Six Moon Designs Owyhee Tarp Review
After many seasons of solo thru-hiking, I finally managed to convince my partner Sherpa to join me on a multi-week adventure. Along with upgrading his backpack we also needed a new lightweight tent. Our previous two-person backpacking tent was double-walled, free-standing, and weighed over three pounds. I was on a mission to cut that weight in half. Enter the Owyhee Tarp.
Brand new in 2021, Six Moon Designs’ Owyhee Tarp is based on the design of the hyperlight Wild Owyhee tarp, which is made with Dyneema fabric. Designed with less expensive (but still lightweight) silnylon fabric, the new Owyhee Tarp includes a couple of additional features such as a detachable bathtub floor, a clothesline, and stash pockets. The Six Moon Designs Owyhee Tarp offers a compromise between weight and cost while offering some key features of a comfortable two-person tent.
Six Moon Designs Owyhee Tarp At-a-Glance
Weight: 33.1 oz*
Category: Trekking-pole, single-wall tarp
Interior Coverage: 53 sq ft
Bathtub floor: 48” wide x 96” long
Material: 30 denier Sil-Nylon with No-See-Um skirt perimeter
*Not including stakes or poles.
Tarp vs. Tarp Tent vs. Tent
There are now more variations and options for lightweight shelters than ever before. So what’s the difference?
The most traditional shelter is a free-standing double-wall tent. It uses two to three poles to cross brace the fully enclosed body of the tent which is then covered by a waterproof fly. They are often more durable and can be easily set up almost anywhere.
The lightest weight option is a tarp. Tarps can be set up and adjusted to suit a variety of conditions using poles, sticks, or tree tie-outs. They can offer a lot of ventilation or be tied low to the ground for more shelter from the elements. Generally speaking, a tarp offers minimal protection from bugs.
Tarp tents integrate a combination of features of both tents and tarps. They are usually shaped like a tent but use one or two poles and guy-outs for set-up. Some offer ventilation, ground protection, and/or bug-proofing options.
Circumstances of Review
I had big plans for this season – hiking the northern half of the Great Divide Trail in the Canadian Rockies with my husband. Unfortunately, those plans fell through about two weeks before the start of the hike due to a combination of extreme rainfall and forest fires. Instead, we spent the time exploring a couple of popular backcountry trails in Jasper National Park, spending a handful of nights in the tent through heat, smoke, and thunderstorms. I also had a couple of nights in the Owyhee in the North Cascades in September, experiencing a full night of Pacific Northwest rain.
Key Features of the SMD Owyhee
Detachable Bathtub Floor – The bathtub floor groundsheet is what really caught my attention with this shelter. The 5-inch height of the bathtub is just enough to give peace of mind on rainy nights and helps to keep gear safely under the canopy.
Mesh Perimeter – The No-See-Um skirt is 18 inches wide and is designed to fold under the bottom of the tarp. This offers incredible bug protection and the flexibility to raise the shelter a couple of inches higher to increase airflow on warmer nights.
Gear Loft and Clothesline – A nice added feature is the detachable two-pocket gear loft and integrated clothesline at the apex of the tarp. The stash pockets are a perfect place to safely store small items.
Dual Side Entry – Every hiking couple understands the need for a two-door shelter. Both doors of the Owyhee are identical, allowing for the same easy access and identical vestibule storage space.
Peak Height – With a slightly offset peak of nearly four feet high, the Owyhee offers incredibly generous headroom. Offsetting the apex slightly toward one end of the tent creates steeper walls at the head and more comfortable space when sitting up.
Weight – At just over two pounds, the Owyhee is one of the lightest 2-person backpacking shelters on the market. This makes it a great option for solo hikers looking for more sleep space and for couples wanting to go light and fast. The modular design offers the option to drop the weight to a competitive 25.6 oz. Remove the included clothesline and gear loft to shed an ounce. Sub in the 1.6-oz large polycro footprint instead of the bathtub floor and save a full six ounces.
Coverage – The Owyhee is huge. Two people can comfortably sit up in the middle of the tent without brushing the walls. At eight feet long, the bathtub floor offers extra room to stash gear at the head and foot. The 5” depth of the bathtub combined with the extra-wide mesh skirt meant our gear stayed perfectly dry from splashes. Use the additional guy-outs on the head and foot walls to increase living space and offer extra shelter from rain.
Mesh Skirting – I love this feature of the Owyhee. I felt incredibly contained and protected from bugs while enjoying the lightweight benefits of a tarp. It even made chasing mosquitoes out of the tent easier because I could brush them to the floor and scoop them out under the skirt!
SilNylon – The tent fabric on the Owyhee is a 30D silicone-coated ripstop nylon fabric, slightly thicker than the 20D SilPoly used on the popular Lunar Solo. This offers better resistance to tearing while maintaining a low overall weight.
Breathability – As with all single-wall shelters, the inside can become wet with condensation, especially on warm, humid nights. However, this can be mitigated somewhat by increasing the height of the tent and allowing more airflow under the tarp. There were also some incredibly warm evenings and nights where I missed the option of having a mesh door for additional airflow.
Seam Sealing – SilNylon is too slippery for seam tape to adhere to and instead needs to be seam-sealed with liquid silicone. Six Moon Designs has always encouraged its customers to seam seal their own shelters. This process can sometimes be a time-consuming and sticky activity. Be sure to add a bottle of Gear Aid’s Seam Grip + Sil Silicone Seam Sealer to your purchase cart or choose SMD’s in-house seam sealing for an additional $35.
Durability – There are two features of the Owyhee that I worry won’t last as long. The first is the SilNylon bathtub floor. SilNylon is quite sensitive to abrasion and will start developing micro-punctures. I might still consider using a Tyvek groundsheet to help maintain the durability of the floor. I also noticed that the zippers get pulled very tight where they bend to zip up the mesh netting. Correct tensioning is important with this tent but it can put extra strain on the zippers.
I think Six Moon Designs is really onto something with the Owyhee shelter design. It’s a rare thing to find a two-person shelter for two pounds that offers as much coverage and living space as the Owyhee. The tarp design allows for a significant drop in weight without compromising the durability or waterproofness of the fabric. The wide mesh skirt allows for bug-proofing while maintaining airflow. I look forward to spending many more nights in the Owyhee hiking the long trails with my husband.
Six Moon Designs Wild Owyhee
Weight: 16 oz
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.