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Six Moon Designs Comet Backpack REVIEW

Removable stays, an internal pad pocket, and adjustability over a wide torso length range make the Comet unique.

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by Will Rietveld | 2005-10-04 03:00:00-06

Six Moon Designs Comet Backpack REVIEW

Introduction

The Six Moon Designs Comet backpack is a close cousin to the Six Moon Designs Starlite, which is one of our top rated backpacks. The Comet has optional aluminum stays like the Starlite, but in contrast, is a little smaller and the pad pocket is internal to the pack bag rather than external. We were amazed by the load carrying capacity of the Starlite when we tested it without stays. Does the Comet continue to amaze, or do the design changes let us down?

What’s Good

  • Pack volume is just right for lightweight backpacking
  • Removable stays allow a wide range of applications
  • Stays are easily contoured for a custom fit
  • Adjustable torso length
  • Adjustable/removable hipbelt
  • Large mesh outside pockets
  • Comfortably carries a heavy load

What’s Not So Good

  • Velcro dry bag closure is cumbersome and snags on clothing
  • Side mesh pockets are too tight, making it hard to reach items in the bottom
  • Sewing quality could be improved

Specifications

  Backpack

2005 Six Moon Designs Comet

  Style

Internal frame or frameless, top loading, dry bag closure with top strap

  Volume

One size 3700 ci (61 L): 2600 ci main compartment + 450 ci extension collar + 250 ci front pocket + 400 ci side pockets (43 L + 7 L + 4 L + 7 L)

  Weight

27.1 oz (768 g) measured weight with stays; manufacturer’s specification 27 oz (765 g); 22.3 oz (632 g) measured weight without stays, manufacturer’s specification 22 oz (624 g)

  Fabrics

Pack body is 70d silicone nylon, backpanel and bottom are 420d pack cloth, extension collar is 30d silicone nylon

  Features

Removable (optional) aluminum stays, internal sleeping pad pocket, internal security pocket, extension collar, 3 large outside mesh pockets, 4 compression straps, 2 hydration ports, dry bag top closure, adjustable torso length, removable hip belt, lumbar pad, load lifter straps, sternum strap, 2 ice axe loops

  Volume To Weight Ratio

137 ci/oz with stays (based on 3700 ci and a measured weight of 27.1 oz); 166 ci/oz without stays (based on 3700 ci and a measured weight of 22.3 oz

  Comfortable Load Carrying Capacity

35 lb (15.9 kg) estimated, with stays; 25 lb (11.34 kg) estimated, without stays

  Carry Load to Pack Weight Ratio

21 with stays (based on 35 lb and a measured weight of 1.69 lb); 18 without stays (based on 25 lb and a measured weight of 1.39 lb)

  MSRP

$170, $180 with stays

Performance

The Six Moon Designs Comet backpack embodies several new design innovations and upgrades beyond the Starlite, which was top-rated by Backpacking Light in 2004 (Six Moon Designs Starlite Backpack Review). The main differences are: the volume is smaller (3700 cubic inches versus 4050), the sleeping pad pocket has been moved to the inside, center-mounted shoulder straps, adjustable shoulder strap and hipbelt positions, adjustable hipbelt angle, side compression straps, and larger outside mesh pockets.

Like the 2005 Starlite, the Comet is available with optional removable 0.5-inch x 24-inch 6061 aluminum stays ($10), allowing it to be used either as an internal frame or frameless pack. The stays easily slip into two webbing sleeves that run the full height of the pack, and anchor directly under the load lifter straps. With my wife’s help, we bent the stays on the edge of a counter to fit the contour of my back, which combined with the shoulder strap and hipbelt adjustments, allowed us to dial in a perfect fit. (Tip: when you insert the stays, be sure to slip the top of each stay into its hold-down pocket. The opening is at the edge of the Velcro on the lift tab.)

Six Moon Designs Comet Backpack REVIEW - 1
The Comet’s optional aluminum stays easily slide into pockets on the back of the pack (left). Be sure to slip the top of each stay into its hold-down pocket, otherwise it will slip out as shown (right).

The Comet’s sleeping pad pocket has been moved to the inside, which clears the backpanel to allow the incorporation of new innovations. The shoulder straps are center-mounted, which makes the pack easy to adjust for torso length. The vertical position of both the shoulder straps and hipbelt are adjustable, allowing one pack to adjust to torsos between 15 and 20 inches. The hipbelt design allows an angle adjustment, or complete removal. There is also a lumbar pad cushioned with 0.5-inch foam and covered with a slide-resistant fabric.

Six Moon Designs Comet Backpack REVIEW - 2
Bending the stays to the curvature of your back produces a custom fit (top, left). The Comet’s suspension system (top right) is full-featured and well padded. The shoulder straps are center-mounted (middle left) and have about 3 inches of vertical adjustment. The hipbelt (middle right) can be angled if desired; the lumbar pad is very comfortable and slide-resistant. Loosening the lumbar pad (bottom left) reveals the hipbelt attachment, which allows about 3.5 inches of vertical adjustment. Detail of hipbelt and shoulder strap attachments (bottom right).

The interior sleeping pad pocket looks like a hydration sleeve with a Velcro fastening tab. It is made of silnylon and accommodates most three-quarter length sleeping pads. Since the pack’s backpanel is not padded, it is best to insert a pad to cushion your back. When using the pack without stays, inserting a stiff closed cell foam pad in the pocket creates a “virtual frame” to transfer some weight to the hips. An 8-inch by 3-inch silnylon security pocket with a Velcro closure is also inside the packbag.

The Comet’s main compartment provides plenty of room for gear and food for a lightweight multi-day trip. An ultralight through-hiker can easily carry gear plus 10 days of food with this pack (with stays in). I had no trouble inserting a 9-inch x 10-inch bear canister. A 12-inch high extension collar provides the extra room that is often needed at the beginning of a trip.

Mesh pockets cover most of the outside of the pack. The two side pockets are 20 inches deep, nearly full height. The three outside pockets hold a tremendous amount of gear. One nitpick is that the pockets are not bellowed enough (especially the side pockets), so they are tight when the pack and pockets are filled with gear, making it hard to reach items in the bottom.

The Comet has a dry bag closure at the top, which consists of a full width Velcro strip that seals the main compartment plus a small side release buckle. There are two grosgrain loops to pull the Velcro apart. This arrangement helps make the Comet shower-proof (except the outside pockets), but the Velcro catches on clothing and the closure system is cumbersome. I would prefer a simple drawcord closure. A top compression strap works well to secure the rolled down top of the pack.

One complaint we had about the Starlite was the absence of compression straps to adjust for smaller loads. The Comet comes through with three compression straps on the front that effectively control volume and secure smaller loads. I easily collapsed the pack down to daypack size to carry clothing and food for a day hike from camp.

Six Moon Designs Comet Backpack REVIEW - 3
Mesh pockets cover the outside of the Comet (top left), providing plenty of convenient stowage. The extension collar (top right) has a Velcro dry bag closure. The rolled down extension collar is secured with a top compression strap (bottom left). Three compression straps on the front of the pack easily reduce the pack’s volume down to daypack size (bottom right).

To determine the Comet’s comfortable load-carrying capacity I assessed the pack’s structural load capacity and suspension comfort with and without the stays (see related article on Quantitative Analysis of Backpack Suspension Performance by Ryan Jordan). With the stays in, I tested the Comet with loads up to 50 pounds and found no pack torso collapse. That result was not unexpected since the shoulder straps and hipbelt are connected directly to the stays. I subjectively evaluated suspension comfort by carrying the Comet pack on five backpacking trips with loads ranging from 24 to 28 pounds. From my testing and field experience, I assessed the Comet’s comfortable load carrying capacity (with stays in) to be 35 pounds. For a stronger person, this pack may carry more, but I would be concerned about fabric ripping out.

Without the stays, I was able to load the Comet up to 25 pounds (with a stiff RidgeRest sleeping pad in the pad pocket) before pack torso collapse occurred. It also was quite comfortable to carry with that weight. My assessment of its comfortable load carrying capacity without stays is 25 pounds (20 pounds with an inflatable sleeping pad or thin foam pad).

The Comet’s comfortable load carrying capacity, with or without stays, is remarkable. With stays in, its carry load to pack weight ratio of 21 is one of the highest we have tested to date (the Gossamer Gear Mariposa is highest with a ratio of 28). The ratio for the frameless configuration (18) is also very good (the Six Moon Designs Starlite has a ratio of 22). If your pack weight is typically less than 20 pounds, and you rarely carry more than 25 pounds, consider getting the Comet without the optional stays. However, if you’re a lightweight backpacker, with loads typically 20-30 pounds, the stays make for a very comfortable carry and add only 4.8 ounces to the weight of the pack.

The Comet uses lightweight fabrics where possible and more durable fabrics in wear areas. I expect its durability with respect to fabric to be very good, but the quality of the sewing could be improved. I found several examples of inaccurate stitching and seams coming apart. On several occasions (including my load capacity tests) I heard threads pop, which gives me concern about the pack’s reinforcements.

Overall, the Comet backpack has a lot of features to like. It is right-sized for lightweight backpacking, or carrying many days of food on a through hike. I especially like the voluminous outside mesh pockets that allow you to keep many items handy. The (optional) aluminum stays really expand the pack’s versatility. It’s also a very good value at $170 without stays, $180 with stays.

What’s Unique

With its removable stays, the Comet is one pack that can meet most of your needs. It is one of the most versatile lightweight backpacks around, and will comfortably carry a sizeable load.

Recommendations for Improvement

For a new pack design, the Comet has very few bugs to work out. I suggest that the outside mesh pockets be bellowed more to make it easier to reach items in the bottom. Another recommendation is to increase the quality and strength of the stitching throughout the pack, and use more bar tack reinforcements in stress areas.


Citation

"Six Moon Designs Comet Backpack REVIEW," by Will Rietveld. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/six_moon_designs_comet_backpack_review.html, 2005-10-04 03:00:00-06.

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