Ultralight Backpacking Tent
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo
$250 ($35 extra for seam sealing), 1 lb. 9 oz. (without the optional, 2-oz. carbon pole)
Sizes: men’s S-XL, women’s XS-XL
At around 7,000 feet in Yellowstone in September, the season can turn on a dime—and the last 24 hours of an otherwise beautiful, five-day backpacking trip on Yellowstone’s Bechler River Trail demonstrated that, delivering steady rain and wind all night and on our last day of hiking (which featured a bone-chilling river ford). The trip’s range of weather put a spotlight on the strengths of the classic, ultralight Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo tent, as well as its one major weakness.
A single-wall, one-person, hexagonal tent with a floating floor, the Lunar Solo pitches using one trekking pole set to a 49-inch/124.5cm peak height and tilted slightly outward, requiring a pole that extends to at least 125cm. Six Moon Designs also sells a two-ounce carbon pole that can be used instead, but most backpackers buy a tent like this in order to drop the weight of a tent pole from their pack and a trekking pole is stronger than the optional carbon pole.
Pitching it properly requires placing the six stakes in a specific sequence: the front (door side) corners first, followed by the vestibule and the middle rear corner, then the two other rear corners and finally the front center. I spent about 30 minutes pitching it the first time in my back yard, figuring out the correct tension between the guyline that extends from the tent’s apex under the vestibule door and the position of the tent corners to have it all look good. (Six Moon designs provides instructions on pitching the Lunar Solo here.)
Once you’ve dialed in the procedure, it goes up within maybe five minutes—not quite as easily as a freestanding tent, but that’s one of the tradeoffs for the weight savings. When staked out properly, the tent has a taut pitch that stands up well to moderate winds.
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The hexagonal, 26 square feet of interior space and 49-inch peak height exceed those measures in some solo shelters. But because it pitches using a single pole, the walls all slope downward from the peak, limiting headroom and living space inside. By comparison, the Gossamer Gear The One ultralight solo tent pitches with two trekking poles, creating more headroom and nice livability, even though its actual dimensions and peak height are less than the Lunar Solo’s.
The 20-denier, silicone-coated polyester fabric in the walls and 40-denier, six-inch-deep bathtub floor—which prevents rain splashing inside—provide durability comparable to many ultralight shelters and stretches little when wet. Six Moon Designs offers seam-sealing for a $35 fee.
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The 8.5-square-foot vestibule has adequate space for storing a lightweight backpack and boots while allowing you to come and go, and the vestibule door rolls back to boost ventilation and give you a view of the night sky. I could tie back or close the vestibule door while lying flat in my bag—it was entirely within reach. The vestibule does not quite reach the ground when staked out, which improves air circulation in order to help control condensation inside (more on that below) without getting anything inside the vestibule wet, except possibly anything near the vestibule’s edge getting splashed in heavy rain.
The tent door’s drip line permitted me to keep the vestibule wide open for ventilation when the rain fell lightly, although I had to close it during spells of hard rain.
That points to my major complaint about the Lunar Solo: It suffers from the typical bane of single-wall tents: condensation created by warmer air and the moisture you exhale inside the tent and colder air outside the tent’s thin wall. To minimize that problem, the Lunar Solo features an all-mesh wall on the door side and a six-inch band of mesh around the perimeter just above the bathtub floor—protected from rain by a low, external awning extending over the mesh. But those design elements only help when there’s air movement.
On a dead-calm night that dropped to around 40° F at over 7,000 feet in Yellowstone, I slept in the Lunar Solo beside a cold creek—which undoubtedly exacerbated the condensation that collected inside by morning. Still, even when properly pitched, in those conditions, the tent doesn’t ventilate well enough to prevent the heavy condensation that dripped onto my bag whenever I brushed the tent walls. Condensation also built up inside the tent on our rainy last night in lower Bechler Canyon, when I had to close up the vestibule at times.
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The condensation and sloping walls meant that I, at five feet, eight inches, couldn’t sit up anywhere but directly below the tent’s peak without brushing my head against a wet ceiling, or move around much without brushing my bag’s foot against a wet wall. Frankly, it’s not easy living in the Lunar Solo in wet conditions.
Six Moon recommends keeping the door open whenever possible and trying to avoid conditions that promote condensation buildup, such as prolonged rain or camping by water or at the bottom of a valley. But that’s not always possible: In Yellowstone, our designated campsites where always near the Bechler River or a tributary creek.
Six Moon Designs also sells the Lunar Duo ($375, 2 lbs. 13 oz.), which pitches with two trekking poles and has two doors and vestibules, thus minimizing the headroom and ventilation issues of the Lunar Solo.
Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo
At barely more than 1.5 pounds, pitching with a trekking pole, the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo provides impressively lightweight, sturdy shelter at a good price. But its condensation problem makes it best suited to drier climates.
You can support my work on this blog, at no cost to you, by clicking either of these affiliate links to purchase the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo at sixmoondesigns.com or the Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo at sixmoondesigns.com.
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NOTE: I tested gear for Backpacker Magazine for 20 years. At The Big Outside, I review only what I consider the best outdoor gear and apparel. See categorized menus of all of my gear reviews at The Big Outside.
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