My Hennessy hammock deployed in the open. Notice the Silnylon tarp covering my bike in the background. This is also a Hennessy product.
In this view the hammock has the fly on top. The snakeskins cover the lines attaching the hammock to the trees and if you look carefully you can see the velcro slit in the bottom by which you enter.
Click to enlarge.
Just before leaving home to circle Lake Erie on a bicycle touring adventure I decided that I wanted to reduce the weight I was carrying on the bike. One very good candidate for a drastic weight reduction was my tent.
At the time I was using a relatively roomy two person tent that came with a huge vestibule. Between the poles, tent pegs, the fly and of course the main body of the tent I felt like the tent weighed about ten pounds.
Additionally the length of the poles were longer then my saddlebags were high so I always ended up carrying that weight on top of my rear rack.
I narrowed my choices down to two different types of shelters. One was a small tent called the MSR Microzoid. I actually found one setup in demo mode at a Mountain Equipment Co-op in downtown Toronto, Ontario, Canada. Grabbing a thermarest from the nearby display I proceeded to try out the tent by laying down inside it. It seemed like a rather tight fit.
That comment is funny in light of my final decision. I returned home and did some more looking. Just as I was about to purchase the tent anyway I learned of the Hennessy Hammock.
The Ultra-light backpacker version of this hammock weighs 1.5 pounds, can be setup between two trees up to 30 feet apart and includes a fly, bug netting and for me a very comfortable nights sleep. As an added bonous it comes in a nice dark brown making it ideal for camping in places where you would prefer not to be bothered. Some people might even use these for Stealth camping.
There are a number of options available for the hammock including the longer lines already mentioned above, snakeskins that make setting up and taking down the hammock incredibly easy as well as giving some additional protection from rain and varying lengths of tree-hugger webbing straps to facilitate going around different sized tree trunks.
For cool to cold weather camping there are also attachments that add insulation to the hammock. The devices consist of an underpad, an overcover and an undercover. I have these devices although I haven't yet tried them out.
How well does it work?
During my Round Lake Erie bicycle tour I watched a rapid weather change occur while camped just above the exposed cliff face of South Bass Island. Lightening was crashing all around and the trees were shaking initially from the wind and then later from the lengthly downpour that lasted throughout the night.
At first I wondered how well the hammock would handle such an exposed position in a storm with winds raging upwards of 80 km/hr (as I discovered the next morning). After five to ten minutes I stopped worrying and fell asleep to enjoy a nice, dry and relaxing night. In the morning I woke up to discover that the sleeping bag and the inside of the hammock were completely dry.
Unfortunately for the occupants of three nearby tents, including two high end new ones, they had the joy of waking up wet and needing some drying time.
I experienced more storms while camping on other tours including my touring adventure around Lake Huron. So far I haven''t woken up wet yet!
How hard is it to setup and take down?
I can setup and take down the hammock in less time then most people can do the same with a tent. I also have many more options for setup when compared to a tent. I don't worry about the slope of the ground and I have no need for a flat, cleared space. As long as there are trees and I can run the lines then I have an easy time.
I intend to write an actual article detailing how to setup the hammock showing the snakeskins, tarp, lines and how to tie the single knot that is needed. I will add the link once it's available.
What if there are no trees around?
Some people have used walking sticks to hold the hammock off the ground at the ends. This prevents the netting from hitting your face and allows you to use the hammock as a bivy sack. This is discussed on the Hennessy web site.
A similar thing could be done using two picnic tables or possibly a picnic table and the bike. I need to do some experimenting but I don't see why it wouldn't work.
I have always been able to find trees on my tours so it hasn't been a problem. If you are concerned then make sure that you obtain the extra long ropes that allow you to hang the hammock from trees up to 30 feet apart.
Tips and tricks
I always bring my thermarest along with me. Hammocks are surprisingly good at transferring heat from your body to the surrounding air. The extra insulation from the pad is very useful on all but the very hottest days. Having the thermarest along also gives me more comfort should I need to sleep on the ground due to missing trees. When using it in the hammock it's generally almost completed deflated.
The ultra-lite version of the hammock has a 200 pound limit (please verify this). This weight includes you and any gear that you bring in the hammock with you. If you need to hold more weight then 200 pounds there are other hammocks available.
Would I purchase another one?
I already have! I now own two Hennessy hammocks. The first one was used for almost 55 touring days before I decided to send it in for routine maintenance. In this case I want to replace the lines since poor handling on my part caused one end to chafe and ultimately become shorter. Other then that the hammock is in great shape and should serve me for a long time yet.
More updates coming!
This article will be updated again once I've had the opportunity to try out the cold weather options.
Using the hennessy hammock as a tent
Hennessy Hammock setup instructions
More information about the snakeskins
Brian Petritsch contacted me after this article was created and added the following comments about his experiences with hammocks.
"I think the major reason you sleep so well in the hammock is because of the even support. When tent camping I'm always tossing and turning because of discomfort at the pressure points. I could sleep on rocks when I was younger but I'm 49 now. A lot of times I'll wake up and my arms or legs are asleep.
The hammock cradles you and puts even pressure across the whole contact area of your body, destributing your weight. I noticed some cold spots in the 15 or so times I used it last year. So I bought the under cover and pad to take care of that. I got the overcover because "you never know."
You have to train yourself how to get into your sleeping bag in one of these. The first night can be rather flustrating. Another major advantage is the compactness. I was able to take a few pounds off the bike. Plus I can stuff it in a front bag taking the weight off of the back tire and lowering the bikes center of gravity."
Brian has also purchased the overcover, undercover and the underpad. Unlike me he has already had an opportunity to give them a try. Here's what he had to say about his experience.
"I bought the undercover , overcover and pad but hadn't had a chance to check them out till this weekend. I was sick of being in the house so I figured I'd get a short distance from the house and check out the new gear. I wanted to be far enough away so I'd give it a decent try and close enough to make it home before I froze to death.
The night was clear and the temp dropped down to 36 F. I was using a 15 degree bag, fleece pants and jacket and a regular cotton sheet as a bag liner. Along with the underpad I stuck in a space blanket. My pressure points still got cool but not overly so. Once I took the sheet and put all of it under me I was fine. Of course that little trip to the men's tree first thing in the morning was a little brisk!:)
The over cover is worth the extra coin as it did keep the inside toasty. When you move you can definitely hear the air bellow in the hammock. It was rather wet up by the head end in the morning but took just minutes to dry out once the sun made it into my site. For the first time since I got the Hennessy, there was dew on the bottom side of my fly. I was able to brush most of it off before it thawed. This was probably because I tied in tight to the hammock to minimalize cold air flow.
Seeing how most of my camping will be done in warmer weather I believe the new cold weather system is a success. I did have a little trouble with the hammock getting twisted around the ridge line and because the undercover hid it I had a little trouble figuring out what was going on. Then again I was setting this up by moonlight and I couldn't see that well.
I also purchased the longer straps so now I can swing from Canadian size trees!"
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