THE Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar has a look of the space age when it is first erected. But after seam sealing, the sheer lines and shiny smoothness disappear, masked by, in my case, clumsy finger lines of silicon sealant, that leave as much Sil Net smeared on the right index finger as is left on the seam. Putting the thing up is a learning experience, but worth practising: laying out/ pegging out the tarp loosely and putting in the walking pole takes no time at all once a routine is established. And it is odd having no guy lines apart from at the entrance where the door, such as it is, remains held open.
Once up, it looks good but needs locking-style walking poles to keep the tent’s shape – not the twisty ones, which are fiddly to deal with, especially with gloves on. My old Robert Saunders tent could be set up blindfolded and the same with the Akto, but this Trailstar will be even easier. The space and open feel to the tent is cathedral like. And yes it is a tent because nestling inside is an Oooknest – ideal if you can’t be doing with drafts and wind blowing in your face and the prospect of creepy crawlies viewing you as an interesting landscape. Think snails – then midges and flies when the wind drops. But mainly snails.
Think of a section of the Ridgeway path on Bacombe Hill just on the approach, heading east, into Wendover, where there are snails the size of baby pygmies. Walk this stretch of path when it is hammering down with rain and the grass magically fills with these wonders of nature, which seem larger here than anywhere else in the country.
They were brought over by the Romans and are called – surprise, surprise – Roman snails (helix pomatia), burgundy snails, escargot. Edible snails to commoners such as us – ie, you eat them. So when people ask: “Why an inner with the tarp? That’s an extra 423.765 grams in weight.” Just think Roman snail trails and the slimy whatsits slithering all over your stubbly face, looking for a bit of revenge for being dragged over to Blighty from beautiful Italy.
Seam sealing is straightforward, unless you use too much and run out of the stuff 10 inches into the last seam and with enough silicon across an index finger to finish the job. Silicon finger gives an odd dragging sensation to the iPhone screen – swarfega helps remove it, but sweating it off with clingfilm wrapped round the finger works best.
The yellow chord guyline supplied by Mountain Laurel for a brown Trailstar does not make for a good colour scheme. These things are important. A brown flysheet cries out for a thinner, lighter but more to the point dark red Dyneema chord.The thinner chord makes it easier to attach self-adjusting guylines using shock chord, but the downside is that it renders the built-in Mountain Laurel line locks less effective in high winds. So enter stage left a Midshipman’s knot with a double hitch, as opposed to a single, at the tie off.
This knot slides along a guy line when you want it to but holds tight under pressure from high winds and there is plenty of room to adjust it if 60cm of guyline on each peg-out point is used. With the Trailstar at a low profile the peg-guys are a distance from the shelter, which adds to its footprint. But being at such a shallow angle the tent/tarp withstands high winds and the shock chord keeps the structure’s material taught when wet, which is important because of the lack of guy lines.
The Trailstar has the feel of a more down-to-earth (despite its space-age looks) tent/tarp than many shelters on the market and attaching self-tensioning guys seems a natural thing to do.
But doing the same to an expensive piece of kit such as the Hilleberg Akto would be sacrilege to what is a work of art and a much-admired model in the world of tent manufacture.
That, and it might affect the resale value.