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Reviews > Shelters > Hammocks > Hennessy Hammock Hyperlight > Test Report by Rick Dreher
Hennessy Hyperlite A-Sym Hammock
I enjoy going high and light and most often take shorter "fast- packing" trips; my longest trips are about a week. I've lightened my pack load because I enjoy hiking more when toting less, I can go farther and on tougher terrain, and I have cranky ankles. I use trekking poles and generally hike solo or tandem. I've backpacked all over the west and now primarily hike California's Sierra Nevada. My favorite trips are alpine and include off-trail travel and sleeping in high places. When winter arrives, I head back for snowshoe outings in the white stuff.
PRODUCT INFORMATION & SPECIFICATIONS
Manufacturer: Hennessy Hammock
Year of Manufacture: 2008
Manufacturer's Website: Hennessy Website www.hennessyhammock.com
MSRP: US$ 230.00
Listed total weight: 24 oz (700 g)
Measured weight: (sans snakeskins) 24.6 oz (697 g)
Listed hammock body weight: 13.9 oz (394 g)
Measured hammock body weight: 15.6 oz (442 g)
Listed rainfly weight: 8.3 oz (236 g)
Measured rainfly weight: 7 oz (198 g)
Measured tree-hugger strap, stuffsack, snakeskin weight: 3 oz (85 g)
Listed packed dimensions: 66 x 91 in (168 x 231 cm)
Measured packed dimensions: 5 x 11 in (13 x 28 cm)
Opening length: 54 in (137 cm)
Stated rainfly dimensions: 92 x 65 in (230 x 165 cm), ridgeline length of 122 in (305 cm)
Measure rainfly dimensions: 92.5 x 67 in (235 x 170 cm), rainfly length of 121 in (307 cm)
Measured hammock body ridgeline length (91 in (231 cm)
Listed Hugger strap length: 42 in (105 cm)
Measured Hugger strap length: 25.5 in (65 cm)
Other listed details: Main line test strength--1,450 lb (659 kg); hammock fabric--30D high tenacity, high thread count nylon taffeta with heavy duty ripstop; fly (canopy) fabric--1.1 ounce 30 D silicone nylon; setup time--2 minutes.
The complete hammock comprises a modestly sized package that's smaller than any earthbound one-man enclosed shelter I've seen. Inside the stuffsack are the hammock body, the fly (canopy) and the tree hugger straps. Everything was bundled tightly and neatly, making me wonder whether I'll ever get it all into the stuffsack again? After untwirling the lines, the hammock unfolds into a surprisingly roomy…envelope(?) It's not easy to describe laid flat on the floor, but the hammock's basic parallogram shape comes through. The fly is a bit of a handful, being made of crinkly, slippery silnylon. It too, is a parallogram, mimicking the hammock's shape. The tree-hugger straps are simple lengths of 1-inch (2.5 cm) nylon webbing with loops sewn into each end. They're quite shorter than those that came with my Hennessy Ultralight Backpacker, and won't go very far around larger trees.
Fabrics, lines, hardware, stitching, etc.
As noted, the hammock body fabrics are ripstop taffeta and netting for the body, and silnylon for the fly. The fly fabric is thin and crinkly, the body fabric soft and limp. The netting is black, which maximizes vision through it. It's not apparent how the anchor lines are attached to the hammock ends, as the assembly is sheathed in fabric. Braille investigation leads me to believe that the connection is stout and designed to minimize stress to the thin hammock fabrics. Fabric edges are bias-taped. Stitching appears straight and without gaps. A few stray threads were present inside the hammock body, but I noted no cutting or assembly problems.
No user-preparation is required. The fly is from one piece of fabric, so there are no seams to be sealed. I will need to rig the Snakeskins, which should take all of a minute, and I'll add two stakes to the stuffsack for the fly side lines, and will probably supplement the Hugger straps with longer alternatives for large trees.
READING THE INSTRUCTIONS
Hennessy prints the directions on the stuffsack itself--a clever idea that makes it unlikely I'll lose them. They also encourage review of additional instructions available on the HennessyHammock.com Website, and with good reason, as there are videos, photographs and testimonials that significantly demystify hammock setup and use, as well as give tips for less conventional use, such as a chair. The video demonstrating the hammock knot is a must-see, in my experience, to demystify this process, and the Snakeskin video is also quite handy. The printed sack directions seem complete, with perhaps an omission of recommended maximum and minimum distance between anchor trees.
TRYING IT OUT
The Hyperlite comprises a hammock body, rainfly, "tree hugger" webbing straps and a stuffsack. Hennessy also provided a set of "Snakeskins"--protective nylon sleeves that cover and protect the assembled hammock and fly for storage in lieu of or in addition to the stuffsack. Snakeskins are normally an extra accessory.
I set up the Hyperlite in my backyard, stringing it from gazebo corner poles. This supported the unoccupied hammock but wasn't strong enough to get inside. I lack the proper urban trees.
The hammock is a one-piece enclosed shelter of lightweight nylon taffeta and bug netting--taffeta forming the floor and sides and netting forming the top. Suspension lines for attaching to trees are attached to each end, and an internal ridgeline connects the ends. The anchor lines are strong and stiff polyester-sheathed Spectra. Each hammock side has an elastic anchor line for spreading the hammock body and attaching to the ground with stakes or to nearby branches. A silnylon rainfly completely covers the hammock. It clips to the suspension lines fore and aft, and the sides are anchored by two lines that would generally attach to the same stakes or branches as the hammock's side lines.
Also included are two "tree-hugger" webbing straps that the anchor lines loop through. The straps keep the thin lines from cutting into tree bark. This set is well shorter than spec, at 25.5 inches (65 cm) each, meaning they will only encircle a relatively scrawny 8-inch (20 cm) tree.
Hammock entry is from below, through an in-line slit at the foot end. The 54-inch (137 cm) slit is intended to close automatically when the sleeper climbs inside, and is also held closed by hook-and-loop strips. The Hyperlite's shape viewed from above is roughly a parallogram, denoting the Hennessy's "asymmetrical" description. Once inside, the sleeper turns at an angle to the ridgeline, which flattens out the sleeping surface and takes advantage of the extra room available off-axis. The ridgeline, which is under tension when the hammock is strung, is accessorized with two plastic sliding gear hooks and a sliding pocket, which is made of netting and divided into small and large segments, and makes a great home for glasses, a flashlight, a watch, etc.
As noted, Hennessy also provided a set of Snakeskins, nylon sleeves that are housed on the anchor lines and left there. When it's time to take down the hammock, these sleeves slide over the works--hammock and fly--keeping them dry and dirt-free between uses. If the fly is wet, the hammock goes into the Snakeskins while the fly dries separately. Without them, the fly and body are furled, folded and packed separately in the stuffsack.
The entire works is described as "coyote brown" and would probably disappear if held next to a UPS truck. This is definitely a rig for stealth camping, unless camped in the Dayglo Forest.
My informal backyard pitch took less than five minutes, so Hennessy's two-minute claim might be attainable. The hammock body goes up easily, with a bit of fiddling to achieve a level, taut pitch. Elastic side corner lines pull out the hammock sides, giving it shape and damping rocking motion. The fly anchors to the main hammock lines via plastic hoops that clip to plastic hooks that are attached to the lines with Prusik knots. The fly also has a pair of clip anchors that attach to the main line. The fly is centered and tensioned by sliding the Prusik knots. Side corner lines anchor to the ground using stakes (not supplied) or other handy tieoffs. The fly is large enough to cover the hammock with a good deal of overhang for weather protection.
Furling and stowing takes less time than pitching, especially if I'm not concerned about packing it neatly. I've not tried out the Snakeskins, which should make this process even faster.
I'll be testing the Hyperlite on half a dozen backpacking trips in California's Sierra Nevada through summer. Most trips will be one or two-night hikes in the Sierra's Tahoe subregion, with at least one longer trip slated for late summer in the central Sierra (a four-nighter has been penciled in). I expect varied conditions and settings. Some trips will be solo, others with a hiking partner (I can lend a spare hammock to maximize our campsite flexibility).
I'm expecting to need longer options as backup to the scant Hugger straps, as alpine and subalpine trees are often very thick. Backup might be longer webbing or lengths of static rope.
Once strung, my next hammock concern becomes the pad-bag combination. In my experience, hammocks place special needs on the sleeping system-bag and pad, and in the past I've settled on a wide closed-cell foam pad inside the hammock combined with a fairly roomy bag that has a long zipper. Keeping warm on cool to cold nights requires a pad that wraps up the sides anywhere I press against the hammock shell. The pad must also stay in place while allowing entry and exit through the bottom slit. My closed-cell foam pads are stiff and don't mold readily to the hammocks shape, which makes them sometimes a hassle. Getting in and out of a sleeping bag can also be difficult in the hammock. My primary bag will be a Western Mountaineering Ultralite, which is snug but at least has a full-length zipper for ease of entry/exit. If warm (e.g., over 50F/10C) nighttime temps are predicted, I may take my two-season Mountainsmith down bag instead.
In foul weather it's nice to huddle under a tarp for cooking and other campsite chores. If I have foul weather I'll see how well the Hennessy shelters my campsite. Can I stow gear under it, cook under it? How's the Hyperlite as a camp chair?
Finally, there's the possibility I might be camped where there are no trees. In that instance, can I rig the fly and sleep in the body as though it's a bivy?
Typical Sierran weather means nighttime temperatures ranging from mild (50s F/12 C) to near freezing. Late spring and early summer will potentially bring afternoon-evening showers, testing the fly's coverage and rain-shedding capabilities. Late spring through mid-summer means fending off bugs while remaining comfortably cool, so the vast netting ceiling will be in focus.
Critical Test Questions:
* Pack it. How much pack space does the Hyperlite take? How small a pack can I reasonably fit it in along with an overnight load? Is there any benefit to packing fly and hammock separately?
* Site it. How creative can I be in finding fun sites to string the Hyperlite? Will tenters and tarpers be jealous? Will they even see me, tucked away in the woods?
* String it. What's the stringing process? (I'll approach it in detail for the review, regardless of my hammock experience.) How large and small a tree can I use? What about odd trunk shapes and angles, and are some tree varieties easier than others to use (e.g., lodgepole pine vs. mountain hemlock vs. juniper vs. sequoia)? How easy is it to secure the lines and how much retightening is required after stretching them? How high off the ground does it need to be? How level does it need to be? Are anchoring stakes required for the side lines? What are my fly-stringing options? How long does the process take, from unpacking to moving in?
* Live in it. How's the Hyperlite to live in-not just sleeping, but relaxing or sheltering during foul weather? How much stuff can I reasonably have inside? How are the views with and without the fly? How easy are entry and exit? Is the ridgeline ditty pocket adequate; what can I place there? Can I hang clothing and a light from the ridgeline? Can I keep water handy but out of the way? With its brown color, Is the Hyperlite bright and cheery inside?
* Sleep in it. How's the night's sleep? Unlike sleeping on the ground, the hammock experience is one of swaying in the breeze or in response to my own movements. Proper stringing and anchoring are critical to keeping the hammock controlled and not lowering itself to the ground during the night. The pad needs to stay in place to avoid sleep-stealing cold spots. Does the fly rustle in the wind?
* Monitor it. As possible, track how comfort in the Hyperlite with varying temperature, wind, humidity, ground moisture and precipitation. Does condensation ever form inside? What effect does the fly have on comfort? Can rain penetrate the fly? What effect does wind have? Are the tie-outs adequate to keep it stable?
* Dry it. After rain, how long does it take to dry the Hyperlite?
* Strike it. How much time and effort are required to strike and pack away the Hyperlite?
* Maintain it. As dirt and wear and tear accumulate, how easy will the Hyperlite be to keep up? Is it ever necessary to reapply a DWR finish to the fly? How well do the fabric, lines and hardware hold up? Will the printed instructions rub off?
The Hyperlite presents Hennessy's best effort to date for maximizing size while minimizing weight for adult-size sleepers. I already know hammocking can be blissfully comfortable when I can find the right trees and keep warm on cool nights. How well with this new Hyperlite fill the bill while not filling my pack?
This concludes my Initial Report. Watch for the Field Report in late July.
My hearty thanks to Hennessy Hammocks and Backpack GearTest for the opportunity to participate in the Hyperlite field test!
Field Locations & Conditions
I've taken the Hyperlite on three trips: an overnighter and a two-nighter in Desolation Wilderness in the northern Sierra Nevada, and a two-nighter in Lassen Park in the southern Cascades.
Trip conditions varied a good deal, with the Desolation trips treating me to soggy and cold on one extreme and very warm and dry on the other. The Lassen trip began with fair weather, stormed in the middle then ended fair. The Desolation solo trips were between 6,500 and 8,500 feet (2,000-2,800 m), with cold, wet weather on one (40 F/3 C overnight low) and warm (average 55 F/12 C overnight lows) on the other. The Lassen group trip was at 6,500 feet (2,000 m) and brought mild overnight temperatures (50-55 F/10-12 C lows), sunny days one and three and stormy day two, with wind, rain and hail. (This storm front would trigger two thousand fires across California, some of which still burn as this is written.)
Performance in the Field
The Lassen and second Desolation trips were clear, with the exception of scattered showers one night in Lassen (but violent thunderstorms with rain and hail during the day). At Lassen I used the fly only one night, and on the second Desolation trip I also left it off. Nighttime stargazing made the loss of warmth sans fly a worthwhile tradeoff.
Bag and Pad
On all trips I used a slim-cut, full-zip down mummy bag rated at 20 F (-8 C) and a 3/8-inch (10 mm) EVA foam pad, approximately 72 x 24 inches (18 3x 61 cm). The pad, light and bulky, is wide enough to insulate beneath me and wrap up my sides and shoulders, insulating them against the cold where the hammock presses against my bag. So long as the pad is aligned with me, this assures a warm sleep. If misaligned, cold spots form where I don't have pad coverage.
I was pretty cold during the wet Desolation trip. My clothing was damp, and although the bag was dry when I unpacked it I suspect it acquired moisture over time and became less efficient. I was okay, but not especially warm and cozy. Warmth on the other trips was fine. I've been able to adjust my temperature during the night by opening and closing the bag, and changing in and out of clothing.
Which brings up several general notes I have about hammock sleeping. First, unlike sleeping on the ground, hammocks are surrounded by air, elevating convection as a major source of heat loss (compared to the usual conduction loss). Second, the Hennessy design wraps the sleeper with fabric on the sides, pressing in on a sleeping bag, reducing effective insulation and creating cold spots. Third, a traditional ground pad isn't needed for comfort, only insulation. Fourth, once inside the hammock my movement's somewhat limited and it's really difficult to maneuver the pad and sleeping bag. Especially the pad. Luckily, the opening usually snaps closed on its own, as advertised. Trying to seal the hook-and-loop opening underneath the sleeping pad is an unamusing task.
As noted, the Hyperlite is snug inside, but there's still a lot of room for me and my stuff. The overhead storage options are brilliant, with two clips and a two-section netting pocket attached to the ridgeline. All sorts of odd bits can be hung and stowed in these, and things can be hung from the ridgeline itself. I keep a small water bottle, flashlight, glasses, watch and various other bits handy yet out of the way. A button cell light makes a great area and night light hung from the ridgeline.
As to sleeping comfort, as long as I'm warm the hammock comfort has no parallel to sleeping on dirt; it's infinitely more comfortable. Any pains I might typically experience in my shoulder blades, hip bones, etc. simply don't occur. Angled correctly in the Hennessy and it flattens out enough to provide a fairly level platform. The sidelines control swinging, and the swaying that's left is nice, once I'm used to the sensation. It's a bit like sleeping on a boat.
There's also no arguing that midnight bathroom runs are more of a hassle compared to sleeping on terra firma.
Only on my last Desolation trip did crawly (carpenter ants) and flying (mosquitoes and black flies) bugs drive me inside, and the Hennessy proved an effective barrier. I'll caution mosquitoes can bite through the fabric if the skin is pressed against it, so staying on a pad is in order. Let them bounce off the netting, I'm happy to keep my blood inside me, thanks.
Summary and Recommendations
The Hennessy Hyperlite is a great shelter. It's comfortable, versatile, lightweight and compact. It sets up easily and breaks down quickly, especially using the Snakeskins. Mine shows no wear and tear, other than dirt and sap on the lines and hugger straps.
I'l continue using the Hyperlite the rest of the summer, and continue refining my knot-tying. I'm also looking for a different pad, hopefullly more compact and that stays underneath more readily.
Long-Term Test Locations & Conditions
Since the Field Report I've taken the Hyperlite on two trips: a two-nighter in Emigrant Wilderness and a two-nighter in Desolation Wilderness. Both trips featured warm and mild summer conditions. My observed overnight lows ranged from a high of 61 F (16 C) to a low of 41 F (7 C). Winds ranged from dead calm to moderately breezy and while storm clouds loomed on two evenings, they never delivered rain and later dissipated. Overnight conditions were clear, meaning no clouds to block convective heat loss.
Performance In the Field
Stringing. The Hyperlite performed well each night. I always had to double up the supplied Hugger straps for one end and use a second tree wrap, as my anchor trees were always too thick to use just one Hugger. I still get some knot slippage, which I infer as my not completely conquering the recommended hammock knot technique. The main Spectra lines are a bit slippery, and the tree anchor straps also stretch and slide a bit. Ultimately, I always get the hammock strung tightly enough for a comfortable night, and the knots are always easy to undo in the morning. Another common challenge is leveling the hammock, or having the foot end a bit higher. Between crooked trees and sloped, uneven, brushy ground it can be surprisingly difficult to determine level by eye. Generally, a bad slope makes itself known when I get in to test the knots, and I can adjust one end to correct it pretty easily (trees allowing).
Staking. I carry two aluminum Y-stakes that I use to anchor the elastic side lines and/or the fly side lines. Sometimes they can share the same stake, but other times they need individual anchors (four total). In those instances I tie off on a handy branch or root, or fashion a deadman from a rock, stick, or combination of the two. I still get tangled in the elastic side lines at night and one evening, managed to launch one of my stakes into the brush a good distance from its anchor point by uprooting it with my foot. It took an hour to find it in the daylight, the next morning (more than ten feet away).
Bag and Pad. For the long-term test I swapped my 20-degree mummy bag for a lighter, roomier (wider) 30-degree F (0 C) mummy bag and kept the same foam pad I'd been using previously. This combination worked fine, and I slept warmly and appreciated the extra wriggle-room. The only challenge was maneuvering inside the bag using its half-zip. A full-zip bag is easier for me to get in and out of inside a hammock. I still have a nightly wrestling match with the pad, getting it centered beneath me. I'd happily swap it for an underquilt or pad. Even so, once I'm situated over the pad it keeps me quite warm, so it's doing the job.
Snakeskins. I continued using the Snakeskins, as they really do speed packing the hammock. I don't leave the fly attached, preferring to pack it separately given how few nights I actually use it. An additional benefit is with the body stowed in the Snakeskins, the hammock makes a good morning clothesline for airing things out.
Nighttime Comfort. I slept well every night of this long-term test period. Especially after a tough trail day, it's amazingly nice to not have any pressure spots beneath me. For that reason alone, hammocks are worth pursuing. I continued to use offbeat campsites, taking advantage of not having to find a flat tent site. This allows a bit of solitude even on a busy summer weekend in a well-used hiking area. With the items I want suspended from the hammock ridgeline inside, there's little need to leave my cocoon during the night (presuming nature doesn't call). In short, the Hennessy system is well thought out.
As a coda to this test, for my last hike of the summer I took a tarptent and insulated air mattress, since I was headed for alpine territory that lacked adequate trees for a hammock. While air mattresses are the most comfortable option I've found for sleeping on the ground, I REALLY missed my hammock on this trip. The comfort difference was remarkable (and/or the Hennessy has made me a wimp).
End of Test Wear and Tear
I really like hammocking and this Hyperlite is now my favorite hammock, so I'll continue to use it on mild-season hikes. Its balance of roominess with low pack weight and bulk advances the state of hammock art. I may investigate under-pads or quilts to increase its ease of use and extend hammocking season on the hiking calendar; I wish they weren't so costly and bulky.
I thank Hennessy Hammocks and BackpackGeartest for the opportunity to test this great shelter!This report was created with the BackpackGearTest.org Report Writer Version 1. Copyright 2008. All rights reserved.
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