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Six Moon Designs Starlite Ultralight Backpack

Long side tent pocket. Six Moon Designs Starlite Backpack
Long side tent pocket. Six Moon Designs Starlite Backpack

The Starlite Backpack from Six Moon Designs is a wonderful ultralight pack for any serious backpacker and at 4,200 cubic inches, this is a pack that can hold a lot of gear and food. I have owned my Startlite for over a year and have hiked hundreds of miles with it in a variety of terrains in the eastern US.

The Starlite is designed for lightweight and ultralight  backpackers with a variety of features that you won’t find on packs from larger manufacturers. At $165, it is very competitively priced, and optional hip-belt pockets can be added to the pack for a small fee.  The weight of my Starlite, including hip belt pockets is a mere 25.2 oz.  Optional aluminum stays, weighing 5 additional oz. are also provided with the pack for loads over 35 lbs, and while these are very effective at transferring more of the load to your hips, they’re unnecessary if you pack your gear intelligently.

The Starlite is a frameless pack and you use a 3/4 length sleeping pad as a frame sheet. The sleeping pad is inserted into a pocket on the front of the pack facing the hiker’s back where it can be easily removed. I normally use a Gossamer Gear 3/4 nightlight pad for this, shown below, that only weights 3.2 oz, but when I want a bit more thermal insulation for my sleeping bag, I use a 3/4 Therm-a-rest Z-lite pad or a Torsolite self inflating pad. The pad pocket, open in the photo below, zips up and completely encloses the pad, which you can feel on your sacrum (hips) and back.

Just above the pad pocket, is an ingenious system for adjusting the pack’s torso length, by raising or lowering the pack’s shoulder straps. Unlike most other packs, the shoulder straps are not secured directly to the pack, but to a Velcro strap that locks them onto the pack and is used to adjust their height. The only potential downside to this is that it introduces a single point of failure in the shoulder strap harness system. However, I’ve not had any problems  with it and I’m very careful to pick the pack up using the top grab loop to avoid putting any unnecessary strain on the shoulder strap system. Load lifters and a sternum strap complete the shoulder strap system.

As you can see, this pack does not have a lot of padding and you really don’t need it if you are carrying 30 lbs or less. Optional pockets can be added to the hip pads and they are a great add-on. I use them to carry all of the accessories that I need fast access to including my digital camera, compass, notebook, pen, dermatone tin, and 1oz. bottles of Purell, DEET, and Dr. Bronner’s soap.

Six Moon Designs Starlite Ultralight Backpack
Six Moon Designs Starlite Ultralight Backpack

The back of the Starlite also has a lot of standout features. There is an long external mesh pocket that is great for carrying a tent and fits a Tarptent Squall 2 perfectly, as shown in the photo above. Smaller mesh pockets on the other side of the pack are great for carrying other day time essentials like your water filter, snacks, or small articles of clothing. There is also a large back mesh pocket that I use for carrying extra layers and my rain gear. The mesh itself is very durable and does not rip when you snag it on a bush. It also allows your wet gear to dry out, separate from your dry gear inside the pack.

The inside of the pack is a large open space (3000 cubic inches) that you fill from the top. There is no hydration pocket because it’s very difficult to get a full hydration bladder back into a packed pack after a refill. Instead, I prop my platypus bladder up vertically in the pack on the opposite side from my tent to balance out my weight distribution and I use a transparent bag liner as a moisture barrier around my gear in the unlikely event that my platypus fails. There are also hydration ports on either side of the main compartment for running your hose and bite value.

The top of the main compartment has a roll type closure like a dry bag which is sealed using velcro and an external compression strap is provided if needed. There is also a small security pocket in the inside of the main compartment that is large enough to contain a thin wallet and your car keys. It closes with a zipper, so you can stow your valuables and forget about them.

The only weakness in the design of this pack that I’d like to see addressed is the compression system. There is an adjustable cord net attached over the back external pocket that can be tightened to compress the pack’s contents but it only helps with gear in the bottom half of the bag. It would be nice if there were additional compression straps on the sides of the top half of the pack as well, but with careful gear placement you can compensate.

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.


  1. I’m in the market for a bag, and the two I’m looking at are the SMD Starlight (SMDS) and the GG Mariposa Plus (GGMP), but can’t decide. I like the option of stuffing unused clothing in the straps and the ability to string shock cord on the three panels of the GGMP, however I like the load lifters and the quoted cubic inches and maximum “comfortable” weight of the SMDS.

    I’m planning on using this bag as a 3 season bag, and have a base weight of 13 pounds (on the heavy). I’m looking for something that can allow for me to hike 7-10 day section hikes with comfort and durability. Are the 200 cubic inch difference of the GGMP, and the lack of load lifters a feature which should make me think twice about this bag over the SMDS? Any ideas or experiences with these bags in these kinds of conditions?

  2. Both are great bags. For heavier loads, I would have to recommend the GGMP over the starlite for the simple reason that the GG shoulder pads are wider and far more comfortable (and robust). The new aluminum stay also helps with carrying more weight and the Y strap closure is good in case you need to carry an additional external food bag or bear container. Load lifters are not needed on the GGMP with the new stay which really brings the pack closer to your shoulders. The only advantage of the starlite over the GGMP is the option for sewn in pockets, but I've found that MLD's dyneema external pockets work pretty well on the GGMP with locking safety pins to hold them in place.

    Let me also add that I've had the SMDS shoulder system resewn once already by Ron at SMD. It ripped in two places: at the attachment point in the back (where all the velcro is) and one of the shoulder to hip webbing straps tore off. Like I said nice pack, but not as robust as the GGMP, which has less frills. I'll be curious on what you decide.

  3. I got off the phone with Grant over at Gossamar Gear, and he said that *hopefully* by Spring of 2010 they will introduce a new pack -code name Big Ape. I'll be finishing school by that time, so I think I'm going to hold off on the purchase until this time. If I understood correct it is suppose to be like the GGMP, but stepped-up a notch to accommodate a bear canister in the main tube which can be accessed from the bottom -a design I am interested to see. As I told him, ideally I would like the materials of the Gorilla with the volume and outer pocket configuration of the MP (if not with a slightly larger main compartment), and "good ol' fashioned load lifters" to round it out.. we'll see.

  4. Grant really hates load lifters. The last time I suggested it as a pack feature I got a curt "never", but that was before I had tried the new stay and decided they were unnecessary on the GGMP.

  5. The specs. at vs. show almost a 600 cubic inch difference in volume; this seems to be a lot, especially when thinking about a 7-10 day long trip's worth of food and water.

    Do you have both bags, and if so, what do you think about the volume difference? Also, are the fabrics the same in the two bags, or is the GGMP thinner and more delicate than the SMDS?

  6. Let's me just say that I have packed 9 days of food plus all of my gear, and a 2 liter platypus into a GGMP. I had to be careful how I did this, but it all fit. I could have fit even more if I had brought my tarp instead of a tarp tent. I haven't tried the same with my SMDS, but my guess is that it would fit too and yes I have both bags, and several others as well. BTW – I own 2 GGMPs…

    Regarding the fabric. I've torn the external pockets on both packs and torn holes in the base of both, butt sliding over rocks. I can't really detect any difference there. Up top – there is nothing to worry about. Dyneema or silnylon are both quite rugged and will last and last.

  7. I need help..I am looking for a day pack to use to have enough gear for 1-2day trip..I have had a kelty redwing for yrs! it seems bulky and out of date..I am about 5'5 1/2 about 118lbs..any ideas? thanx darcy

  8. If you're looking for a lightweight pack, I'd really recommend that you check out the Gossamer Gear Gorilla or the Murmur. At 118, you need to keep things very light, but both these packs should have enough capacity for you. The Gorilla has a chunkier hip belt that you should know about. The Starlite is a probably too big. In fact, I think Six Moons has stopped manufacturing it. Hope this helps.

    If you live near Boston, I could show you what they look like with gear in them. I also have about 6 other packs in various states of review, which might be useful for comparison.

    Oh yeah, I also have a redwing, and I won't take it backpacking. I don't know why I still have it.

  9. I live in NH near Alton…I am like 30 min to EMS in Portsmouth..

  10. I just carried the Starlite for the first time. I carried a light load and dropped two half gallon juice bottles in the outside pockets.
    My first reaction is great. I feel sure it will swallow a three day trip load at 40 degrees F. I wonder if it will swallow a three day trip load at 27 degrees F.

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