The Six Moon Designs Refuge and Refuge X are the lightest two-person shelters by Six Moon Designs. The two tents are identical in size and design, with only minor differences in guyline and stake adjustments and a slight difference in vestibule coverage. The largest difference between these tents is in the tent body fabric - the $260 Refuge is made of silnylon and weighs just over 1.5 pounds, while the $400 Refuge X is made with a Cuben Fiber body and weighs under 1 pound.
Both single-wall tents offer excellent usable space and plenty of room for two large hikers. They use trekking poles or optional carbon fiber poles for support and have an integrated, non-bathtub floor.
The Six Moon Designs Refuge X high in Washington's Cascades.
- Very lightweight for a two-person single-wall tent.
- Refuge X is extremely lightweight, at under one pound.
- Enough usable space for two to comfortably sit up or tall hikers to stretch out when laying down.
- Excellent ventilation.
- Uses trekking poles to save weight (or optional carbon fiber poles).
- Quick and easy setup.
- Usable vestibule with sufficient space for two lightweight packs.
- Easy side entry.
What's Not So Good
- No bathtub floor - less protection from dirt, splashing rain.
- Mesh at stake points and perimeter is susceptible to damage.
- Difficult to get a taut pitch on the Refuge X ridgeline.
- Poor wind stability.
- No interior storage pockets or hang loops.
- Refuge X is very expensive, at $400.
- Stakes are not included.
|2008 Six Moon Designs Refuge
2008 Six Moon Designs Refuge X
|Three-season, single-wall, floored tent|
|Refuge: Body and floor are 30d silicone nylon, interior mesh is 0.7 oz no-see-um netting
Refuge X: Body is CNK.8 0.75 oz Cuben Fiber, floor is 30d silicone nylon, interior mesh is 0.7 oz no-see-um nylon
Poles and Stakes
|Uses two to four trekking poles or two carbon poles (optional), stakes not included (optional)|
|Floor area: length 90 in (229 cm), width 48 in (122 cm)
Overall area: length 108 in (274 cm), width 72 in (183 cm) peak height 45 in (114 cm)
|Refuge: 12.5 x 6 in (32 x 15 cm)
Refuge X: 12.5 x 5.5 in (32 x 14 cm);
|Refuge: 1 lb 9.7 oz (0.73 kg), manufacturer specification: 1 lb 11 oz (0.77 kg)
Refuge X: 1 lb (0.45 kg), manufacturer specification: 1 lb (0.45 kg)
|Refuge: 1 lb 9.2 oz (0.71 kg)
Refuge X: 0 lb 15.8 oz (0.45 kg) (excludes compression stuff sack and stake sack)
|Floor area 30.0 ft2 (2.79 m2), vestibule area 6.0 ft2 (0.56 m2), total 36.0 ft2 (3.34 m2)|
Protected Area/Trail Weight Ratio
|Refuge: 22.9 ft2/lb
Refuge X: 36.5 ft2/lb
|Refuge: $260 USD
Refuge X: $400 USD
|Stake set: 2.5 oz, $12
Tyvek footprint: 6.5 oz, $12
Carbon fiber tent pole: 1.8 oz, $25/each
The Six Moon Designs Refuge and Refuge X are nearly identical tents in design and features. Besides a few minor differences (explained below), the main difference between these tents is the fabric used in the tent body; the Refuge uses 30 denier silnylon while the Refuge X uses Cuben Fiber.
The Refuge tents have similarities to the Six Moon Designs Lunar Duo, including side entry, trekking pole support, integrated floor with a perimeter mesh, high vents, and a spacious interior design. With floor dimensions of 90 by 48 inches, the Refuge is equal in length to the Lunar Duo but is 6 inches narrower. To save weight, the Refuge is also a simpler design, with less features (single door and vestibule, no interior pockets, no aluminum struts, no bathtub floor, etc.); the silnylon Refuge is over a pound lighter than the Lunar Duo at 1 pound, 9.2 ounces and the Cuben Refuge X, the lightest floored shelter on the market, at just 15.8 ounces.
The Refuge (left) has a body made from silnylon while the Refuge X (right) is made of Cuben Fiber - all other differences between the tents are minor.
Fabric Note: Cuben Fiber (typically used for sailboat sails) is a laminate of Spectra fibers between two films of Mylar plastic, so it's not woven.
In comparing the Six Moon Designs Refuge and Refuge X, the largest difference is the fabric used in the tent body. The Refuge uses a 30 denier silnylon while the Refuge X uses a 0.75 ounce Cuben Fiber. The Cuben Fiber fabric drops the overall weight of the tent by 37% (25.2 ounces to 15.8 ounces) while increasing the cost by 53% ($260 to $400). However, there are other differences between these fabrics that make these two tents unique.
It is well known that silnylon is a fabric that can stretch to some degree. In the field, that means that if the ridgeline of the silnylon Refuge is not quite taut, tightening the guylines just a little bit more can stretch the fabric and achieve a taut pitch. The side guyouts on the silnylon tent also create a larger interior space because the fabric stretches to a greater degree. On the other hand, the silnylon tent can sag through the night, requiring occasional re-tensioning. I also found that the tent tended to ruffle in the wind more than the Cuben fiber version.
Cuben Fiber, on the other hand, has almost zero stretch. With the Refuge X, it was easier to achieve a taut pitch, and there was no detectable stretch to the fabric in cold or wet conditions. The side panels did not stretch as much as the silnylon Refuge, but once set, the side panels remained drum tight. On the other hand, the ability to stretch the ridgeline to make it taut is lost. In the case of the Refuge X, the way the beaks attached to the tent body didn't allow the ridgeline to become as taut as the silnylon Refuge, no matter how much I cranked on the guylines. While the rest of the Refuge X was tensioned like a drum, the ridgeline would move around in moderate winds, decreasing the overall wind stability of the tent and undoing some of the extra stability that came from the low-stretch fabric. In this case, a ridgeline/vent design that worked fine in one material (silnylon) had a drawback in another material (Cuben Fiber).
The Refuge X (foreground) sets up very taut due to its low-stretch Cuben Fiber body with the exception of a ridgeline that is difficult to properly tension.
In the months that I reviewed the two Refuge tents, I had them out in conditions ranging from high desert to lowland northwest rain forests to high subalpine camps in the Cascades. Overall, I was impressed with both tents' storm-worthiness, easily surviving extended downpours. In moderate winds, with all of the guylines in use, the tents had reasonable wind stability, but did experience some deflection and flapping (more than the comparable but heavier Tarptent Squall, for example). I wouldn't recommend either of these tents for very windy conditions.
It is impossible to achieve a taut ridgeline on the Refuge X with the stock pole placement in the beak (left) but a taut ridgeline is possible when the pole is attached to the tent body (right).
In analyzing the ridgeline of the Refuge X and how I could never get the tension I was looking for, I decided to take a closer look at how the poles attached to the beak. Having the attachment point on the end of the beak means that the non-stretch Cuben fabric must be aligned perfectly to have a taut ridgeline - even a small error can put less tension on the ridgeline than on the tent body. To find a possible solution, I put the grip end of the trekking pole against the seam of the ridgeline and beak and found that greater tension was much easier to achieve. Although the current design has adequate ridgeline tension, moving the trekking pole attachment and redesigning the beak would increase the wind stability of this tent.
The Refuge tents have one large mesh wall for good views and a single side-entry door.
While wind stability may not be the forte of the Refuge and Refuge X design, usable space most certainly is. There is an amazing amount of usable space in these tents, especially when the side guyouts are used. My wife and I shared the tent with our two-year-old son, Henry, on several occasions, and found the tents to be sufficient to fit the three of us (when Henry slept on the mesh at the end of the tent). When waiting out a storm, the adults had room to comfortably sit up while Henry walked inside the tent and climbed on us - four adults could sit up and play cards in a pinch. There is also excellent length for sleeping in the Refuge; at 6 feet 1 inch, I'm a pretty tall guy, but when I stretched out from end to end, I was unable to touch the walls of the tent. In maximizing usable space per ounce, Six Moon Designs has definitely hit the mark with the Refuge and Refuge X - these tents are much roomier inside than other tents in their class.
The entry and exit of the Refuge is through one reasonably-sized door. The vestibule unzips and clips to the sides with elastic clips. The mesh door also rolls up and shares the same clip as half of the vestibule door, adding to the thoughtful simplicity of the design. The large mesh wall on the front of the tent makes for great views during fair conditions.
Ventilation on the Refuge and Refuge X is excellent. Two large covered vents at the top of the tent, along with perimeter mesh and an all-mesh front wall, create a chimney effect and excellent airflow. I found the Refuge tents to have the least condensation of any lightweight single-wall shelters I've used. Even during calm, high humidity conditions (a single-wall tent's greatest enemy), the Refuge tents had very moderate condensation that was easily wiped away. I was very impressed by these tents' condensation resistance.
The integrated floor has a non-bathtub design. While it raises off the ground, it is susceptible to dirt and water entering the tent.
The Refuge tents do not have a bathtub floor. A bathtub floor is a typical tent feature for many reasons - it keeps water out of the tent, offers increased splash protection when combined with mesh walls, and keeps dirt off of the tent floor. The Refuge tents work around this by having mesh floors that lift off the ground between 2 and 5 inches, depending on the length of stake out guylines. During field testing, I found that this design kept flowing water under the tent floor and provided sufficient ventilation. I also found that when adjusted correctly with longer corner guylines, the mesh rarely came into contact with the ground, keeping the mesh clean and mud-free.
That said, the seamless floor-to-mesh transition makes it very easy to slide or roll onto the mesh area, and on several occasions during testing, gear or a hiker's body slid into this area. When this occurs, gear or a sleeping bag can become wet very quickly and ventilation is decreased.
During dry conditions, the large mesh areas increase the potential floor space of the tent, but the thin mesh is much less durable than the silnylon floor, so this is not recommended.
Detail of pole attachment of the Refuge (top left, bottom left) and Refuge X (top right, bottom right). Differences can be seen in the guyline adjustments (top) and less coverage seen on the Refuge X vestibule (bottom right).
The Refuge tent directions call specifically for a 45-inch (114-centimeter) trekking pole, and that's exactly what the tent needs to be set up as intended. The pole handle slips into a small pouch at the base of the tent (one in front and one in back) and attaches to a grommet at the top. This exact length creates the ideal tension, and a longer or shorter pole negatively affects the tent setup. This is very easy to achieve for those that use adjustable poles, but it can be a limiting factor for those that use fixed-length poles. I found that it was possible to use a longer trekking pole if I didn't use the handle pouch and used a small guyline and stake to extend the front attachment (this is also a trick to increase headroom). However, this creates the need for two additional stakes and guylines and adds a step in setting up the shelter.
The style of guyline adjustments at the front and rear beak are different between the Refuge and Refuge X tents. The silnylon Refuge has a nylon guyline with integrated plastic adjuster, while the Refuge X has a short section of webbing with an adjuster and lighter fixed-length guylines (included). The difference in usability is minimal, and I assume the change with the Refuge X was an attempt to shave some grams to hit the sixteen ounce weight goal.
Another difference between the two tents is the length of the vestibule wall. While the Refuge comes to nearly ground level, the Refuge X is about three inches higher above the ground. The difference in gear coverage or increased ventilation was very minimal.
The silnylon Refuge has adjustable stake attachments (right). The non-sewn webbing is easily pulled out if you loosen it too much (left).
The Cuben Refuge X has simple, non-adjustable stake out points which can be extended with guylines for better ventilation (left) or staked to the ground during high winds or heavy rains (right).
The last difference between the two tents (besides fabric type, main guyline adjustment, and height of the vestibule wall) is the stake adjustments. The silnylon Refuge features adjustable stake attachments that make re-tensioning a breeze. (Keep in mind - the webbing straps are not sewn at the end, making it easy for them to slide out of the plastic adjuster, so be careful not to lose them!) When setting up the tent, I recommend starting with the straps adjusted to their longest length and tightening them as the silnylon sags; this way you maximize the height of the perimeter mesh off the ground.
The Refuge X has simple corner loops that require separate guylines (included with the tent) with no adjustor - presumably to cut a bit more weight. This requires repositioning the stake to change tension, rather than using a simple adjustment as in the silnylon Refuge. Again, using a longer guyline is preferable to keep the mesh off the ground.
Both Refuge tents have YKK zippers with Velcro closures (Refuge X shown).
Both tents feature diminutive YKK zippers that performed flawlessly during testing. Storm flaps cover the zipper and a Velcro tab keeps the rain flap closed and takes tension off of the zipper.
The vestibule measures approximately six square feet, which is sufficient for two ultralight packs, shoes, and a few other items.
There is plenty of room for two ultralight packs in the small vestibule (image taken in Arizona's Aravaipa Canyon).
While some may question the durability of the extremely lightweight Cuben Fiber used in the Refuge X, I found this to be an excellent material for use in a tent body. Cuben Fiber is waterproof and extremely strong and stretch resistant - its weakness is in puncture and abrasion resistance. Six Moon Designs was intentional in using this as a fabric in the tent body but sticking to 30 denier silnylon for the tent floor, a combination that plays to the strengths of the two different materials. Still, if durability is a concern, you may want to go with the silnylon Refuge.
A couple of durability concerns did come up with the Refuge tents. First, mesh is used at the base of the corner stake out positions. When adjusted too low, the mesh comes in contact with the ground, where dirt can get into the material. In one corner, the abrasion caused a small hole. I would recommend additional reinforcement in these corners.
I have a similar concern for the entire mesh perimeter - if the tent is staked too low, the fragile mesh comes in contact with the ground, causing a potential durability concern. While proper pitching with long corner guylines can alleviate this problem, rolling onto the mesh also has the potential to cause damage.
The mesh used in the tent corners is susceptible to abrasion and damage.
Cuben Fiber requires additional reinforcement at seams that are under tension. On the Refuge X this only occurs at the junction between the tent body and the beak, and it's reinforced with seam tape. After several months of use, the seam tape started to peel up at the edges. While I don't believe that this will peel all the way off or lead to a seam failure, this is a spot that a Refuge X user will want to check periodically.
Seam tape on the Refuge X peeled up slightly after heavy use.
At $260, the Refuge tent is reasonably priced and offers excellent usable space, effective ventilation, good views, and a functional vestibule - all for just over 1.5 pounds. At $400, the Refuge X is a very expensive tent. However, it features low-stretch and very strong Cuben Fiber material and a weight of under one pound - a first for a two-person floored shelter. Depending on your priorities, both Refuge tents offer a good value.
The silnylon Six Moon Designs Refuge tent is a reasonably priced, two-person shelter that has incredible usable space for a weight of just 1.5 pounds. Released alone, the Refuge tent would be a welcome entry to the market.
As far as uniqueness, however, the Refuge X steals the show. It is the first Cuben Fiber, two-person tent on the market and is currently the lightest two-person floored tent, at just under one pound. It's not just an experiment in light weight, though - after several months on the trail, the Refuge X has proven its worth as a shelter that is both usable and durable.
Recommendations for Improvement
- Consider moving the pole attachment to the tent body and redesigning the beak for greater ridgeline tension.
- Reinforce the mesh under the corner stake out points.
- Consider using a bathtub floor or attaching the perimeter mesh further up the side of the tent walls to get them above the ground.