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Reviews > Shelters > Hammocks > Hennessy Explorer Ultralite A-Sym > Test Report by Thomas Vickers
Hennessy Hammock Explorer
Ultralight A-sym Hammock
I grew up in the piney woods of southeast Texas. Camping was a quick trip into the mosquito-infested woods behind the house. My style has evolved and over the last 4 or 5 years, I have begun to take a lighter weight approach to hiking gear (I still use sleeping bags and tents, just lighter versions). While I have flirted with lightweight hiking, I feel that I am more of a mid-weight hiker now. My philosophy is one of comfort, while carrying the lightest load possible.
Manufacturer: Hennessy Hammocks
Year Manufactured: 2008
$ 219.00 US
(all measurements approximate)
Color/pattern: Coyote brown
Stuff sack: 0.90 oz (25 g)
SnakeSkin (x 2): 2.15 oz (60 g)
Fly: 12.30 oz (348 g)
Hammock: 1 lb 7.40 oz (663 g)
Tree huggers (x 2): 1.35 oz (39 g)
Total: 2 lb 9.60 oz (1180 g)
Hammock:116 x 66 in (280 x 168 cm)
Long sides: 112 in (284.5 cm)
Short sides: 72 in (182.9 cm)
Diagonals: 126 x 140 in (320 x 355 cm)
Tree huggers: 2 x 42 in (5 x 107 cm)
Snakeskins: 76 in (193 cm) long
4.5 in tapering to 2.5 in wide (11 cm tapering to 6 cm)
Stuff sack: 13.5 x 10.5 in (34 x 27 cm)
May 22, 2008
Initial tester expectations:
As an owner of another version of Hennessy Hammock and the fact that I spend an awful lot of time at their website, I was pretty sure I knew what I was in for. The website itself is full of information that makes understanding what a Hennessy Hammock is, how to use it, and comparison shopping pretty easy to do. There is everything from videos to comparison charts that makes picking and purchasing a Hennessy Hammock very easy. The only thing that I could not really tell was what the fabric was going to be like.
The Explorer Ultralight arrived neatly packed inside of a stuff sack. I was more than amazed that everything was so neatly and tightly wrapped and packed. Of course my first job was to unwrap everything and ruin the wonderful packing job that someone had done.
The hammock itself is a banana shaped piece of 30 D nylon that is
tapered on each end. Each end is wrapped and extending from each wrapped end is a length
of 1600 lb (726 kg) test polyester cord. The hammock body is topped by
no-see-um netting that is supported inside by a ridgeline. There are two asymmetrical
"wings" on the hammock body, one located on each side. The hammock is entered by
opening a Velcro lined slit on the bottom of one end of the hammock. The hammock
also includes a silnylon fly that installs over the top of the hammock body, two lengths
of webbing to wrap around trees (tree huggers) and two tapered tubes of silnylon
(SnakeSkins) that are used to store the hammock when not in use. The fly has the same
asymmetrical shape as the hammock body and attaches to the suspension ropes via a plastic
loops and a plastic hook. The tree huggers are used to wrap around trees and attach
the suspension ropes to in order to prevent damage to trees.
I wish I knew a better way to describe it, but the Explorer Ultralight is a bottom entry hiking hammock. It has two 'wings' that pull out (one on either side) that are designed to make sleeping easier and more comfortable. I know that doesn't sound very exciting, but that is the basics.
The Explorer Ultralight hammock looks very interesting. I set it up quickly in order to take pictures, but I am really interested in seeing what the best way to set it up is. There are instructions on setting up the hammock printed on the stuff sack (which I really like), but I haven't looked at them in any detail yet. At this point I am looking forward to seeing how it sleeps, how best to hang it, and a ton of other things that will come with use. I feel that the Hennessy website more than prepared me for what arrived and the only questions that really need answered revolve around what it is going to be like sleeping in this hammock.
Setting up the hammock:
Other than hanging the Explorer Ultralight A-sym to take photos, I have not hung it yet in order to climb inside. The stuff sack contains instructions on how to set up the hammock and how to lash the support ropes. There are further instructions on how to set up the canopy and the care and maintenance on the stuff sack. One of the things that I am looking forward to testing is how well these instructions work and if I can find an easier way to set up the Explorer Ultralight. The one thing that I discovered from my initial photo hang of the hammock is that at least two and maybe four stakes are going to be required to guy out the hammock securely. I will be testing to see if I can do this with just two stakes or if four will really be needed.
One thing that I really like so far is that the hammock can be set up without the fly. I will be experimenting with various configurations of hammock and fly as well as hammock without fly in order to maximize the ventilation on this hammock. I am also interested in seeing if I can meet the three minute set up time that is listed on the website using Hennessy's instructions as well as any alternate method I can devise.
I am also happy that the Explorer Ultralight is ready to go right out of the stuff sack. Other than stakes (I used sticks) for the guy lines, everything that I needed to hang the hammock and fly were included. This is a big plus to me because I don't have to waste time or effort gathering any extra items to hang this hammock.
Things I like:
1. Hammock and fly are separate
2. Ready to go without extra gear
3. Instructions printed on stuff sack
Things I don't like:
1. I can't get the hammock back into the stuff sack the same way it came from the factory.
Sam Houston National Forest
Along the San Jacinto River
Temperature: 69 - 90 F (21 - 32 C)
Altitude: 0 - 250 ft (0 - 76 m)
Terrain: Flat and level, loose sand, forest floor, and grass
Two nights - 5 miles (8 km) total hiking
Three nights: 15 miles (24 km) total hiking
Two nights - 5 miles (8 km) total hiking
I have taken three trips so far with the Hennessy Hammock Explorer Ultralight A-sym Hammock. Two of them have been two nights and one has been three nights long. All have been in hot and humid Southeast Texas where there are plenty of bugs, trees, and places to hang. There was no rain, but plenty of windy hot nights.
Setting it up:
My first trip out with the Explorer involved a short two mile (3 km) hike down to the San Jacinto River. I eventually found two trees about 15 feet (4.5 m) apart in a clear area and pitched the hammock.
I followed the instructions (or at least my interpretation of them) that came printed on the stuff sack for the hammock. I wrapped the tree huggers around the trees and then threaded the hanging cords through the tree huggers.
I did not tie any knots in the hanging cords, instead I wrapped them
around themselves three times, then put them back through the tree huggers. After doing
this three times in a row I had a fairly secure "knot" that was easy to unwrap
and did not allow any serious knots to form in the hanging cords. Even after hanging in
the hammock for a full night, this "wrapping" allows me to take the hammock down
without having to untie any overly tight knots.
I usually do one end of the hammock first (the head end) and then hang the other end in the exact same manner. If the hammock needs any adjusting, I usually just unwrap and adjust the foot end of the Explorer until I get everything just right.
One thing that I did differently this time that I have never done before was installing the Snakeskins on the hanging cords before I attached the cords to the tree huggers.
This was easy to do since all I had to do was slide the Snakeskins
over each hanging cord (one on each end of hammock) and then hang the hammock. I found out
that I also had to keep the Snakeskins above the point that the fly attaches to the
hammock (not like in the picture above), but that issue had a quick learning curve for me.
I may be slow, but I don't do silly things more than four or five times.
Attaching the fly was easy once I got the hammock body up. I flipped it over the top of the hammock and attached the clip to the hammock hanging cords and adjusted the fly length-wise to get the correct tension. Then I went ahead and staked out the fly and the body of the hammock at the same time. I choose to use four stakes instead of two so that I could secure the hammock and fly separately. I tied a figure 8 knot into the guy lines from the hammock and slipped the loop over a stake. I don't adjust the body guy lines too much once I get them set, so tying a knot in them doesn't bother me. The fly guy lines were secured to separate stakes and rather than tying them in a knot, I simply wrapped them tightly around the body of the stake. That way if I had to get out in the night to make an adjustment to the fly, all I would have to do is unwrap the guy line rather than fumbling with a knot in the dark.
Besides being learning how to use the Snakeskins correctly I also
discovered that 15 feet (4.5 m) apart is not far enough for this me and this hammock.
At this distance I felt that I was a little too "bent" into a
banana shape when I slept, but it was still extremely comfortable.
One reason that I really like this hammock (probably any other as well) is that I can actually sleep in it. Sleeping on the ground creates painful dead spots on my shoulders and hips and that means that I have to turn over (often waking up as well) about every forty five minutes. In the Explorer I found that even in an 'uncomfortable' pitch (trees too close) I still slept without any dead spots or pain. Rather than turning every 45 minutes, I easily slept completely through the night. Better yet, when I had to get up to answer the call of nature, I was quickly back in the Explorer and asleep for quicker than I would have been on the ground.
Another aspect of the Explorer that I like is the fact that there are no zippers to fiddle with. The hook and loop closure on the entry slit is quick and easy to use and that means that in the middle of the night there is no fumbling around for zipper pulls in order to get in and out. I think the best way to describe the Explorer is "user friendly." It is easy to set up, easy to use, and best of all, easy to sleep in. Hennessy seems to have taken all the fuss and muss out of setting up a shelter and using it which I feel is very important. First time users should not be intimidated by the Explorer because it is just too easy to use.
Sleeping in any kind of shelter in Texas during the summer is a tricky situation. I want protection from the bugs and rain (if it rains), but that usually means living in a portable sauna, even if I only use my shelter in the late evenings. The Explorer was often just as hot as any other shelter, but it was much easier to address this issue than in a normal shelter.
My first line of attack was to raise or even remove the fly. This allowed any breezes that might hit me to flow through the mesh top of the hammock and cool things off. The fact that I was suspended off the ground also meant that the air circulation under the hammock kept the interior temperatures lower (or at least more bearable) than with a regular tent. At night this meant that I cooled off quickly even if the air temperature stayed on the hot side into the early evening. I also enjoyed the fact that despite being cooler, there were no bug attacks. Nothing got through the entrance or the mesh top and nothing bit me through the hammock's bottom. Mosquitoes are pretty serious here and after spending seven nights in the hammock so far with no bug bites tells me that the Explorer does its job of keeping the bugs off of me.
Taking it down:
I usually just take shelters down and stuff them in the bottom of my pack. I have used hammocks before and they get the same treatment. This test has been a bit different because I hung the hammock with the included Snakeskins and when it came time to take it down, I decided to go ahead and use them. The first thing I did was untie the guy lines and wrap them around the hammock and fly. Then I began to slide each Snakeskin toward the middle of the hammock. I didn't think that I was going to get all the hammock and its fly into these two small tubes, but it actually went very quickly and easily.
When I got the "stuffing part" done, all I had was one long and smooth "snake" that had formerly been my hammock and fly. Next I unwrapped the hanging cords from the tree huggers and wrapped the whole thing up into a small bundle that went in the bottom of my pack.
For the next part of the test I will remember to measure how big
this bundle is, but it came out pretty small. Not as nice and compact as how it was
originally packed into the stuff sack, but much easier and compact than I would have
expected. The next time I put the Explorer up, all I had to do was hang the 'snake'
using the tree huggers and hanging cord, then pull the Snakeskins up toward the trees and
the hammock magically popped back out.
This shelter has been an eye opener for me. I am already a hammock user and know how nice it is to sleep this way, especially in the Texas heat. This summer has been exceptionally hot here and I have still been surprised by how comfortable and at times cool this hammock can be to sleep in despite the heat. More importantly for me, I have found that using the Snakeskins makes handling this shelter so much easier. They make it quick and easy to take the hammock down, pack it away, and then to set up again later. I no longer have to dig and unwrap guy lines out of my pack since they get sucked right up into the Snakeskins.
I have also enjoyed the sliding pocket that rides along the internal ridge line of the Explorer. I always hang my headlamp in this pocket and drop in any small items that I have in my pockets when I got to bed. This means that I do not wake up with small objects poking me in the back because they migrated underneath me during the night as they worked their way out of my pockets. Since the pocket slides, I liked to slide it all the way towards the footend of the hammock where I could dangle my feet out of the opening and refill my pockets from a seated position rather than as I lay on my back.
1. Easy to set up/take down with Snakeskins
2. Is extremely small in pack
3. Very comfortable to sleep in
Along the San Jacinto River
Other Southeast Texas locations
Temperature: 64 - 90 F (18 - 32 C)
Altitude: 0 - 250 ft (0 - 76 m)
Terrain: Flat and level, loose sand, forest floor, and grass
Four one-night trips
Five nights basecamping
Hanging the hammock:
One thing that I have really grown to like over the past few months are the Snakeskins. As a hammock camper I can not believe that I have never even considered using them. I can actually set up this hammock in a few minutes (less than 5) on most occasions using the Snakeskins. Even better is the fact that when it is time to break camp, all I have to do is slide the Snakeskins down over the hammock and fly and then I am done. This long "roll" of hammock is easy to fold up and pack away. Using the Snakeskins also means that the hammock takes up a lot less room in my pack versus my regular manner of packing the hammock (I stuff everything into the bottom of my pack).
One reason that I prefer hammocks is due to their comfort. The Hennessy Hammock Explorer Ultralight A-sym is no exception. I have had no issues with finding a comfortable way to sleep in this hammock no matter what the outside conditions are. I am a side sleeper and sleeping on the ground is nearly impossible for me. This hammock though is different story. I can sleep on my back (my least favorite position) or I can turn over on my side and sleep as well. The Explorer has what I think is an enormous amount of interior space for a hammock. Even when lying on my side there seems to be a lot of room to squirm around in. I have never been fond of the tight fitting "cocoon" that some hammocks seem to create when I am inside and I have never had this feeling inside the Explorer. There is room to spare and I have never felt confined or smothered while lying in this hammock.
Keeping it toasty:
During the last few days that I used the tent, the night time temperatures dropped below 70 F (21 C) for the first time in the test period. This seemed to be the point at which I noticed cold spots on my body while sleeping in this hammock. As a side sleeper they weren't that much of a problem since they were mainly limited to my shoulders, hips, and feet. Between 70 F and about 65 F (21 C - 18 C) I was able to sleep comfortably, but I woke up a few more times than I would have preferred due to the cold spots. When the temperatures dipped below 65 F (18 C) the cold spots were annoying enough that I had to put an extra sleeping bag under my body (in addition to the one I was sleeping in) to stay comfortable. This wasn't a problem due to my location and situation at the time, but if I had been on a multi-day hike in the back country, this temperature situation would not have been one I could have cured so easily.
Living in the hammock:
Due to Hurricane Ike my trail time was limited during this phase of the test. I did how ever sleep in the hammock for five consecutive nights after the hurricane because it was cooler outside in the hammock than in the house with no electricity. The first night was extremely warm and the reason I decided to use the Explorer was because it was unbearable inside for me. Over the next four nights the temperatures dropped into the lower 60's F (15 - 16 C) and I still preferred the open air and breezes outside over the lack of ventilation in the house. I was lucky to be close to my home because on these nights I did need extra insulation due to the cooler weather, but the hammock was definitely the best way to sleep.
One thing that really tells me how gear is going to work is when I get to use it on consecutive days/nights like I did with the Explorer. Not only was it extremely comfortable to sleep in after a hard day of clearing storm debris, but the hammock itself held up very well to being used daily. The construction and materials held up to the use and abuse of staying hung for nearly a week and used every night.
Wrapping things up:
I have used other hammocks by Hennessy Hammocks and I figured that I would not be that impressed by the Explorer. The good news is that I was wrong. The Explorer is like the other A-sym hammocks that I have used, but it was different in one way and that was the interior room. The Explorer is just plain roomy. I can stretch out inside and not be smothered by the sides of the hammock. I never felt like I was wrapped up in a cloth cocoon in this hammock and that is a more than pleasant surprise.
I was also disappointed that I never was able to use the Explorer in rainy weather. I had one chance during the hurricane, but my fear of flying debris kept me from testing the hammock in 70 + mph (113 kph) winds and 8 + inches (20 + cm) of rain. Condensation on the underside of the hammock fly was never a problem and on mornings that I found heavy dew on the top of the fly, I simply shook or wiped it off before I slid the Snakeskins down.
If I could describe the Explorer with one word, it would probably be "comfort". That is the selling point for me with this hammock. I can sleep in it all night long and not get painful pressure points on my shoulders and hips. I can sleep in it all night long and not feel like I am wrapped up in a giant cloth cocoon.
Things I like:
2. Comfortable to sleep in
Things I don't like:
1. Interior mesh pocket could be larger
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