Back to the Expensive Stuff …

I see that snow is coming and no doubt all those up t’north will be getting ready to play in the fluffy stuff. the last few days have been good for local walking but for me this is the time of the year to think about planning for the next season.

Now, I wouldn’t want you all to think that I’d suddenly developed a sense of responsible proportion by focusing on all of this budget stuff, for my mind at this time of the year inevitably turns to new shelters.

My curent shelter of choice has remained the same for three or four years now, the cuben fibre Duomid from Mountain Laurel.  I am quite happy with this shelter but I am beginning to think about lede after it. The Duomid has a zipped front and so far this has held well — I look after it carefully. But, inevitably, the zipper will deteriorate at some point and I maybe able to easily replace but maybe not.


The Duomid has seen me become a real convert to cuben. Cuben is light, yes but also expensive. But I like the way it handles and doesn’t shrink. Some seem to find problems in getting a taught pitch but I find this easier than with sinylon. I’ve have found cuben to be pretty tough and also pretty easy to patch up when I do something silly like put a tent peg through it.

So, my next ideal shelter would be made of cuben and, probably, wouldn’t have a zip/zipper. So, what might I be thinking about?

Two shelters are pretty similar, the Mountain Laurel Cricket and the Z Packs Hexamid. These two tents share the same kind of footprint and both utilise a pull down beak system for protection to the rain. Z Packs build in a lighter weight of cuben than MLD have as standard and I’d be interested in comments on durability. Keith Foskett  has been promising a review for while but it has not yet arrived. Come on Keith!  These two shelters may be joined next year by one designed by Colin Ibbotson which should be interesting.

I must admit to wondering about the size of these tents. I have noticed that one or two people have commented that they find size restricted in such a shelter. This light be why Joe at Z Packs has recently bought out two new shelters, the Solplex and the Duplex. These solo and two person tents respectively are still pretty lightweight, indeed, they are comparable to Hexamids but appear to offer a lot more space. Both use two trekking poles for support. The Duplex looks similar to a cuben version of the Stratospire II.

I won’t have to worry about replacement yet. On next years TGO Challenge we will be using the Stratospire and the Duomid will no doubt be fine for solo trips to the hills. Joe fromZ Packs will be on the Challenge next year and it will be interesting to meet up with him and to talk about fabrics and design. Perhaps, I ought to pack my audio recording machine now.

On my last Challenge I had a good look at Six Moon Design shelters — Ron Moak and his walking companion were both using cuben shelters. The cuben Haven looked very well designed and well made.

No doubt I’ve missed a few of the more rare and esoteric designs that are out there.

I’ve long been an admirer of the MLD Trailstar. I’ve heard both bad and good things about the cuben version of the Trailstar — some find it inferior to the sinylon version and some are very happy with it.  My problem with the Trailstar is its high footprint. Now, the new Little Star might present a serious option to consider.

I know there are others around these parts who spend more money than is sensible on state of the art lightweight shelters. What do you reckon?


  1. What’s the problem with the large footprint of the Trailstar Andy? I haven’t found one. Because of the versatile shape it can be pitched fine in places where a smaller shelter with a fixed shape would be impossible to pitch properly.

  2. Thanks for that Chris — one of the reasons I made that comment was to get feedback. I like the loo of the little star though!

    • “you will be closer to the edges and should use a DWR bivy sack for any wind or bounced or blown rain near the edges” – that puts me off the Little Star. I like a shelter that gives enough protection on its own. I’ve never used or needed a bivy bag with the Trailstar – and I’ve used it on around 75 nights.

  3. Rob Slade says:

    I’d second the comment on the trailstar being easy to pitch. I’ve pitched it with a tree stump in the porch area on one night, in a space the akto just wouldn’t have fit in. I like it more and more. Last year I managed to leave my walking poles behind one day and still managed to pitch it suspended from an overhanging tree bough with a fallen branch holding up the door. I rue the expense of replacing the poles, but I know I couldn’t have pitched a duomid like that and that makeshift camp is a treasured memory of TGO 2013.

    In a perfect world I’d love the Cuben trailstar for the weight, but every one I’ve seen looks like it’s struggling to pitch well. So, I will be sticking with the cheaper silnylon option. Frankly a few more walks and runs will help my 2014 TGO far more than skimming those grams!

    The littlestar just seems a poor compromise to me. If I need to carry a bivi then I’d rather the extra weight went into the larger shelter to give me more room. Each to their own though, and if you carry a bivi anyway then it makes more sense I guess. Haven’t seen any details of Colin’s shelter, but I’ve just bought a modified starlyte stove on the back of his review and I think it’s a winner. Anything Colin builds of recommends is worth a second look.

  4. I agree with everything you say Rob. I wouldn’t bother with the Cuben Trailstar though. I had the opportunity to test one and I could only pitch it properly in one configuration. Colin Ibbotson had the same difficulty. We went out together with both silnylon and Cuben versions and agreed the former was better. I wrote this up on my blog here:

  5. I never found a issue pitching the Trailstar. But if you’re tall you will find those shallower sloping sides more cramped than you thought. Apart from that the TS is hard to fault.

    Andy I really like Mids and for me pyramid even sided shelters are my choice. Golite SL3 on the last TGOC, and next one I get on. Single skin mids are ideal, but unequal side designs like the DuoMid do present a steep wind catching profile, unlike a Trailstar, or SL3 which have better wind shedding profiles (TS is unbeatable) with the TS having those long shallower sides deflecting wind very effectively.

    Ultimately in Scotland a sheltered pitch is not always to be found and therefore wind resistance is a need in shelter choice. A Trailstar then is a easy to go to choice. Light, cost effective and versatile. Downside no door might put some off, and the shallow sloping sides do mean its a bit cramped if your tall and pitching it low say at 95cm in a storm – as they cut the apex space right down Vs a SL3. You you will brush up against the sides getting changed into dry kit in a TS. Its a top shelter to consider mind you and yes I sold mine – but I still rate it and recommend it. But I like the SL3 more. Each to his own as they say.

    • I take the point about size. I’m happy with my Duomid — it has stood up to a lot of punishment over the last four years. I’ve only had one bad night with it over the last couple of years, in Scotland this autumn. I pitched just short of Ben McDui on very wet ground. I should have simply placed a stone under the pole but didn’t. During the storm that night my pole ‘sank’ into the soft grass. The only problem I have found with the Duomid over the years is that if this happens and you loose pole height it is very difficult to readjust this properly from inside of the tent — and unpleasant to be doing this in a storm. I spent the night being bashed around and cursing my short sightedness. A little piece of rock would have made a massive difference. Mind you, as I lay through the storm I could hear my walking companions traditional tent flapping as noisily as mine!

      I like the useable space in the Duomid. But I am beginning to thing aloud about what next. Shall wait for Colin’s new shelter I think!

  6. I’ve only used my Hexamid for a few nights in Scotland, but it is a good piece of kit. I’m 6′ 1″ and if I’m touching the sides, it usually means I haven’t set my trekking pole high enough. I haven’t got “rain splatter” inside yet.

    One advantage the Hexamid has over the new Duplex and Solplex is the removable groundsheet. If the inside of the Hexamid is wet with condensation when I strike camp, I can stop that getting on the groundsheet by removing the groundsheet and keeping it separate (and thus dry).

    Looking forward to Colin Ibbotson’s new shelter!

  7. John, I just read the five star reviews on Amazon of your book. Sounds great re camaraderie and the experiences of meeting people. Thats what matters so much on a walk rather than a geographical A to B experience. I’ll download it onto my Kindle for my trips in the new year

    • Jay,

      Thanks! I’m still in the process of getting it onto Kindle. I’m currently waiting for the IRS to send me an American tax number so that I can complete the Kindle process. They (the IRS) are painfully slow, so much so that I’ve started to appreciate the occasional IRS joke on The Simpsons!

      I’ll let you know when I enter Kindle-land.

      John Davison

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