The Six Moon Designs ‘Flight 30‘ pack is one of the newest and most exciting backpack on the market for SUL hikers, runners, fastpackers, FKT’ers, peak baggers, and those looking for a small volume backpack that can handle 10 pounds or so of gear and have very little, if zero, bouncing while moving fast down the trail.
It is clear that the market is getting ready for an explosion of new products for those individuals that move fast, move light, and need gear that, for the most part, did not exist even a half-decade ago. As more and more hikers have moved into the world of SUL, and even XUL, a necessity for good quality backpacks, that are themselves SUL in nature, are desperately needed. At the same time, as adventure racers, ultra runners, and ultra marathoners, are discovering the joy, and sometimes pain, of pushing themselves even further, so too are they finding the need to be using backpacks rather than vests, in order to accommodate additional garments, required safety gear, and additional food for those going without resupply. For the last few years there has been a void in the market – a near lack of any products in the 15 liters up to 35 liters of volume space. A few have come along but very few, and those that did were obviously designed by folks that just did not ‘get it’ and instead where just trying to tap into a market prematurely without doing the necessary research for what was needed. Companies that have gotten it have, unfortunately, continued to produce products for either day-runners (in the form of vests from companies such as Ultimate Direction, Salomon and others) that do not offer enough volume, or are companies (Montane, ZPacks, and others) that use traditional backpack shoulder strap systems that just do not work for faster moving adventurers.
The Flight 30 was designed from the ground up to resolve these issues. The lead developer of the Flight 30 is well respected and experienced long distance hiker, Brian Frankle, who is also be an active trail runner. Ron Moak, the owner of Six Moon Designs shared this on BPL: “The Flight 30 was designed for ultra runners who need to carry enough gear to be able to spend a night out without suffering. To accomplish this, it needed to be larger than your typical running pack. However, it also couldn’t interfere with your normal running.“1
It is important to note that the Flight 30 may not be the best option for SUL weekend hikers, or even SUL thru-hikers, that move on a normal pace. There are lighter options out there if all you want is a bag with shoulder straps.
Where the Flight 30 starts to shine, however, is when your pace involves moving faster than the typical day hiker or thru-hiker. When you make that transition from walking to running, the need for a different harness system becomes a key aspect of your ability to continue moving forward without having balance issues, without having your gear bouncing all over the place, and without having to constantly readjust your straps because they are designed for slow movers.
I am not going to get into all of the specs and such of this backpack, they are clearly documented on the SMD website. What I do want to highlight is that SMD is presently offering two different sizes, a ‘small/medium’ and a ‘medium/large’. I have acquired both of them and have found that the small/medium fits me best. I am 5 feet 11 3/4 inches (182 cm) in height and 165 pounds. I found the large to not properly fit me, even though in every other backpack or vest I have ever put on I tend to use a large or extra large. The torso height on the medium/large is up there. A friend of mine who is 6’3 (190.5 cm) also found the torso on the medium/small to be too high. So just throwing this out there: unless you are taller than 196 cm you are going to want to order the small/medium. Perhaps in the future SMD will implement their very awesome ‘flexible frame system’ like is found on their Fusion line of backpacks which would allow the Flight 30 to be dialed in to really fit a person perfectly.
The Flight 30 comes with a removable hip belt. It uses the standard velcro attachment system that is common these days. It is a fairly tall hip belt, which is great for those times when you need the extra support. One of the nicer aspect of using the hip belt is that it allows you to use lumbar straps (at least, that is what I have taken to calling them – they go from the very bottom of the backpack to just behind the hip belt pockets) and when you need to start having more than 7 or 8 pounds (3.6 kg) of gear (at least, for me) the ability to pull in those lumbar straps makes it so you can remove a huge amount of bounce from the pack – it can really tighten up the pack against your back/hips. If your TPW is sub 5 pounds I have found there is very little reason for using the hip belts and can save yourself 4.8 – 5 ounces (~140 grams) of pack weight. I would like to see Six Moon Designs offer a hip belt without the pockets attached, as well as just a standard 1-inch nylon webbing belt with a velcro attachment point for a truly minimalist approach. Overall impression of the hip belt is very high – it offers a great amount of support for when you need to have a few extra pounds within the pack.
The front harness system is obviously what this pack is all about. With large pec panels that hug your chest, and a harness strap system that allows you to really dial in the pack to your body, these make the Six Moon Designs Flight 30 the most stable pack I have used, for anything above the fifteen liter volume vests. I am still holding out hope that they will introduce a Flight 20 at some point in the future, but as it stands right now, if the 14-16 liter volume of Ultimate Direction or Salomon vests are just not big enough for you, and with a mostly void 15-30 liter volume option within the market, the Six Moon Designs Flight 30 (small) seems to be at the top of the list of go-to packs.
In late 2013 I found the joys of moving faster down the trail. This lead me into the world of fastpacking and that sort of changed my life when it comes to being out on the trail. As I shared with Six Moon Designs when they published a customer profile on me, “The Flight 30 is one of the first packs on the market to cater to this void. It has proven to allow me to move fast, even running, with enough gear and food and water for three or four days on the trail.” This really is the niche market that the Flight 30 exists within. There are very few packs on the market that hug the body when moving with three or four days of food, have little to no bounce, and that is amazingly comfortable. In fact, I am not even sure if the term “very few packs” is accurate… more like, there is only one.
In accordance of USA Federal Trade Commission 16 CFR, Part 255: I hereby declare that as of the day of publication of this article I am a sponsored hiker of Montbell America, Black Rock Gear, Suluk46 and that I have purchased the Six Moon Designs Flight 30.