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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Pitching the Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar

I recently took my kids out for a short overnight backpack in the Sacramento Mountains. It was a pleasant night, spent reading books by headlamp, slapping daddy long leg spiders off of us, eating candy, laughing, and enjoying each others company under a cool night high above the warm desert valley below.

Teaching my kids simple basics of backpacking is rewarding, it's interactive, fun, and they develop a sense of purpose in our outings, instead of me just dragging them along on daddy's adventures. The Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar is arguably the most simple shaped tarp available, so easy my two and three year old children can figure it out, it offers sufficient room for a nasty bivy under wind and rain storms, accommodates 2 adults + gear, and easily could sleep 2 adults and 2 small children (toddlers) if you're careful. The variety of pitches whether setup as a mid type shelter or a sprawling sun canopy is atypical of most catenary shaped tarps, which tend to be "one trick ponies".

It's amazing how pleasantly simple it is to get a taut pitch with the Trailstar, it borderlines intuition. When I'm out in the mountains, tired after a 25 mile day of hiking, the last thing I want to do is dick around with poles, grommets, rain flys, and floors, the Trailstar is made for individuals like myself. I don't have an exact method i refer to when pitching the Trailstar, it seems every time I pull the tarp out of my pack I set it up with slight deviation in process than the previous outing, nonetheless the shelter is always pitched perfectly with no fuss in a matter of a minute or two. The real test of a mountain worthy shelter, in my opinion, is whether it can be deployed under adverse conditions in an expedited manner, factoring in physical and mental fatigue, the Trailstar has proven in my experience, to be such a worthy shelter.

This has been my greatest shelter investment, and has replaced all my previous shelters, with the exception of my miniscule MLD Monk. At around 19oz. or so with guylines, the Trailstar isn't the lightest piece of silnylon available, but it might arguably be the slickest piece of UL real estate out there , so slick in fact rain slips off of it with ease and wind can't uproot it.

Trying to describe to people how to pitch the Trailstar is an exhausting compound exercise of the brain, showing someone how to do it is far easier than juggling words. Below is a video of my kids getting a run down on how to pitch a Trailstar. Enjoy.
Pitching the Mountain Laurel Designs Trailstar from Eugene Smith on Vimeo.

Shot w/:

  • Nikon D7000
  • 35mm f/1.8
  • iMovie


  1. Great video! One of the best I've seen in a while :) Finally I got to see a Trailstar to scale with people.

  2. Great video, Eugene! So, now also went under the D7000 owners? Happy with it, the camera?

  3. Sweet vid, Eugene! Props to you for taking your kids out and involving them. That's awesome.

  4. Awesome video. Great to see the kids out there with you! Oh, and nice shelter too... :) Thanks for posting.