Six Moon Design Lunar Solo Tent
Much of my wild camping is by canoe, and therefore weight and pack size has not mattered as much. However, having done a little bikepacking, and with a view to doing more wild camping in the hills, I thought it was time to look at an ultralight tent. As it happened, a friend was selling an almost new one, as he simply wasn't using it, so I became the owner of a Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo.
Some people call them tarp-tents, some people call them single skin tents. Whatever, this is a simple pyramidal shelter that comprises a single skin outer sewn to a built-in groundsheet. It is designed primarily to use a trekking pole, but as it happens, mine came with the optional extra carbon fibre pole. More on the difference in use later.
There is a modest front porch, behind which lies a mesh inner door, and it is designed for one person. The layout means you sleep sideways to the door, much my preferred way.
The front porch is attached to a guyline, so that the base attachment for the doors can slide up and down. This allows adjustment of the doors, or they can be tied right back leaving you with an open sided tent, which is lovely in good weather, and the guyline keeps it all upright. The door does not come particularly close to the ground so the porch is quite drafty, but can be opened either to the left or right making it quite versatile.
There is a small vent at the top above the door. There is also a mesh panel all the way around the groundsheet, which is cut so that it overhangs and protects this panel.
There are two additional guying points, one on each end. These are supposedly optional, but as they make a big difference to the usable internal space, I would always use them. My mate had replaced them with some very long ultralight guys.
The mesh inner door only opens on one side, to the right as you look at it. There's a hanging hook at the top.
Overall quality is high, fabrics are excellent and the stitching is of a very good standard.
Pitching is fast and very easy. However, in keeping with most pyramid style tents, it is quite critical that you get it right, and that pegs or tie down points are secure.
First, lay out the ground sheet, and peg out the 5 corners. These should not be too tight at this stage, and the peg points are adjustable.
Next, simply take your trekking pole* (set at 124 cm which is fortunately close enough to my normal 125 to work without adjustment) and insert the pointy end into a sleeve inside the apex of the tent. Lay this flat, point away from you when stood at the front of the tent, and place the other end of the pole on the tab at the middle of the door by the base. Then take the guyline, making sure its correctly threaded through the vent, and with the pole resting on ground, pull the apex towards you and peg out the guy to hold it up.
Now go round and adjust the pegging points. Its important that these are not too tight against the ground or you won't get much ventilation, which you need in a single skin tent.
The door uses a "prussic loop" type attachment at the bottom of the zip, which allows it to be slid up and down the guy line, or detached to tie back the doors.
Guy out the two ends to give yourself extra internal space and improve the bad weather performance of the tent.
After half an hour or so, you'll probably need to retighten the guylines due to the tent "settling" and fabric stretch.
Once you've done it a couple of times this will only take 5 minutes, but at first a bit of faffing to get the tension correct may slow you down. This is also a tent that prefers a flat pitch. It will stand up perfectly well on a slightly sloping, curved or bumpy pitch, but getting the ventilation "just right" will be harder.
*If you use the carbon fibre pole, getting the tension right is quite hard, as the pole will flex if everything is too tight. Whilst this pole allows for a lighter set up, I thought it much more stable with a trekking pole and will only use the carbon one if on my bike and not taking trekking poles.
This tent looks small. It isn't. There is plenty of space for a 6 footer inside, and my 6' 3" mate fit OK, but found it harder not to touch the ends with feet or head. For myself, at 5'10!, its quite generous and there is enough space that I can use a low camp bed without being raised too close to the sloping sides; though that sort of defeats the ultralight thing!
There is also plenty of room to your side for a decent sized bag to sit. The whole thing feels surprisingly spacious, and you can easily sit up in the central area. The guyed-out ends give a good amount of extra space above head and feet.
You could get an adult and child in without much problem.
The porch is also plenty big enough for storing a bag and boots, and with the adjustable doors brewing up in shelter without risking burning the fly sheet is simple enough.
This isn't designed as a 4-season tent, so ultimately there are a few compromises. However, and most importantly, it will keep out the rain well, and it stands up to strong winds remarkably well. In swirling and gusting winds of about 30-40 mph, the tent didn't move at all (used with the trekking pole) and no rain got in. However, it was quite drafty, so in colder conditions you need a good sleeping bag. The porch will keep out most rain, but some wind driven droplets will get under the high-cut doors.
The direction of pitching is fairly important. End on to the wind and it will stand rigid without much movement of the fabric, but if it comes straight at the large panel of the rear of the tent, this acts a bit like a sail and will bulge inwards. THis doesn't mean the tent will fail, but leads to more flapping and any moisture from condensation can get sprayed onto you. Otherwise though, this tent will stand up well, though it isn't as quiet as some free-standing geodesic domes I've used.
Being a single skin tent, you are likely to get varying levels of condensation, and its a rare night that there isn't at least a little bit on the inner, especially above your head. However, I've not found it to be a major problem most of the time, its most noticeable when trying to get changed and accidentally touching the sides. Careful pitching helps maximise the ventilation around the base.
The whole point of the Lunar Solo tent is its small pack size and low weight. Here it scores very well, with a weight including pegs of about 780g (this is after my mate swapped guylines and pegs, and I've added a spare couple). It is very easy to stuff the whole thing into the provided bag, which is plenty big enough. You can then compress this to half the size it naturally tries to fill. If you use the little provided carbon pole, that doesn't fit in the bag, but would easily be carried elsewhere and weighs next to nothing.
Season rating: 3
No of persons: 1
Weight: 780g weighed
Pack size: 28 x 12cm, compresses to about 18 x 12cm.
Fabric: Silicon coated polyester outer and groundsheet, 3000mm hydrostatic head. Mesh inner.
Inner floor dimensions: 229 x max 120cm (usable about 210 x 90cm)
Manufacturer's web page
Given the remarkably small pack size and low weight, the Lunar Solo is pretty impressive, surprisingly spacious and capable of standing up to some fairly rough weather. The compromises come from putting up with some condensation, the high-cut porch and the optional bendy carbon pole. Overall, an excellent addition to my growing tent collection, for those times when weight matters.