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Reviews > Books > Field Guides > The Ultimate Hang 2 > Test Report by Kurt Papke

The Ultimate Hang

Test Series by Kurt Papke

Initial Report - February 11, 2018

Long-Term Report (April 21, 2018)

Tester Information

Name: Kurt Papke
Age: 64
Gender: Male
Height: 6' 4" (193 cm)
Weight: 228 lbs (103 kg)
Email address: kwpapke (at) gmail (dot) com
City, State, Country: Tucson, Arizona USA

I have been a hardcore hammock camper since March 2008, sleeping in a hammock in temperatures from -27F (-33 C) to +100F (38 C), from sea level to 10,000 ft (3050 m) of altitude, from Canada to Southern Arizona. I sleep on the ground when I must, such as in the Grand Canyon where hanging a hammock from trees is not allowed, but I prefer not to!

Initial Report

Product Facts

Product Information
Manufacturer
Hansen Outdoors Publishing

uh22
Manufacturer website
http://theultimatehang.com
Year manufactured
2018
Size
342 pages
8 x 10 in
(203 x 254 mm)
MSRP
$19.95 USD
Weight
1 lb, 12 oz
(792 g)
Material
Paperback with matte cover

This book has an ambitious agenda: address all aspects of hammock camping for everyone from beginner to the advanced DIYer.  As is clear from the photo above-right, it has grown substantially from the first edition: it is taller, wider and thicker.

Initial Inspection

uh21The first thing that struck me when I received the book was the mailing label (see photo at left).  He even has an illustration on the label!  That was one of the strengths of the first edition, my guess is he had gone to even greater lengths to create illustrations that demonstrate the more difficult concepts to grasp in hammock camping.  We shall see!  Another thing that is noticeable from the cover in the above photo is apparently some of the illustrations are done with more subtle shading to give them more feeling of depth and lighting.

Taking a look at the table of contents, some of the structure has been retained from the first edition: staying dry, warm and bug free still all have their own chapters.  There are also brand new chapters, such as The Basic Setup which is great, as that addresses one of my criticisms of the first edition, that it was too much and overwhelming for beginners.

This is not going to be a one-night read - it will take me some time to plow through such a big text.  The good news is, flipping through the pages, there are a LOT of illustrations, including many that are full page.  The bad news is, the illustrations are so important that I'll have to spend substantial effort looking at them closely.  I am looking forward to it.

Stop back in a few months for my full report on this exciting new book!

Long Term Report

Encyclopedic.  That is the only word I can use to describe this book.  342 pages of how to sleep in a nylon sheet tied between two trees.  A lot of effort went into this book.  Obviously, the author spent countless hours testing rigs from pretty much every hammock manufacturer out there, including many small cottage firms.  He has also researched every knot, connection doodad and technique for achieving bliss in a hammock.  He has spent equally countless hours designing and drawing the information-dense illustrations that are the heart of the book, and has even added a touch of humor.  It is rare in our society to have an author with such illustration talents, that can transform his vision for how to communicate a complex topic into a simple picture.  I am envious of his talent.

Not that there are no flaws with the book.  I found several typos, and even some incorrect information.  I sometimes had trouble connecting illustrations with the explanatory text.  In some sections the author used numbered paragraphs that were cross-referenced in the illustrations, in other areas he did not.

The Ultimate Hang 2 can be fundamentally divided into three sections (my taxonomy, not the author's):

    1.    Introduction: why hammock and fundamentals (FAQ's) + a getting started guide (basic setup)
    2.    Advanced hammocking (tips) including chapters on staying off the ground, dry, warm and unbitten by critters
    3.    Do It Yourself (DIY) guide with example projects

This is a good thing - one of my criticisms of the first edition was that it jumped right into the thick of things, leaving beginners wondering where to begin.  The DIY section of the book is brand-new.  The number of hammock hangers making their own gear is small, but growing.

Let's have a look chapter-by-chapter

Introduction to Hammock Camping

The chapter starts out with an FAQ section, which might be paraphrased as "hammock myth busting", a little history, a taxonomy of hammock designs, and wraps up with a hammock version of Leave No Trace (LNT).

The FAQ section is very complete - he addresses every issue I have ever heard when I mention I am a hammock camper.  The taxonomy section (designs, styles) goes over every variation I've ever heard of.  The LNT section brings up some important points like finding out if hammocks are allowed where you are going; I hike and camp a lot in the Grand Canyon, and they are not allowed to be hung from trees there (you can hang from man-made structures).

The Basic Setup

This is the Getting Started Guide, and goes over the fundamental components of a hammock camping solution, then covers how to select, purchase, set it up, and even how to get in!  This includes numerous tables (I love tables!) that list examples/alternative products, including prices.  There is always a tradeoff for including transitory information like prices: good to have, but after a couple of years it can get out of date.  The author does a great job of including solutions for special needs campers, such as big & tall and children.

Advanced Hammock Camping

This chapter starts out with a number of pages on the geometry issues: hang angle, etc.  Following is a set of tips for each hammock style, then safety, site selection, etc.  While reading I felt like this chapter was a grab bag of all the material that did not fit into the following four chapters.  It also contained the first typos I noticed:

pg 135, under canopy stand Modled (sic) after... and galvanied (sic) fence...

There was also an odd (to me) whole-page illustration on pg 146 that appeared to show how to use a hammock as a sail for a canoe with no explanatory text.  The page appeared to be the title page for a section on more tips by the numbers, but was not in the table of contents.

I really liked the author's use of numbered tips that are cross-referenced to illustrations.  In fact, after a while I got a little frustrated when there was a tip without a numbered illustration or vice versa.

This chapter has an extensive section that pays homage to the innovations of Tom Hennessy, but is done in a way that users of any brand of hammock can learn something from.

On pg 162 on sleeping tips there is no mention of use of a pillow when side sleeping.  Pillows are covered elsewhere in the book, but I find personally that I mostly need a pillow when I sleep on my side, my shoulders elevate my neck high enough that my head needs support.

Anchor Points and Suspension Lines

This section covers the myriad methods, devices and techniques to suspend and adjust the tension of a hammock.  It starts out on pg 181 with a nice overview of the engineering/physics behind the challenges of hanging.

There were tons of knots, hitches and hardware devices covered in this chapter.  The author did use some number tips towards the end, but I thought it would have been easier to navigate if they had been used throughout.  On pg 196-197 there was a profusion of end loop options with little to no explanation of what they were, nor how and when to use them.  A table would have been helpful here.  A couple more issues I saw that could have been caught with careful editing:

pg 204, Dutchware adutchable (sic) clips  - Freudian slip?  Attempt at humor?  Typo?

pg 207 is an illustration of the Tree-O Hammock Frame.  This looks like it might belong in the attachments section maybe?

Staying Dry

The Chapter title page is an illustration with a good example of the author's sense of humor, showing a small person down in a sea of tents swamped with water while the hammock camper stays nice and dry up on the hillside.  The illustration on the next page of common hammock tarps is one of those great information-dense drawings that combines pictorial/geometry info within an ordered table.  I can sit and stare at this diagram for 10 minutes.

On pg 251 there is a section on picking guyline cordage.  I was a little surprised there was no mention of reflective cords - I always use guylines that glow in my headlamp so I don't trip over them in the dark.

Staying Warm

The great challenge of staying warm in a hammock is heat loss from below, but the author provides a complete treatment of staying warm in cold weather.

pg 278 Insulated Hammock Temp Ratings I was a little confused with the sort ordering in this table - it starts out alphabetical, and then is all over the map?!

On the next page tip #139 Keep your neck covered there was no mention of neck gaiters, which I often use in conjunction with a top quilt in cold weather.

This chapter was very complete in the topics it addressed, but I thought it could have used a specific page or two on the topic of hanging and adjusting an underquilt to avoid leakage.  In my experience, this is the biggest challenge with underquilts, which have become the standard in hammock camping.

Staying Bug Free

This is a short chapter, almost all of it on bug nets.  I have mostly avoided this topic in the last decade by using jungle hammocks with integrated bug nets, but there are folks out there who like a modular approach.

Making Your Own Hammock Gear

This is basically a compendium of DIY projects, each documented with a 1-2 page set of step-by-step illustrations with measurements.  I have never been a DIY kind of guy, but it was fun to flip through these to see how all the gear I've been using for the last 10 years is actually made.  It's all good, though on pg 307 in the instructions for making a tarp there is no mention of seam sealing, an absolutely critical step to making a waterproof piece of gear.

Appendix

Contains a list of manufacturers, a packing checklist, and a set of reference tables.  I would include a bandanna or two in the packing checklist, but that's just me.

Summary

For the (prospective) hammock camper who wants to know everything there is to know about the subject and doesn't want to spend endless hours Googling, looking at product websites, watching Youtube videos, and pouring over thousands of Hammock Forum posts, this book is the solution.  It's the kind of book I can see myself going back to from time-to-time when I want to try something new, i.e. how do I do a continuous ridgeline?

It was also instructive to read the book cover-to-cover: it's amazing how much creativity, thought and experimentation has gone into perfecting the art of sleeping on a nylon sheet tied to two trees.  Most of the hammock campers I know really are pursuing the "ultimate hang", the perfect night's sleep aloft, and this book is the best resource I know of to achieve it.

There aren't many camping books that are as encyclopedic as this book is.  Nonetheless, as pointed out in my review there were a few omitted topics that surprised me a bit.  I bet the author is just chomping at the bit to work on rev 3!!


Many thanks to Derek Hansen and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.



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Reviews > Books > Field Guides > The Ultimate Hang 2 > Test Report by Kurt Papke



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