Gear Review: Six Moon Designs Minimalist Pack
The world of lightweight backpacks welcomed a new contender in 2018, the 48-liter Six Moon Designs Minimalist. Designed with comfort and durability in mind, the ultra-configurable Minimalist is friendly to ultralight and mid-weight backpackers alike.
Volume: 54L (48L main body)
- Maximum: 34-36 oz. depending on harness type
- Minimum: 26 oz. (J-strap, no frame or hip belt)
- Body: 20 oz.
- Frame (removable): 2 oz.
- Harness: 6 oz. (J-strap)-8 oz. (vest)
- Hip Belt (removable): 6 oz.
Maximum recommended load:
- 25 pounds (frameless)
- 35 pounds (with frame)
- $210 with J-strap
- $235 with vest
Circumstance of review
I wanted to see how this pack would fare under a variety of terrain and weather conditions, so I put it to test on hikes all over the US. In its short life, this pack has gone from rim to rim at the Grand Canyon and seen adventures in Colorado National Monument, Tennessee’s Roan Highlands, and basically every national park in Utah. I tested it with the vest harness and with the frame in and hip belt on.
SMD Minimalist Features
Removable Delron Hoop frame
- Designed to shift majority of weight onto hips
Removable and dual-adjustable hip belt
Adjustable torso length (16”-22”)
Two harness options:
- Traditional J-strap
- Runner’s vest
- Two asymmetrical four-way stretch side pockets (one deeper for storing tent/poles)
- One front four-way stretch pocket, ideal for stashing wet gear/extra layers
- One water-resistant pocket on lid
- One interior mesh pocket for keys, etc.
- Two large hip belt pockets and 2-6 shoulder pockets (six with vest style)
How the Minimalist Design Sheds Weight
Reducing capacity, switching to lightweight materials, and eliminating internal compartments and zippers are common ways for manufacturers to shave weight from their products. The Minimalist achieves its weight savings by using strong-but-light materials including Robic® nylon fabric and Delron resin, and by eliminating zippers and internal compartments. Despite its name, the Minimalist actually offers several comfort features that the most Spartan of ultralight packs forgo: it retains the frame and hip belt for those who want them, offers plenty of adjusters to fine-tune the fit and comfort of the pack, and provides 54 liters of storage capacity.
The Minimalist is billed as a 48-liter pack, but that’s just the volume of the main compartment. Its true capacity is closer to 54 liters once you factor in the multitude of pockets. My favorites are the two cavernous hip belt pockets (I fit a 16 oz. jar of almond butter, a spork, and my headlamp into one of them). Up to six additional pockets on the shoulder harness provide the user with plenty of easily accessible storage space while hiking.
I had some issues with the vest harness (more on that below), but it did function as advertised. It effectively reduced sway and evenly distributed the weight of the pack. This made for a comfortable fit without much strain on my collarbone. Ladies may find they can go braless with this system, as the vest provides adequate support even for large-busted women.
Harness aside, the pack itself is fairly comfortable. The abundance of adjustable straps and tensioners ensures the best possible fit, and there’s just enough padding in the hips, shoulders, and back to prevent bruises or chafing. Meanwhile, the frame successfully shifts weight onto the hips, reducing strain on the upper body.
The Minimalist is designed to mostly sit off the back when fully packed and only touch the user’s spine, even arching away from the small of the back somewhat to provide airflow. It’s not a perfect system, but the Minimalist mostly succeeds in creating suspension without a lot of added weight or complexity.
I put several hundred miles on the Minimalist in testing and so far have found no obvious damage or wear other than a few cosmetic scuffs, which I affectionately believe give the pack more character. Unlike most packs I’ve tried, it hardly even squeaks as I walk with it.
When I first got it, I was most worried about the delicate-looking four-way stretch pockets. So far they’ve survived multiple accidental spork stabbings and have accommodated large volumes of gear without any holes or loss of elasticity.
Vest harness can constrict breathing
Because sharing is caring, I’m going to go ahead and let you all know that I’m an H-cup, and I was curious whether the vest harness would work for large-chested people. The answer is, sort of—but it can be constricting. It was comfortable enough on easy terrain when I didn’t need to work very hard, but on steep climbs, it restricted my breathing so much that it became untenable. I recently switched to a more traditional shoulder strap* and so far it’s much comfier.
Moral of the story: the vest harness is probably a great option for most people, but if you’re a barrel-chested man or a lady above a D cup, be aware that it may behave more like a boob-crushing BDSM torture device than a functional backpack harness and choose accordingly.
*I can’t vouch for the J-strap that comes standard with the Minimalist because I’ve opted for the S-strap from SMD’s Fusion pack instead. It weighs one ounce more, but it has more chest room and more padding. Ladies opting for a traditional strap for boob-related reasons should definitely inquire about S-straps when ordering.
The Minimalist has a normal-sized buckle on the hip belt, but the buckles on the lid and chest strap (for the vest harness) are minuscule. Because of this, they were tough to work with when my hands were numb with cold. Those who are particularly sensitive to the cold should bear this in mind if planning to take this pack out in colder and/or inclement weather.
There’s no sleeping bag compartment or front zipper with which to access the pack interior. If you want something from the bottom of your pack, there’s nothing for it other than to go in from the top and dig through all your stuff until you find it. In fairness, this design is par the course for lightweight backpacks. Since I’ve rarely used the side and bottom access on my current pack, this wasn’t too much of an inconvenience for me.
Vest harness lacks safety whistle
It’s hardly a deal breaker, but for a few grams extra it would be nice to see a built-in safety whistle on the vest harness. The J-curve strap does come with a whistle built in.
A few discomforts aside, I really like this pack and plan to keep using it. I’m impressed with its comfort and versatility, and it’s hard to argue with that low pack weight. Though it’s only a few hundred miles old, it’s well made and I trust that it will hold up for many more adventures.
This product was donated for purpose of review.
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