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Six Moon Designs StarLite

in Backpacks - Frameless

Average Rating
4.55 / 5 (11 reviews)

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Mark Verber
( verber )

San Francisco Bay Area
Six Moon Designs StarLite on 08/02/2005 08:55:12 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

When used with a closed cell foam pad the only frameless pack I have tried which can handle 30lbs of gear. Performance drops somewhat with self-inflating or air mattresses (I would change rating to a 3). Good design and easy to use. Good fo >3000ci load but doesn't compress to handle small loads as well.

Edited by verber on 08/02/2005 08:56:05 MDT.

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Luke Ludwig
( ludwigl )

Excellent no-compromises lightweight pack. on 01/07/2007 10:33:44 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

This was my first frameless pack which I bought during my transition to lightweight backpacking. I have used this pack for several years now on more than half a dozen trips totaling over 300 miles, including on and off trail. The pack shows little sign of wear and is very durable. I usually carry between 12 and 25 pounds with this pack, and I am confident I could carry more. I have never needed the aluminum stays and I have always felt that the pack carries this weight with ease.

The back panel pocket for inserting the sleeping pad works excellent. It is a tight fit with a short RidgeRest, but a great fit with a Z-Lite. After using this frameless pack, I can't imagine going back to an internal frame pack. What a waste of weight and how annoying it is to strap the sleeping pad on the outside!

I find the exterior mesh pockets very useful for stashing my frequently accessed or emergency items such as snacks, aquamira, first aid kit, toilet paper, rain gear, camera, and water bottle of course. This is something I could not live without, so think carefully before buying a pack such as the Granite Gear Virga or Vapor Trail which doesn't provide such easy access.

I have one complaint, which is no longer a concern since it has been fixed by Ron Moak, the owner of Six Moon Designs. Since the pack has torso adjustments, there was a small plastic "c-ring" thing used to attach the shoulder straps to the top of the pack. Previously, these c-rings did a poor job of keeping the straps attached to the pack and I would be constantly reinserting them on the trail. This was a pretty big annoyance. Eventually one of them broke and I contacted Ron who supplied me free of charge with a newer aluminum (or titanium?) attachment ring which has a clasp that ensures the ring will stay attached. Problem solved, excellent customer service. All new packs come with this newer design of course.

At 23 ounces this isn't the lightest frameless pack out there. But considering its durability, load carrying capacity, comfort, and easy access pockets I expect it is certainly one of the best. I highly recommend this pack to anyone, especially to those looking to transition from an internal frame pack.

Duane Hall
( PKH - M )

Nova Scotia
An excellent pack on 01/08/2007 04:45:51 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I am in absolute agreement with the previous reviewer as to the qualities of this fine pack. Mine has seen heavy use for the past two years with no sign of wear. I differ in one respect in that I do use the optional stays. Four ounces that I certainly do not feel, and the load carrying capability (already excellent) is improved immeasurably . I should point out that my loads are similar to those of the last reviewer - 15 to 25 lbs.



paul johnson
( pj )

LazyBoy in my Den - miss the forest
And the best All-Around Award goes to... on 03/05/2007 12:49:42 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

...the SMD Starlite pack.

What I like:
1. Internal Frame or Frameless - you choose.

2. Organization - pockets, pockets everywhere - pad pocket, hip belt pocket, no wait, make that two (purchased the '07 hip-belt to go with my '06 Starlite), three side mesh pocekts (though mine, an '06, purchased on clearance has only two - '07 models have three).

3. Ample capacity

4. The absolute best pad pocket i've ever seen - zippered and externally accessible

5. sufficiently sized expansion collar.

6. dry-sack style top closure.

7 some compression capability - suitable for most 3-day+ treks.

8. great suspension (both with and w/o the user-removable stays)

9. load-lifters - sure help when carrying over 20lb at the start of a trek

10. nicely padded and shaped shoulder-straps and hip-belts

11. robust dyneema-rip fabric allows one to leave the trail for little side excursions.

12. great load carrying capacity

I feel like I'm forgetting something...

there's just so many good things to say about this pack.

What I don't like:
Not a thing.

Well, it could be just a few ounces lighter, but then it wouldn't be the same pack. It would either be smaller, less robust, have less load carrying capacity, wouldn't have as good suspension and be less comfortable to carry, or would have less organization.

I reality, it's a solid 4.8 or 4.9. Nearly anything has room for improvement.

Edited by pj on 03/05/2007 12:50:30 MST.

joseph daluz
( jfdiberian )

Columbia River Gorge
Nicely made and very functional on 06/10/2007 19:46:33 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

This packs strong points: Quality build, 4 externally located mesh pockets that are accessable, does compress down well with the single compression string/strap on the back, light with removable hip belt, hipbelt pockets are very useful I like the simple roll top closure.
Only dislike: the point at which the shoulderstraps connect to the top of the pack is a ladder design with velcro, and this has a tendency every now and then, to roll over and be a minor annoyance where it makes contact with my back/neck. It's a 4.67345284

David Noll
( dpnoll )

Maroon Bells
starlilite on minong trail on 08/16/2007 07:43:47 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I was finally able to use my Starlite pack this past week on Isle Royale for a 6 day trip. I was traveling with my wife so I was
carrying a 29# 7oz load. I loved the way it handled the wgt using a Prolite 3 pad as the support. I was able to carry my tent in the outside pocket and my water bottles on the other side pockets. They were all large enough so that nothing had to be forced in.
The straps and belt all had enough padding
so I was always comfortable. Great pack.

Ryley Breiddal
( ryleyb - M )

Pacific Northwest
Super versatile pack on 09/18/2007 21:00:19 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

I just used my StarLite with hipbelt pockets and stays on a thru-hike of the PCT. I used a Gossamer Gear Nightlight Torso for the back-pad and the fit was perfect. I had a lot of trouble initially when trying to use this pack without stays and about 25lbs of weight, but it was mostly a problem of pack organization. Fiddling around for awhile with where my food and clothes were settled that down. I did end up using the stays due to the requirements of the PCT (8L water carries and 9+ days of food on occasion).

This pack is bloody durable. 137 days on the trail this summer and there are now a total of two beat up parts of my pack, one of which is my fault. First, I stored something metal in the bottom of a mesh pocket and then set it down on rocks a couple times... duh, cut mesh. Amazingly, I never fixed it and the mesh didn't split any further. The other thing is that the velcro on the rolltop closure has seperated from the fabric, so it's no longer really doing anything. This is fine with me since I never saw the point of the velcro anyways - maybe because I don't fill the main compartment to capacity?

I appreciated all the external mesh pockets, and for any trip longer than a weekend, the compression system it has was sufficient. On a weekend you'd probably have to let your sleeping bag out to take up a bit of space.

The hipbelt pockets were so handy and I was always surprised that I didn't smash them with my hands while using my trekking poles... That being said, I had trouble operating the zippers with one hand a lot of the time, and I figure there has to be a way to make one-handed operation easy.

OK, enough of a ramble. Great pack, just keep the weight down. I was forced to overload it regularly and it wasn't pleasant for me or the pack :)

Pedro Arvy
( PedroArvy )

Poor for Australian conditions on 10/22/2007 00:09:22 MDT Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

I like the design of this pack but have issues over the quality and durability.

On its second use, and with no real loads and no bush whacking, the mesh separated from its elastic on one of the sides near the top. This immediately made me think, what else is wrong with this pack?

Then this weekend the mesh on the side developed reasonably large holes after water bottles pushed out the sides and made it scrape against some rocks where there was a bit of bush whacking. I’ll put this down to Australian conditions where I know the trails are worse than the USA.

I can’t recommend this pack for users outside the USA.

After three trips it now looks pretty miserable with holes and mesh separated from the elastic!

Having said that, the features for weight are excellent and the load handling ability is great. I am going to get this pack modified by removing the mesh on the sides and modifying the mesh on the back. Plus I will double check all stitching.

But a pack that falls apart in 3 uses - 2/5 for Australian conditions.

2009 update: I removed the side mesh, fixed a funny looking seam and this is the main pack I use. I like the stays but wonder whether an Ospery Exos is better at these weights. Upgrade to 4/5. I was too angry.

Edited by PedroArvy on 07/09/2009 07:37:52 MDT.

Albert K.
( archer )

Northeastern U.S.
Initial Impression - Amazing Pack on 01/15/2008 06:00:43 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 5 / 5

This is the best UL pack I've ever used, period. I've tried many others and none handle a 30 lb load (my max 3 season load, for cold, arid terrain) nearly as well.

I tried it with stays and a self inflating pad, and again with a Z-rest and no stays. I liked the Z and no stays best. I did not try it with stays and the Z - no need for the stays at my weight range. That it handles such weight at less than 2 lbs is remarkable. I did have to work a bit to dial in the fit, but once done, it was super comfortable.

I love the mesh pockets (useful for quick access to stuff like food, and for drying things on the fly), dry bag style roll top enclosure (tight as a drum, no water is getting in there) and water resistant fabric.

About the only area I'm not totally thrilled with so far is its ability to compress a small load for day hiking/peak bagging out of a base camp. Its not horrible. The cord compression system does work. Mine (2007 model) has a solid, not elastic cord, which solves some of the prior problems you see in older write ups around the net. That said, the system only compresses the front panel so it's never going to be able to work like the Osprey straight-jacket system. I see it as a trade-off. A straight jacket system would make the mesh pockets much less usable. For other than day hiking, I simply change how much I compress my quilt to resolve any pack compression concerns.

Finally, my rating is based on use as a 3 season pack. It's not something I'd want to load up with lots of snow toys. I'll probably remove the ice axe loop after I put it through a full year of use to be sure.

Edited by archer on 04/09/2008 05:34:07 MDT.

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Jim W.
( jimqpublic )

Carries well, Big capacity, Light. on 01/30/2012 11:19:41 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 4 / 5

I purchased the SMD Starlight with hip belt pockets and frame stays for a 2008 hike of the John Muir Trail. Currently it has about 5 weeks of backpacking use.

Weight is per spec at just under 2 pounds with the frame stays in. I have not used it without the stays except for day hikes- I'm putting my review here in "frameless packs" to be consistent with the other reviews.

When the pack arrived I was surprised at its large size. I was also a bit concerned about the very thin padding on the hip belt. My two previous internal frame packs have weighed over six pounds each and have much thicker padding.

I chose the SMD pack with stays because I was planning to use self-inflating pads as the frame sheet. After phone discussion with Ron Moak and online dialog with other hikers it sounded like an inflatable pad doesn't give as much stiffness- and load transfer to hips- as a folded foam pad.

The other requirement was the ability to carry a bear can full of food. My Garcia Backpacker's Cache is a rigid 13 pound lump when packed full. I thought it was important to be able to carry it horizontally in the pack. The SMD Starlight can do this, but just barely. In practice I have found it works better vertically.

For the John Muir trail hike my base weight was about 16 pounds including the empty bear can. I packed sleeping bag and spare clothes in the bottom, then the bear can, then misc gear and stove on top. Rolled up bivy in the tall left mesh pocket. 2 Liter juice bottle (usually empty) and map in the bottom right pocket. Day food, sunscreen, bug juice in top right pocket. Rain jacket and drying laundry in rear mesh pocket. Camera on left hip belt pocket, snacks on right. Compass and watch on left pack strap, water bottle with straw on right. This setup was excellent. It let me hit the trail within a few minutes of waking in the morning and then stop to make breakfast on the trail.

My heaviest weight on this trip was 30 pounds leaving a food resupply. The pack was great under 25 pounds but the shoulder and hip belt padding seemed a bit thin at the higher weights.

I've used it on two weeklong family trips as well. These trips really pushed the limits of a lightweight pack. Base weight on these trips was about 25 pounds. The Starlight's capacity is quite impressive- I carried a 6 pound tent, my daughter's sleeping bag and some of my son's clothing. With both the Garcia can and a Ursack I started out at 40 pounds. The straps were not comfortable at this high weight, but I still chose the Starlight over my 7 pound Lowe Expedition. Ron suggests the Starlight for 15 pound base weight- in which case any carry weight over 30 pounds would be just for a few days after a major resupply.

The mesh pockets are very handy, they make it easy to see where my gear is, my bivy and socks can dry out. The elastic tops do a good job of keeping gear from falling out. The downsides are- the pack looks like a yard sale. Fine on the trail but not so much putting it on a bus. Also my trips have been on well-maintained trails in the California Sierra. I wouldn't want to go through bush with this pack because the brush would snag on the pockets, possibly damaging them or the gear within. The pack itself is rather sturdy, with a pack cloth bottom and sturdy ripstop for the body.

Finally I have used the pack on a couple short winter trips. Some drawbacks here- not capacity though as it seems even bigger without the bear can. Mesh pockets definitely no as useful. I was concerned that high winds could pull gear out or falling snow would make a mess. The biggest problem was lack of sturdy lash points for my full-length ridgerest, snowshoes, and crampon bag.

Summary- The pack hits Ron Moak's design goals very well. It is light, but still capable of handling 40 pounds. It has huge volume, but can be squeezed down pretty well. The pad pocket is genius! The only changes I would make would add weight and change the character of the pack, so for the design it's ideal.

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Michael Blanchard
( gtmichaelb )
Good Pack on 12/07/2013 00:26:17 MST Report Post Print

Rating: 3 / 5

I used this pack on my 2013 AT thru hike. It held up most of the way but began to really fall apart on me. Also when I switched to my summer gear there was way too much room and the pack did not compress very well. I used the removable stay because it was more comfortable, but the first thing to fail was the stitching in the Velcro holding the stay to the backpack. This made it much less comfortable. Then the hip belt began to become un-stitched from the back of the bag. Then one of the shoulder straps came off. I would say that I got a lot of use out of the pack (2300 miles or so) but it began to fail at around 1600 miles and by the end was very uncomfortable.

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