Six Moon Designs Minimalist V2 Backpack Review

The Six Moon Designs Minimalist V2 Backpack Review

The Six Moon Designs Minimalist V2 is a fully-featured, high volume, comfortable, and overbuilt backpack marketed for thru-hiking. It’s a good pack, but its name is misleading because nothing about this pack is minimal. There are 15 external storage pockets (including 8 on the vest harness), extraneous features such as a lid, and it weighs 42.4 oz, making it easily twice as heavy as some other packs in the category it claims to be in. That said, I enjoy the comfort of the running vest-style harness, and I think the clean aesthetic of the X-Pac VX21 is a big improvement over the 100d robic version of this pack. The frame is a bit small for folks with longer torsos, but should work really well for folks with torsos around 16”-18”.

Specs at a Glance

  • Weight: 35 oz claimed, 42.4 oz (1202 g) measured, with medium hip belt and large vest harness
  • Volume: 54L (3295ci) total. 40L (2441ci) main compartment with 9L (549ci) extension collar
  • Gender: Unisex
  • Frame: Internal Delrin hoop stay
  • Closure: Roll-top and lid
  • Pockets: 15 (8 on vest, 2 on hip belt, and 5 on pack)
  • Hydration compatible: side hose port and bladder sleeve inside
  • Load lifters: Yes
  • Bear Canister Compatibility: BV500 fits vertically inside or outside horizontally under the lid
  • Material: X-Pac VX21 ($310) or 100d robic nylon ($210) main body
  • Torsos sizing: Adjustable, to fit 16″ – 22″ (38 – 56 cm)
  • Harness options: Shoulder Harness, S-Curve, or Vest Harness (large or small options for each)
  • Hip Belt Sizing: Small (24” padded length), Medium (30” padded length), and Large (34” padded length).
  • Max recommended load: 35lbs with frame and hip belt, 25lbs without frame or hip belt.
The body of the new Six Moon Designs Minimalist V2 is made from Xpac VX21, an excellent choice for overall durability and improved aesthetic appeal.
The body of the new Six Moon Designs Minimalist V2 is made from Xpac VX21, an excellent choice for overall durability and improved aesthetic appeal.

Backpack Storage and Organization

The Six Moon Designs Minimalist V2 has 15 external storage pockets: four on each side of the vest harness, two water bottle pockets, one lycra front pocket, two zippered hip belt pockets, one zippered pocket on the lid, and one lycra pocket on the top of the lid. There is also a removable sleeve inside the pack for carrying a hydration bladder which I didn’t include in the pocket count.

The fact that there are so many storage options could be great for some folks. I can see the possibility of keeping everything very well organized in this pack throughout the duration of a thru-hike. But again, all this storage does go against the minimalism the pack purports to provide the user.

For my uses, (3-7 day trips) I don’t want so many storage options. All these pockets require a lot of fabric, part of the reason why this pack weighs so much. Personally, I would prefer to use a more minimal pack, one with just two bottle pockets and a front pocket. I would be happy to put my snacks, sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm, and map in a fanny pack.

The right side pocket is short, allowing you to reach a water bottle without taking the pack off
The right side pocket is short, allowing you to reach a water bottle without taking the pack off.

Side pockets

One of the water bottle side pockets is tall enough to swallow a 2L Platypus bottle completely, whereas the other one is short, allowing the user to access a Smartwater bottle or similar without taking the pack off. I can understand the logic behind having one tall pocket and one short pocket, but no amount of logic will ever supersede my desire for clean aesthetics. The asymmetrical design of these pockets tends to make the pack look off-kilter. If functionality is more important than aesthetics to you then this should be a non-issue.

The side pockets are constructed partially of lycra, allowing a wide assortment of items to fit inside. I’m sure they would stretch to accommodate paddle blades or large bottles among other things. This is a nice idea in theory, but it’s also a high-abrasion point on most packs. Many packs utilize super burly fabric for pockets because they stick out on either side of the hiker’s body, catching twigs and scraping on rocks, so the use of lycra on this part of the pack is curious.

The deep pocket on the left side swallows a 2L Platypus easily, but the lycra mesh is a questionable decision here.
The deep pocket on the left side swallows a 2L Platypus easily, but the lycra mesh is a questionable decision here.

Top Closure and Lid

This pack has a tall extension collar and a roll-top closure. This is my preferred type of pack closure because it is simple and light. There is also a very small lid which only closes fully when there isn’t much in the pack. When fully loaded, the lid just sort of lays propped against the roll-top. The lid is unnecessary, adding weight and providing only a zippered pocket with no seam-allowance—meaning you can’t get much in there—and a small lycra pocket that could be good for a rain jacket. The one benefit to the lid is that it holds a BV500 bear canister under it quite well. That said, this could still be easily achieved with less fabric.

The running vest-style harness has ample storage great for cameras, snacks, and maps.
The running vest-style harness has ample storage great for cameras, snacks, and maps.

Running Vest-Style Harness

I found the harness on the Six Moon Designs Minimalist V2 to be very comfortable. It has virtually no padding, relying instead on its broad coverage to disperse weight across your shoulders and torso. One really nice thing about a mesh harness like this is the breathability. I found myself sweating a bit less under the harness than under the padded hip belt. Vest-style harnesses are also sometimes stretchy or flexible and tend to fit more snugly than regular backpacking harnesses. This snugness is great for running, scrambling, and moving fast in general. I appreciated the snug and secure fit of the vest harness when I have to scramble.

I wish the running vest-style harness had just one lycra pocket per side instead of four per side. I noticed that Six Moon Designs sells an ultralight version of this harness, so I would consider looking into that as an option if you don’t want so many pockets.

The running vest-style harness is one of my favorite things about this pack.
The running vest-style harness is one of my favorite things about this pack.

On a smaller volume, or lighter pack I could actually want to put more items in the vest because I could use it for fastpacking. When moving fast I like to be able to access sunglasses, snacks, water, maps, and so on without taking my pack off. I will never use this pack for fastpacking, however, because it is simply too heavy (42.4 oz). There are plenty of frameless packs out there with running vest-style or running vest/fastpacking hybrid harnesses that weigh three-quarters or even half the weight of this pack.

The harness attaches with velcro and is easy to adjust using the velcro breaker that comes with the pack. There are four torso height settings. When measured from the center of the hip belt, the settings are about 10.25”, 11.75”, 13.25”, and 14.75”.

For more on running vest-style packs see Ashly’s article Running Packs 101: Fit, Features, and Storage.

Hipbelt

Three hip belt sizes are available for the Minimalist V2: small (24” padded length), medium (30” padded length), and large (34” padded length). My iliac crest measurement is about 33” and the medium belt fits well. It attaches to the pack with a strip of velcro. Like most removable hip belts it collapses a bit. I generally prefer sewn-in or hanging belts for this reason. There are two pretty large zippered pockets that fit phones, cameras, maps, and snacks. The belt also features a dual adjusting 1.5” buckle.

Fabric

The main body of the Minimalist V2 is made from X-Pac VX21. VX21 has a 210d nylon face laminated to a polyester x-ply, a 0.25 mil PET waterproof film, and a 50d taffeta backing. It is a waterproof, durable, reasonably-priced material which probably helps to keep the cost of this pack lower than its DCF counterparts. VX21 is a popular pack material in the backpacking industry because it strikes a great balance between weight, durability, waterproofness, and cost. I also think that the blue and red VX21 packs offered by Six Moon Designs have a cleaner look than their 100d robic nylon packs.

See my article about the difference between DCF hybrids and X-Pac for more information.

The loadlifters on the Minimalist V2 bring the load closer to the body but the frame isn't tall enough to allow them to actually lift the load off of the shoulders
The load lifters on the Minimalist V2 bring the load closer to the body but the frame isn’t tall enough to allow them to actually lift the load off of the shoulders

Backpack Frame and Suspension

The Minimalist V2 has a Delrin hoop frame and the whole pack from the bottom to the top of the frame measures 22”. At first glance, I felt positive about this frame size for my 19.5” torso, thinking there would be at least a couple inches between the top of my shoulders and the load lifters. Once loaded, however, the load lifters are right at the top of my shoulders and don’t do much more than bring the load closer to me.

This is partly because the pack rides about an inch below the bottom of the hip belt, effectively shortening the frame by an inch. I measured from the center of the hip belt to the load lifters and it’s about 19.25”, so I don’t think I would recommend this pack for anyone with a torso measurement of more than about 20”.

The Minimalist V2 could work quite well for people with smaller torsos, possibly in the 16”-18” range, because the load lifters would be able to really work. For my torso (19.5”) the pack is simply too short for the load lifters to actually lift the load. If they added two or three inches to the frame height, the pack would work better for folks my size.

The zippered pocket on the lid doesn't have much seam allowance but is great for flat things like snack bars and maps.
The zippered pocket on the lid doesn’t have much seam allowance but is great for flat things like snack bars and maps.

But I hesitate because I don’t know if they should even be going in that direction with this pack. And this again reveals the conundrum of this pack: I don’t know what it’s trying to be. In my opinion, if a pack has a frame that is about the size of your torso, meaning the load lifters attach near the top of the shoulders, then it might as well not have load lifters, and should instead have shoulder straps that attach near the top of the shoulders.

This is simpler and weighs less. In this case, a frame is also probably not necessary, depending on volume. So maybe it would be better to just get rid of the load lifters, the frame, the adjustable torso height, and attach the shoulder straps near the top of this pack, thus making it more akin to a fastpacking pack. As it is, this backpack is too heavy to be a fastpacking pack and too short to fit folks with longer torsos. This leaves me thinking there is only one clear use for this pack. I think it’s very possible that this would be an excellent weeklong adventure pack or thru-hiking pack for folks with smaller torsos (probably in the 16”-18” range).

The Minimalist V2 is really quite large, easily big enough to accommodate a full week of hiking between resupplies
The Minimalist V2 is really quite large, easily big enough to accommodate a full week of hiking between resupplies.

Weight

The Minimalist V2 is advertised as weighing 35 oz, which could be true of the robic nylon version, while the VX21 version with medium hip belt and large vest harness is 42.4 oz. This is heavy for a pack in the thru-hiking category and very heavy for a pack in the fastpacking category. Look at similar popular thru-hiking packs like the Gossamer Gear Gorilla Mariposa 60 which weighs somewhere in the 29 oz vicinity or the Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 3400 which weighs right around 32 oz.

The Minimalist V2 is a good 10 oz heavier than these because it is way overbuilt. There is binding on every internal seam, an unnecessary lid, and extra VX21 around the entire perimeter of the front pocket. The adjustable torso height probably accounts for some of the weight as well. Just the large harness alone weighs 8.9 oz, and the medium hip belt is 6.6 oz. These are pretty heavy items (with tons of pockets) which would likely be much lighter if they were incorporated permanently into the construction of the pack. I understand the appeal of modularity, but there has to be a lighter way to do it.

Comparable Lightweight Backpacks

Recommendation

The Six Moon Designs Minimalist V2 is a promising pack going through somewhat of an identity crisis. The name is misleading, as I have said, as nothing about it is minimal. It has an adjustable torso height and several harness options. It has pockets everywhere, so if you’re an organization freak, you could really love it. It is slightly heavy for a pack in the thru-hiking category and very heavy for a pack in the fastpacking category, but reasonable for a pack in the load-hauling category.

The vest harness is comfortable and breathes well, even after a long hot day
The vest harness is comfortable and breathes well, even after a long hot day.

If you have a smaller torso, meaning the load lifters are above your shoulders and can function fully, then this pack could (probably) function really well as a weeklong adventure pack or even a load-hauler, in which case 42.4 oz is totally reasonable. If you have a larger torso like mine (19.5”) and you want a load-hauler, reach for something in the same weight range with a taller frame, where the load lifters are well above the shoulder.

If you want a fastpacking pack, reach for something lighter, more minimal, and possibly frameless.
While sporting a fastpacking appearance, the Six Moon Designs Minimalist V2 is too heavy to be a fastpacking pack. It is also too short to fit folks with torsos longer than about 20” if you want the load lifters to do anything at all.

This all boils down to the one use already mentioned. The Six Moon Designs Minimalist V2 could be an excellent weeklong adventure pack or thru-hiking pack for folks with torso measurements in the 16”-18” range.

Comfort

Weight

Suspension

Features

Adjustability

Sizing

Durability

Load Hauler with an Adjustable Torso Length

The Minimalist V2, now available in X-Pac, has an adjustable torso height and several harness options. It is slightly heavy for a pack in the thru-hiking category and very heavy for a pack in the fastpacking category, but reasonable for a pack in the load-hauling category.

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Disclosure: Six Moon Designs provided SectionHiker.com with a pack for this review.

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About the author

Ben Kilbourne has been backpacking at least once a month every month for the last twelve years. His explorations have taken him all over the west, but especially the canyon country of the Colorado Plateau. The geography of the west has become familiar to him. He has developed a rudimentary understanding of its geology, and an awareness of the subtle changes in flora and fauna due to soil, elevation, aspect, and precipitation and how these elemental things interact with both ancient and modern humans. His experiences on the land, whether triumphant or thwarted by events either in or out of his control, have provided the foundation for the work he does. Find Ben’s paintings, songs, and essays here http://benkilbourne.com/.

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