

    Is it possible/comfortable to hunker down all sides to make a kind of 5-sided teepee?

    • Yes it is. All sides of the pentagon shape are the same and you can just peg it out without a door as such, slacken a corner and slide in I guess. Might be handy in really bad weather although you can have the door really low if you want.

  4. Pingback: A quick test of gas use for lightweight backpacking | bryan waddington

  5. Hi Bryan,

    Noticed you on the TGO Forum ….

    Just stumbled on your Blog.

    Great to see another Trailstar on the block!

    It is a bombproof shelter – just make sure your stakes are good.

    I hope you enjoy using it. And I hope you enjoy the lead up to May.

    That feeling of anticipation – leading up to a first TGO ……… well, it’s still there after two TGOs.

    Hopefully, may bump into you on route or in Montrose.


    • Hi Gordon. I’m loving the Trailstar and really enjoying the TGC Challenge build up.. It will come around really quick now I’m sure.

      Yes, we certainly might bump into each other. One of the biggest challenges of the Challenge is remembering the names of all the people have met online :)

  6. Hi Bryan,

    Just stumbled across your blog and wanted to say I love some of your photos. Real attention to detail but natural looking. Can’t wait for my trailstar to arrive and watching your video on Moel Siabod just made it worse!


    • Hi Marcus. thank you for your kind comments about my photos. Moel Siabod was great, I really enjoyed it, it was such an amazing wild camp. I hope your Trailstar arrives soon, it’s tough when you have to wait so long but it will be worth it. I’ll keep an eye on your blog.

      Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Hi Bryan

    If you are still looking for a winter sleeping bag check out Rock and Run on the internet. They are doing a brill deal of the Rab Alpine 600 for £199 – it was £350 but has now been replaced by a newer model. I bought one a couple of months back and think it brilliant value. Not used yet because of the warmer (!) weather but it looks a great bag.
    I am also awaiting delivery of a Trailstar :)

    • Hi David, I ended up buying a Western Mountaineering Apache MF bag. Rated at -10 it keeps me warm. In Scotland I woke up chilly a few times at -3 and I had all my clothes on so it was really needed. Thanks for the info about the Rab bag though.

      Congrats on ordering a Trailstar :) when are you expecting to get it?

      • Hi Bryan
        I ordered the Trailstar mid May so I expect it will be about another three weeks – perhaps it will have stopped tipping it down by then and I can get some decent use out of it. Moving to Wales end of July so plan to try it out there and up in Cumbria initially, then may head off to Scotland for a few days in September.

        If you ever fancy a Trailstar meet do get in touch!

  8. Hi Bryan great blog was good reading and some good information. Im looking at ordering a trailstar and just wanted to ask how much was it in the end with import tax ect? im on a bit of a budget and didnt now wether you had loads of tax added when it got to the uk?.

    Cheers for now mike

    • Thanks Mike. I can’t honestly remember how much I paid at the moment but I will look it up. I bought the large stakes at the same time which are well worth it. I’ll come back to you Mike.

      Best wishes, Bryan.

  9. Hi Bryan
    Enjoyed your blog post and reading the comments, my order has just gone on for the trailstar and I’m on the long wait for it to arrive, I ordered a custom of the original it is I believe one ft shorter on each side as was a big concerned about its foot print size.

    Keep up the good work.

  10. Hi David

    I’ve been looking at the Trailstar for a couple of months and the only thing that has put me off is the sheer size of the footprint as it’ll be primarily for solo use. Being 5’4″, I only need 95 – 100 cm to sit up in, even allowing for sleeping bag and mat. I didn’t realise you could order custom ones – I’d be really interested to know how you get on.


    • Hi Alison,

      I would just like to comment on the the size of the space required to pitch one of these things. Whilst it is a large shelter, and the footprint is therefore large, you don’t necessarily require a large area of flat ground to pitch the Trailstar because you can pitch it over the top of tufts of grass and even rocks (I have done both). I tend to look for an area the size of the Trailstar to start with but if I’m in a hurry to get pitched or there are no suitable areas then all you need is to find a space that you can sleep in and pitch the TS over anything else that is around.

      The minimum space you therefore need can be smaller than that required for a regular one person tent for example!

      Just thought that was worth mentioning. Thanks for stopping by.


  11. Thanks Bryan – I’ve just found out that MLD do a “Little Star” which is 15% smaller than the regular Trail Star. That would seem to fit the bill!

    • Interesting, I can’t see any details on their website for the Little Star though. I should just point out, apologies if it’s obvious, but in a regular tent, like my Akto for example, you can actually place your head at the highest point but in the TS the highest point has your trekking pole in the way and the sides come down steeply from that point. I was out at the weekend and set my trekking pole to 115cm (I was on a hill, it was a bit windy, and 115cm allows me to get the sides almost tight to the ground) and it was comfortable for me to sit up straight (I’m 5ft 8) if I sat pretty close to the pole. If the insides are damp, and they will get damp if you’re in the UK sometime, then you really don’t want to be touching the insides with your head and shoulders. You can of course pitch the TS with a higher centre pole in good weather or a lower one in poor weather.

      If you are anywhere near Milton Keynes then I’d be happy to meet up and show you the TS pitched, if you have not seen one yet, before you make the decision to buy the smaller one or just to have a look.

      Best wishes,

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