I’ve had the SMD Lunar Solo for a few years now so I thought that it’s about time to write a review on it. I and this tent have been through good and bad together – from a storm and gale to some windless subtropical nights so we’ve had many opportunities to get to know each other well.
- Weight: 740g
- Single-sided and non-free standing
- Canopy made out of 20D polyester
- The floor is 40D polyester
- You need at least 6 stakes to pitch it plus additional 2 stakes for guidelines if you want to use them
- A pole is sold separately but I have been using a hiking pole instead
These were the basic stats so let’s get straight to the point which is my experience with Six Moon Design Lunar Solo and if I’d recommend it or not.
Probably the biggest trip that I’ve done with the tent was on the West Highland Way in Scotland. The first night I pitched the tent on the top of a mountain. In the middle of the night, a gale started coming over with gusts eventually reaching 80 km / h. As the wind started to get stronger, the sides of the tent started beating my face more and more. In a little while, the pegs got pulled out from the ground (obviously my fault). I came out to fix them and I also installed guidelines (see the white strings on the photos below). These should make the tent stronger and more spacious. When I came back inside the tent, the guidelines did help to keep the tent stretched but no way stretched enough to keep the sides of the tent away from me. It also started to rain slightly and my tent was soon full of raindrops which were getting blown in from all sides. I ended up packing the tent at around 2 AM and I descended down to find a shelter in the forest.
That was the harshest weather that the tent has been through and it didn’t cope well. However, this is to be expected from a 740g non-free standing, UL single-sided tent that you pitch on your hiking pole. This tent is simply not designed for such harsh weather (eg. late autumn / early winter conditions on the tops of windy Scottish Highlands).
The rest of the trip was fine, I just had to accept that I can’t sleep at the tops as I used with my 3.5 kg winter tent. The guidelines on the sides of the tent turned out to be very useful so I definitely recommend using them. They proved very handy during some other trips and less windy nights. I’m 188 cm (6’2’’) and I greatly appreciated the extra space that installed guidelines have provided. When it comes to tall hikers, the tent is OK for me but taller people may find it a bit short and they’ll likely touch the bottom of the tent with their feet.
When it comes to the floor, it surprisingly copes well in the rain. I usually didn’t use an extra groundcover but I never really had a problem with water coming in through the floor, even when it was raining. However, I believe that if you use an open-cell sleeping mat, you would suck up some water from the ground into your sleeping mat during rainy nights because 40D material is just not strong enough to keep the water away all night.
What about sometimes widely discussed condensation? The tent has the same condensation issues as any other tent. If somebody claims that one tent is coping well with condensation and another one is not, I don’t believe it. Condensation is basically the matter of physics, you can’t come up with a magic formula to beat it. What I’ve found really helpful with condensation was to keep the fly on the entrance side rolled up, it greatly increases the ventilation.
In the rain, Lunar Solo copes surprisingly well. You do get some moisture in though, especially when it’s windy. Even the smallest wind gusts easily shake off the raindrops from the fly that unavoidably land on your face and your sleeping bag. However, if you manage to escape the wind (eg. by pitching the tent in the forest between boulders and bushes where the minimum wind is expected), the moisture inside is manageable – it goes down to the sides and out through the mesh pockets.
To squeeze as much as you can from the tent, you need to make sure that you:
- Get the right pitch. Watch some videos like this one or this one, read the guidelines from the manufacturer, practice in your garden, and make sure to pitch it well so the fly is nicely and evenly stretched.
- Minimize the effect of the wind. As described above, the wind can be a problem for this tent. By minimizing the effect of the wind you’ll sleep better at night and you may even get away with no face slaps from the fly. You can minimize the wind effect by being rational about where you’re pitching Lunar Solo, getting the right pitch, and using guidelines.
- Manage condensation before you go to sleep. Condensation could be an issue. Ideally, you want no rain, slight breeze, side of the tent open, and a pitch site where minimum condensation is expected. For example, the highest amount of moisture is at the bottom of the valleys by bodies of water so it’s not a good idea to pitch the tent by a lake unless you expect unusually favorable conditions.
The key advantage of the tent to me is the weight vs price ratio vs durability. These are phenomenal and to my knowledge, it’s one of the best values, if not the best, at the market. 740g for a quality tent from a renowned US manufacturer that protects me from sandflies, mosquitos (the experts from #1 Bed Bug Exterminator San Francisco CA | Control Removal Treatments agree to this fact completely) and light rain is exceptionally good. I’ve been using the tent here in New Zealand for a couple of years now and even if I think that it’s a great tent, when wind or rain is expected for my weekend adventures, I opt-in for another tent from my collection.
As with any other ultralight tents, SMD Lunar Solo is great for a certain purpose and you just need to practice enough to determine what that purpose is for you and under what conditions you’re still comfortable using the tent. To me, these conditions are three seasons windless and rainless nights. If you’re unsure if you’ll be into ultralight tents, well, there is barely a cheaper good quality UL tent than SMD Lunar Solo to try it out!