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Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > Hennessy Hammock Cat Cape > Test Report by Pamela Wyant

HENNESSY HAMMOCK CAT CAPE PONCHO RAINFLY

Initial Report - November 9, 2009
Field Report - January 19, 2010
Long Term Report - March 23, 2010

Deployed over a Hyperlight

Tester Information:

Name:  Pam Wyant
Age:  52
Gender:  Female
Height:  5 ft 5 in (1.65 m)
Weight:  175 lb (79 kg)

E-mail address:  pamwyant(at)yahoo(dot)com
Location:  Western West Virginia, U.S.A.


Backpacking Background:

I enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including backpacking,
day-hiking, car camping, and canoeing.  Most of my excursions
are confined to weekends, although I try to fit in at least one
longer backpacking trip each year, and have started section
hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT), accruing a little over 300 mi
(483 km) so far.  My style varies with the activity, but since
becoming a lightweight backpacker, I've noticed I tend to pack
somewhat minimally even on trips where I have more space.
Still, I don't like to sacrifice warmth, comfort, or safety.


Initial Report - November 9, 2009

Product Information:

Manufacturer:  Hennessy Hammock

Model:  Cat Cape Poncho Rainfly

Size:  Regular

Year of manufacture:  2009

Advertised weight:  252 G (9 oz)
Measured weight:   278 g (9.8 oz)

MSRP:  $ 89 US

Website:  www.hennessyhammock.com
It arrived neatly rolled

Product Description:

Area that was stuck togetherThe Cat Cape Poncho Rainfly is a product that I've long awaited - a rainfly for my Hennessy Hammock that converts to rain gear for me to wear!   I am testing the regular size Cat Cape, which fits those up to 6 ft (1.83 m) tall.  A long for folks up to 7 ft (2.13 m) tall is also available.  The Cat Cape is made of Silnylon and is the familiar Coyote Brown in color, so it will match both my Ultralite Backpacker A-Sym and my Hyperlight Backpacker A-Sym hammocks in color, and is sized to be compatible with both.

The Cat Cape arrived in a neat little roll about 11" (28 cm) long, and 2" x 3" (5 cm x 7.5 cm) wide, with one of the fly lines wrapped around the outside to hold the roll together, as shown above.  As I unrolled the package, I noticed that the fly had stuck to itself in one small area near the center of one of the long sides, but I was able to gently pull it apart and it doesn't appear to have been damaged by being stuck, although it does appear that there may have been an excess of coating in that area.  The photo to the right shows the wrinkled up area that was stuck.  Having been a long-time Hennessy fan, one thing that stood out as being different right away was that one of the sides of the fly has a shinier surface than the other side, which I had not noticed on my old flys.

As soon as I had the Cat Cape unrolled, I noticed another big difference - this fly has a seam running along the ridge line, while my other flys are a solid piece of Silnylon.  This appears to be due to the catenary cut that takes up slack at the ridge line.  The photo at the top of this report shows the nice taut ridge line of the Cat Cape when it is set up as a fly.  The Cat Cape is also a little more rectangular in shape than my older flys, with two sides each measuring 62" (157 cm), one side measuring 104" (264 cm) and the fourth side measuring 103" (262 cm), but it appears to have approximately the same coverage over the hammock.  Like my other Hennessy flys, it is bound on the edges with a black fabric that appears to be nylon.  Unlike my other standard flys, each corner is reinforced with a small triangle of the same Silnylon as the main body.  The triangles on the ridge line axis are sewn completely closed, while the two corners that stake out have a small opening to allow the fly lines to be stuffed inside when the fly is converted to a cape.

Each corner has a plastic ring and glove hook, similar to my older flys.  The side points each have a 118" (300 cm) long section of thin black cord.  The cord is the same style as used on my other hammock flys, and has a silky texture that makes it easy to untangle, but a little difficult to hold some knots such as a tautline hitch.

The other big difference about the Cat Cape is that the 103" (262 cm) side has two sections of a 23.5" (60 cm) long separating zipper sewn to it.  The bottom of one section of the zipper is about 16" (40.5 cm) from one end of the fly and the bottom of the other section is about 17" (43 cm) from the opposite end.  There is about 23" (58 cm) of open space centered between the two sections.  The open space forms the face or neck hole, depending on how the hiker chooses to wear the cape.  I found I can wear the Cat Cape up around my head, similar to a hooded poncho, except there is not a defined neck line - it simply hangs loosely over my head and down my trunk and back, as shown below:

Worn to cover my head

Or, I can wear it simply wrapped around my shoulders and leave my head free, as shown here:

Worn around the shoulders

Preliminary Impressions:

I am really impressed with the Cat Cape Poncho Rainfly so far.  What really amazes me is that Tom Hennessy could come up with such a simple design that with the proper placement of a mere zipper, I have a multi-use item that can be both my rainfly and a poncho that can be worn two different ways.  It seems like it will be perfect for those trips where I might expect a few showers - the type of weekend before that I was always  tempted to leave my rain gear home, yet afraid not to take it just in case.

At this point, the concerns I have are that the poncho does not have a brim or much coverage at the brow.  I will be experimenting to see if I need to add a visor or hat to keep water from dripping down my face and finding its way down my hair and clothing.  Another concern, naturally, is what to do if the rainfly is deployed at camp and I need to take a bathroom break.  I am thinking a light windshirt may prove a useful addition to my kit, and still save me a lot of weight over a rain jacket.

One more concern is how much wind will affect coverage, and whether I find myself needing to secure it in place better.  As it is, one side of the Cat Cape seems to hang at a perfect length for my height, however the other would drag the ground if I don't tuck it up.  (I expected this from the directions provided).  In a short preliminary trial, it was pretty easy to tuck the long end up under the poncho and into the waistband of my pants to shorten the length, and it seemed to stay put.  My final concern is whether it will also stay put during lengthier and/or more strenuous hikes or under windy conditions.

Summary:

The Hennessy Hammock Cat Cape is my long awaited solution for a rainfly to fit my Hennessy Hammocks that also doubles as a poncho - perfect for saving more grams while still being able to enjoy the comfort of tree hanging!

More to come:

This concludes my Initial Report.
  

Field Report - January 19, 2010

Field Locations and Conditions:

A couple of extended illnesses and an unusually cold early winter have conspired against me and prevented me from using the Hennessy Hammock Cat Cape Poncho Rainfly as much as I would have liked.  I did wear it on a snowy tramp of approximately 0.5 miles up the hill and through the woods near my home, and during a 3-mile day hike on a hiking trail near one of our local schools.  I also carried it in my pack on 3 additional day hikes, mainly as an emergency back-up shelter, as weather conditions were too cold for it to have rained on two of the hikes and the third was on a bright and sunny day.

On the shorter hike, temperatures were around 30 F (-1 C) with about 8 in (20 cm) of snow, and the terrain varied from a short but very steep scramble to a gently rolling ridge top.  I wore a short-sleeve wool shirt layered underneath a long-sleeve wool shirt and a warm down jacket underneath the Cat Cape.  On the 3-mile day hike, the temperature was around 50 F (10 C) with a light sporadic rain.  The trail has a small climb near the beginning, and then is fairly moderate.  On this trip I wore a short sleeve wool shirt under the Cat Cape.  I wore gaiters with mid-height trail shoes and carried a moderate sized day pack worn under the Cat Cape on both hikes.

Use and Conclusions:

Cat Cape in the snowI did not really have a need to wear the Cat Cape on the shorter snowy tramp near home, as the snow was not wet or melting, but wanted to get an idea of how it might perform, and what sort of problems I might have walking in it, especially on steep sections of rough trail.  Putting the Cat Cape on is very easy - I simply zip the 2 sections of the 23.5" (60 cm) zipper together and pull the cape over my head, sticking my head into the open section above the zipper.  I do have to pay attention to which side I place on the outside, so rain won't collect inside the little pockets that hold the fly lines to convert the poncho to a hammock tarp. 

On this hike I experimented a bit with how best to keep the longer points of the poncho/fly from dragging on the ground and getting wet and/or dirty.  Simply tucking the ends into my waistband did not work too well - they would slide out within a few minutes.  Next I tried fastening the glove hooks at the front center (when worn) to those on the longer points.  This resulted in a bit of a loop effect on the sides of the Cat Cape, which worked sort of okay.  Until, that is, I scrambled up a really steep section when I ended up stepping inside the loop of fabric and nearly tripping myself.  Oopsie, that wasn't a great solution after all.  (The photo to the right shows the steep section of trail over my shoulder.)  What I finally figured out that worked best was simply to clip the small glove hooks at the end of the points to the drawstring in the front of the fleece pants I wore for this hike. 

I found the Cat Cape holds in a good little bit of warmth, and I was soon raising my arms up and down as I hiked to let a little cold air billow in and cool me down, which worked very well to provide extra ventilation and prevent me from overheating too much.

On the 3-mile hike overheating wasn't a problem since I wore only a single short sleeve shirt under the Cat Cape.  In the light drizzly rain the coverage around my head and face was adequate with the Cat Cape worn up over my head.  I am still not sure if the design is adequate for heavier rain, but I hope to find that out during the next phase of the test, as I seldom wear a hat while hiking (other than a beanie when it is cold, as shown above under the Cat Cape).  One thing I also noticed during this hike and the previous shorter one is that the zipper on the Cat Cape does not extend very far down the front.  To help provide a little better coverage for the front of my legs I found I could fasten the two glove hooks positioned under the zipper together, but there is still a slight gap, and I wonder how much water might find its way in during heavier rains.  This is also something that I hope to find out during the next phase of the test, if Mother Nature decides to let up on the arctic blasts that she has been unleashing on our area during most of the winter so far.  On this hike I was wearing pants with belt loops, and the glove hooks on the end of the points were easily clipped to my belt loops and shortened the Cat Cape to a nearly perfect length for me to hike this trail.

From my two short uses so far, I have noticed that the Cape has a tendency to move and slide around a bit as I hike.  This hasn't been a problem so far, but it does create a bit of a fuss factor in making sure the cape is properly positioned.  Another slight issue that happened during the longer hike is that one of the fly lines worked its way out of the pocket unnoticed by me, and came unwrapped, resulting in my trailing the line behind me.  It may be that this was a fluke or I may not have had it deep enough in the pocket to start with, but it is an issue I will be watching in the future.

Another thing that I experimented with a bit at home in a light rain, but have not really used in a field situation is trying to deploy the Cat Cape from poncho to fly while wearing it.  One slight issue with this is that there are no pockets for holding cord at the ridge line points.  Therefore, I need to have a couple of lengths of cord handy in a pants pocket or accessible pack pocket (such as a hip belt pocket).  I found I could keep the poncho in place, tie a cord to the o-ring at one ridge line end, and tie the cord around a tree while staying fully covered.  Then I moved away from the tree until that side of the poncho was taut, unzipped the face hole, and held the fly tautly positioned over my head, which still provided decent coverage for my head and torso but left my legs a little exposed.  I then slid my hands along the edges of the fly, keeping it taut until I reached the second tree, where I tied the second cord to the o-ring and around the tree.  My head and torso were still fairly protected at that point, but to stake out the fly lines it was of course necessary to quickly duck out into the rain for a second or so.  While I don't think this would be a big deal in a warm summer rain, a wind shirt or something similar might be helpful to provide extra protection when the weather is chillier.  Again, this is something I hope to find out during the remaining portion of the test.

Summary:

Due to the circumstances I've experienced so far, I don't feel I've really been able to use the Cat Cape for what it is really intended - an ultralight hammock user's multi-function shelter and rain gear.  I'm still feel it is an ingenious design in its simplicity, and am excited about the possibility of the Cat Cape being the solution to shaving a few grams on trips that I don't expect a deluge, but where a little rain protection might be required.

At this point, I feel like I have the issue of what to do with the longer points worked out (clip them to my belt loops), and a system worked out that will allow me to stay at least partially dry while converting the poncho to a fly.  My primary concerns are whether the front zipper is long enough and the face opening sufficiently protective for good coverage in a heavier rain.

Likes:

Multi-function
Easy to ventilate

Dislikes:

Zipper seems a little short
Tends to slide around a bit while wearing it
Coverage in the face area is minimal

Long Term Report - March 23, 2010

Field Locations and Conditions:

Using the Cat Cape as a tarp

I used the Hennessy Hammock Cat Cape as a tarp on an overnight backpacking trip in southeastern West Virginia.  Temperatures dropped from around 40 F (5 C) in the evening to around 20 F (-7 C) in the early morning.   I had planned to use it over my Hennessy Hammock Hyperlight Backpacker A-sym, and set it up that way.  Unfortunately, that did not work out, as my hammock split in two when I was changing into warmer base layers, and dumped my rear end on the ground!  Fortunately, nothing was on the ground for me to get hurt on when I fell, and the ground was semi-level, so I was able to just drop the Cat Cape lower and use it as a tarp, as shown to the left.

I also used the Cat Cape as a rain poncho on a short 3 mi (5 km) hike on our local nature trail, with a medium sized day pack under the poncho.  Temperatures were in the mid 50 F (13 C) range and a light misty rain was falling.





Use and Conclusions:

Unfortunately, a lingering winter with more snow and ice than rain kept me from really getting the use out of the Cat Cape that I would have liked, and the two times I was able to use it did not help me draw many conclusions, since I could not use it over my hammock on the overnight, and the hike was relatively short.  However, I did learn a little from my experiences, which I will share.

Not the best coverage for my feet!The Cat Cape will work as an emergency tarp when necessary, however the semi-diamond shape is not ideally suited for the best coverage when using it on the ground.  Since this is not its intended use, I can't fault the cape for that.  It did provide good coverage in the head and torso area, but my feet and lower legs did not have much room for error in coverage.  Since I move around a lot in my sleep, my feet and calves ended up outside the coverage area of the fly by morning, as shown to the right.  Since it was a cold, clear night with no precipitation, this was not a problem, and the fly did help hold some warmth close to me.  There was a good bit of frozen condensation on the inside of the fly by morning, but not much on my sleeping bag.  If I were in an emergency situation and wanted to use the Cat Cape as a tarp in the rain, I think I could manage to stay mostly dry by putting my feet into my pack and/or a trash bag for extra protection.

The cape worked pretty well as rain gear on my 3 mile (5 km) hike.  It provided enough coverage in the light misty rain to keep all but my feet and lower legs dry, and gaiters and waterproof shoes took care of that.  It did have a tendency to slide around a bit, so I was readjusting it every now and then, but that wasn't too bad when the weight savings and multi-use factor as a possible emergency shelter are considered.  Fastening the glove hooks onto my belt loops helped keep the ends from dragging, but I did have one of the flylines fall out again.  I wonder if it might be possible to have the flylines attached to another glove hook that could be removed when the Cat Cape is used as a poncho, and clipped back on again for use as a fly.

Summary:

So far I am impressed with the Cat Cape's versatility.  Although the lingering winter and the failure of my hammock body kept me from using it as I would have liked, I am still very excited about using it this coming spring and summer.  The simple design and multi-use aspect will help me lighten my pack a little further on trips where I expect good weather, but don't want to chance not having rain gear at all, or on warmer weather trips where a little rain is in the forecast.

I expect I will be using it on several trips in the upcoming months, and plan to update my report at a later date when Mother Nature has cooperated sufficiently.

Likes:

Multi-function
Easy to ventilate

Dislikes:

Zipper seems a little short
Tends to slide around a bit while wearing it
Coverage in the face area is minimal


Thanks to Hennessy Hammock and BackpackGearTest.org
for the opportunity to test the Cat Cape Poncho Rainfly.


Read more reviews of Hennessy gear
Read more gear reviews by Pamela Wyant

Reviews > Rain Gear > Jackets and Pants > Hennessy Hammock Cat Cape > Test Report by Pamela Wyant



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