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.
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.