First Look: Six Moon Designs 2011 Swift

The Swift is Six Moon Designs “ultralight” backpack, and for a pretty good reason. The newly designed 2011 Swift pack is listed at a scant 15 oz, although, this is without a hip belt or an aluminum stay. However, part of the redesign of the pack was to make the pack more versatile. What this means is that the pack will now accept an optional (removable) hip belt as well as an aluminum stay. The pack does however sport an inner pad pocket which will allow a users sleeping pad to be folded and then inserted into the sleeve which then provides the actual structure for the pack.

If the Swift on its own is not quite enough for ya, Six Moon Designs offer options to beef the pack up a little and still remain quite light. There are 2 different hip belt options available for this pack:

  1. The Wing Belt: Features large dual hip belt pockets and is offered in a size small (4 oz), medium (4.5 oz) and large (4.5 oz). All sizes cost $30 extra.
  2. The Webbing Belt: This is a simple one inch piece of webbing that is attached in two places on each side of the pack and closes in the front with a single buckle. (Weight is 2 oz and cost $7.50.)

The Swift is also built so that an optional aluminum hoop stay can be inserted into the pack which is a great option for people who do not use foam sleeping pads. Using this stay will create an internal structure and removes the need for a foam pad to provide the structure. The stay is listed at 4 oz and cost $20.

So… I recently received my very own Six Moon Designs 2011 Swift in the mail just a few days ago (in plenty of time for an upcoming trip!) and here is my First Look video:

So, just to highlight some of the specs on my Swift:

  • Swift Pack (medium): 14.7 oz
  • Wing Belt (medium): 4.1 oz
  • Aluminum Hoop Stay: 4.6 oz

Now onto some of my thoughts on the pack as well as how it packs up for me for my intended use.

So, as you can see in the video, I had some issues with the size of the pack. Simply put, it is huge! With the collar fully extended, it is actually about an inch taller than the Circuit, however, it is slightly narrower than the Circuit. As well, the outside pockets on the Swift do not have as much room as in the Circuit. With this in mind, the Swift is slightly smaller than the Circuit…

The first time I loaded the pack up, I must say that my heart sank. With my gear inside the Swift, there was just as much room left inside as in my Circuit, so I was sitting there looking at the pack thinking I just duplicated my Circuit. I unpacked and repacked… tried and tried…

Finally I realized that the pack was not going to work with my gear with the stay inside the pack. The stay was making the pack too big, so it had to go (bummer I just spent $20 extra for it…) However, I wasn’t too keen on using a ccf pad in the pad pocket. I use a NeoAir and at this time of the year I do not need a second pad. My point of getting this pack was not only to have a smaller pack, but also to reduce weight. By carrying an extra pad I am looking at carrying extra, unneeded weight. However, if I did not use the stay, my only other option for me was to use a ccf pad.

I ended up buying a cheapo blue ccf pad and chopping it down to fit inside the pad pocket. After thinking about it, I realized that by removing the stay I had at least 4.6 oz to work with to keep the same amount of weight as if I were to use the stay. So, happily I realized that with the blue ccf pad cut to size (and doubled over so that it is 2-layers thick) actually weighs 1 full oz less than if I were to use the stay (3.6 oz)! I am sure that I am giving up some of the ability of proper weight transfer, however with the weights I will be carrying I think that it will manage well. Also, since I use the ccf pad inside the pack, I am able to roll more of the top of the pack down, which means I can compress the pack a little better.

So, as can be seen in the second video, my gear fits inside the pack ok when using the foam back pad. The top does not compress down as much as I would like, but that should be ok. I will be leaving for a 4 day (55 mile) trip in a few weeks so this should be a great time to see how the pack does for me.

For a detailed gear list that I will be carrying for this trip, check it out here:

Gear List

To be honest, I wouldn’t mind having a smaller volume pack, but in my search I haven’t really found any other packs with a smaller volume and offers what the Swift offers. For this reason, I am going to keep the Swift rather than send it back.

So, my first impression of the Swift is that it is big, possibly too big. However, I do love the way that the pack is laid out, I like that I can add or remove the stay or the hip belt (ultimately reducing weight) and I really liked the price point. So, I would not say that I am unhappy with the purchase, but I will definitely need to use it a few times to see just how happy I am with it… (But I will add that I usually find that the things I am not so sure about in the beginning ends up being the ones that seem to really work out…)

Thanks for reading!


About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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15 Responses to First Look: Six Moon Designs 2011 Swift

  1. Jrack says:

    You seem to be a big ULA fan. Now that you know the Swift is rather large and the stay doesn’t work with all of your gear would you go with the ULA CDT?


    • Stick says:


      I feel like the CDT would have been a little less volume, but I needed something considerably smaller in volume. I ended up going with a ZPacks Blast 30 and selling the Swift. According to listed specs, the Blast 30 is 50 liters (3,000 cu in) and the Swift is 56 liters (3,400 cu in). This is a minimal amount of space, but I am here to tell you, there is a huge difference in the Blast 30 and the Swift’s volume.

      After I realized how big the Swift really was, I thought long and hard and compared specs on different packs. But what really helped me is when John Abela sent me his Blast 26 (now the Blast 30…only thing that changed was the name of the pack…they are the same). So, once I tried his out, I bought my own Blast pack and sold the Swift.

      To give a little perspective… I can fit my “winter” set up (which is a set-up that will keep me comfy to 10 F) easily inside the Blast 30, with enough room for around 7 days of food! So, while this pack is perfect for my winter trips, it is still overkill for my summer trips. So, I also ordered a small Zero backpack which is 24.5 liters (1,500 cu in). This pack is a good size for my summer trips, but I will admit…it is really too big for some of the trips I plan to use it for…

      I am about to head out on a 3 day hike in which a buddy and I plan to cover 74 miles. To help us with the longer, harder than usual days we are carrying SUL kits. Right now, I am looking at 4.5 lbs of base weight (and this includes my full size NeoAir and a pillow…) and TBH, the small Zero pack is kinda overkill on it…

      So, now, I think that the CDT would be a great pack for solo winter kits as far as volume is concerned. Although, my Blast 30 pack weighs 8 oz and the CDT weighs 21… However, I think that ULA makes great packs! I am holding onto my Circuit and still plan to use it when I am carrying a load in winter (such as when my wife or son go and I carry more of the load). The customer service is excellent, and their products are the same. I highly recommend them!

      As well, I was very happy with the Swift from Six Moon Designs. It too was a great pack, and it is quite versatile. However, I felt like it was a bit too much pack. I would like to check out on of the newer Feather packs…

      Hope this helps.



  2. Stick, what smaller pack would you or did you go for? I want a pack for just a few nights, 20-25 lb load. I don’t want to buy a SUV if I just am getting groceries. Do you get what I mean?


    • Stick says:


      I have not went with a different pack yet, but when I do it will more than likely be the ZPacks Blast 20 in cuben. I was about to pull the trigger on the Gossamer Gear Murmur the other day, but they are out of stock (GG is updating the design and said that the newly designed Murmur will be out around the end of this month). The Blast 20 will be all the room I need for my UL summer kits, and I like this particular pack/company because the Blast packs have tons of options so I can customize it however I want. The Blast 20 with all the options that I would like will put me around 9 – 10 oz. Or, I have been debating the ZPacks Zero Pack in a size small with a few options that would put me around 5 oz. (I will probably go with the customized Zero).

      Of course, the ZPacks are more $$$ and typically have a wait time where as the GG Murmurs are usually in stock and ready to ship and less $$$.

      Anyway, hope that this helps some.



    • John Abela says:


      The ZPacks Blast 20 is highly not advisable for a backpack with the weight that he indicated he is at.

      Even the Blast 26 will be very abusive on him at the 25+ pound level. I know that from experience. Even with the external supports.

      All of the ZPacks packs are frameless packs and are recommended as sub 20 pound packs. They clearly indicated that here:


      A good option for you being in the 20-30 pound range is going to be a ULA Circuit or the Osprey Atmos 65.

      They are cheap, will not break the bank. There is very little reason to buy the ZPacks packs unless you are intending to hike a long distance trail (AT/CDT/PCT) as most of those hikers have 15+ pounds lighter setups than what you have, and that is what/who the ZPacks backpacks are designed for.


      I got my ZPacks Zero X-Small a week or so ago. OMG!! It is awesome, but a bit too awesome. lol. I was able to get all of my gear into it (including my 32 degree bag, and my MB UL Down Inner Parka) and it fit perfectly. Than, I remembered, my food was not in there LOLOL. I could not fit 5 meals into it along with the rest of my gear. Good thing I only intended to use this for a summer / summit setup. Mine came out to 72.8 grams (2.57 oz) with a suspension strap. I am seriously gonna love this pack for day hikes!


    • Stick says:


      You are correct. Sorry about that… I got caught up in some other stuff in the middle of my post and then forgot to actually address the 20 – 25 pound limit before submitting my response…doh… thanks for catching that John.


      I agree with John that the Circuit is a great pack. I have one and love it, however, it is a lot of real estate too! This was the whole reason I got the Swift, I wanted to cut down on size and of course weight. But for an expected 25+ pounds, I highly suggest the Circuit.

      This is where I ran into problems with the Swift though. Size wise, it is the same size as my Circuit. But I will say that the Swift is probably more functional for lower weights considering I can remove everything out of it, of course though I can do the same with the Circuit too. Also, if your total weight is between 20 – 25 pounds, the ULA OHM may be a nice option too.

      I have come to find that the bulk of your gear really decides the pack that you are after. With as many different options that are out there now, I think that finding the right size pack which is needed is the first step in deciding on a new pack. Once this is figured out, then look at the different packs and weigh your choices between features and weight.

      I did this a little backwards when I bought the Swift. I love the features on the Swift, and I love that it is less than 15 oz by itself. But when I got it, I realized it was too big. Way to big. So, size is the first thing I look for now…

      I have read somewhere or another that an easy way to get a rough estimate of how many cubic inches is needed is to fill a box with all of your gear you will be packing. Then take the measurements if the box (height, width and length) and multiply them together to get the cubic inches. Not sure how accurate this is, but I can’t see how it would be too terribly wrong.


      That is too funny about your pack, kinda the opposite of my first encounter with the Swift. Sounds like it will still fill a niche though for you so that is cool! I like the small Zero, but I would add a few options such as 2 side pockets, a front mesh pocket, a waist belt, sternum strap and a haul loop. All of this comes out to just under 5 oz I believe and about $150. I will wait too get it later though…. the cuben UQ I just ordered busted me for the year….

      As far as the weight capacity on the ZPacks Packs, I was under the impression that the Blast packs with the optional carbon fiber stays would do fine for packs up to 25 pounds, but of course optimal for 20 pounds or less. Of course though I have yet to have one to actually comment on this…

      Thanks agian,



  3. Stevie McAllister says:

    I have the even larger Starlite. I bought it when I thought I needed the space.
    I find it fits like a smaller pack if I make sure to pull the top strap and the adjustment cords tight before I put it on.
    With everything cinched up, it feels like a day pack.


    • Stick says:


      A while back I debated the StarLite and the Circuit and went with the Circuit simply because I was not too crazy about using a pad as my structure (even with the optional stay). I really liked the pocket configuration on the StarLite though. It is what really drew me to the Swift. However, now that I realize that the Swift is the same size as my Circuit I am not so sure that I will hold onto the Swift for a very long time… I will probably get a smaller volume pack and then get rid of the Swift. I will have to mess with the side compression straps some more. Maybe if I can decrease the width (front to back) of the pack then maybe my gear will also fill more vertical space. The top compression strap is sewn too far towards the top and with my gear in it I don’t really get any compression out of it. I think that if the strap were sewn farther down the front of the pack it would have suited me better.

      Other than the size issue, the pack is a great pack. I am happy with my Lunar Duo, and am looking forward to getting my Skyscape in soon.

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by and commenting.



  4. Sticks Best Pal In the Whole Wide World says:

    First, can you define “nice and hot” as these two words don’t seem to go together outside of the dilect challenges of southerners.

    Second, you can’t trust the volume of any ULA pack. They are WAY off. The Swift isn’t really a smaller pack by the way, it’s just another similar pack. I’d return it unless you just like spending money.

    Third, put your stakes and ground sheet in your tarp bag. No sense in risking them getting lost or separated and it’s a lot less likely that your tarp will fall out.

    Fourth, switch out your tarp bag for a cuben version. In this case, the weight isn’t the issue it’s the need to keep it dry. Sure, it is an outdoor shelter and will get wet, but it gets substantially heavier and more prone to all kinds of issues when it gets wet. Put it in a cuben sack, pull the cord tight, and turn the bag upside down when it’s on the outside of your pack so rain won’t run in.

    Fifth, it would serve you well to lose almost all of those stuff sacks you have. I mean seriously, it’s all going in a pack…why do you possibly need them all?

    Sixth, the pack pad, and all others like it, are sized to fit the Z pad. If you don’t use a Z pad, then don’t use the sleeve. There is absolutely no reason to fill it with something else just to fill it as the contents of your pack is soft enough. But here on two thoughts. First, get a smaller NeoAir and use a couple sections of the Z pad or blue foam to go under your legs. Or, use it as your winter pack where you’ll want something to supplement your NeoAir and a foam pad (with sleeve) is an excellent choice.

    Seventh, that Jet Boil annoys me. It’s so big and clunky. It’s expensive and the profile is not stable on anything other than a flat and non-windy surface. Please, for the love, replace it with something lighter and simple.

    Lastly, where did you get that AWESOME tattoo? Were you ever in prison?


  5. John Abela says:

    Hey Stick,
    I think your statement “Its a big pack” just really summarizes up this pack for me personally.

    At 3400 cu. inches it should be able to a great pack for most weekenders and day hikers!! It gives that nice middle ground between the ULA’s and the 2,400 cubic inches of volume of the HMG Windrider, the 2,200 c.i. of the GossamerGear Murmur, and the ZPacks Blast 26 at 2600 c.i. of volume. To me, that really is the best way to look at this pack and its role in the pack world.

    Like you, I am switching over to my summer gear. Just placed an order for a ZPacks Zero (Extra-Small) at 1,000 c.i. of volume. Went with 1.2 oz/sqyd CF rather than the standard 1.5 material. Added a Sternum Strap and will attach two shoulder pouches I already have. Total weight for the pack should be a bit below 6 ounces. Using this for my sub-3 pound summer setup. So, that will leave two packs sitting in my closet for the next few months… my HMG Windrider (2010) and my ZPacks Blast 26. If you have a desire to check out either of them I can mail them/it back to you, you can give them/it a try, and mail them/it back. I just need them/it back before August 😉

    John B. Abela


    • Stick says:


      It really is a big pack… 🙂

      I do understand what you are saying about it filling the middle ground, however, it really does seem to big enough to be cutting into the Circuit just a little. Initially when I looked at the HMG Windrider I figured that it would not be big enough, however now I am thinking it would have been a better match for the gear that I carry.

      I was looking to get the ZPacks CF Blast 26 pack, however I was trying to spend less money so I chose the Swift. If you don’t mind I would love to check out those packs. If you can send them just let me know and I will get you my info. Thanks for the offer though.\



    • Stick says:


      I just realized that you are selling the Windrider. I wish I would’ve realized that sooner before I spent my $$$, I would’ve took it. Oh well, if you still have it around in a while I may see about picking it up from you…



  6. Excellent review!


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