This review was with a pre-production backpack. I will note where the production backpack differs from the pack I used.
Name: Mark Verber
Height/Weight/Torso: 5'10" (1.8 m) / 180 lb (82 kg) / 19.5" (50 cm)
Region: San Francisco Bay Area, CA
Date: May 28, 2005
Six Moon Designs Pre-Production
Volume: 4100 cu (63 l)
Listed weight: 22oz pack, 27oz pack with stays
Weight as delivered: 23oz pack, 27.5oz pack with stays
MSRP: US$170 pack. $180 for pack & stays
See SMD Comet product page for picture and a detailed list of features. The follow observations are a supplement their description.
This is a well designed pack. I found the compression strap to be very effective are holding my 2000-4000ci. My normally weekend gear is 2200ci which fit nicely with the extension collar rolled down and the cinch cord on the front of the pack tightened . I had no problem fitting in my normal gear and 8 days of food loaded in my Bearicake Weekender (carried vertically). I also found that the pack was roomy enough for all my gear plus a kid's size sleeping bag, a second sleeping pad, weekend food for three, and a GoLite Hex 3 tarp which was to be used by three people. The dry bag style closure for the top of the bag works well making it easy to quickly and fully open the top of the bag as well as being very easy to close the bag up. The Velco had very small hooks which did not catch on many items. I am not sure whether this is an improve over the previous year StarLite or I am putting items in the pack which are less likely to snag. The only hook&loop that seems less likely to catch is what LuxuryLite uses on their tubes.
The side mesh pockets are huge. I could fit a GoLite Hex3, ground cloth, stakes, and extension pole in the pocket without over stretching the side pocket. Alas, it is impossible to access the side pockets while wearing the pack. The back mesh pocket is nicely sized for drying items.
Hiking around the bay area, Santa Cruz Mountains, Ventana Wilderness, Hetch Hetchy in Yosemite, and the Lost Coast. So far I have used this pack for approx 400 miles. Trips have varied in length between 3 miles and 24 miles, but most have been around 18 miles / day. The pack was used in moderate temperatures (45-81F). Carry weight has varied:
I played around with the pack in my neighborhood, adjusting the weight until I found what seems to be the point that comfort was noticeably better when using the stays. For me, this was around 16lbs. Much of this is because the stay are needed for the load lifters to be effective. I found that my Therma-a-rest Ultralight 3/4 made the pad a bit more ridged and more comfortable, but most of the time I used a Pacific Outdoor thermo-max air mattress in the pad pocket. I found that the Comet worked significantly better than the Six Moon Design StarLite when using an air pad rather than the closed cell foam pad.
I found the Comet without the stays to be as comfortable as most other ultra-light packs except the StarLite is well suited for heavier loads. In my experience that means than I am happy with 16 lbs or less. When carrying more than 16 lbs I would rather have more structure. With the stays I was happy carrying up to 30lbs. Beyond 30lbs I found the hip belt started to get uncomfortable after a number of miles, and I would notice at the end of the day that there had been some weight on my shoulders..
Initially I had problems with the pack slipping down, off my hips unless I tighten the belt to the point of being uncomfortable. A couple beads of silicon-sealer on the lumbar pad made the pad less slippery eliminating the slipping problem. I understand that the hip belt was changed before the pack when into production.
The combination of the lumbar pad and the stays permitted my back to ventilate more than most internal frame packs that I have used. This was very pleasant on hot days. Even though room for ventilation was provided, the pack stayed sufficiently close to my body that it never felt out of balance or like it was pulling away. While not as back bugging when running as the Vapor Trail or the GoLite Speed, this pack did a good job not shifting when I was running if I tighten all the straps.
One of the nice features of this pack is that the torso length is adjustable. This is accomplished through a Velco strap and a plastic triangle that the shoulder straps are attached to. Initially I found that the plastic triangle was periodically seem to poke into my back. I eventually realized that when I used the load lifters, I needed to set the torso length a bit shorter than I normally would.
Given the adjustable torso length I had hoped that this might be a sub 2lb pack which would be usable by kids. [It amazing me that there are no light weight packs designed for kids I guess the market isn't big enough.] While the shoulder straps could be moved low enough that the torso length was good, the belt couldn't been cinched enough to fit my daughter's 26" waist.
So far the pack has held up well and looks to be in very good condition after 400 miles. I did not go out of my way to be gentle with this pack. I leaned against granite, went off trail pushing through branches, when I ducked under deadfall I wasn't particularly careful to make sure the pack would clear the tree, etc. Additionally, one evening the pack was subject to a raccoon crawling inside to get an apple I accidentally left in the pack, and then a spirited tug of war with said raccoon who wanted to drag the pack off.
The first evidence of use (or was that abuse) is that there are a couple of very small tears in the extension collar. I expected the extension collar to be in worse shape given it's super light weight material. Second, some of the stitching connecting the elastic to the top of a side pocket is starting to come undone. There are a couple of spots on the bottom of the pack where you can tell the material has rubbed against something since the textural is slightly different from the surrounding area, but unless you looked closely you could mistake the pack for being new.
I think this pack has a good "emotional design" (Donald Norman). If you are looking for reasonable durable, light weight pack which has nice features, is easy to use,
For me, carry comfort trumps everything. The Comet didn't hit the comfort of my current light-weight pack, a Granite Gear Vapor Trail (VT). The VT which seems to have been designed to fit me perfectly. I know it sounds funny, but I have actually forgotten that I had the VT on my back on some hikes. So while I hate the extension collar on the VT, that the pockets are close to useless, and that the fabric don't handle abrasion very well... I will continue to use my VT on most trips. The Comet would be my pack of choice on trips where I was carrying less than 30 lbs, and needed to carry more volume than the VT would support (3000-4000ci).
I did a lot of backpacking from 1972 through the '80s. I started by going to various destinations in Ohio, West Virgina, and Red River Gorge in Kentucky. Destinations expanded to include sections of the AT, the PCT, the Rockies (Rocky Mountain National Park, Yellowstone, Tetons), The Big Horns, and various destinations in Canada. In the '90s my outdoor activities slowed down to make room for other aspects of life. Nearly all my backpacking was heavy-weight style. In 2001 I started seriously backpacking again... mostly in the Sierras. Over the next three years I switch from a heavyweight to ultralight to lightweight style. My three season base weight is now 8-11 lb (3.5-5 kg). Full carry weight including food and water is typically 15-25 lb (7-11 kg) depending on the length of the trip. Winter trips run a bit heavier.