Review: Sierra Designs Summer Moon 2

Camping is about connecting with your loved ones and with nature; not hiding away in your tent.

Too many shelters these days offer crazy designs, fancy prints, and unnecessary amenities, as companies hike up their price with superfluous features. Instead of researching expensive glamping tents, reach inside your soul and ask yourself: “Why do I want to venture into the wilderness?”

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You may simply want to avoid the hectic city traffic, or you may have an unscratchable itch for adventure. Perhaps you are trying to rekindle a relationship with your partner, or yourself.

That being said, your tent should protect you from the elements, but not hinder your experience (or your bank account). If you want to focus on a tent’s functionality, rather than all its bells and whistles, then you should seriously consider the Sierra Designs Summer Moon 2.

The ‘Five S’ Method - Simplistic Version

five s method choosing a tent

Like the minimalist bare bones ideology of this tent, we’ll look at the ‘Five S’ method of tent buying through the same perspective. This way, you’ll be able to focus on your specific outdoor goals, and determine if they fit with this particular tent.

Size

Normally, I would tell you that a shelter should be viewed as a home away from home, not just a piece of fabric. While this holds true, it doesn’t mean that you should be taking up prime forest real estate with a giant dome tent. Maintaining a small pitch can be beneficial, creating less of an environmental impact while still remaining cozy and comfortable when inside.

Remember if you prefer luxurious amounts of living space in your camping shelter, there’s always the possibility of renting a cabin.

Season

During the winter, I like to utilize the Four Seasons style of … hotels! That's right - snow camping is not for me. That’s why I don’t purchase intense thick-walled, tents that could stay upright in an avalanche.

Instead, I will always opt for a versatile, reliable 3-season tent that will keep me dry and warm most of the time I'm out there. That way I can focus on nature, rather than my shelter.

Setup

Some tent setups can be as complicated as assembling an IKEA closet, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t master the perfect pitch.

Whether you're looking at a simple freestanding tent or a complicated six-point guylined mess, take time to become an expert with your tent. Practice in the yard, at home, at the park (just don’t leave it overnight). Build it up, break it down, build it up again, until the setup becomes a no-brainer.

Keep in mind that while pitching ease is important, it shouldn't be your focal point for purchasing a tent.

Security

The more often you use something, the more comfortable you become with it.

Heck, the first time I slept in a tent, I barely got a lick of sleep because I was terrified of the outdoors. Now I could probably doze off in the open-air with a medium-rare steak hanging around my neck, and still feel comfortable.

Tent security is about the durability of materials, weather protection, privacy and feeling of safety.

Unfortunate fact is - if a bear wants that Snickers wrapper that you left in your tent, high-quality ripstop nylon isn’t going to stop him. But when it comes to high winds and rain, a secure tent will hold its ground.

$$ - The Price

It’s up to you to get your money’s worth out of a tent. Some people would rather buy a cheap shelter and run it into the ground.

Heck, some people are happy sleeping under a $2 blue tarp from Walmart. 

We see money as an end-all-be-all deal breaker. It doesn’t have to be. Every purchase is what you make of it. Some of the best tents I have ever owned didn’t cost an arm and a leg, while some of the more expensive ones never even made it out of the package.

Focus on functionality and performance, instead of the pricetag alone.

Sierra Designs Summer Moon 2

Minimalist ideologies aside, what’s so special about the Sierra Designs Summer Moon 2?

This lightweight 2-person shelter is one of the top all-around tents on the market. With a trail weight of under 4-lbs., you can carry it into the wilderness on a week-long backpacking adventure, or keep it neatly tucked away in your trunk for a spontaneous car camping trip. This tent offers a multitude of outdoor possibilities for under $200.

Now that's what I call efficient functionality.

Unlike the name would suggest, there is very little flash to the Summer Moon 2. It’s made for comfort, durability, and ease-of-access, yet without the glitz and glamor of unnecessary amenities. Like a well-oiled machine, every aspect of this tent serves a purpose. This way, you can focus on your outdoor aspirations, rather than drowning in futile features.

Although, if you seek a shelter with loads bells and whistles, there are plenty of other options out there on the market.

That being said, I’m not claiming that Sierra Designs has created the holy grail of tents. In fact, the Summer Moon 2 has plenty of flaws: the fly is oddly designed, there is only one door, and extreme winds can uproot the guylines. Still, these problems shouldn’t be dealbreakers, since it also has a wide range of other capabilities.

PROS

  • check
    Versatile
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    Affordable
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    Lightweight

CONS

  • Poor gear storage
  • Only one door
  • Difficult set up (needs practice)

Size: Spacious Interior 

sierra designs summer moon 2-5

The Summer Moon 2 has plenty of room for you and your companion to stretch out with a 29 sq. ft. floor area. This is about average, if not slightly smaller than average of compared to similar products.

If you are in the backcountry, you shouldn’t have any problem finding enough fresh forest floor to pitch this shelter.

Add in the 41” ceiling height, and those numbers are pretty typical for two-person tents. Although tents that possess the same ‘X’ support structure typically have a shallow sloped roof, Sierra Designs has managed to build a shelter that provides maximal volume without utilizing a crossbar.

Still, if you are giant, you may not have enough room inside. In that case, I suggest moving one size up to the Sierra Designs Summer Moon 3. At a length of 84” inches, the 3-person version is the same as the 2-person, but the width increases 20” total (from 50” to 70”).

Season: 3-Season Tent

sierra designs summer moon 2-4

If you want to sleep in the snow, stop reading now; the Summer Moon 2 is meant to be enjoyed... well... underneath a summer moon.

There is excellent ventilation through the tent to keep you cool and dry during the August heat, yet plenty of water resistance to protect you from April showers. Yet, as I’ll get into in a bit, the fly may not protect your gear from getting wet if pitched incorrectly.

Sierra Designs also did you a courtesy by providing fully-taped, PVC-free seams. This way, water won’t sneak through the needle holes from the stitching, and you don’t have to seam seal the Summer Moon 2 before heading to the campsite.

Note: If you do need to waterproof your shelter, make sure to check out how to seam seal a tent.

Setup: Hassle-Free (Once Practiced)

Face it: you are never going to set-up your tent perfectly on the first try. But the Summer Moon 2 makes it easy enough that you'll get it right on the second (or third in my case).

The two 7001 Aluminum poles are lightweight, easy to handle, and the shell structure erects in less than five minutes. Sierra Designs even lays out a step-by-step process to ensure that you are pitching your tent correctly.

Having said that, the rain fly itself can be troublesome. Instead of clips or grommets, there is a String Lock cord which you are supposed to wrap around the pole on each corner. It’s different than most similar tents, so it may be difficult to maintain a taut rain fly, which can greatly affect the vestibule area, leaving your gear wet.

The key here, again, is practice. (Sierra Designs even knows this and provides a guide for their Line-Lok Cleats).

Once you get a hang of where to place the nine hex stakes and how much tension to put on the seven guy lines, you’ll assemble the Summer Moon 2 faster than a fat kid chasing an ice cream truck.

Security: Questionably Durable Materials 

sierra designs summer moon 2-2

My experience as a polymer engineer has led me to believer that nylon ripstop is far superior when it comes to durability. Polyester's problem is that it can "wet out" and lose its composure and some of its features for good.

Yeah, polyester is not my favorite material.

Still, it reassures me to know that the canopy and rain fly of the Summer Moon 2 are composed of polyester taffeta with a thread density of 68D and a 1800mm coating. That should be enough to handle a formidable watery assault.

Plus, it utilizes a 15D Nylon No-See-Um mesh to keep those pesky gnats out of your shelter.

On top of the fabric, the aluminum poles provide a lightweight solid structure for the canopy and rain fly. The hex peg stakes and reflective guy lines hold up to inclement weather. Still, if you’re stuck in a wind storm or blizzard, the tent may collapse into a body bag.

As I mentioned previously, security is what you make of it. When it comes to the Sierra Designs Summer Moon 2, you can be sure your shelter won’t degrade after only a few uses.

$$: Sub-$200

sierra designs summer moon 2-8

The Sierra Designs Summer Moon 2 touts itself as the lightest sub-$200 fully freestanding dome tent in the market.

And they're probably right.

With a weight of between 3.5 and 4-lbs. (depending on humidity, number of stakes, etc.), your feet will thank you for purchasing a lightweight shelter if you're backpacking it into the woods. Even if you are strictly a car camper, don’t limit yourself with a bulky shelter, since one day you may want to journey into the backcountry, and the Summer Moon 2 will be your guide.

You don’t need always need flashy features in your tent. Sometimes you just need a tent that has the basics covered. That's the Summer Moon 2.

For features, it comes with one large D-shaped door (so you may have to step over someone), but it serves its purpose as a entrance and exit. There are also interior storage pockets for your gear, and believe it or not, they even include a “Night Glow” pocket to shed some light in the dark. There's the gear vestibule and that's it.

Don’t think that because the price is reasonable that you’ll be slumming it at the campsite. It’s not luxurious, but it’s practical.

What Other Campers Are Saying

Most tent reviews out there are seemingly biased, so I won’t blame you for being somewhat skeptical of what I’ve been saying. Instead of simply taking my word about the Summer Moon 2, I’ve foraged through the forest of the internet to give you some other camper’s opinions:

“Fantastic 3 season tent. It’s hard to find a tent this light at this price from a quality company like Sierra Designs. I’ve used the tent on a couple of hikes so far and it’s been great. Easy to setup, breathes well and easy to breakdown and pack up. Very happy with it so far.”
“It's a decent, inexpensive, lightweight and relatively comfortable option, but we would prefer spending some more and get the NEMO Dagger”
"Super easy freestanding setup. Did well in the wind when staked out. Love the metal holders for the pole tips, so much better than grommets. Ventilation is good. Rained hard two nights ago and no problems. I think I will be able to partially open the fly when it is hot and rainy without letting rain in. Now I am just hoping this tent lasts as long as my last SD tent.”

Alternative Products

REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus front

Price

$$$

$$

$$

$$$$

Area (ft)

92” x 56” (38.1 sq. ft.)

88” x 53” (32.5 sq. ft.)

4’6” x 7’

90.2” x 49.6” (31.1 sq. ft.)

Weight

5 lb. 5 oz.

5 lb. 3 oz.

3 lbs 7 oz

3 lb. 12 oz.

Pros

  • Roomy interior
  • Enhanced ventilation
  • Available in several colors
  • Spacious Interior
  • Fairly Priced
  • Easy Set-Up
  • Versatile
  • Affordable
  • Lightweight
  • Lightweight
  • Extremely spacious
  • Lots of vestibule storage

Cons

  • Susceptible to wind
  • Heavy
  • Fussy accessories
  • Heavier
  • High winds can be an issue
  • Not ideal for backpacking
  • Poor gear storage
  • Only one door
  • Complicated pitch
  • Expensive
  • Finicky Zippers
  • Ventilation Not Ideal

While the Summer Moon 2 may sound like your cup of tea, you should also consider other options. Maybe one of these alternatives while offer something that catches your eye.

NEMO Dagger 2

If you like all the features of the Summer Moon 2, but are a little bit on the taller side, the NEMO Dagger 2 comes in at a 90” length , bringing the floor area to 31 sqft.

Also, the crossbar design on top allows for near-vertical sidewalls, so you won’t feel cramped inside the shelter. The canopy itself is made of durable ripstop nylon, and the fly is comprised of 15D Sil/PeU nylon, which gives the shelter better water protection. Add in the two doors and two vestibules and the Dagger 2 will have you prepared for any outdoor eventuality. 

All those features and still weighing only 3 lb. 12 oz? Nice.

Yet with all the benefits of top-quality materials, lightweight capabilities, and added features, the NEMO Dagger 2 may stab a hole in your bank account.

Coming in at around $400, it’s more than twice the Summer Moon 2. Still, NEMO is a trusted company among backpackers and car campers alike, so if you have the enough coin, make sure to check out the Dagger 2.

Marmot Catalyst 2

In terms of price and performance the most similar shelter to the Summer Moon 2 is the Marmot Catalyst 2.

Although, the Catalyst 2 provides more livable space and headroom with a unique extra pole support. It also has two large doors and vestibules so that you don’t wake your partner up in the middle of the night when nature calls.

The Catalyst 2 comes in at approximately one-and-a-half pounds heavier than the Summer Moon 2. This is because the entire tent (even the mesh) is made up of polyester.

While the thick material holds up well to the elements, it is heavier compared to 15D nylon mesh of the Summer Moon, and could be slightly less durable. But, with a trusted brand like Marmot, you can be sure they won't skimp on quality to save on price. Check out the Catalyst 2 here.

REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus

REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus front

Another spacious, versatile option, for both car camping and short backpacking trips, is the REI Co-op Half Dome 2 Plus.

This 3-season tent has a near-vertical wall design and large floor area, allowing for a spacious interior with plenty of livable space. With the REI name comes great attention to detail, as the company has updated the 2018 version of the Half Dome 2 Plus with more mesh for ventilation, and larger doors (which I like since I always tend to trip over them and bruise my knees).

Even though the Half Dome 2 Plus is a little more expensive, and heavier, than the Summer Moon 2, it has plenty of added storage features like a stash pocket in the door, six pockets in the ceiling, one pocket in each corner, and abundant space in the vestibules to store your gear.

If you tend to pack your entire house just to go camping in the woods, then this tent is probably the right option for you. Give REI some love and check out the Half Dome 2 Plus, and the rest of their line of quality outdoor products; or you can simply check out my full review here. 

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re backpacking, car camping, raging at a music festival, or hanging out in the backyard, you'll enjoy the versatility of the Sierra Designs Summer Moon 2.

Instead of having to fork over half of your paycheck on an expensive shelter, you can purchase this tent for a-week-or-two’s worth of groceries. Although you may not be having the most luxurious wilderness experience, you’ll be safe and secure from the elements with tough, durable materials. Keep in mind, the camping experience is what you make of it, and hopefully, you’ll be over the moon about the Summer Moon 2.

Camp on my friends!

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