Rating: 5 / 5
Review of the Six Moon Designs Essences ’07 pack
I have entered this as a new review as I believe the redesigned pack is significantly different from the previous version and therefore deserves its own review.
OVERVIEW: This is an ultralight front loading frameless pack with hip belt and lots of pockets with 3100 cubic inches of room, designed for a base wt of 12 lb. and max load of 30 lb. per the manufacturer.
FIT: The pack can be custom fit and comes in 3 harness sizes to accommodate different torso lengths (ranging from 14-22 inches) and 3 different hip belt lengths for different waist sizes (ranging from 26-44 inches.) Further, the hip belt can come with and without padding and with and without pockets. Pack volume is the same for all configurations. I ordered the Tall torso and the Small padded hip belt with pockets. The total pack weight with belt was 17.64 oz (500gm). I found the torso length true to size and the contoured shoulder straps comfortable. The padding is still a little stiff, but I imagine it will limber up with use. The hip belt fit well with the padding in the appropriate places over my hips and low back.
MATERIAL: The body is a great looking blue 210 Denier Dyneema with high wear areas 420 Denier Pack Cloth. Ron uses High Tenacity Mesh for the side pockets which have a generous amount of room and elastic tops to hold things in. The zippers are #3 YKK Waterproof type. One runs down both sides of the front and there is a Velcro closure along the bottom of the front panel. Inside on the back of the pack are two facing pockets designed to hold a sleeping pad as part of the “frame” of this pack. They appear to be made of silnylon. The top pocket has another waterproof zipper closure. There are two nylon compression straps across the front panel.
FINISH: The finish is first rate. No gaps or hanging threads. Zippers open and close cleanly. Alignment is good and reinforcement at appropriate stress points.
DESIGN: Although I never owned the original version of this pack the drawstring closure always seemed a little odd to me. Ron has replaced this with a more traditional zipper configuration which seems to work well. The front panel has a gusset which allows it to expand considerably and the two compression straps take some of the strain off the zippers and keep the load compact. The right lower mesh pocket is perfect for a water bottle and in a position to allow access without taking the pack off. The mesh pocket above that on the right is quite roomy. On the left side is a long mesh pocket that will accommodate my Contrail tent with room to spare. The top zippered pocket measures roughly 10.5x8x3.5 inches and has about 300 cu. inches of space. Its great for organizing all those smaller items or big enough for your cooking pot. The 2 zippered pockets on the hip belt are small (3.5x6x2), but usefully sized for a small camera, sunglasses, snacks, etc. and add an additional 84 cu. Inches of space. I am familiar with the “sleeping pad as frame” idea, as I have been using a GG Mariposa pack for some time. I am using a GG NightLight Torso length pad for my “frame” in the Essesnce. It seems to fit fine, but in my testing with a 20 lb load I found the pack tended to buckle. Perhaps with a Z-Lite it would be stiffer. However, I found that if I used the two carbon fiber rods from the Contrail and folded them into the creases of the NightLight pad to stiffen it, then this pack was very comfortable (at least for the 10 miles trip I did over the weekend.)
BOTTOM LINE: This pack is well made of very durable materials which is unusually in ultralight gear. I found it comfortable to carry with a 20 lb load, but this required “stiffening” of my closed cell foam pad. The many pockets and the convenience of front loading really put this pack in a class by itself. Finally, the overall look of the pack is attractive with clean lines and attention to detail. If decimals were allowed I would rate it about 4.5/5 as I think it could benefit by adding some optional carbon fiber rods to improve load transfer, but overall an excellent pack.