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Mountain Laurel Designs Patrol Shelter Review

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Mountain Laurel Designs Patrol Shelter Review

Postby Hetchy » Fri Aug 05, 2011 10:08 pm

Facts:
I used a mountain Laurel Designs Patrol Shelter made of .75 oz/sq yard Cuben Fiber @ 6.8 ounces for 100 nights and 2,180 miles on the Appalachian trail.
The Patrol is a shaped tarp that sets up with two trekking poles (or sticks or tent poles) and 9 stakes.
I chose to pair my MLD Patrol shelter with a Bear Paw Wilderness Designs Bug Bivy @ 8 ounces.
The bathtub floor of the bear paw minimalist one bivy is sil-nylon while the top half is nano-see-um mesh. The bivy comes with two attached hooks and cord locks that allow it to be suspended away from your face and hips making it a cozy bug free nest large enough for me and my pack to lay in and sleep or read.
Weights:
The Titanium stakes were from MLD 9 stakes @ .27 oz each =2.4 ounces
A lite line kit(guy line for tarp) was .7 ounces
So the total weight of my shelter system was 17.9 ounces.
My trekking poles which i used to support the tarp weigh 15 ounces.
There is no groundsheet because i used the bug bivies silnylon floor exclusively whether inside it or simply on top of it.
Cost:
The MLD Patrol Shelter in Green Cuben was $300
The Bear Paw Wilderness Designs Minimalist 1 Bivy was $85
Stakes and line were $38
Total cost for shelter system was 423.00
Pictures in action:
Appalachian Trail 2011 292.JPG
Mountain Laurel Designs Patrol Shelter

Appalachian Trail 2011 493.JPG
Mountain Laurel Designs Patrol Shelter

Appalachian Trail 2011 509.JPG
Patrol Shelter in the Rain

Appalachian Trail 2011 158.JPG
Patrol Shelter with Golite Umbrella

I found the Patrol Shelter used with the minmalist bivy to be the most effective wet weather shelter i have ever used.
Being able to set up the Patrol Tarp as my "roof" in the rain before disgorging the contents of my pack and thereby keeping my bivy dry made a world of difference for me.
It really takes the pressure off of waking up to a rainy dawn when you can leisurely pack everything into you pack and make it water tight before the final act of simply dropping the tarp and stuffing it into the external pocket.
Separating my floor from my roof kept the floor (bivy) almost completely dry even after 9 straight days of rain. (Most of New York, the greater amount of Massachusetts, and all of Vermont were spent in rain... Oh yea.. it rained the whole time I was in Connecticut too.)
The amazing charactersistic of the Cuben fiber is that it does not absorb moisture or stretch at all. The only time i ever needed to tighten the tarp was when a stake loosened in the muddy ground. The built in line locks of the patrol meant i could re-tension or even raise and lower the tarp from underneath meaning i did not need to get wet.
As for the design; it is cut in such a way that it can be set up wide or narrow with all panels remaining taut.
Un-even ground was never an obsatcle with the Patrol. in fact i often sought out slopes and mounded dirt to set up on to prevent "ponding" in the ever present downpours.
The other interesting aspect of using a Cuben fiber shelter is the translucent nature of the material. During the numerous lightning storms i could actually make out individual bolts of lightning and the shilouettes of trees through the tarp. I could also see the moon and stars on the rare (RARE!) clear nights, right through the walls of the tarp. While looking from the outside, however, i could not see in during daylight and dusk.
Durability:
My Cuben fiber Patrol still looks new. It never leaked a drop of water. It never got a single puncture even when hit by flying debris during micro burst winds during thunderstorms. Though I always stuffed it into the stuff sack in a random fashion the wrinkles always dissappear after it has been set up taut for a few hours. The tarp never flapped even once in the wind.
Space:
This is where your intended application may vary.
I used my Patrol shelter as a place to eat, change clothes, read a guide book page, but above all, sleep. There was adequate room for me to sit up near the beak if the tarp was set a few inches of the ground. When pitched directly on the ground, such as during heavy storms, I would be hunched over or laying down.
This type of shelter is purpose built. It is a stout, wind and weather resistant, ultralight design best used for those who want a quick setup shelter for simple tasks but mostly just sleep inside. This is not intended to be a base camp. It is a specialist tool and a mighty effective one in that capacity.
Variations:
I used my GoLite trekking umbrella as a "door" by wedging it under the open beak of the patrol shelter. This allowed me to leave the tarp set up high for greater ventilation and room while still being able to shunt wind and mist from heavy fog when neccesary. It was quite a simple matter of climbing under my patrol and nestling into my bug bivy and simply popping the umbrella open under the beak. In the morning i would collapse the umbrella and enjoy breakfast while watching the rain before setting off for the day.
The umbrella was not strictly neccesary but it provided a bit of extra space under the beak and I admit, gave me a psychological feeling of safety sometimes.
The other variation i used was to just use the Bear paw Wilderness designs minimalist bug bivy by itself. I would stick my trekking poles into the dirt 6 feet apart and string up the peak and foot lines to the grips of the poles. This gave me a freestanding mesh tent on those rare clear nights and i would not wake up to millipedes and slugs crawling on me.
Some quick differences between the Sierra and Appalachian mountains:
Appalachia has dirt and leaves deep enough to stick trekking poles in.
It rains a LOT back east. It rains a LOT back east.. It rains a LOT back east.
There are a lot of bugs and slugs on the A.T.
It rains a LOT back east.
:D
Well I spent a lot of money on this shelter system.
If you were going to a strange place with a wet climateto hike 2,180 miles over a period of months you might also.
Happily the Mountain Laurel Designs Patrol Shelter and Bear Paw Wilderness Designs Minimalist 1 bug bivy were a smashing success together. I have no doubt they will serve my needs for years to come.
:D
Tarp and gear for sale 005.JPG
MLD Patrol and Bear Paw Minimalist 1 bivy
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Re: Mountain Laurel Designs Patrol Shelter Review

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sat Aug 06, 2011 10:02 am

Looks like an ideal system, except for the sticker shock! Does this mean you have successfully completed the AT? If not, how may miles/days do you have left?
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Re: Mountain Laurel Designs Patrol Shelter Review

Postby Hetchy » Sat Aug 06, 2011 4:20 pm

Appalachian Trail 2011 728.JPG
Iceaxe aka Hetchy on Mt Katahdin Maine at the completion of my Triple Crown
Yep, I completed the Appalachian trail on June 21st.
I hiked from Amicalola Falls state park in Georgia March 15th to over the top of mount Katahdin Maine June 21st.
2,180 miles (plus the approach trail = 2,189 miles)
I followed the White blazed route exclusively on this trail. So I suppose that makes me a "purist".
Unlike the PCT or CDT where some navigation due to snow or lack of physical trail was neccesary, the AT is marked with over 80,000 white blazes (6 inch rectangles) painted on trees, rocks, pavement, buildings, guard rails on the road, etc.
I have hiked my version of the Triple Crown.
I say "my version" because i chose alternate routes on both the PCT and CDT other than the "official" trail.
My definition for a thru hike is a continuous line of steps, unbroken, from one terminus to the other of a trail.
I allowed myself to leave the trail to resupply but always returned to the exact spot before setting off on the trail again.
This sense of continuity is critical to my success on these trails.
The biggest lesson i learned along the way regarding these goal oriented hikes is not to judge other hikers by my own standards.
The coolest lasting psychological effect is: I am no longer afraid of the dark... anywhere.
What I miss the most about living on the trail for months: Pee-ing freedom. Yes, being able to pee anywhere, anytime is a luxury I never knew i would enjoy so much. Anyhow, it's not just me that feels this way. Many other hikers including the ladies feel exactly the same way!
I read a lady hikers entry in a register. It went something like this: "I sure like being able to pop a squat and pee on the trail just like my dog, then just keep hiking."
It is when we get back into town that suddenly the most basic human need becomes complicated. It's really weird.
While we are on this subject, pooping under a golite trekking umbrella in a thunderstorm is a sublime experience. :D
I can now honestly say i have hiked from Mexico to Canada twice and from Georgia to Maine. :D
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Re: Mountain Laurel Designs Patrol Shelter Review

Postby Wandering Daisy » Sun Aug 07, 2011 8:23 am

What a great accomplishment! Logistics and duration aside, if one had the skills and physical ability to do all three and only the opportunity to do one, which would you recommend? What were the main differences between these routes? I do not mean to hijack this post- perhaps this should be a separate topic.
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Re: Mountain Laurel Designs Patrol Shelter Review

Postby Hetchy » Sun Aug 07, 2011 5:29 pm

It's cool to hijack this thread.. afterall i started it!
The PCT and CDT have the most similarities but each trail has a very different personality.
The Pacifc Crest Trail or PCT has the best trail tread and most varied climate and crosses the most life zones. It is a well marked trail but you will still want maps, particularly for the snow covered Sierra and also to find water, which can be scarce in some sections. Aqua mira or similar water treatment is adequate for water on the PCT. You would have about 300 to 600 fellow PCT hikers in any given year and the short window between the Sierra snows melting and the onset of snow in the pacific Northwest means you can have soltitude or company as you chose on the PCT. I hiked mostly solo but still met and hiked with folks from time to time. Some people I met at the beginning and had not seen for a thousand miles were suddenly in the same town at a resupply. It is a very organic way to meet and hike with people.
The Continental Divide Trail has every kind and color of mountain you can imagine. The trail is well marked in places and invisible in others. Maps or GPS are mandatory for a CDT thru hike.
The presence of so many alternate routes that also go north to south makes a CDT thru hike a uniquely personal experience.
The altitudes reached on trail are consistently the highest. The average altitude of the CDT in Colorado is 11,000 feet and never dips below 9,000 feet across the whole state!
Water is a bit easier to find than the PCT but sometimes it can be sourced from cattle ponds and weak springs so I recommend a filter.. at least for New Mexico.
About 50 to 100 people attempt the CDT in a given year. If you don't start with someone and coordinate your hike you will almost certainly spend a lot of the trail alone. I liked the solitude when i had it. I also liked meeting fellow hikers coming the other way. near the end of my hike i even spent a few days hiking with a fellow northbound hiker. You will see more animals than people on the CDT. (I saw more pronghorn antelope than humans in the state of Wyoming)
If the PCT is like the pony on the emblem of a Ford vehicle, the CDT is the wild stallion on the front of a Ferrari.
For both the PCT and CDT I recommend getting Yogi's guide books first.
Availiable at Pcthandbook.com the Yogi guides consist of a planning guide for each trail that tells you what has worked for other hikers as far as equiptment, maps, food, and other logistics as well as a town guide to carry on the trail with you. the town guide is worth it's weight in gold. It will tell you at a glance every thing you need to know about a resupply town before you get there and really takes the hassle out of it.
The Appalachian trail is the granddaddy of long Distance trails. unlike the western trails, the A.T. was designed and built by mountain clubs of the east. It is intended to show off the toughest tread and terrain the Appalchian Mountain chain has to offer. Don't let the low elevations fool you. You will go up and down EVERY hill and mountain between Georgia and Maine.
While the A.T. lacks the 360 degree alpine views common on the western trails it has the most varied forest experience of the three and by far the most water. The A.T. has a system of three sided shelters at about 10 mile intervals and these(and their registers) form the backbone of the social element of the A.T.
The trail tread on the A.T. is by far the most difficult i have ever seen in my life. The trail is steep.. like vertical .. as in straight up rocks sometimes. You will use your hands to hike this trail soemtimes. Mostly it is rocky and wicked steep. They routed this trail straight up and down every thing they could find in each of the 14 states it passes through. The highest elevation is under 7,000 feet but you will climb up and down 500 feet many times every day on this trail. I think there were only two days out of 100 that I did not climb significantly on the A.T.
The A.T. will try and break your spirit by climbing up some hot viewless hill only to spend a total of 50 feet on top before going back to the bottom.
This was by intention. The A.T. was never intended to be a "thru" route. It is not graded for horses the way the PCT is.
The A.T. is a VERY physically challenging trail, almost every mile, while there are days when the PCT and CDT spend dozens of miles on ridgelines or mesas. The snow hiking on the PCT in the Sierra and the San Juans of the CDT were intense but lasted only a week or two. There are many long climbs of high altitude on the western trails but generally they reward you immediately with sweeping vistas. I did not get above treeline until i had hiked 1,800 miles on the A.T. (Mt Moosilauke).
For a western hiker like me that thrives on the views it took a mental adjustment to hike the A.T.
I got into the forest setting. There are incredible hardwood forest lands that stretch nearly unbroken from Georgia to Maine along the A.T.
The good thing about it is you sure do appreciate the few views you get out East! On the A.T. you get little snips, little windows of views and a few magnificent ones like MacAfee knob, Palmerton, White rocks, Moosilauke, Mt Washington, the presidentail range, the Bigelows.
The weather is much wetter on the AT than the western trails. This impacts the views you might get on the trail overall since they are already fewer in number and the time you spend up top of any given viewpoint is brief due to the trail routing and dis-continuous ridgelines of Appalachia.
The A.T. will kick your butt daily.
The A.T. is marked by over 80,000 blazes. I did not need maps of any kind to hike it. I did use a data guide; Awol's The A.T. guide contains elevation profiles, shelter mileages, town info, and everything i needed to hike the A.T.
As one hiker put it: The A.T. is not so much a wilderness experience as it is a wildness experience.
About 3,500 to 5000 people start the A.T. each year intending to thru hike. It is estimated that 70% end their hikes prematurely. You will see other thru and section hikers almost everyday for the first few months. Later it will trickle down to a few hikers and you will feel like kindred spirits even though you have never met You will see some pretty "different" ideas about hiking and gear out on the A.T.
I loved all three trails and will no doubt hike them again if time, money, and lifespan permit.
If I were to recommend one to hike as the first long distance trail it would be the Pacific Crest Trail.
The reason: On the Pacific crest you get it all. You get semi-arid Socal punctuated by the Laguna, Jacinto, Gorgonio, Bernardino, and Tehachapi mountains.
You get the Sierra and it's spectacular lakes and peaks.
You get the dark volcanic rocks of Lassen and the Hat Creek Rim as well as the Marble mountains.
You'll cross all the creeks of the Sierra, the Klamath river, the Columbia river.
The strato-volcanos like Shasta, Hood, Adams, Ranier, and Glacier peak will take your breath away viewed from the PCT.
The North Cascades are a spectacular final range to end the hike with.
The PCT is a Cadillac of a long distance trail.
Last edited by Hetchy on Sun Aug 07, 2011 7:00 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Mountain Laurel Designs Patrol Shelter Review

Postby The Other Tom » Sun Aug 07, 2011 6:54 pm

Very good comparison of the trails, Hetchy. I don't particularly care for the AT and I live here. I much perfer the "western trails" with the sweeping alpine views.
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Re: Mountain Laurel Designs Patrol Shelter Review

Postby Wandering Daisy » Wed Aug 10, 2011 4:56 pm

Thanks Hetchy. That was a really good comparison. And I really admire you for doing all three- and so quickly too!
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Re: Mountain Laurel Designs Patrol Shelter Review

Postby Hetchy » Wed Aug 10, 2011 8:25 pm

CDT2010 352.JPG
Continental Divide Trail 2010
Long distance hiking becomes an addiction. You wake up with the sun and hike every day. After a few weeks you begin to hike longer each day until you are hiking from before dawn to after sunset, easily 14 hours a day.
You want the hike to last, because you are having so much fun and seeing so much each day. You just can't help making a lot of miles in a short time because the hiking, the movement, becomes the thing you love.
When you stop moving, other than when you sleep, it feels strange.
I never felt like i was going fast but apparently i was.
It really seems as if the earth is rolling under your feet and the mountains rise and fall before you.
You sleep in a different place every night and the only constant thing is the hiking.
This is the paradox of doing what you love.
The time and miles fly past, and before you realize it, you are done.
You can make more money, but you can't make more time.
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