Tuesday, October 2, 2012
My thoughts and an opinion on my MLD Cuben Trailstar.
Just thought I'd write a few opinions on my cuben fibre Trailstar. I'll have to compare it to my other shelters in this opinion, based on my experience, or lack of, with cuben vs silnylon vs various shelters and it’s about me and my thoughts. But it's primarily about the MLD Cuben Trailstar. This is not a review. That I'll leave to the experts who have tested stuff rigorously and know what they are talking about via years and thousands of miles of walking / camping. As some of you know I love cuben fibre and MLD. I have bought all my stuff. I've had no freebies or anything like that from Ron or anyone, nor do I wish to even go that route. My first tent was a Scarp 2 following an excellent review by Chris Townsend in TGO. I bought this last year (2011). I have pitched it a few times and slept in it in my conservatory, it was my way to introduce myself to sleeping under canvas. I did intend to camp in it. I may one day camp in it! It is not for sale. I do things my way. I first heard of MLD on Twitter and I have never looked back / the rest is history as they say. I'll not go through all my purchases as we'd be here all night. Actually, all year! One purchase, as soon as it was released was the cuben fibre Trailstar. I had already bought an extensive list of cuben products from Ron and knew his kit was superb. Second to none! In my eyes at least. Especially his cuben products. He bonds all his cuben. No stitching! No taping. It’s bonded. I have always been a loyal customer. Whether it be my local Snow and Rock or The Gorge Outdoors or indeed Ron. My loyalty will never waive. I believe you get what you pay for and good customer service / relations accounts for a hell of a lot. Especially if one has a problem. Ok, thank you, I heard that! I can walk into the above stores and get a hand shake, a warm welcome and even a cup of tea at The Gorge. I love all my MLD kit. My Grace Solo tarp, yes cuben, was probably my only ad hock off the cuff purchase. Why buy solo with Bess? Buggered if I know! But I don't regret buying it even if it gets no use in a long time. It'll never go off! Ditto for my Super Tarp, yes cuben, but it's easy to pitch and play with. Yes, I play with cuben fibre. This brings me to my cuben fibre Trailstar. It is a bit of a nemesis. I like it, don't think I'll ever "love" it like my silnylon Trailstar or even my cuben fibre Duomid, not so sure on that one. I love the Duomid, but I like the openness of the Trailstar! It’s pointless directly comparing the two, really… Part of me is disappointed in the cuben fibre Trailstar. Those that know me will know and may understand that saying that actually pains me. It also makes me feel disloyal to Ron. But that is just my personal mental state and, frankly is "me" I hate complaining or moaning. I have already stated in many a video, I’ll not be miserable. I hate “knocking” something. Especially a premium product, which this most certainly is. But am I knocking it! I don’t know. Let me try to explain things. This particular Trailstar can only be pitched one way. Low at about 1m. I have tried higher and it just won't pitch well. I got a low pitch on Dartmoor and was quite happy enough despite a slightly flappy door and Ron and Colin via email suggesting a remedy that didn't work for me. But this slightly flappy door bugged me. I had advice from three experts in their field, Chris Townsend, Colin Ibbotson and Ron himself all gave excellent advice via email over several months but I just could not master it. Over the last 6 months or so I have befriended Colin and I was lucky enough to walk with him for one section of his SWCP walk and camp on a cliff with Budleigh Salterton behind and Sidmouth in front, lit up for me to see out my door in the far distance. A few people passed my open door. I wasn't bothered at all! I love that open door. But I'll avoid campsites like the plague anyway. Colin pitched his silnylon Duomid quickly with inner whilst I was still working on my cuben Trailstar. Baring in mind I still lack camping experience, so this was no issue to me. My first pitch was pretty poor, awful in fact, again bare in mind I'd not pitched it for a few months, even then struggling a bit. Colin was able to see my efforts first hand and suggested a higher pitch. I knew here it would not work. I was willing to play along in case he knew something I didn't or I really was making a hash of it! He was not at all impressed with his attempt. I think he was shocked how bad it was. The rear can be pitched ok, but the front / doors just goes to pieces on this particular one. Maybe a degree out in the cutting process makes a difference as I've seen images of ones pitched well. Maybe cuben is that fussy in this shape / configuration. I don't know. I can only comment on mine. From my experiments I knew this one would only pitch low, just. So I retook the reins, lowered the central pole, repegged the rear pegs. One thing I'll make clear is that the rear half is absolutely rock solid and I think Colin would agree would easily withstand a hell of a lot of wind abuse and probably not move much if any. It easily matched and I'd say bettered the silnylon Duomid that Colin was in. Nothing moved or rippled! In this respect it’s superb! Ok it wasn't a strong wind, more a gentle breeze, but enough to show the two differing models ability to cope with wind. In my opinion. But for those doors! It seems impossible to get them and / or the ridge from the central pole to door pole tight. Even Colin failed. On a premium product this is a shame and makes me a little disappointed in it. On this particular model I can get that ridge tight (pole to pole) in one position only and this means the doors are slightly flappy. Colin tried and could not improve my effort! He was again shocked by this. I think Chris also found the doors problematic when he tried it a few months ago. I copied his example of leaning Platypus bottles against the door/s to take the slack out. This does help. Shouldn't be needed! But it helps. To get the doors at that situation I have to have them quite close / narrow and pitched tight to the ground. This reduces inner space and this I have commented on before in a video or two. I do find I'm touching the inner. However this doesn't seem to matter at the moment as based on two camps I've had zero condensation. One camp was dry Dartmoor, yes a dry camp! This camp it was quite wet and rained most of the night. I cooked both times under there too! Yes, zero condensation. I'd agree one can't base much on two camps in a shelter. That's why this is an opinion not a review! You are free to call it what you will. Again some of you will know I own the silnylon Trailstar and it's a totally different beast. In this instance the material clearly makes a massive difference. The silnylon TS is simply in a world of its own. If I had one shelter only it would be the silnylon Trailstar. Period! An aside and in my mind this is vital! This does not change my opinion of cuben fibre. Yes I'm only a part time camper or weekend camper. Despite usually camping during the week. I have all of 5 camps under my belt. I'm not talking durability, which with my usage I expect many years of service. I'm talking pitch and pitch alone! Cuben fibre works perfectly in the Duomid, I have one. It also works perfectly in fixed tarps. I have 2! Plus the poncho! But in the Trailstar it's slightly trickier / fiddly / fussy! Frankly a pain up the arse. The rear pitches perfectly low. No doubt, no question. And I'd wager its storm proofness from the rear will better almost anything out there. Common sense tells me that. It’s like a stealth fighter from behind. It's the setting of the doors that for me spoil it a bit, maybe a lot. I don't honestly know if this just annoys me or really annoys me! It really annoys me but in a way that a mother loves her ugly stroppy duckling I feel the same towards my cuben Trailstar, despite its bloody annoying slightly flappy narrow door! Having used it twice it has kept me warm, dry and comfortable. Especially on Dartmoor. It was dry. The SWCP was more of a "test" (I’m no tester!) it was wetter and rained all night, slugs were about too. The general wind noise was low to zero. I didn't get any of the howling Colin reported from inside his silnylon Duomid pitched right next to me. Rain on my "canvas" kept me awake, but remember my lack of experience with sleeping out under cover. Colin commented as have others, it takes time to get used to sleeping out, the pitta patta of rain. I know Chris reported the doors making an annoying buzz in high wind, a leaning Platypus appeared to sort that. I leaned a Platy, it does tighten up the door! I also believe Colin compared it very favourably to the Akto he once owned. That swayed a lot in the wind, I believe he said. My cuben Trailstar didn't move. It made me oddly proud. Has it leaked, blown away, swayed an inch? No. Not yet, anyway. For me, being lucky to have bought both versions I'd use the silnylon Trailstar in very bad weather anyway. Primarily due to ease of pitch, more apparent inner space and a lower even more weather proof door. I reiterate, I like the open door. I want to see out. Not be couped up, shut in. It is also incredibly light, it really is. I doubt there is anything out there that can match it for weight and stormproofness! Of course if the wind changes direction with that high door… but can one complain about that vs the weight. I’m not so sure one can! Do what Chris did once, get up, and move the door! I don’t fancy it, at my stage of camping, but for the weight… Hindsight. When Ron knew I was struggling to pitch it in the very early days he offered a return / refund. Should I have accepted it? Maybe, possibly, yes, I don't know. (EDIT! It was at this point that I contacted Chris and by default, Colin (whom I had been in touch with for a little while), asking if he / they was / were interested in taking a look at the pitch. I really did not want to return it. I wanted to (try) to get it right or as correct as is possible! End Edit). Would I have bought it first up with this knowledge? No. No, I'd just have gone straight to silnylon Trailstar. It's simply easier to pitch and easier to use and has more space inside, it appears to me. But, it’s just a door. Work with it, not against it. Would I give it away? No, Never! Would I sell it? No chance. It's mine. It's probably like a bloody annoying kid. Needs an eye on it. A bit of discipline. Its like me, an oddity! I own an MLD cuben Trailstar and I love the bloody sodding thing! By Tony Hobbs