Six Moon Designs Pack Pods are silnylon storage cubes, with a zippered clamshell lid, that stack one on top of the other in your backpack. I found them to be highly effective for organization and efficiency on-trail and in-camp, and reasonably priced at $35 for a set of three. I’ve always been a “stuff everything into the pack liner” kind of hiker but these pods have changed that. They provide some weather protection but are not waterproof; organization is their primary purpose.
Specs at a Glance
- Weight (manufacturer) 1.0 ounce per pod
- Weight (tested) 1.0 – 1.1 ounce per pod (2 pods each weighed 1.0 oz, 1 pod weighed 1.1 oz)
- Dimensions (manufacturer): 12” x 8” x 4” (SMD lists this as equivalent to 30 x 20 x 10cm, but these are rounded numbers: 30 cm is actually 11.8 inches, which may explain some of the length discrepancy when measured)
- Dimensions (tested): 11.5” x 8” x 4” (29 x 20 x 10cm)
- Volume: 7 liters/ 430 cubic inches
- Material: Silnylon ripstop
- Closure: Clamshell lid with a standard (non-water-resistant) YKK coil zipper with two sliders
- Colors: Pods are made in black, green, blue, and orange. Colors selected at random.
- Price: $35 for a three-pack
Six Moon Designs (SMD) Pack Pods have a modified cube shape: flat on the top and bottom, flat on one side (the part that goes against your back), and gently rounded on the other side to approximate the curve of the front (the opposite side from your back) of many backpacks. This shape allows for easy stacking of one pod on top of another.
The pods are made from silnylon, which is commonly used in lightweight shelters and stuff sacks and is much less expensive than Dyneema Composite Fabrics (DCF), of which Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s pods are constructed. A set of three SMD Pack Pods are significantly less expensive than a single Hyperlite HMG pod.
The seam that connects the bottom of the SMD pod to the sides is seam-taped (a little messily, but functional) to protect from water ingress if the pod is sitting on wet ground. Since seam taping equipment for silnylon is extremely expensive and rare, the pods are probably coated with PU on the inside to facilitate seam taping, but I haven’t yet heard back from SMD to confirm this. However, the existence of seam tape should not make you think these pods are waterproof. Let’s look a little closer.
It’s important to state it clearly: these pods are not waterproof, so don’t rely on them alone to keep your gear dry. If you are hiking in the rain, packrafting, or have significant water crossings, you will want to have an appropriate strategy for water protection, from a pack liner to dry bags depending on the situation. While they are made from waterproof silnylon and the seams are taped, the zipper is a standard, non-water resistant style and will allow water to enter.
However, the pods are water-resistant and will give some protection to your gear if you put them on wet ground or need to pull one out briefly to access something during a rest stop.
To test the water-resistance of the packing pods, I left one out in steady rain for an hour with a cotton sweatshirt stuffed inside. Water beaded up on the surface of the pod and entered through the zipper, but when I pulled out the sweatshirt it only had three palm-sized wet spots on it; the rest was dry.
I like the decision to use regular zippers on these pods because opening and closing them to access gear is fast and easy, with no resistance. Having two sliders means you can position them anywhere along the length of the zipper. There is a tiny hole where the two sliders meet, but water can enter anywhere along the zipper. However, water-resistant zippers (commonly referred to mistakenly as waterproof zippers) are quite a bit stiffer to operate and yet are still not completely waterproof. Here in rainy New England, I always use a pack liner to protect my gear and will continue to do so when using these pods.
The pods are made in four colors: green, blue, black, and orange, but you don’t get to choose–Six Moon Designs will select three colors at random. I find it a little curious to have a three-pack of random colors when only four colors are manufactured. I received green, blue, and black in my order, but I wish I got orange instead of black, as I much prefer brightly-colored stuff sacks to distinguish between systems and find items quickly. But I know other hikers who can’t stand bright colors in their gear; they see them as a garish assault on their eyes in a natural landscape. It would be nice to have the option of a set of bright or muted colors.
If you group similar items together, the different colors are helpful for quickly identifying what you need at the moment. For example, I keep my sleeping items in the green pod because my sleeping shirt is bright green, so I have that immediate association. I keep my storm clothes in the blue pod because blue makes me think of cold and rain.
I know some people like to pack their food into a pod so it stacks nicely with their other gear. If you do this, it’s a good idea to always use that same pod for food and nothing else so you don’t transfer food smells onto other gear, and to pack the pod into your bear bag or canister at the end of the day. Personally, I find my Ursack stacks pretty well with these pods when laid horizontally in my pack, so I keep my food in there.
Packing at home
I always pack from a list and check off items as I pack them to make sure I don’t forget anything. Usually, this looks like making a big pile of stuff on the floor and pulling things out one at a time to pack. But with the pods, I can group small items that are part of a system together, which makes it easier to both pack and double-check that everything is packed.
On a late winter/early spring trip, my storm pod contained a warm hat, gloves, rain mitts, fleece top, rain jacket, and VBL socks. My sleeping pod contained my sleeping clothes including warm socks, an inflatable pillow and pad and their inflation bag, and Gore-Tex socks for in-camp use with wet shoes. I have been using just two of the pods throughout my testing this Winter and early Spring, but as it gets warmer, I can see myself using the third for my quilt or sleeping bag.
Use on the trail
Before trying these pods, I used to pack all my gear into a pack liner, only using stuff sacks for food, cook kit, stakes, and small essentials. Using the pods, I have fewer items that can migrate around in the pack, and I never have to touch my in-camp items until I’m actually in camp. So if it starts storming, I pull out my storm pod, which sits outside (on top of) my pack liner and have everything I need right there, easy to access and put on quickly.
When I get to camp, I pitch my tent, pull out my sleep pod and inflate my pad and pillow, and then pull out the quilt to loft. Then my inflation bag and the stuff sacks for my shelter all get rolled up and put back into the sleep pod so they don’t wander aimlessly around the tent. On the first trip with these pods, I kept my sleeping pad and pillow in their stuff sacks out of force of habit, but I quickly realized these extra stuff sacks can be left home. With the pod on the tent floor and the lid unzipped, I can easily see what’s inside without having to root through everything or having items fall out.
Organization in a hammock is even more important than in a tent because of the tendency of small items to fall out as you exit the hammock in the night. Slide a neck gaiter over one of the pods and use it as your pillow, and keep your electronics warm in another with some clothing and put it under your knees.
Once I’m all set up for the night, the pods become like a chest of drawers. If I get cold or hot in the night, I can quickly find or put away extra layers or a hat and gloves. Having a home for everything means that packing up in the morning is very efficient.
Comparable Packing Pods
|Make / Model||Material||Pricing|
|Hyperlite Mountain Gear Pods||DCF||$50 and up|
|Mountain Laurel Designs Cuben DCF Packing Cubes||DCF||$12 and up|
|Mountain Laurel Designs Dyneema X Packing Cubes||Nylon||$10 and up|
|Napacks Ultralight Packing Cubes||DCF||$40 and up|
|Osprey Straightjacket Compression Sacks||Nylon||$25 and up|
|Six Moon Designs Pack Pods||Silnylon||3 for $35|
|Thrupack Bricks||X-Pac||$35 and up|
|UltraliteSacks Ultralight Cubes||DCF||$18 and up|
|Zpacks Packing Cubes||DCF||$29 and up|
Six Moon Designs Pack Pods are essentially packing cubes for backpacking. For me, the organization, simplicity, and efficiency they provide are well-worth the 1-ounce weight per pod. Six Moon Designs also makes a multi-sized Pack Pod set if you like the zipper access but want smaller sizes for your tiny essentials, like a pod for your electronics.
The only suggestion I have for a change is for a little more precision in the sizing specs and the alignment between inches and centimeters. Although I measured the length (from seam to seam) to be a half-inch shorter than spec, I felt that they are a good size for my uses. Recognize, too, that the pods are structureless–you can overstuff them a bit and they’ll bulge, and they can squish in your pack, slightly changing their geometry.
Disclosure: The author owns this product.