HENNESSY HAMMOCK CAT CAPE
TEST SERIES BY GREG MCDONALD
LONG TERM REPORT
INITIAL REPORT - November 18, 2009
FIELD REPORT - January 30, 2010
LONG TERM REPORT - June 30, 2010
gdm320 AT yahoo DOT com
Boynton Beach, Florida
6' 0" (1.83 m)
225 lb (102.00 kg)
I have been camping for 17 years, 12 of them have been spent hiking in the backcountry. My hikes are almost exclusively in Florida and generally range between one and three nights. My all-time favorite hike was a 10 day expedition in the Philmont Scout Ranch in Cimarron, New Mexico. I consider myself a lightweight but comfortably equipped hiker, with a pack averaging between 25 and 30 lb (11 and 14 kg).
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Hennessy Hammock
Model: Cat Cape
Year of Manufacture: 2009
Manufacturer's Website: http://www.hennessyhammock.com
MSRP: US $99
Measured Weight: 12.5 oz (354 g)
Listed Weight: 12 oz (336 g)
|Image Courtesy of Hennessy Hammock|
Initial Impressions and Experiences
I did a little bit of research while I waited for the Cat Cape's arrival. The Cat Cape is a new product for Hennessy Hammock (also referred to as HH for short throughout this report). Essentially, it is a rain fly that doubles as a poncho. It is a pretty innovative albeit very simple design which actually is only slightly different from older and more conventional hammock fly designs. Right from the start, I was intrigued by the possibilities. I like multi-function gear and the very nature of the Cat Cape fills to major needs.
As I got the Cat Cape unrolled, it became very clear that it really isn't anything fancy. The fly itself is silnylon with a catenary cut, which reduces the amount of material necessary for the provided coverage. One of the long edges of the tarp has a basic 24 in (61 cm) zipper sewn in to provide the zip-up function in poncho mode. Frankly, I think the beauty of it is in the simplicity. I opted for the "Long" or "Large" size for my Cat Cape. I'm right around 6 ft (1.83 m) myself so I'm smack dab at the cut off line between Regular and Long, but opted for the Long to be on the safe side.
I was taught at a very young age that men don't read the directions. In step with my heritage, I ignored the written instructions both on HH's website and the ones included with my Cat Cape and opted to wing it instead. Long story short, it didn't go very well - and I'm not ashamed to admit it. In the end I gave in, and finally got it right thanks to the following instructions:
"To use the rainfly as a poncho, just throw the zippered long side over your head or shoulders and zip it up. To adjust the length of the Cat Cape, tuck the two lower corners of the rainfly into your belt or pocket. This fly also has silnylon reinforcements at the side tie-out corner which include integral pockets for storage of fly lines."
For a poncho, I liked the way that it fit and rode. I haven't really used a poncho while on the trail in probably about ten years, but I like the thought of additional airflow and ventilation compared to a rain jacket and pants. Another great thing about it was how easily I was able to adjust the sizing and such. Right in the instructions it says to tuck the corners into my belt to customize the length, which works very well and hasn't bothered me in terms of fit or freedom of movement yet. HH actually suggests using the Cat Cape as a poncho and pack cover, since I can slack out some of the fabric from my belt to cover my pack as well. I like the thought of this approach, because it would then be a three birds with one stone item!
At this point the only thing I'm not too sure about is how to actually wear the thing with regards to my head. For me, the Cat Cape doesn't stay up as a "hood" all that well, because my face is very squished in the small hole. On the other hand, when I wear my head all the way through it and let the whole thing rest on my shoulders my head and neck feel very exposed. I'm thinking that the best solution will probably be to wear my usual rain hat and just leave the Cat Cape resting on my shoulders... too bad about my neck. I'll have plenty of time to tinker with my setup in the field, but it has been on my mind when toying with the Cat Cape since I've had it.
I also managed to get my tried and true Hennessy Hammock Expedition 2.5 setup with the Cat Cape replacing the standard fly. The Cat Cape offered an incredible amount of additional coverage compared to the standard Expedition 2.5 fly. I was so pleased to see this, because the size of the standard fly had always bothered me a little bit since I always was covered fine inside the hammock but had virtually no space elsewhere around my hammock to store anything (such as my pack and boots). I am looking forward to giving my old hammock new life with a fresh rain fly!
There is only one hitch to all this multi-function business the Cat Cape is offering: what do I do when it starts to rain in camp? If the Cat Cape is my fly on my hammock, covering all my gear, will I end up soaking in the rain while working around camp? Will I end up having to crawl into my hammock whenever the skies open up? How will I cover my pack in bad weather in camp if I'm using it as my rain fly? These are all questions that I'll need to get into the field to answer, but they are something that keeps me thinking and wondering if I really can leave my other rain gear and pack covers at home.
Down the Trail
I love simple designs. I love simple designs that can serve several purposes even more. For this reason, I find the Cat Cape to be a very promising and intriguing new product. I still have several things to deal with including perfecting my sizing adjustments of the Cat Cape both alone and with my pack on, figuring out how to deal with the head opening/hood, and how to function with my poncho and rain gear serving as my rain fly on my hammock. Needless to say... I think this should be a pretty cool and very interesting test.
Field Locations and Conditions
I've deployed the Cat Cape on four trips totaling five nights during the first half of the testing period. The Cat Cape saw two overnight trips to Myakka River State Park and two trips (one overnight and one multi-night) on the Florida Trail in the Lake Okeechobee area. I also carried the Cat Cape on two day hikes, both on Okeechobee spur trails. On the dayhikes and Okeechobee hikes the Cat Cape served only as my rain gear, as I brought my Tarptent for shelter instead of my hammock. The two Myakka trips had the Cat Cape pulling double duty as rain gear and hammock fly.
The Cat Cape handled rain on two occasions as a poncho, once in Okeechobee and once in Myakka. It also handled rain as a fly once in Myakka. On the two occasions as a poncho, I would estimate I spent approximately four total hours in the Cat Cape.
Temperatures have been very pleasant during the first bit of the series. Daytime highs on my trips only topped out around 74 F (23 C) but it has mostly been in the 50s and 60s F (10 - 16 C) during the days on my treks. There has been relatively little humidity as well.
Field Performance - Poncho
There are really two parts to the field experience of the Cat Cape. The first is the "poncho mode", which is the topic of this section.
I was rained on twice while using the Cat Cape. The first was a long, steady drizzle as I made my way into camp in Myakka. I spent about tthree hours in the poncho as I made my way into camp. This was my first ever opportunity at using the Cat Cape to keep me dry. When it started to drizzle I stopped, took my pack off, and got myself situated in the Cat Cape. It took a few minutes to figure out the best way to wear the Cat Cape, and I ended up trying it two ways before it was all said and done.
The first thing I tried was putting on the Cat Cape, then putting on my pack. This worked okay, but I felt like the fabric was bunching up a little bit underneath the straps and it didn't feel quite right. So I stopped, took my pack off, took the Cat Cape off, put my pack back on, then pulled the Cat Cape back on. This actually worked better for me, and at this point I think it is my preferred method of wearing the Cat Cape with my pack on. I'm still flip flopping back and forth on this one though since I can't say I ever got really comfortable either way... so more experimentation is needed on this point.
As I mentioned in my Initial Report, I wasn't totally sure whether to try and use the Cat Cape as a hooded or hoodless type poncho. I've opted to treat it as a hoodless poncho, and have been carrying my rain hat for my noggin in case I need it. This doesn't really bother me, since I'm not a big fan of the sweat box that hoods usually become anyway. I didn't really notice any leakage issues around my neckline with the Cat Cape with my rain cap on.
All that said, I'm just not really sold on the whole poncho thing. While I like the idea that I could use the Cat Cape as my rain gear in a pinch or that I could leave my regular rain gear at home if there was very little chance of precipitation and have the Cat Cape to fall back on, it hasn't really been cutting it for me as my primary rain gear. My confusion of how to wear it with a pack seems to be evidence to this fact. This isn't completely an indictment against the Cat Cape, more a complaint with the idea of a poncho as my rain gear in general.
Field Performance - Hammock Tarp
The second part of the Cat Cape equation is the "tarp mode". The Cat Cape performed better than it did as a poncho in this regard. Frankly, it was a seamless transition from the standard fly on my Hennessy Hammock over to the Cat Cape.
The extra coverage was very nice to have, especially on the Myakka trip when the hours-long drizzle extended into my time in camp. I was able to stow my pack and everything underneath my hammock and still have reasonable protection from the fly to keep my gear dry while I got my sleeping gear set up inside. Other than the extra space it functions exactly like the standard fly in every way. As an upgraded tarp, I really like it.
Down the Trail
The Cat Cape seems to be settling into its niche. At this point in the test series, I really see it as an upgraded tarp for my Hennessy Hammock that will also function as my rain gear in a pinch. I can certainly see the benefit of being able to leave my rain jacket at home when the weather is forecast to be clear and save the weight in my pack, but I can't see abandoning my regular set up entirely.
This concludes my Field Report on the Hennessy Hammock Cat Cape. I'd like to thank Backpackgeartest.org and Hennessy Hammock for the opportunity to participate in this series. Please check back in mid-March for the final installment of my report!
LONG TERM REPORT
Field Locations and Conditions
The Cat Cape saw its final two trips totaling four nights over the final two months of the scheduled testing period. The first trip was a simple overnighter on the Florida trail around Lake Okeechobee. The second trip was a three-night trip in the Ocala National Forest. I saw precipitation on two occasions, both on the Ocala trip as it rained both evenings and into the night. I did not spend any time in the Cat Cape as a poncho, as camp was set up both times and I needed it to serve as the fly for my hammock.
As I did not use the Cat Cape actively as a poncho during the final months of the testing period, I can only expand on my thoughts of its use as a tarp. In this manner, I really love it as a replacement for the old fly on my old Expedition. It gives me more coverage than the standard fly with no real drawbacks by comparison.
Another thing I was able to experiment with a bit during the final phase was setting the Cat Cape up on the ground with my trekking poles to use as an impromptu tarp. On my single-nighter on Okeechobee we stopped in an open area for lunch and I was tired of being beaten on by the relentless Florida sun, so I set up the Cat Cape as a sun shade and thoroughly enjoyed the relief.
Given the success as a sun shade, I set up the Cat Cape in a "lean-to -esque" manner to serve as a wind screen later that evening when the front that blew through brought some fairly stiff winds and I wanted a bit of shelter as I cooked.
This leads into what I ultimately feel is the real strength of the Cat Cape on the whole: versatility.
Versatility. If I had to point to one thing that instantly helps any item or piece of equipment really stand out of the pack, this would be it. In this manner, the Cat Cape is certainly a success.
This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1.
Copyright 2010. All rights reserved.
I loved that I was able to find several different uses that I commonly have a need for with the Cat Cape. Of course I'd never leave home without a good fly for my hammock, so that's the big one. I also had success with it as a sun shade and basic wind screen. Then of course, I'm able to pull it over myself as my rain gear while on the trail.
Ultimately I have to say that it is only a so-so product as a rain poncho. If it was not so versatile, I would not be depending on it as my rain gear. Because it is not as functional as I would like as rain gear, I will not be carrying it during the rainy season or on any trip where I expect pretty fair amounts of rain since it obviously can't be my hammock fly and poncho at the same time. Also, I'm ultimately happier with a fit rain jacket than the floppier, more flowing poncho. This is, of course, just a matter of personal preference.
All that said, the Cat Cape will be making trips in the future with me whenever I deploy my hammock as my shelter.
This concludes my test series on the Hennessy Hammock Cat Cape. I'd like to thank BackpackGearTest.org and Hennessy Hammock for the opportunity to participate in this test series, as well as their patience.
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