User Review: Six Moon Designs Skyscape X
Source: bought it new
Price Paid: $450
If you are looking for the lightest fully enclosed one-piece solo shelter on the market, this is the one you should be buying. At 425 grams (15 oz) minus stakes and poles, and the ability to handle every weather condition but deep snow (and it can if you are experienced in snow camping) it is very easy to see why the Six Moon Designs Skyscape X is quickly becoming one of the shelters in the UL/SUL hiking community!
- Amazing light weight - potentially the world's lightest fully enclosed hybrid shelter presently manufactored
- A 75/25 apex that offers amazing headroom
- Only requires five stakes
- Some feel the price is a bit high
- Only has a zipper on one side
- Bathtub floor is not bonded
This is a review of the Six Moon Designs Skyscape X shelter — a shelter that I have come to consider to be one of the finest solo shelters that presently exists!
In December of 2011 I wrote an article and spreadsheet called “SUL/XUL Solo Fully Enclosed Shelter Comparisons” which details most of the lightest weight shelters in the world. It focused specifically on fully enclosed sub-20 ounce shelters, and while doing researching for the article I came to realize that there were a few shelters out there I had never stopped to consider just how lightweight they actually were, and the Six Moon Designs, Skyscape X was one of them!
The Six Moon Designs Skyscape X shelter is getting my highest praise in this review. It is an exceptionally engineered shelter utilizing cuben fiber material, super lightweight bug netting, the lightest #3 zippers, and cordage that is amazingly light weight.
I have bought, used and put to the test dozens and dozens of shelters over the last few years, and in the world of UL and SUL shelters, I do not know of any one-piece shelter that is better than the Six Moon Designs Skyscape X shelter. It is a 5-Star shelter and one that I am beyond happy that I bought. It is the shelter that is in my backpack every time I leave the house for a hike.
Here are the specs based on their website:
425 grams (15 oz) — and let me just confirm this… when they say 425 grams, they are dead on accurate! I got two Skyscape X shelters at two different times and both of them were exactly 425 grams. That was just amazing! Oh, and unlike some of the other companies out there… when SMD says 425 grams, they mean it… as in, all of it… the tent, the guylines, and the stuff sack — everything except stakes and poles (which no company factors into their listed weight).
Five. Yes, five. No six, not eight, not ten… five. This shelter is totally secure with just five stakes! And if it's a nice sunny day with no wind, it only takes three! This pretty much owns every other fully enclosed shelter out there!
This shelter has 23 square feet of space. All of it is usable and reachable. I would say that around 5% of it is not available for sleeping and that is at the very head of the shelter.
I suppose this is a good point to talk about one thing that would be a nice modification or future product update. When it is windy and if you are not using a sleeping pad, the sides of the inner wall have a tendency to move ever closer and closer in towards your head. A few times I have woke up and had the netting right in my face.
I originally thought about attaching some shock cord to both sides of the inner wall (netting) and pulling it out to one of the stakes, but I think a better way to go would be to attach loops on the outside of the wall, and push a couple of sticks (or stakes, if you felt like carrying them) through them. It would take very little to prevent this inner wall from moving in.
Realistically this is a solo shelter so one does not (nor should not) expect it to be a wide shelter — solo tents are light weight because they are just wide enough to fit inside of. Do not go buying a solo shelter if you want a grand hotel shelter, simple as that. But, this one little modification could solve an annoyance.
Hybrid Double Wall:
I suppose it is important to talk about this issue. This shelter, like a few other shelters out there these days, are being called “Hybrid Double Wall” shelters. I really have no idea who originally coined that term but I wish they would have picked a different name. It seems to be a bit misleading to a lot of hikers who do not understand shelter terminology. Thankfully I understood the term from previous encounters with these “hybrid double wall shelters” so I knew what it was I was getting into.
The basic logic behind it is seems to be that there are two walls, a bug netting (which they deem to call a “wall”) and than a hard-shell material wall (cuben fiber in the case of this shelter). The thing is that unlike true double wall shelters, most of these ‘Hybrid Double Wall shelters’ are finding unique ways to attach the two different materials together.
So, basically think of your standard dome tent with an inner setup made of bug netting, with a ‘fly’ that you put on over the top of it, only in the case of Hybrid Double Wall shelters, the top part of the bug netting is cut away and the ‘fly’ is sewn/attached to the top of the bug netting. Hopefully that makes some sense.
I will say I have never personally been a fan of them. Than again I have never been a fan of dome tents, nor to be honest have I been a big fan of all netting shelters either — I guess I just do not really know what I am a fan of, to be honest. But what I do know is that of all of the Hybrid Double Wall Shelters that I have used, Six Moon Designs has thus far been able to pull off this concept in a way that actually seems to work. Not only does it work, but I have to admit I kind of like it.
OK, I think I really like it. I have never made it any secret that my favorite all time shelter is the TarpTent Rainbow. It's a heavy beast (compared to my other shelters) but it just works so amazingly well. It has massive headroom, a lot of wiggle room inside, sets up fairly easy, and is the only shelter that the rest of my family (none of who hike) will actually call “a real tent” lol.
Now I do not do write “comparison articles”… I just do not do that… I never have and hopefully never will. So please understand when I say this… the Hybrid Double wall system that Six Moon Designs has pulled off with their design of the Skyscape X… well, it sort of feels like my old beloved Rainbow… only a lot lighter!
To get away from feelings and to talk about reality, the reality of the facts are simple, SMD has pulled off a hybrid double wall shelter that actually works. It has an amazingly simple entry/exist, it setups faster than any shelter or tarp I have ever owned, it only requires five stakes, and it just feels like what a tent should feel like, regardless of it being a solo-shelter. I have owned and used and tried a lot of solo shelters on the market and there are only two of them that have survived my trials and testing, and both of those are still in my house and get used on a very regular basis. But now I have three!
According to the SMD website, this shelter has two (2) of them. I however, am going to argue against that. The basic definition of a vestibule is that it is a lobby, entrance hall, or passage between the entrance and the interior of a building. Now the SMD Skyspace X clearly does have one vestibule, on the door entrance side. But on the other side, it just does not seem to fit the properly description of a vestibule.
Yes, there is a zipper that allows you to open the non-door side outer wall (going back to the Hybrid Double Wall knowledge), but there is no actual entrance into the shelter from that side. Therefore, it is not a lobby or a passage way or an entrance, it just isn’t. There is no zipper entrance to allow you into the shelter, so lets not call it a vestibule, technically speaking. But not technically speaking, yep, it has two vestibules.
The netting is your standard No-See-Um. It makes up the entire “inner wall” of the Hybrid Double wall design with the exception of where the support poles are and the bathtub.
The outer wall, the canopy, is made from CT2K.08 cuben fiber, also known as 0.74 cuben fiber. I do not want to get into the discussion of which cuben fiber weight material is the best for solo shelters, so let me just put it this way: Pretty much every single outdoor cottage manufacturer that makes cuben fiber shelter, with the exception of one, uses 0.74 (CT2K.08) cuben fiber. Test after test after test by some pretty brilliant people have shown that 0.74 is able to be the most water impermeable cuben fiber for its weight.
Yes, many people have shown that you can get away with lighter cuben fiber — I myself have been doing long term durability testing on 0.34 cuben fiber for a tarp, but I absolutely do not recommend 0.34 for anybody but the most experienced of hikers with a lot of use of CF shelters.
I think one of the very important things for sticking with 0.75 cuben fiber for the SMD Skyscape X is the amount of pressure it has on the material because of only having 5 tie-out points and that spreader bar inside at the top. I have used cuben fiber enough over the last few years to really know how far you can push cuben fiber (and have pushed it too far a few times, which has cost me a lot of money!). Going with 0.74 really allows me to stake down this shelter tight. Really tight. There is none of that “setup, wait 30 minutes, than retighten your guylines” with 0.74 cuben fiber. You setup your shelter and go to bed.
The floor is made also made from CT2K.08 (0.74) cuben fiber. Like I said above, I do not want to get into the discussion of which cuben fiber weight material is the best for solo shelters, but a nice future option for this shelter would be the ability to have 1.24 cuben fiber for the flooring/bathtub. I have come to respect the ability of 1.24 cuben fiber on the floors of shelters. This is not to say that the average hiker will/should ever have a problem with the floor (given proper site selection/clearing) but having the ability to go with 1.24 for the floor just means that it gives you the ability to pretty much throw your shelter down anywhere, especially important on thru-hikes where camping space can be limited if there is a big pack of hikers. This potential option would add an additional 3 ounces or so, so that is why I think it would be an option and not standard.
Personally, there are better options if you are willing to carry an extra item in your backpack, such as the Gossamer Gear 1/8th sleeping pad (2 ounces) but I feel like it was worth mentioning that an optional floor using stronger CF would be worth noting. I took my GG 1/8th sleeping pad and cut it down to fit about 1/2 of the bathtub floor (right at the door entrance where the most pressure is applied to the floor material) and it was a bit under 2 ounces. But I only carry it when I know for a fact I will be likely setting up somewhere that is not going to be floor friendly.
Of course a person can just always deal with it and if a puncture rip ever does happen, well, that is what you carry ducktape for! Ducktape and cuben fiber seem to have a love for one other. Or better yet, carry 8 or 10 inches of “Single Sided Cuben Fiber Tape” It performs much better than that gray tape does.
Now for something that is not an “option” but a “must have” for the next version of the Skyscape X… an actual real bathtub. Not a floor, but a bathtub. Something that will give me at least 4 inches of height for hiking here in the Redwoods of Northern California where the ground is usually totally wet all year long – and not having a bathtub floor is just not a pleasant thing. That is what I love about the HMG Echo Shelters, they have the tallest bathtub of any shelter I have ever encountered, and I loved it!!
Now the SMD Skyscape X does not need ones as tall as the HMG shelters, but having a bathtub with at least 3 or 4 inch height would really make this a dream come true shelter for me! Here is a photograph of a typical trail in the Redwoods during the shoulder/winter season which I hope explains why I am constantly after a higher bathtub floor.
The very first time I got to see one of these Skyscape X shelters, and got into it, was when I was on a hike with the owner of SMD and the very first thing out of my mouth was “it needs a higher bathtub” – Ron, I am still saying it and am going to keep asking for it :-D
The zipper is your standard #3 YKK. Only the best! One of the things I really like about this is not necessary the zipper itself but rather the angle that the zipper takes. A few solo shelters I have used over the last few years had zippers with really sharp angles, or angles in high stress/pull areas. The path that the zipper takes is very smooth. I did have to attach some 1.25 mm spectra card to the zippers because those little #3 gabbers are just to small for my fingers to find, especially in the dark or with gloves on, but this is typical of most solo shelters.
In the world of water protection you have DWR, SilNet, and tape bonding. Six Moon Design wisely choose to go with tape bonding. And not just the tape that the guys who make Cuben fiber sell – nope, SMD after a lot of testing deemed it unacceptable! So SMD does what nobody else I know of does… they went out and found some glue that works really well for cuben fiber, than cut strips of cuben fiber (0.74) and they make their own bonding tape! That is just uber crazy! And I freaking love it!! My shelter is rock solid tight and I put it to the test by having it setup 24/7 for 18 days of straight rain. Not a single drop caused by a leak in the bonding.
In closing the facts are simple, the Six Moon Designs Skyscape X shelter is the finest one-piece solo shelter I have ever encountered. The 75/25 apex is amazing. It is wide enough for a 25" pad plus a bit of extra room. It can fit a 6 foot tall person with ease.
It is crazy light – the third lightest fully enclosed shelter in the world based on my SUL/XUL Enclosed Shelter Comparison - and the world's lightest one-piece solo shelter based on my research over the last year!! It sets up amazingly fast and very easy using only five stakes, and three stakes are all you need in nice weather.
I truly believe this shelter to be a redefining moment in the world of UL/SUL fully enclosed shelters. It uses 0.74 cuben fiber giving you a higher durability of material and even with a required cross-bar this shelter packs down into a very small space, for those like myself with sub 2000 cubic inch backpacks — and it even fits inside of my 1000 cubic inch backpack when I need it too.
I am not raving about this shelter to try to talk you into buying one. I am raving about this shelter because I have been on a hunt for over three years for a fully enclosed shelter that made me happy. With a few modifications to mine, I am now happy. In the end, that is all there is to be said about a shelter.
Thanks for reading!