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Reviews > Shelters > Hammocks > Hennessy Hammock Hyperlight > Test Report by Rick Allnutt
Over the last several years, I have become an ultralight camper with a three-season base pack weight of about 8 lb (3.5 kg) and skin out weight of 17 lb (8 kg). I have completed many section hikes on the Appalachian Trail (AT) in all four seasons, and many trips to state parks, with a total mileage of about 1550 miles (2500 km). I am a gearhead, a hammock or tarp camper, and I make much of my own equipment.
Trail Name: Risk
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Hennessy Hammock
Also tested: Snakeskins tubes that cover the hammock and assist with set-up and storage
Measured total weight of hammock/tarp plus Snakeskins and stuff sack 1 lb 11.1 oz (770 g)
INITIAL IMPRESSIONSWow! This well designed hammock is considerably lighter than my lightest home-made hammock by a whopping 6 oz (170 g)! I've carried hammocks for a lot of trail miles (and kilometers too), and to have carried much less weight up all those hills would have been very nice! That alone is enough to make me more than excited about the Hyperlight design. But there is more good news to report as well.
The Hennessy hammock design is a wide single bottomed nylon hammock. It is cut so that two asymmetrically placed pull out tabs give the interior of the hammock a great deal of extra room. The tab on the right is near my knees and the tab on the left is near my shoulder. The tabs are pulled outward by light shock cord and attach to the corners of a matching asymmetric tarp. The tarp is attached to the support cords at each end of the hammock and are staked or tied out to the sides of the hammock by two cords. The hyperlight hammock uses 30 D high tenacity nylon ripstop for the bottom and covering of the hammock. The top of the hammock is covered with 20 D no-see-um netting. The tarp is constructed from silnylon. The hammock support ropes are not tied directly to trees. Instead they are threaded through nylon "tree-huggers" which are much more gentle to tree bark and are also less likely to roll down a tree under load.
Before taking the hammock out to put it up for the first time, I unrolled the hammock and fly and attached the fly to its hooks on the support ropes. Then I threaded the "Snakeskins" tube coverings that Hennessy included in the testing package. The support rope is threaded through the 'skins from the large open end toward the small opening. While I was still in my house I tied the support rope to a door knob after threading it through the Snakeskin. This allowed me to easily pull the 'skin over half of the tarp/hammock set-up. Then I repeated that whole process for the other Snakeskin, and in the end I had the whole hammock enclosed in the two Snakeskins. In order to easily pack the pull out cords, I later found that it was easy to thread the end of the cord through one of the loops either at the head or foot end of the support rope prior to pulling the Snakeskin over the hammock. That seems to be the easiest way to auto-pack the cords. With the hammock/tarp in the Snakeskins it was easy to then pack the hammock in its stuff sack. I like a hammock packed this way. It keeps the hammock in a bundle in my pack and still allows me to put the hammock up in the rain.
Next step was to take the hammock out to the yard and try it out. I found a pair of trees that were six steps apart. (The hammock seems to hang best when the support trees are between five and six steps apart. Five steps is also just about the distance that I can reach when I am holding two hiking sticks out from my sides.) I checked to make sure that there were no dead branches above me that could come crashing down in the middle of the night.
I laid the hammock roll down on the ground between the trees and got an idea of how much distance there needed to be between the end of the hammock and each tree. Then I wrapped a tree-hugger around one tree at eye level and tied a Hennessy hammock knot to join the two ends of the tree-hugger. I went to the other tree and very loosely tied the support rope through the other tree hugger at eye level. Then I pulled the two Snakeskins toward the trees, exposing the hammock and fly. The first time I tied the hammock up I knew I would need to adjust the tarp tension. Sure enough, if I had pulled tight between the trees, the tarp would have taken the tension instead of the cord in the hammock. Once I had adjusted the slip tighteners for the tarp, I was able to tie the hammock up to the second tree so that there was just a little sag -- not tight like a clothes line, not loose like a jump-rope.
I went to each pull-out cord and attached it to a tent stake out to each side. I went to the foot end and opened the hook and loop fastener as can be seen in the photograph. If the reader has not seen a Hennessy hammock before, the entry to the hammock is from the bottom of the foot end. That is especially good for keeping bugs out of the hammock. I use two three foot sections of closed cell foam as insulation in a hammock as shown. This gives me full width insulation from my shoulders and back down to about my knees when I sleep on my side and my knees are pulled up some. I sat down in the hammock on the closed cell foam. I was not really surprised when the hammock stretched a lot when I first got it. In fact it stretched all the way to the ground. I got out and tied the hammock knots again in the two support ropes and got in the hammock a second time. This time it stretched less. This kind of stretching has always occurred when setting up a new hammock and has always gone away after the initial couple times the hammock takes my full weight. I got out one more time and brought the hammock back to almost tight. Then I got in the hammock and stayed for a little nap.
When I lie down in the Hennessy, the pull out tab on the right gives extra room to the right of the hook and loop fastener strip. In the photograph, that strip's location can be identified as the black stripe just to the left of my feet. The side of the hammock has a comfy "pocket" of extra room that allows me to lie down almost level when I am lying down with my feet on one side of the midline and my shoulders on the other side. This diagonal sleeping is a little easier in the Hennessy than in hammocks I have made myself because of the asymmetric cut of the hammock body. While it is possible to lie along the other diagonal, it is not nearly as comfortable as the illustrated method with my feet to the right and my shoulders to the left.
Incidentally, I am usually a side sleeper, and this diagonal allows me to sleep on either my left or my right side as I was able to demonstrate for myself in the first two nights I spent in the hammock in my backyard. Of course, I can also sleep on my back. The other thing to notice about the photographs of the inside of the hammock is that there is a LOT of room to move around. I imagine this will be precious bug free space when surrounded by a cloud of hungry mosquitoes. For now, it keeps me from feeling claustrophobic.
I am 72 in (183 cm) tall (the maximum recommended) and weigh a few pounds under the maximum weight limit for the hammock. One thing is sure. This hammock has plenty of room for me. I will keep my weight below the maximum for the length of the test and maybe even lose a few pounds in the hiking season.
Up at the head end of the hammock, attached to the patented ridgeline, is a handy sack made of no-see-um netting. This is handy for whatever happens to be in my pockets, as it is very important to not have anything in pockets which could poke through or tear the hammock cloth. When I sleep I either put my glasses in the pouch or clip them to one of the two nylon clips that are also threaded over the ridgeline.
I usually leave my pack on the ground under my hammock and tarp. This protects it from rain. I slip my sandals off before getting into the hammock, and this seems to work just fine with the Hyperlight. With shorts, my bare legs feel a little scratched by the hook side of the hook and loop fastener when I sit down. (The slit opening closes tightly around my legs as I sit down in the hammock.) But there has not been any true abrasion of the skin and certainly it did not cause any scrape or bleeding. With long pants, there would be no issue at all.
In my first night in the hammock, there was a little rain in the middle of the night. The tarp did a great job of keeping the hammock dry and seems to cover the entire hammock very well.
I look forward to testing the hammock this summer in Texas. I am really looking forward to sleeping on hot nights without any closed cell pad. I hope this will make humid/hot nights much more comfortable than sleeping in a tarp tent. I will be curious to see if the fabric is resistant to mosquitoes or whether they can bite through the Hyperlight fabric. After I see whether they can, I may add the protection of some permethrin to the fabric to further protect me.
The Hennessy Hyperlight A-sym hammock is a well designed hammock for the ultralight hiker. The design is exactly what I imagined from reading the well designed Hennessy Hammock web site. The construction of my hammock is flawless with no sewing mistakes and no hanging threads.
The things I really like about this package are:
- The hammock is easy to put up. After first time jitters, it now takes just a couple minutes from pack to nap.
- The hammock is a nice stealthy color. It allows me to set up camp anywhere along a trail without leading to unwanted visitors in the middle of the night. (The beer toting loud type is what I try to avoid.)
- The hammock is very large inside and leads to all sorts of envisioned activities such as reading and lounging in a bug free environment.
I thank Tom Hennessy and his family, and BackpackGearTest.org for selecting me for this test.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
July 19, 2008 – Overnight in Government Canyon State Natural Area, altitude about 1000 ft (300 m). Afternoon high was 98 F (37 C) and overnight low about 72F (22 C). Bright moon beginning after I went to bed. Hammock hanging without bottom insulation, nice quiet night.
July 5, 2008 – Overnight in Beavercreek Ohio. Afternoon high was 90 F (32 C) and overnight low was about 60 F (20 C). Hammock hanging with deer snorting all night long near the campsite. I had to use a closed cell pad for the first time in months because the temperature got down pretty cool. A light quilt was still enough top insulation.
June 28, 2008 – Overnight in Government Canyon. Afternoon high was 100 F (38 C) and the overnight low about 77 F (25 C). Testing included the CiloGear pack, Ultrapod, Hennessey Hammock, and the UCO candle. Lots of coyote yipping in the middle of the night. Clear night skies, no rain. After sweating in the heat of this night, I washed the hammock for the second time in the washing machine. No mosquito bites through the fabric, though I heard mosquitoes outside the hammock many times in the night. I enjoyed sitting on the outside of the hammock and reading as the night drew in.
May 30, 2008 – Another trip to Government Canyon. Afternoon temperature was 96 F (36 C). The night cooled off to 72F (22 C). This was a windy dry night. The hiking spot was the same as the previous trip, though I reversed the walk in and the walk out, putting the longer hike in the heat of the afternoon. That made me thirsty!May 23, 2008 – Government Canyon, Altitude about 1000 ft (300 m). The afternoon temperature was 99 F (37 C). Clear skies with just a little breeze. I backpacked with the Hennessy Hammock for the first time. The hammock was cool enough for sleeping with no pad inside it. There was no evidence that the mosquitoes which I heard from time to time were biting me through the fabric. I camped with the tarp off, since the sky was so clear. 3 Mi (5 km) hike in, with a 4 mi (6 km) hike out.
In addition to the 5 nights above, I also used the hammock in backyard camping an additional three nights in hot weather camping, with no rain.
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELDLast year, the summer in Texas was much cooler and wetter than it's been so far in 2008. The temperature in 2007 never reached 100 degrees. Even so, with my move to the lone-star state, I was only able to get in two nights of camping at low altitude. I was using a tent, and it was just too hot to be comfortable. The rest of my camping was done in the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend National Park where it was much cooler. This year I resolved to learn more about camping in the heat. The Hennessy Hammock was a central part of that resolution.
I have now camped on a number of evenings when the daytime temperature neared or reached 100 F (38 C) and the night did not cool quickly. Surprisingly, it has been quite comfortable in the A-sym hammock. Even though I have hiked several miles in the heat, I have found that it very nice to lie down in an uninsulated hammock. It takes very little breeze blowing past to immediately cool my back and legs on an evening that starts out warm. In fact, it is often more comfortable outdoors than it is in my bedroom with air conditioning and a ceiling fan!
I have slept well, and have been spoiled to be able to listen to the night sounds around me. In Texas, that means coyotes -- while in Ohio it means snorting and foot-stomping deer! Well, they are not the only ones that get to sleep outside. I get my turn too.
The last two months have been essentially rain free, but in the last week it appears that our late summer rains are becoming more likely. I hope to be able to say more about the rain behavior of the hammock by September. However, I am quite pleased that the rain fly seems to cover the hammock well while allowing good air circulation in the heat. I have camped a few moonless nights without the tarp, and other nights with the tarp up mainly to block the full moon from keeping me awake!
I have found that I am most comfortable sleeping with my head and shoulders on the left side of the hammock in the asymmetric pouch on this side. At the same time, my feet and legs are most comfortable on the right side in the other asymmetric pouch. This means that I am sleeping "on the diagonal" across the midline of the hammock. The effect is that I am sleeping much flatter than I would be otherwise. I find that I can sleep either mostly or partly on my back, and turned a quarter turn on either side.
On only one occasion did I pack up the hammock without the optional Snakeskins used to bundle the hammock. Wow! That made it much harder to get the hammock ready for sleep. Instead of an effortless 90 second effort to hang the hammock, it turned into a ten minute confusion in windy conditions. All those tarp pull-outs got mixed up in the rest of the hammock and part of the hammock ended up almost tied up in a knot. If there is one piece of knowledge I will remember long term, it is to use the Snakeskins. The rest of the time, I have used the Snakeskins to organize the hammock and its lines, and then I have packed that all inside the supplied stuff sack. This keeps the hammock organized in my pack.
Once the hammock is hung, it is quite easy to remove the tarp. For putting the tarp back on, I found that it was much easier to do so when the hammock was hung between two trees. This allowed me to check carefully to make sure that the asymmetric tarp matched the asymmetric shape of the hammock.
On a number of occasions, I enjoyed using the hammock as a chair and as an open hammock. It worked well for reading before bed time on some of those hot nights when I wanted to have every bit of breeze cooling me that I could get. To do this trick, I disconnected one tarp tie out from its stake, and disconnected the elastic tie out from the hammock to the tarp on the same side. I threw the half tarp over to the opposite side and then folded the hammock on top of itself so that I was sitting or lying on the outside of one half of the hammock which was being supported by the inside of the other side of the hammock. I've attached a photograph of this to make it clearer.
Even though it has been dry, this has not stopped the mosquitoes from dive bombing my campsite as the sun drifts below the western horizon. When I first started thinking about being able to use the hammock as a way to stay cool, I wondered whether the Hyperlight hammock fabric would keep the bugs from biting me in the back when I was not using a closed cell pad. (Nearly all of my Ohio and AT hammock use has been with a closed cell pad under me to keep me warm in cooler night-time temperatures.) For each of the nights I have spent in the hammock in Texas, I have been able to hear mosquitoes buzzing just outside the hammock, very near my ear. I have worn a shirt, sometimes a very lightweight nylon one, and except for the hammock cloth, there was nothing besides the two layers of cloth to keep the mosquitoes from biting me. But they have not bitten me! I have no idea how it is that mosquitoes often bite me through a shirt, yet they do not bite me when the same shirt and a piece of nylon cloth that is held tightly against my skin. But they just don't bite. It is really quite surprising and makes those cool breezes blowing past my back feel much better than they would if they contained bugs that I knew would leave me itching the next day. I could not be more pleased with this!
Because of the hot camping I have been doing, I have perspired a fair amount while lying in the hammock. After a few nights like this, I notice that the hammock smells a lot like me. Which is to say that it does not smell like a rose. Because of this, I knew that I would need to wash the hammock. To wash it, I took the tarp and Snakeskins off the hammock. I coiled the suspension lines up and tied them so they would not come undone in a washing machine. I then washed the hammock with the gentle cycle in my home washing machine. The hammock has done very well with this treatment. It cleans well and the material has not been damaged by gentle cleaning. I have dried the hammock by hanging it between two trees without its tarp. This drying takes a couple hours. The last part of the hammock to dry is the bunched portion that is near the knots at each end of the hammock. They are covered with a small cone of silnylon and it takes a while for the portion under the silnylon to dry.
Things I like thus far:
- The package of this hammock is small, light, and easy to hang between trees.- The hammock has exceeded my expectations for a cool place to sleep in the hot Texas summer.
- The biting bugs have not figured out a way to enter the hammock or to bite through it.
- The livable space inside the bug free cocoon is spacious enough for reading and lounging.
Things I don't like:
Nothing at all. Really.
FIELD LOCATIONS AND CONDITIONS
September 17-19, 2008 – Three day, two night hike in the Gila Wilderness, New Mexico. The altitudes ranged from 6000 to 7400 ft (1800 - 2300 m). Temperatures were from 45 to 75 F (7 to 24 C). The weather included sun and rain.
The total number of nights that I spent in the hammock while backpacking was nine. In addition, I spent an additional several nights in my backyard. While most of the time was in Texas, I also had the opportunity to use the hammock in Ohio and in New Mexico. Lowest temperature in the hammock was about 45 F (7 C) and the highest temperature was about 100 F (38 C).
PERFORMANCE IN THE FIELDThe trip to the Gila Wilderness afforded two tests that had been lacking in my previous months. First, the temperature was a bit lower. Second, I experienced rain.
The evening temperature, at the high altitude of the Gila, drops quickly. In addition, I was camped both nights in a river valley. In this valley, air which had cooled in the surrounding countryside sank and flowed down the river valley. This adiabatic cooling lead to both coolness and some air flow. I carried a single thickness of closed cell foam 22 x 36 in (56 x 91 cm). It was wide enough for my shoulders and long enough to cover my back from the top of my shoulders to below my hips. That, and a 32 F (0 C) degree sleeping bag was enough to let me sleep in my clothes reasonably warm. (I used the bag as a quilt with the zipper open to my upper thighs and my back on the closed cell foam.)
On the second night, it rained for a couple hours after supper time. This thunderstorm had a few gusts, but was mostly just hard rain. In neither the downpour nor the gusts, was there any leakage or dripping into the hammock. The hammock body stayed nice and dry during this experience.
I continued to enjoy using the hammock as a seat as shown in the accompanying photo. It was very easy to disattach one side of the tarp from the hammock and throw it over the center of the hammock. The photo shows this too.
The trees that I hung from the second night were about 18 in (45 cm) in diameter. The supplied tree huggers were not long enough for these trees, and I used a longer pair of webbing straps that I carried for this potential use.
The hammock materials remained rock solid during the long term test. No seams split. No threads came loose. The material did not stretch and did not pill. I remained thrilled by the low weight of the hammock.
Things I like about the hammock:
- The hammock is very light and very functional. It works in three season weather, to the extent that I could test it in the South and Southwest.- The biting bugs have not figured out a way to enter the hammock or to bite through it.
- The hammock performed well in a hard rain storm, with no dripping and no wet spots even after the storm.
Things I don't like:
The tree huggers, as supplied, are not long enough for trees that are often encountered. A pair of tree huggers just a little longer would be more generally useful. Such a pair of longer tree huggers is available from Hennessy Hammocks as a separate purchase.
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