Used extensively by Cairngorm Treks from late summer to early winter 2018, throughout the Cairngorms and surrounding areas.
To begin, Ultralight Outdoor Gear asked us to pick a few products that we believe would fit into our approach to lightweight multi day trekking. One of the shelters we picked had to fit the criteria of an ultra-light and compact shelter, which incorporated a walking pole to reduce carrying extra poles, and also most importantly had full midge protection. We are big fans of the versatility of a tarp but often have an uncomfortable time being eaten alive when we should be resting. You can get hold of mesh inners to mitigate this issue but then the overall weight and bulk of your shelter is often similar to that of a lightweight tent and feels a little pointless. So, the Six moon Designs Lunar solo ticked all of the boxes and also fitted the price bracket of an affordable shelter. The recent advancements in materials have meant you can get the full protection and comforts of a double skin tent for well under 1kg but the price attached to these can reach up to 4 times the cost of the Lunar Solo. Six Moon Designs have then created an affordable option for anyone wanting to move into the realms of ultra-light trekking.
Out of the packaging it becomes apparent that its base weight stated will need to be raised slightly to an actual working weight. At 680grams this is still well below the 1kg ultra-light bracket, but with this, Six Moon Designs don't include the added weight of a stuff sac, pegs or guy lines. With this shelter we stayed with the theme of keeping it as light as possible but also in incorporating items that are fit for use. 3 additional Dyneema guy lines were added along with 9 lightweight stakes. The stakes varied in styles to suit a variety of ground types. We also discarded the stuff bag included, as we didn't find it fit for purpose, and used a 3-litre lightweight drybag instead. It will become clearer why we made these choices later in this review. The total working weight came to 847grams. It is also worth mentioning that the total bulk of the Lunar Solo packs similar to the size of a water bottle and even with the added extras, fitted well within the ultra-light bracket we were aiming for. The colour choice we were supplied with was grey which when pitched blends in nicely with the environment.There is also a choice of green, and both appear quite calm and neutral.
The Lunar Solo has been redesigned for 2018 and some of the features include a newly constructed 100% Silicone coated Polyester material. The Canopy being 20D and the floor has been constructed with 40D material for additional strength. Six Moon Designs have noted that the canopy stretch has been decreased along with the packed volume, the main guy line has been given a reflective cord and guy outs for the corners are also now reflective.The internal height has also been raised to a generous 122cm. It's a single skin shelter which means without an extra internal layer between you and the outer fabric a build-up of condensation will form. There is a 15cm mesh divider between the canopy and the floor that provides ventilation and also an area for condensation to escape. Single skin shelters may not be for everyone, but this is how Six Moon Designs have been able to achieve the minimal weight and bulk.
An area of concern whilst first looking at the Lunar Solo is the stitching, and choice of materials seem to be a bit fragile. We would prefer to see a more refined stitch as it does appear to feel not quite as robust as other shelters we have used. Also, the mesh and zipper will need someone with a lighter touch as a small snag could result in a large tear if not dealt with care. An area that does appear to be nice and strong is where you insert the pole. Extra thick material has been stitched in place to provide better support.
The internal dimensions are a generous canopy which covers 26 square feet. There is a bathtub floor plus 8.5 square feet of vestibule storage. There is a mesh pocket, which is too small and far too flimsy to make proper use of, but with ample room to sleep and store gear we would maybe utilise the pocket for storing something such as a head torch.
So, it's light, low in bulk, has a great amount of internal space and a good amount of head room. All packed into a 3-litre dry bag at a weight of 847grams.So with everything looking rather good, let’s take it for a trip in the high mountains. Well, maybe not just yet.... Firstly, and this is where in a lot of reviews we read of people having a hard time with the Lunar Solo, we need to get familiar with pitching this tent at home before heading into the great outdoors. It's not just that in high winds, heavy rain, etc, you want to minimise the amount of time spent pitching. It's that it pitches in a way that differs from most regular shelters and needs to be practiced in slight variations depending on weather conditions.
Six Moon Designs state that the Lunar Solo, with its single pole and raised canopy, creates an incredibly light and airy shelter. Unlike other tents with fixed points of setup, the floating canopy and floor design does take a little more patience to master. Still, the Lunar Solo’s weight savings makes it well worth the effort. Spend a bit of time setting your pole at different lengths whilst also adjusting the tensioners and over time you will master how best to set up the Lunar Solo depending on current or predicted weather conditions. The instructions that came with the Lunar Solo didn't represent our favoured way to pitch and we found that following these instructions would result in the bathtub floor becoming very flat. We found a video online which best explains a technique to raise the bathtub floor and also provide good ventilation. We have also added our step-by-step pictures (left) that show this preferred method of pitching.
The great feature about having essentially a tarp is the versatility. A second pole and an additional guy line at the door provides a vestibule that is better suited for cooking under. Also, a great way to feel a connection withthe environment is to fully open the entrance so you can catch that morning sunrise whilst still behind the protection of the mesh. The Lunar Solo is adaptable so it's important to practice different pitching techniques at home before heading on an expedition. You will also notice we've added a little piece of cordage to the bottom of the door which helps keep the attachment securely in place.
Condensation is probably the area most will want to hear about within this review. The first time we slept in the Lunar Solo we were shocked by the large amount of condensation accumulated. It's certainly an area that's unavoidable in a single skin shelter and one we just have to best deal with in return for that much saved weight. What was better to see was the floor was relatively dry with the large majority of moisture on the walls of the canopy. With this in mind we can offer some tips on how best deal with this. Firstly, and the most important, which we already covered, is the pitching. Keep it nice and taught, free from any creases, and make sure you have a good air flow. Secondly, and we found this out the hard way, make sure you always pitch with the two side guy lines in use. This raises the walls which provides much needed space, especially when getting dressed in the morning. There is nothing worse than your head touching a wall releasing a very cold monsoon of droplets making their way down the back of your neck. Lastly, make sure you have all items stored away in dry bags, and if using a down sleeping bag try and buy one with hydrophobic down which better keeps its insulating properties when damp.
So where does it fit into use within the UK? We have mostly used the Lunar Solo throughout the Cairngorms, the surrounding areas, and also a couple of visits to the west coast. For us it's a great shelter to use in lowland woodlands to mountain tops and worked brilliantly on a multi-day trek following the River Spey. It packs away to nothing and when combined with an equally light and compact sleeping bag and mat the combined weight came under 2kg! Plus, our full sleep system had the added bonus of fitting into a 30-litre rucksack with enough room for food, safety gear and essentials including my camera, for 5 days trekking. There is a reason why I mostly came across the Lunar Solo being mentioned within blogs for long distance walks, especially the PCT. It ticks almost all of the boxes for trekking in areas where every gram needs to be carefully considered, but....and for all its praise there is a big but, this reduction in grams does equal a reduction in comfort.
Throughout this review we keep on harping on about pitching. But it's so important with the Lunar Solo. Six Moon Designs claim the Lunar Solo's distinctive low hexagonal shape easily spills the wind no matter the direction. Short, steeply sloped sides, handle snow or high winds with ease. Although we have agreed on a lot that Six Moon Designs have had to say about the Lunar Solo, this is where our experience differs. In winds upward of around 45mph, although the Lunar Solo never felt like it might collapse, the canopy walls just have too much give and we were constantly slapped in the face with a wall of condensation. We found the best way to combat this was to face the Lunar Solo side on to the wind direction with feet in front. Making best use of the side guy line gave much needed support, whilst also keeping the head area free from a wet slap. How we moved forward using the Lunar Solo was to better pre-plan routes, keeping an eye on the wind speeds and direction, picking areas to pitch with better shelter.
It is also worth to mention that the Lunar Solo certainly isn't a warm place to be. Being a single skin shelter with extra airflow needed to mitigate condensation, it's not the most comfortable place as the temperatures drop. Although Six Moon Designs claim that the Lunar Solo can handle snow, you'd have to be rather brave to be out in it during the winter. The materials just won't handle snow load, and with next to no thermal qualities you would want to push more towards a tent better suited for colder climates.
Over time we started to really appreciate the qualities of the Lunar Solo but we also found areas that could be improved. The overall build could be to a higher standard with signs of wear appearing after only a few months of use. We would like to see a more robust stitch throughout and more attention paid towards the corner guys, the wide straps do slacken slightly under tension. Better quality zippers would also be of benefit as they do snag very easily. Overall a shelter of this weight is going to need to be treated with some care, but after around 20 overnight camps it's still performing as it should, so maybe we are being a little bit hard.
Six Moon Designs have created a wee belter of what we believe an ultra-light shelter should be. Light in weight, small in bulk, and with full protection inside and out, the Lunar Solo offers a generous amount of space internally for one person and accompanying gear. The most important aspect when considering purchasing the Lunar Solo is with the pitching. Prior practice is essential to truly understand why this is a popular choice amongst long distance trekkers. It does have its limits, high winds are a problem, and being single skin, the build-up of condensation won't be for everyone, but if you are cautious to keep every gram down to the minimum then you will agree that the qualities outweigh the dis-comforts. The build could be better but for the price this will be a great addition to anyone building an ultra-light set up.
Cairngorm Treks is a small family business based in the picturesque village of Tomintoul in the North East region of the Cairngorms National Park. They provide bespoke Mountain Guiding for Single Day Walks and Lightweight Multiday Trekking experiences, including wild camping, in the stunning Cairngorms wilderness and surrounding areas. Whether in the high mountains or lower valleys, their Multiday Treks are equipped with high quality, lightweight camping and trekking gear. They only work with small groups and, whatever your ability, pride themselves on designing your outdoor experience completely to your needs and with professional guidance and expertise. Adventure is waiting...