Six Moon Designs Swift X Backpack Review

Six Moon Designs Swift X Backpack Review

The Six Moon Designs Swift X is a 45L liter roll-top backpack with an adjustable torso length that will appeal to any lightweight backpacker or thru-hiker. It carries great and is absolutely loaded with features. It’s also made with XPac, a highly durable, lightweight, and waterproof fabric that’s a lower cost and better than Dyneema DCF in many respects. Adjustable torso lengths are a rarity on ultralight-style cottage manufacturer packs, but Six Moon Designs has offered backpacks with them for years. They are great for people who want a perfect fitting pack and don’t fall into the broad size ranges that other manufacturers sell. The Swift X is also offered with two different shoulder strap systems, a running vest style with very wide shoulder pads, and a more traditionally sized set of shoulder straps.

Specs at a Glance

  • Gender: Unisex
  • Volume: 45L total (36L main compartment; 4L extension collar; 3L front mesh pocket; 1L x 2 side pockets)
  • Weight: 36 oz or 37 oz depending on shoulder straps
  • Type: Adjustable-length Torso
  • Frame: Delrin stay
  • Closure: Roll-top
  • Hydration compatible: Yes
  • Hip belt pockets: Yes
  • Load lifters: Yes
  • Bear canister compatibility: Yes
  • Materials: Liteskin LS07 or XPac VX07
  • Torso Sizing:  14″-17″ or 17″-22″
  • Hip Belt Sizing: 24″-32″, 33″-39″, or 40″-50″
  • Max recommended load: 25-30 lbs.

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Six Moon Designs Swift X is 45L backpack which is a good size for lightweight backpacking or thru-hiking if you carry a low volume load. It’s set up like many other ultralight style backpacks with a long front mesh pocket, side water bottle pockets, and a roll top closure.

The Swift X has a long mesh front pocket, side water bottle
The Swift X Backpack has a long front mesh pocket, side water bottle pockets, and a roll-top closure.

The roll-top has a piece of velcro in the middle to help gather the sides for easy rolling, but the ends just clip together on top of the pack and not along the sides. I prefer roll tops where the ends can be buckled along the sides of the pack so you get better top compression. A Y-strap is included, however, that drapes over the top of the roll-top and can be used to secure items on top like a foam pad.

The roll top buckles only connect to each others and not to the sides of the pack
The roll-top buckles only connect to each other and not to the sides of the pack.

The side water bottle pockets can hold 2 x one-liter bottles each and are reachable when wearing the backpack. The side pockets have an elastic cord running through the top seam that locks in place to prevent tall bottles from falling out when you bend over. You have to yank down on the cord to lock it in place, which wasn’t obvious to me when I started using the pack. I eventually figured out how to use it after the locking mechanism was explained to me….and I stopped losing water bottles. The large front stretch mesh pocket is very handy for storing items you want during the day, like a water filter, rain gear, added layers, and food.

The side water bottle pockets can hold two tall 1-liter bottles.
The side water bottle pockets can hold two tall 1-liter bottles.

The Swift X also comes with two interior pockets: a removable hydration pocket-sized for a two-liter hydration bottle or reservoir and a zippered pocket at the bottom of the extension collar which is well sized to hold a wallet, passport, and other valuables. The pack has hydration ports located behind the right and left shoulder straps, but keeper straps are not provided on the shoulder straps, which would be useful to keep it positioned.

The shoulder strap pockets are on the small side and its difficult to close them over the top of many electronic devices.
The shoulder strap pockets are on the small side and it’s difficult to close them over the top of many electronic devices.

Six Moon Designs offers two shoulder strap designs: the Flight Shoulder Yoke and the Flight Vest Yoke. I tested out the more traditional version Shoulder Yoke instead of the running style Vest Yoke, which I’ve tried in the past and found uncomfortable. The Shoulder Yoke has two open pockets on the shoulder straps that are sized for gel packs or energy bars but are too small for a Smartphone (I have an iPhone X) or an inReach Explorer+. It’s not that these items won’t fit in the pockets, but they fall out when you bend over because they’re not long enough to close securely on top.

Both pockets are covered with the same dense stretch mesh used on the front and side pockets. Unfortunately, the position of the pockets makes it virtually impossible to add 3rd party accessory pockets to the shoulder straps. I like just about everything else about the Swift except these shoulder strap pockets, which is something to consider if you hike in a wetter climate or prefer to attach electronics and other navigation tools to your shoulder straps for frequent access.

It’d be nice if the hip belt pockets were made with XPac fabric and had waterproof zippers.
It’d be nice if the hip belt pockets were made with XPac fabric and had waterproof zippers.

The Swift X hipbelt also comes with two generously sized hip belt pockets. These are solid faced for durability but lack waterproof zippers, which is somewhat incongruous with the waterproof fabric used elsewhere on the pack. This is attributable to the modular nature of Six Moon’s product line which lets them use the same shoulder yokes and hip belts across multiple backpacks. Still, it would be nice to see the hip belt upgraded to be more waterproof to match the fabrics and functional capabilities offered elsewhere on the Swift.

Backpack Fabric Options

The Swift X is available in a grey LiteSkin LS07 or a blue XPac VX07. Both are lightweight, abrasion-resistant laminates that absorb very little water, although the XPac is slightly more waterproof and abrasion-resistant than the LiteSkin. For all but the most rugged endeavors, they are interchangeable and you should pick the color you like better. While the LiteSkin and XPac fabrics are essentially waterproof, the Swift X pack is itself not because the seams are not taped like they are in many Dyneema DCF backpacks. Therefore, it is still recommended that you line your pack with a trash compactor bag and use waterproof stuff sacks to protect essential items when hiking in wet climates.

External Attachment System

The Swift X comes with a side compression system implemented with cord threaded in a Z-shaped pattern, plastic gear loops sewn into the seams, and a line lock tensioner. While it is sufficient for securing taller items like an umbrella against the side of the pack, it’s really not that great from a compression standpoint. I prefer packs that use multiple tiers of webbing instead of a single cord because it’s easier to create multiple zones of compression and attach and remove bulkier items like snowshoes from the pack sides. That said you can hack around the cord configuration provided by running your own cords through the plastic loops sewn into the perimeter seams.

Side compression is provided by a long cord and a lineloc
Side compression is provided by a long cord and a lineloc

A webbing ice ax loop is provided at the base of the Swift X to carry a walking ax although you’ll need to rig up your own shaft holder to keep it in place. As mentioned previously there is a Y-strap that runs over the top of the strap to secure bulky items on top, but it works best when the main pack back is stuffed full so you have a proper “shelf” to rest gear on before strapping it down.

It’s difficult to securely anchor a bear canister to the pack with a Y-strap, unless you augment it somehow.
It’s difficult to securely anchor a bear canister to the pack with the Y-strap, unless you augment it somehow, as sudden direction changes will cause it to fall off.

While the Y-strap should be sufficient for carrying a bear canister on top of the main compartment, it’s hard to get a secure attachment without further augmentation, in part because the strap webbing is so narrow. If you need to carry a larger canister like the Garcia shown above, the canister does fit sideways into the extension collar, which can be closed around it or left open and held in place with the Y-strap. The canister also fits vertically if desired.

A large bear canister (Garcia) fits horizontally in the Swifts extension collar and is a more secure way to carry it
A large bear canister (Garcia) fits horizontally in the Swift’s extension collar and is a more secure way to carry it.

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Swift X is an adjustable length backpack, meaning that you can resize the torso length to fit your personal dimensions. This is accomplished by raising or lowering the shoulder yoke to increase or decrease the distance between the hip belt and the tops of your shoulders.

The shoulder strap yoke has a velcro-backed tongue that slots into different heights on the back of the pack in order to match your torso length.
The shoulder strap yoke has a velcro-backed tongue that slots into different heights on the back of the pack in order to match your torso length.

The Swift X has a removable fiberglass (Delrin) frame that’s wide at the top to give the pack bag some shape and then narrows as it approaches the hip belt, before terminating in the in two side-by-side slots in the lumbar area. The load transfer is good, but the biggest benefit of this frame shape is the degree of ventilation it provides. Six Moons calls this a minimal contact system because the frame only comes in contact with your spine, allowing the sides of your shirt to dry more quickly because they’re not in contact with the pack bag. While you can technically remove the fiberglass frame and the hip belt to save weight, I think you’d be better off just buying a much lighter weight frameless pack to begin with rather than lobotomizing the Swift X to fill a function it’s ill-suited for.

The Swift X shoulder straps are S-shaped (on the Regular Flight Shoulder Yoke), so they’ll be comfortable for women as well as men. They’re 3″ wide with a rail-based sternum strap for easy, non-pinching adjustment. They’re padded with foam and covered with a wicking spacer mesh for added comfort.

The hipbelt has two webbing tiers and will fit a wide range a hip shapes well
The hipbelt has two webbing tiers and will fit a wide range a hip shapes well

The hipbelt is also backed with spacer mesh and lightly padded, which is advantageous on a lighter weight pack like the Swift X because you get a better form-fitting hip wrap than a heavily padded hipbelt. The hipbelt had two tiers of adjustment with a center buckle so it can fit all different hip shapes and curves, from flat male hips to more angled women’s hips, equally well. I found the Swift X quite comfortable to use myself.

Comparable Lightweight Backpacks

Make / ModelMaterialWeightPrice
Six Moon Designs Swift X 45XPac36 oz$270
Chicken Tramper CTUG-45XPac30 oz$285
Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40Robic Nylon30.5 oz$195
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Windrider 2400Dyneema Composite Fabric30 oz$310
Superior Wilderness Designs Long Haul 50XPac31 oz$269
Northern Ultralight Sundown 46XPac25.8 oz$247
Osprey Levity 45UHMWPE Nylon28 oz$250
Osprey Exos 48High-tenacity Nylon41 oz$200
Mountain Laurel Designs Prophet 48Dyneema Grid Nylon17 oz$230

Recommendation

The Six Moon Designs Swift X is a lightweight 45L backpack that weighs 36 oz. It’s made with a waterproof laminate fabric called XPac that’s become popular among the cottage backpack makers because it’s a more abrasion resistant and lower cost that Dyneema DCF. The Swift X has an adjustable length torso, two shoulder strap style options, and multiple hip belt sizes so you can dial in the personalized fit which is a rare commodity across the lightweight and ultralight backpack spectrum where fixed-length torso sizing is the norm.

While the Swift X has a few quirks which I discuss above, it’s quite a comfortable and easy pack to use for extended day hikes, overnights, and multi-day backpacking with a recommended max load of 25-30 pounds. I certainly enjoyed using it this summer when I revisited the Mahoosuc Range along a very rugged section of the Appalachian Trail in Maine. While I’d like to see the shoulder strap pockets enlarged, I don’t consider their current size a showstopper unless you’re wedded to carrying electronics or other personal items on your shoulder straps. With that one caveat, I think the Swift X is an easy pack to like and I’m excited to see that Six Moons is updating its product line with more durable and waterproof fabrics like XPac and LiteSkin.

Who knows. Maybe they’ll reissue the Starlite Backpack next! I know about 2 dozen former Starlite owners who’d buy it in an instant.

Disclosure: Six Moon Designs provided the author with a sample backpack for an impartial review.

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4 comments

  1. Great review Philip. Thanks for calling out the shoulder strap issue. It looks like six moons updated everything on this pack except their now tired shoulder straPs.

  2. NIce review as always. SMD makes some nice product. Size comes in right between the HMG 2400 and 3400 with just a little more weight (but lower price).

    I wish one of these companies would make a better strap for holding on to the bear canisters. I loaded up a HMG3400 in a store and then strapped on a Garcia bear can to the top that had some weight similar to it being loaded with food. When I leaned sideways it slipped out and I had to catch it. For a long trip, I had to put a BV500 inside the HMG3400 vertically because it just wouldn’t fit horizontally. I kind of liked the can inside so it was in the middle of my back instead of up by my head so my center of gravity was lower.

    I wonder if putting some grip tape (sand paper with adhesive on the back like used on a skate board deck) around the bear canister would hold it in place better and weigh less than wider straps that still might not hold a bear can in place.

    But I still rent or borrow bear cans, so I can’t modify them. Maybe fashioning up a 550 cord harness with loops for the strap to go through would work.

    • That’s one of the reasons I like Granites gear Blaz60 or Crown2 for bear can carries. The top lid (floating lid) holds the can to the top of the pack and won’t slip. That’s really what you need.

  3. I’m one of those “former Starlite owners who’d buy it in an instant.” As I was reading your description, one feature after another jumped out at me as … “That’s just like my old Starlite pack!” There are so many small but important features of my old Starlite that are not available in the competition, at least not all together. My gear is light but bulky, so I need a large pack. I’m crossing my fingers and saving up!

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