Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo Tent REVIEW

Performance review of a unique solo tent that offers weather protection, vestibule space, and ventilation for 24 ounces.

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by Ryan Jordan | 2004-10-21 03:00:00-06

Overview

Six Moon Designs Lunar Solor - field shot
The author crashing on a borrowed lawn after a 35 mile packrafting day, Yellowstone River, Montana. The Lunar Solo provides plenty of room to sit up and remain protected from overhead rain. Even with the awning fully closed, the vestibule provides plenty of room for cooking.

The Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo tent is a single wall tarptent-like shelter using a single trekking pole with smart features like mesh full-perimeter sidewalls for ventilation, a self-equalizing guyline system that keeps the pitch taut through a cold night, rain, or snowfall, and a huge vestibule with a large awning that can be dropped for storm protection or fully raised for incredible views. All this for 1.5 pounds? We put the Lunar Solo through the ringer of high mountain rain, wind, and snow, and discuss its performance as related to storm resistance, wind resistance, and condensation resistance, as well as a detailed feature summary and usability discussion.

Specifications

• Tent Type

Modified A-frame single wall tent with floor; uses single (optionally, two) trekking pole for support

• Fabric Description

1.4 oz/yd2 (47 g/m2) silicone-coated ripstop (30d) nylon floor and body, no-see-um mesh sidewalls and door

• Weight Full Package

As supplied by manufacturer with stuff sacks, stakes, guylines, etc.
Note: no stakes included.

Backpacking Light scale Manufacturer claim
1 lb 11 oz (0.77 kg) for tent body only 1 lb 8 oz (0.68 kg) for tent body only

• Weight Minimum Package

Includes tent body and fly, minimum necessary stakes and guylines, no stuff sacks or extra hardware.
Note: 0.25 oz (7 g) titanium stakes used because none were included.

Manufacturer supplied Backpacking Light
6 stakes, 15 ft (3.6 m) guyline Same as Manufacturer Minimum but with 0.25 oz (7 g) titanium stakes and stock guylines (for adjustability).

6 stakes, 8 ft (2.4 m) guyline
1 lb 10.5 oz (0.74 kg) 1 lb 10.5 oz (0.74 kg)

• Dimensions

  Backpacking Light measured and Manufacturer claim
ft2 (m2)
Floor Area 25.0 (2.3)
  Dimensions
in (cm)
Length 84 (213)
Width (pentagonal) 54 (137) door to rear point; 36 (91) width where floor length is maximum
Height 44 (112)

• Floor Area / Backpacking Light Minimum Weight Ratio

0.94 ft2/oz (3.08 m2/kg)

• Vestibule Area

10.0 ft2 (0.93 m2)

• MSRP

$225.00

Features

Ease of Setup

Six Moon Designs Lunar Solor - sidwall
The Lunar Solo's most innovative feature: self-equalizing corner guyline points that use a combination of fixed (non-stretch) and elastic shockcord (stretch) guylines attached to sidewall perimeter mesh and sidewall awnings, to promote ventilation without sacrificing storm protection.

The Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo tent does not setup quite as simply as the Dancing Light Gear Ultralight Brawny Tarptent, the Lunar Solo's closest competitor.

Because the floor of the Ultralight Brawny Tarptent stakes out via loops sewn into the four floor corners, it's a cinch to get the floor perfect the first time, pop in the center pole, stake out the pole guyline, and the tent is up. The Lunar Solo, because its floor is integrated with low mesh sidewalls and sidewall awnings into the same drawcord (part of which includes elastic shockcord) and its five-point (pentagonal) floor (instead of the four point (trapezoidal) floor of the Brawny Tarptent), offers more room for error in setup. Consequently, it requires some adjustments after the initial pitch is complete to set the guylines and stakes in their optimal positions. If the soil is hard, rocky, or stakes are otherwise difficult to place, this could result in some significant time involved during setup to make the proper adjustments. Granted, this process becomes easier with experience, but the new user should be forwarned that initial setup is not a gimme.

While the Brawny Tarptent goes up the fastest when the floor is properly pitched, the Lunar Solo can only be pitched perfectly if the center pole is preset to its ideal length of 44 inches. In our experience, we found that staking the floor "roughly," then inserting the properly lengthened center pole was required prior to making final adjustments to the stake and center pole guyline. In rocky soil, this process took one person about 6 to 8 minutes to complete after several practices, while the same could be accomplished with the Brawny Tarptent in about 3 minutes or less.

Once the center pole, five floor corners, and center pole guyline are properly set, the Lunar Solo offers a surprisingly tight pitch for a single pole tent. The manufacturer recommends that a second trekking pole be used in the rear (to increase headroom of the roof and tighten the pitch further) but we found this step completely unnecessary unless wind stability was the primary objective. Adding the second rear pole does not meaningfully increase headroom or usable space in the shelter, and provides only a nominal increase in wind stability. For comparision sake, the Brawny Tarptent requires at least two poles and up to four in windy conditions.

Usable Features / Options

Components

Tent body 30 denier silicone nylon body and floor; no-see-um mesh sidewalls and door
Guylines 1/4 inch nylon cord with 1/8 inch elastic shockcord, pre-tied to the shelter in a two-point equalizing configuration
Stakes Six recommended, none included
Poles none included (requires one trekking pole for setup), one additional trekking pole for rear can be used to improve longitudinal stability of the shelter in high winds
Stuff Sack 30 denier silicone nylon (0.5 oz) with drawcord and cordlock

The front door has a #3 dual slider zipper. A full-front no-see-um mesh door can be half-opened with a #3 coil zipper with dual slider. The awning is sewn to the tent on one half, and attaches to the tent with hook and loop tabs on the other half. Half or all of the awning can be rolled away for exceptional views and better ventilation, but doing so while in the tent is cumbersome. A zipper in place of hook and loop patches would improve awning usability.

Ventilation options include full front no-see-um mesh door, adjustable awning, and full mesh perimeter sidewalls (12 inches high).

No ditty pockets are sewn inside the tent - the addition of one or two would greatly improve the ability to organize small gear inside the tent.

Weight / Sizing

The Lunar Solo offers a solid area to weight ratio. Approaching 1.0 ft2/oz, it's one of the lightest tents in this review suite, for the surface area it provides. Best of all, the manufacturer's specifications for surface area were right on the money.

Flexibility of Pitching

There is only one way to pitch the Lunar Solo.

Usable Space

Six Moon Designs Lunar Solor - vestibule
The Lunar Solo's vestibule is a generous 10 square feet, providing ample room for organizing wet gear outside the tent while still remaining protected from the weather. There is even plenty of room to cook in the vestibule when the awning is fully closed.

In comparing the surface area of the Lunar Solo to the Ultralight Brawny Tarptent, one would think that (on paper at least), the Lunar Solo did not offer nearly the usable space of the Ultralight Brawny Tarptent (25.0 versus 35.0 square feet, respectively). However, the height of the Lunar Solo, and the dual equalizing construction between the interior mesh sidewalls and exterior silnylon side awnings creates a steeply-walled structure with nearly all of the floor space contributing to usable space. When in the tent, the interior mesh sidewalls are nearly vertical. Thus, some space is lost in the floor design of the Lunar Solo, but the risk of rubbing gear against the wet interior walls of the tent is minimized. The Lunar Solo has effectively captured the essence of a double walled tent in its lower 12 inches of height.

As such, there is plenty of room inside the tent to stretch out a long length (6.5 feet) sleeping bag. Combined with the usable and very roomy vestibule, and a small amount of extra space inside the tent, there is plenty of room to store a solo hiker's gear.

Performance

Stability

The Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo is remarkably stable in high winds for a single center-pole shelter.

It benefits from a hexagonal force line distribution around the center pole - six stakes create tension lines around the tent's perimeter, with opposing lines of force where it is needed most - from the front-center point to the rear-center point. Because of this configuration, the Lunar Solo held fast in high winds while camped on Montana's Bridger Ridge, where we experienced continuous winds to 30 mph and gusts to more than 50 mph. These same winds toppled several tents we were reviewing, including the five-point pitch of the Brawny Ultralight Tarptent.

The manufacturer suggests using a second trekking pole in the rear to tighten the ridgeline and improve wind stability. In practice, we found that adding the rear pole had little impact on tent stability in all but the very highest winds.

The Lunar Solo's stability weakness lies in the off-the-ground configuration of its perimeter awning - ground winds blow under the awning and threaten to launch the tent like a sail to the next county. Several times, we found that enough force was generated to send titanium skewer stakes flying, so it motivated us to choose the stakes we use with this tent more carefully when expecting to camp in exposed areas. Under such conditions I prefer a stake such as the "V" shaped Vargo Titanium Ascent stake (0.5 ounces each).

Storm Protection

Six Moon Designs Lunar Solor - awning
A zippered closure on the awning instead of hook and loop patches would provide better storm protection and usability.

The Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo's weakness is in its storm protection - a typical weak point in many single wall tarptents.

Because half of the front awning is secured to the tent with only a few hook and loop patches, there are gaps through which rain can leak - and in hard rain, we found it to leak substantially, with water dripping down that half of the mesh front door. A zipper with a flap, or a water resistant zipper, in place of hook and loop patches, would improve storm resistance.

Snow loading on the Lunar Solo is by no means exceptional. Only a few inches of snow collapsed the perimeter sidewalls nearly to the ground, eating up usable space inside the tent and inhibiting ventilation through the interior mesh sidewalls. As with most tarp tents without a fully hooped structure, careful attention must be paid to snow loading, and snow must be banged off the tent from the inside periodically. To its credit, the Lunar Solo was able to maintain livable conditions in a September storm that brought 8 inches of snow in one night in Montana's Beartooth Range at the Granite Peak basecamp on Froze-to-Death plateau. The Lunar Solo did not suffer the dramatic deformation in structure of the Ultralight Brawny Tarptent in snowy conditions - the Lunar Solo's steeper pitch, tighter ridgeline, and dual-wall construction at the perimeter served to counteract snowloading on the shelter.

Like most silnylon tents, the Lunar Solo suffers from temperature-dependent sagging of the nylon over the course of a cold night or in response to cold rain or snowfall. However, smart features are used to counteract this sagging: elastic shockcord in the guylines give the pitch some room to stretch and shrink while maintaining a taut pitch without adjustment. In addition, an adjustable strap-and-buckle arrangement at the center pole guyline allows that guyline to be adjusted from within the tent, greatly improving its pitch in the middle of a snowstorm without having to bear the elements.

Ventilation/Condensation Resistance

Six Moon Designs Lunar Solor - interior
The near-vertical 12-inch high mesh perimeter sidewalls provide plenty of headroom for even lofty sleeping bag footboxes, and prevent gear from rubbing against condensation on the fly.

With a full netting perimeter wall that is a generous 12 inches high, and a full-mesh door that can be completely withdrawn, the Lunar Solo offers ventilation that rivals the solo-sized TarpTent Virga by Henry Shires, and comparatively places the Ultralight Brawny Tarptent into the sweatbox category.

The perimeter sidewalls of the Lunar Solo provide excellent cross-flow ventilation, and chimney venting of moist air can be accomplished effectively if the awning remains completely open.

Consequently, on still nights, when we left the awning open, we experienced some condensation on the back roof walls near the top half of the sleeping bag (the point of exhaling) but little condensation elsewhere.

When the awning was left down, as it normally was in windy conditions (to preserve warmth), cross-flow ventilation provided by the sidewalls kept the tent almost completely dry inside.

On still nights, when the awning was left down, significant condensation occurred, to the point where large visible drops could be seen on the ceiling of the tent above the upper half of the sleeping bag.

The bottom line, as with any single-wall fully enclosed shelter, is this: you are going to have to deal with condensation. Fortunately, the Lunar Solo provides options for both still nights (opening the awning completely) and windy nights (perimeter mesh sidewalls) that greatly improve its condensation resistance in many conditions.

Insect Protection

In buggy areas, it's a simple affair to enter and exit the tent through a slit in the zippered door without letting bugs in. The mesh perimeter sidewalls provide some cross flow ventilation that makes the tent a pleasure (relative to most tents) to enjoy a bug-free environment at midday when the sun is shining down. To further your enjoyment when hiding out, the mesh door and side vents allow for excellent views on clear days.

Durability Field Observations

We've only had the Lunar Solo in the field for a few weeks. From what we've seen so far, we don't expect any serious long term durability issues. We don't like the guyline quality, but you can always replace it with your own.

Value

You can buy cheaper or more weather worthy solo tents for the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo's price tag of $225. However, you won't find them to be as light, they probably won't offer a huge front door view (heck, even with the awning completely lowered, you can still see under it while lying down), and they won't have the unique features like a 12 inch high full-perimeter ventilating sidewall, or a self-equalizing shockcord pitch.

The price compares well to the $195 TarpTent Virga-with-floor (which is the same weight as the Lunar Solo with the sewn-in floor option), but it is quite a bit more expensive than the Ultralight Brawny Tarptent. However, those of us that reviewed both the Lunar Solo and the Brawny Tarptent agree that "you get what you pay for."

The Lunar Solo is a solid buy for a solo shelter that will perform to the expectations of someone looking for a fully-enclosed, moderately storm-worthy shelter with a great feature set.

Our only value-gripe: for $225, we want something that is just a little easier to pitch when the chips are down at the end of a long, cold, wet day.

Recommendations for Improvement

  1. Replace hook and loop patches for the removable awning half with a #3 zipper with flap or a lightweight water resistant zipper to improve usability while in the tent, and storm protection.
  2. For $225, we want to see the tent packaged with titanium skewer stakes and Dyneema guylines.
  3. Improve the ease of pitch, either through minor design changes to the guyline setup and/or thorough and detailed consumer education to be included with the tent and/or at the website.

Citation

"Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo Tent REVIEW," by Ryan Jordan. BackpackingLight.com (ISSN 1537-0364).
http://backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/six_moon_designs_lunar_solo_tent_review.html, 2004-10-21 03:00:00-06.

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