Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo tent
[Originally written for BackpackGearTest.org, this review was current at the time it was written but should now be considered out-of-date. It is likely this product has been improved based on test results such as those reported here and experiences from other users. It is also possible that this product no longer exists or has been superseded by products produced at a later time. This page is included for historical purposes as an example of a gear testing report I had submitted.
Only minor updates such as email addresses, links, and formatting have been made as necessary to accommodate inclusion of an older report into this web site.]
Manufacturer: Six Moon Designs, 2004
I have been hiking and backpacking extensively since 1989. Weekends frequently find me in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Longer trips I've taken include such diverse locations as Copper Canyon, Mexico; Annapurnas, Nepal; Olympic Mountains, Washington; Austrian Alps; Paria Canyon, UT and AZ; Australia, New Zealand, the Pacific Crest Trail, and a 1999 thruhike of the Appalachian Trail.
As a lightweight backpacker, I do not forgo comfort or safety. I weigh all of my equipment and carry only items necessary for each trip. My ~13 lb (6 kg) summer base pack weight includes a Nomad lite tent, alcohol stove, Big Agnes sleep system, ULA P-1 backpack or Kelty Vapor backpack, and an MEC filled jacket.
The Lunar Solo is a lightweight, one person, tent. It is designed to be used as an integral part of a lightweight backpacking system.
1.5 lb (.7 kg) both as advertised and as measured at home. Weight does not include seam sealant or stakes. I will supply packed weight in my Field report.
The tent is green with a black floor. It is a single wall tent with full coverage SilNylon walls and a SilNylon floor. The floor is attached to the tent walls with bug netting which provides a great deal of ventilation. There is a full vestibule along the length of the tent that can open completely in good weather to allow maximum ventilation.
The floor is five sided. With the vestibule closed, the tent is six sided. While the walls are not steep, they are sloped enough to shed water and should fend off wind quite easily. This tent is designed for three season use and may withstand light snow. Given the design which maximizes ventilation, this tent is not designed for extreme cold weather and full winter conditions.
The bug netting door opens along half of the vestibule area. The two sided zipper pulls glow in the dark.
The tent requires six stakes and at least one hiking pole. An additional pole ensures the interior volume is maximized.
The tent does not come seam sealed.
The tent material is 1.1 oz/yd^2 (31 g/m^2) SilNylon and has a plastic feel to it. Creases where the material has been folded or stuffed are lighter in color. The material sounds crinklely as itís handled. The fabric is also a small ripstop material with the periodic heavier threads being spaced about 1/8 in (.4 cm) apart.
There are bright yellow guy lines attached to the tent canopy and black guy lines attached to the floor. They have all appropriate hooks, loops, and fasteners in place. Additional guy lines can be added to increase stability and add headroom as necessary.
The tent came in a stuff sack, also made of SilNylon. It measures 18x8 in (46x21 cm) with a drawcord and cordlock closure. The hang tag was attached to the stuff sack.
The hangtag gives minimal information about pitching and seam sealing the tent. It is also short on requirements for the tent. Minimally, it should explicitly state that six stakes and one 45" (114 cm) hiking pole (or equivalent) are required for setting up the tent. It does, however, point the user to the web site.
Shortly after the tent was delivered, Ron Moak, owner of Six Moon Designs, installed and updated three pages on the Six Moon Designs web pages that further clarified how to set up the tent and seam seal it. While these pages can still use significant editing, I recommend that printed versions of these pages be packed with each tent sold.
I expect to push the lower limits of the temperature range for this tent by using it through the New England winter. I will, however, only be using it during times when the short term forecast predicts three season-like weather (ie. no blizzards). I also will be using the tent during a trip to Chihuahua, Mexico where I expect to spend time in Copper Canyon. While the canyon rim should be cold, the bottom of the canyon should have reasonably warm temperatures in which to backpack.
I expect to use the tent both with and without a Tyvek groundsheet. It is likely I will be setting up the tent on desert sand, New England forest duff, and quite possibly, tent platforms. I also hope to have the opportunity to set up the tent using the loop on the top of the tent. If pitching under a suitable branch, this would mean I wouldn't have to use a hiking pole for the setup.
Questions I hope to answer for the field and long term reports:
I look forward to getting this tent on the trail.
Field Test Report
1.5 lb (.7 kg) both as advertised and as measured at home. Once seam sealed,the weight of the tent did not measurably change. The recommended 9" stakes are 0.5 ounce (15 g) each and with six stakes bring the total packed weight to 1 lb 11 oz.
Of five planned trips before the first of the year, only one went off. This, unfortunately, prevented me from testing the tent in what I would normally expect the colder range of this tent to be. Instead, with trips in late December and late January, I have only used the tent in temperatures beyond what I would expect the normal range to be. Also, on each occasion, the tent itself was set up on snow. My experiences are therefore tempered by the knowledge that I was pushing the tent beyond its intended use. On my first outing, the temperatures bottomed out in the mid-teens (-9 C). In late January, temperatures bottomed out at 0 F (-19 C).
Please keep this in mind as you read further about my experiences with the tent.
With such cold conditions, I did take Ron's suggestions to heart and pitched the tent low to ground in an effort to minimize ventilation and allow the tent to retain as much heat as possible. I believe some of my observations about the tent performance are a direct result of this lower pitch.
Being tall, I use a long sleeping bag. With a long Big Agnes bag and pad, both ends of my sleeping bag press against the mesh vertical walls of the tent. Because the walls are mesh, I haven't had problems with condensation wetting the head or foot of my bag.
Also, because the sleep system is so long, I find my head is positioned very close to one end of the tent. With the thick air mattress I use with my Big Agnes system, I found my face was just below the silnylon wall of the tent. On one occasion, I even positioned one of my shoes in the back corner to hold it up to get it from laying right on my face. With the tent so close to my face, in the cold temperatures, that meant a plethora of frost right at my face as the warm moist air I was exhaling didn't have a chance to disperse before freezing against the cold wall of the tent.
As expected, I did have frost layering the canopy of my tent in the morning. It was a small price to pay for retaining even a couple of extra degrees when out on such cold nights.
Some of the pitching issues I had were simple finishing problems. Some of them could be addressed with slight design changes. Here are my observations and suggestions.
Modified long term test plan:
I will have plenty of more temperate use of this tent in the next four months. With a two month road and hiking trip planned for April and May, I expect to get plenty of use out of the tent. As a solo trip, I will no longer be relying on the vagaries of others to get out and about.
Questions I still hope to answer for the long term report:
Needless to say, with my field report being based on trips with extremely low temperatures, I can safely say that I do not recommend the Lunar Solo as an extreme cold weather tent. This tent is designed with plenty of ventilation for warm weather and provides little or no extra protection from the temperature in cold conditions. This is by no means a complaint about the tent performance. I had anticipated pushing the lower temperature boundaries and I did. I will report on the performance of the tent in more temperate conditions for my long term report.
Last updated, July 10, 2010.
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