The Six Moon Designs Skyscape Scout (SMD Scout) is a 40 ounce, one-person, trekking pole-supported tent that retails for $145 (that’s not a typo). It is a great option for scouts (hence the name), kids who are ready for their own tent, and anyone who wants a little extra durability, as well as people who want to try out trekking-pole tents at an affordable price point.
Specs at a Glance
- Type of tent: trekking-pole-pitched tent
- Capacity: 1 Person
- Doors/vestibules: 2 doors/2 vestibules.
- Weight: 40 ounces (manufacturer); 36.6 ounces + 0.9 ounce stuff sack (measured)
- Material: Polyurethane-coated 190T polyester for the floor and canopy; 40D (denier) no-see-um mesh
- Packed size: 15 inches by 5 inches (manufacturer and measured)
- Dimensions (measured): The Scout’s floor is shaped like an elongated pentagon, with the apex at the head and a flat footbox.
- Floor length: 100”
- Floor width at its widest point: 45”
- Foot-end width: 30”
- Foot-end height: 10”
- Peak height: 42”
- Included: Stuff sack, pitching instructions printed on paper
- Not included: Stakes, poles, seam sealant (SMD sells fast-curing sealant for $6.95).
- Color: A nice low-impact green. On a wet autumn night, falling leaves stuck to the canopy, making it camo!
The Skyscape Scout is made to be more durable than many trekking-pole shelters. The mesh is 40D (ultralight shelters often use 15-20D mesh), and the canopy and floor fabric is a robust PU-coated polyester. Despite the fact that this is a lower-cost shelter, the PU fabric felt nice–not sticky or cheap in any way.
Three of the five guyouts–the head-end and both vestibules–use 1/2” webbing in ladderlock tensioners, while the two guyouts at the foot end are cords and adjusted with linelocks. You pay a weight penalty for having fabrics that are both durable and inexpensive, but the integrated design (i.e. no separate inner nest) means you still get a fully-enclosed and bug-proof shelter for 2.5 pounds.
I first used the tent on a constantly-misting evening that turned into moderate rain for a while overnight. I hadn’t yet seam sealed it for that trip, but I had no dripping or leaking. This may be due to the seam construction, in which panels of the tent are sewn together with a seam allowance which is bound with a strip of the same tent fabric. However, to be prepared for heavy rain, seam sealing the Scout is a good idea. You can purchase a fast-curing seam sealant from SMD.
Much of the shelter is double-wall, meaning it has mesh inside the tent canopy. Only the area from the peak to the footbox is single-wall, to save weight. The bathtub floor is sewn to the tent’s foot end with a 4” wide strip of mesh that connects the floor to the tent canopy and allows for ventilation, and elastic on either corner of the floor leading to the canopy provides shape to the bathtub floor. There is a single, small, triangular-shaped pocket on the right-hand side of the shelter for essentials, and a mitten hook on a grosgrain loop hanging from the middle of the ceiling strut for hanging your headlamp.
There are two doors, one behind each vestibule, to give you flexibility with the entry/ exit orientation, and to provide access to gear in either vestibule. Zippers on the vestibules and the mesh doors have metal pulls for durability and pieces of cord for use with gloves. The vestibule zippers are not waterproof, but they are reversed (with the coils facing inside the tent) and have storm flaps secured with velcro. SMD’s spec sheet lists all zippers as #3 size, but this must be a misprint. The number of a zipper refers to how wide it is in millimeters when zipped closed, and I measure the zippers to be 7 mm wide. Seven is not a common zipper number so they are likely either #5 or #8. These are not ultralight zippers.
Setup instructions are included on a piece of paper with the tent, and they’re helpful the first couple of times until you internalize the order in which you need to stake out the guyouts. I found it quite easy to set up. If you use trekking poles, you insert the tips into heavily reinforced sleeves at the apex of the shelter, on either side of a ceiling strut, and the handles rest on reinforced semi-circular reinforcement patches on the tent floor.
You do have to open up the mesh doors to install the poles which can allow rain to get inside the shelter, but, with practice, installing the poles can be very quick. I’ve found it’s easier to insert the poles while they’re collapsed, and then adjust them to the recommended height of 115 cm. With the trekking poles inside your shelter, you can adjust them if need be to tighten things up without leaving your shelter. Don’t raise them too quickly or too much, though, because you can pop the stakes out, and then you definitely need to leave your shelter! Once I got a tight pitch, I didn’t find I needed to adjust the pole height further, as polyester doesn’t tend to sag like nylon.
The Scout has a relatively small footprint and is good for backcountry camping in dense forests especially because you can pitch the vestibules over rocks, roots, and baby trees. On mild, rain-free nights, you can roll up both sides of both vestibules and have a breezy mesh shelter with bug protection, views, and the ability to quickly deploy the canopy if the weather turns. A nice feature is that the shelter stands without additional guylines when the vestibules are un-staked and rolled up.
The Scout is quite a livable shelter to use. It was designed for tall hikers to have plenty of headroom when sitting up and length when lying down. I am not tall by any stretch of the imagination, so for me, the headroom is massive. The shelter floor is an elongated pentagon shape, which makes the dimensions a little harder to describe than with a square or rectangular shelter, but it’s 100” long and 45” wide at its widest point, tapering to 30” at the foot end and tapering to a point at your head-end.
This means you have triangles of space for gear around your sleeping pad on three sides, as well as a small rectangle for gear at your feet. It also means that the sleeping area is set back from the shelter walls, so your face and feet/ sleeping bag footbox don’t come close to touching them. It can easily accommodate wide sleeping pads, and the fact that the bathtub floor doesn’t have rigid corners means that there’s some extra wiggle room beyond even a wide pad, to gain width by pushing the sides of the bathtub floor out further.
Single-wall tents will have condensation; the question is whether it is manageable, and I believe it is with the Scout. Technically, the Scout is a hybrid single-/double-wall tent. The area over your head and on the sides is double-wall, with mesh inside the tarp canopy. As with a double-wall tent, condensation moves through the mesh to the inside of the canopy, and the mesh prevents it from dripping on you. The sloped ceiling over your lower torso and feet is single-wall and will get wet with condensation if the shelter is completely battened down, but the height and shape of the shelter means that your bag isn’t rubbing up against the wet wall. It’s a good idea to bring a small cloth or piece of a sponge sheet (my preference) for wiping up the condensation first thing after waking. If it’s not storming, keeping the vestibules partially open allows for airflow that reduces condensation.
The Scout is not an ultra-compact system, packing down to 5 inches wide by 15 inches long. It is best to pack it by rolling the tent and then slipping it into the stuff sack, instead of just stuffing, due to the rigid ceiling strut. To do this, grab this strut as your starting point, and tuck in the edges of the tent as you roll it up around the strut. The guylines and guyout webbing are short enough that you don’t need to coil them and they don’t tangle up in each other. Even with the length of the stuff sack, I still wished it was bigger to make stowing the tent easier, as it felt like a tight fit, even with rolling and especially when the tent was wet and my fingers were cold. I imagine many hikers will carry the Scout in an outside pocket with compression straps, or strapped to loops at the base of their backpack, rather than trying to fit it inside the pack.
Comparable 1 Person Trekking Pole Tents Under $250
The Six Moon Designs Skyscape Scout is a winner when you consider the combination of durable materials, inexpensive price, and ease of setup of this tent. The all-in-one integrated nature of the Scout will appeal to users who would otherwise bring bug protection on the majority of their trips and so don’t need modularity, and folks who want a simple-to-pitch, one-piece, no-fuss shelter. Forty ounces for a single-person, fully-enclosed shelter with lots of headroom and plenty of length for tall users may not be ultralight, but it is respectably lightweight–and even more so given that my Scout came in under spec at 36.6 ounces. I appreciated that I didn’t need to attach extra guylines to the peak when pitching the Scout as a net tent. My only quibbles with the Scout are the tight-fitting stuff sack, but it’s easy to use another stuff sack, or just stuff it freely in your backpack. Highly recommended!
Disclosure: The author owns this tent.
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About the author
Greg Pehrson is an ultralight backpacker who was bitten hard by the MYOG (make-your-own-gear) bug. He repairs, tinkers, and builds gear, often seeking to upcycle throwaway items or repurpose things from outside the backpacking world.