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Reviews > Shelters > Hammocks > Hennessy Jungle Explorer and Expedition > Test Report by David Wilkes

Test series by David Wilkes

Hennessy Hammock Jungle Expedition Asym zip

Initial Report - May 9 2016
Field Report - August 24 2016
Long Term Report - October 23 2016

Tester Information

Name: David Wilkes
E-Mail: amatbrewer@yahoo.com
Age: 50
Location: Yakima Washington USA
Gender: M
Height: 5'11" (1.80 m)
Weight: 200 lb (90.7 kg)

Biography:

I started backpacking in 1995 when I moved to Washington State. Since then, I have backpacked in all seasons and conditions the Northwest has to offer.  I prefer trips on rugged trails with plenty of elevation gain. While I continuously strive to lighten my load, comfort and safety are most important to me. I have finally managed to get my basic cold weather pack weight, not including consumables, to under 30 lb (14 kg).

Product Information

Manufacturer:

Hennessy Hammock

Year of Manufacture:

2016

Manufacturer’s Website:

hennessyhammock.com/

MSRP:

219.95 US$

Height Limit

6 ft (183 cm) tall

Weight Limit 

250 lbs (114 kg)

Product

Product Description:

Hennessy created a new version of a few of their existing hammocks. In these, they have replaced the unique bottom entry that they are known for with a side zip entry. This is the side zip version of their Jungle Expedition hammock, and is a complete shelter system including an asymmetrical hammock with attached bug netting, and detachable tarp (rain fly). Like all Hennessy hammocks, this system includes the hanging system (rope and webbing tree straps) as standard equipment. This version includes a two-layer bottom feature to further protect the user from bug bites as well as provide a space to insert a layer of insulation. The version I received included 3 optional features: “Snakeskins” (stuff sack for hammocks), “Radiant DoubleBubble” insulation pad, and the “HH20 AutoMagic Water Collector & Rainfly Tensioner System”. Note that at the time of this report, Hennessy is including the fly tensioners and SnakeSkins free with every online hammock order.


Initial Report

May 9 2016

Hammock under tarpManufacturer’s specifications:
  • Packed Weight: 3 lbs / 1360 g
  • Packed Size: 5" x 6" x 10" / 13 x 15 x 25.5 cm
  • Hammock Fabric: Double Layer of 40D Nylon
  • Bottom Fabric Dimensions: 120" x 59"  / 305 x 150 cm
  • Mesh: 30D No-See-Um netting
  • Suspending Ropes: 10' / 3 m long 1600 lb. test polyester rope
  • Webbing Straps: 1.5" x 42" / 4 cm x 1 m  black polyester
  • Rainfly Weight: 11 oz / 310 g
  • Rainfly Fabric: 70D polyurethane coated polyester ripstop
  • Rainfly Dimensions: Parallelogram 63" X 99" / 160cm X 252cm Diagonal length above ridgeline 132" / 335cm
  • Color: Forest Green
  • Stuff Sack: Logo and set up instructions printed on ripstop polyester bag (1 oz/~28 g )
Measured weights:
  • Entire system: 3lb 8 oz (1.586 kg)
  • Insulating pad: 10.75 oz (305 g)
  • Water Collector & Rainfly Tensioner System: 0.8 oz (11 g) each
  • Tree Strap: 1.5 oz (43 g) each
  • Rainfly: 21 oz (344 g)
  • SnakeSkin: 3.5 oz (100 g) set
  • Hammock: 2 lb 4.4 oz (1.03 kg)
Hammock in SnakeSkinsFirst impressions: Upon opening the stuff sack the hammock comes in, I was immediately impressed with the quality of the material and construction. The main material of the hammock feels thin and light while also strong and durable. The stitching and other construction details appear to be high quality and without any flaws that I have been able to find. The bug netting appears to be quite strong and also of high quality. I also notice the almost complete lack of metal hardware. With the exception of the zipper the system is designed to avoid the use of metal hardware both for the durability aspect (no corrosion) and to reduce weight.  As I go over the hammock and associated items, the more I look the more I seem to keep finding new features. So many that it would be tedious to go into them here, so I will highlight some and save others for the body of the review. One consistency I am finding with this system is the effort that was made to make it as versatile and customizable as possible, which is something I really appreciate.

SnakeSkin retractedThe included tarp, or rain fly (I will use the terms interchangeably), reflecting the desire to minimize weight and bulk is appears to be just barley large enough to cover the hammock, which as I will delve into later in this report has both advantages and possible disadvantages. I would comment here that while I received the standard tarp for this hammock, there is an option to receive a larger tarp in place of this one, I believe at no additional charge, and there are other tarps that Hennessy offers separately. I make it a habit of seam sealing any tarp/rainfly I get unless I am sure the manufacturer has already done that. I was unable to find any information on if the rain fly has been seam sealed, so I used the Contact Us link on the manufacturer's page and  asked if the tarps were sealed. I received a response a few hours later stating "Our rain flies all have been sealed and coated and are ready to use."

The included tarp is asymmetrical to match the hammock. Like just about everything else in this system the tarp has options regarding how it can be used. The basic set up is to simply connect the included plastic rings to clips that come already attached to the hammock suspension rope by a “prusik” knot (a bidirectional friction knot). I would mention that the knot used on my hammock is a slight variation of the classic prusik, and not a version I have ever seen before. I am unsure as to the reason this version was used other than maybe to help prevent the knot from coming undone when not under tension. I am intrigued as to any possible advantages or disadvantages this version may have. The tarp also arrived with light (but seemingly very strong) cords attached to all 4 corners. Obviously 2 are for tethering the tarp ends down while in use and the other two allow the tarp to be suspended in a different manner, including as a standalone tarp (without the hammock) or when using the hammock as a ground shelter (like a non-freestanding tent). I will go into the various setup options more later in the test series. I would note that one thing the system did not include is stakes for the tarp, so I will be using a pair of lightweight aluminum stakes I already have.

MeshThe body of the hammock is made out of two layers of 40D nylon. The double layer serves two purposes. Per the name “Jungle”, the system is designed to be effective in areas with lots of bugs, mainly mosquitoes, and the additional layer is intended to make it difficult if not impossible for a mosquito to penetrate. The second reason is to provide a pocket for an insulating layer and Hennessy offers a lightweight insulating option for this, but other insulation including the classic blue closed cell foam pad could be used. As noted above, as part of this test I received the optional “Radiant Double Bubble Pad”. I would describe this pad as a combination of bubble wrap and a space blanket. There are two openings between the hammock layers to insert the pad. Even knowing they were there, I found these openings difficult to find the first time, and after struggling to insert the pad, I realized the opening at the head end (yes I was trying to insert it at the foot end) is larger making inserting/removing the pad easer. Between the two layers of the hammock there are attachment points to hold the insulating pad in place. The one at the head end is simply a clip, while the one at the foot is a clip on an elastic cord. At the same locations as the insulating pad openings there are also external tether points that include elastic cord and clips. These are intended to be attached to the corners of the tarp thereby spreading out the head and foot end of the hammock providing more room and comfort and something else I will discuss later in the series. The system includes a built in bug net, which is permanently stitched to the hammock and has a double zipper running the entire length of the hammock for entry/exit (as opposed to the bottom entry of previous Hennessy hammocks). The net seems to be strong and of high quality. Inside of the hammock at the head end tie out point is another elastic cord with a plastic clip. It took a bit of thinking and searching the internet, but it appears to be used to hold the net back away from the users face when the user wants to leave the netting open. The ends of the hammock are bunched together and wrapped in some material making it difficult to see how the hammock is attached to the suspension system. Based on some research and looking at the item I received I can say the hammock ends are bunched and stitched to flat straps. The suspension rope is attached to those straps. I mention this as Hennessy has modified this over time and this is the latest version, and the hammock community seems to have a fondness for modifying equipment (I know I sure do) and there are many preferences regarding suspension. I myself have 3 other hammocks all using different suspension systems. As noted in the specifications, the suspension rope is 10’ (3m) long 5mm (0.2") thick, and very strong (1600lb / 725kg test). I found this rope to be rather stiff, but suspect it will soften with use. I would also note that while it seems possible to replace the suspension system, doing so would void the warrantee. Another detail about this hammock is the included structural ridgeline which includes a 2 section gear storage pouch mad of the same material as the bug netting, and two small plastic clips (aka glove clips). I don’t normally use a structural ridgeline in my other hammocks and I believe Hennessy has a patent on this so is the only vendor that can include it in their product. A structural ridgeline has advantages and disadvantages, and I will discuss this feature more later when I describe my use of the hammock.

Spreader cordIncluded with the product is a pair of 42” (1m) long, 1.5" (4cm) wide “Tree Hugger” straps. I will go into their use later in this test series. I would note here that the forces resulting from hanging a hammock from a tree with only rope can damage or even kill the tree. As such is it is common to use at least a 1” (2.5cm) strap to distribute the pressure over a larger area and thereby reduce the risk of damage to the tree. There are some places that specify that tree straps must be used (I believe some actually specify the straps must be 2” (5cm) or wider), and some places are considering banning hammock’s entirely due to the potential damage. An additional consideration is that often whatever I wrap around the tree will get covered in sticky tree sap. So having something I can store separately, helps me keep the sap from getting all over my hammock and other gear. As such, I cannot overstress the importance of using separate tree straps and appreciate that Hennessy makes these a standard part of their hammocks. Upon looking at these straps they seem simple and well-constructed. I would note here that the tree straps I normally carry are much longer than these and sometimes the trees in my area will be larger than the 42” (1m) in diameter, however Hennessy offers alternative length (and width) straps that can be ordered in addition to or in place of the standard size.
There are numerous methods of suspending a hammock and the Hennessey systems are no exception. Hennessey stresses avoiding the use of unnecessary hardware as well as methods that can cause damage to the suspension. As such they suggest a method of wrapping the line rather than using knots and or hardware. The topic is far too involved to go into detail here and I have used a number of methods including the wrap that Hennessy recommends, so I will go into the methods I use more later in the test series and invite the reader to research the topic separately.

As mentioned above, I also received the optional “SnakeSkins”. SnakeSkins are a kind of stuff sack for hammocks. They consist of two tapered tubes of material, in this case the same material as the tarp constructed from. When used the SnakeSkins act as a kind of sheath over the hammock and/or tarp resulting in a snake looking tube. I would note in standing with the versatility of the system the SnakeSkins can be used for just the hammock, just the tarp, or both together. The idea is that the tarp/hammock can be suspended as desired while wrapped in the sheath protecting it from getting wet and/or dirty, then the skins are simply pulled back towards the ends suspension and exposing the tarp/hammock. To pack it back up, simply slide the SnakeSkins down over the tarp/hammock, then disconnect the suspension from the tree straps, and pack it away. At least that is the idea. My first attempt at using them were a bit clumsy, so I am looking forward to seeing if these are worth the extra weight.

One final option I received is the water collector and tarp tensioner system. This consists of two clear plastic funnels designed to fit on the somewhat standard soda bottle type threads used by many bottles and hydration systems. They include a built-in wire mesh filter to help keep debris and bugs out of the water. The intent is to hang these on the ends of the tarp so they will catch the rain and add weight to help tension the tarp. It is an ingenious solution that while I don’t know if I really need, I am looking forward to trying out.

Likes: Lightweight, versatile, lots of features

Concerns: Bulkier than some other shelter systems I use, the tarp does not appear to be large enough to protect me from some of the weather I might encounter.

Field Report

August 24 2016
Usage
1 night in my backyard (Temp about 50F/10C)
3 nights Central Cascades (elevation around 3400’/1040m, Overnight Temps 40F/4C, rain)
3 nights Central Cascades (elevation 3500’/1060m, Overnight Temps 40F/4C)
4 nights campground Salt Lake City Utah (Hot days and quite warm nights)
 
 As with much of my gear my first use of this hammock was setting it up in my backyard to familiarize myself with how it sets up and it’s various options and configurations. The two outings were trail maintenance trips, the first involved a base camp at the trail head and daily hikes up the access trail to clear fallen logs, the second involved a 5 mile (8km) hike to a base camp and more daily hikes to clear the trail. Since most of the trail is in designated wilderness we are required to use hand tools, no power tools, so by the end of the day what I wanted most was a hot meal and a dry comfortable place to collapse for the night.

Hanging the Hennessey is rather intuitive and the built in structural ridgeline makes getting the hang right quite easy. FYI getting my other hammocks set to the right angle for a comfortable hang is something I constantly struggle with. The Hennessey system makes this almost idiot proof. From my experience and research, the ideal hang for a hammock tends to be around 30 deg. Attempting to hang a hammock at 30deg when tree spacing is quite far can result in needing a rather long length of line and attaching quite high up the tree in order to keep the hammock off the ground. For the Hennessey I simply need to hang the hammock such that the ridgeline is tight regardless of how far apart the trees are and I am good to go. I would like to digress for a moment to discuss how a hammock hangs and a bit of trigonometry. In order to minimize the strain on the system as well as what the hammock is hanging from (e.g. trees) it is ideal to have the suspension hanging at a 45deg angle. The more the suspension deviates from this the more strain the system has to endure to the point where both sides of the suspension system can easily be under stress that exceeds the weight of the person in the hammock. I won’t get into the math, but this can easily result in the suspension being far from the ideal 45deg and therefore significantly more stress to the suspension. The ridge line allows me to simply stretch the lines out taut while the hammock itself is always at the ideal hang angle. This can mean the suspension is under considerable strain, but the lines and straps are so over engineered, that I have no problem doing this.
 
On a related note Hennessy recommends a method of wrapping the rope around/through the straps that distributes the load across a significant length of the line and thereby avoids the two major issues with knots. One being that most knots pinch the rope and/or have at least one tight bend that results in reducing the strength of the rope. This can easily weaken the rope by half or more. The second is that most knots can, after being under strain for extended periods of time become difficult if not impossible to untie. Moisture can make this even worse. After experimenting with many different methods of attaching my hammocks I can say with confidence that the Hennessey wrap does work, should increase the working life of the rope, and is quite easy to untie even after being used for multiple nights (even wet). However, there are other methods that have their own advantages. And at least in my opinion, with the way the Hennessey system is over engineered, the strength advantage of the Hennessy wrap is not really necessary. After experimenting with the various hanging methods that I have used over the years including the recommended wrap, I have elected to use my favorite system involving a light weight carabineer on each line and version of the larks head knot that I believe is called a cow hitch. While this may not be the strongest or lightest method, I find it easy to tie, very versatile (works if I am using the straps or even if I am simply clipping to eye bolts), and easy to adjust. FYI I have found if I ask 3 hammock users what the best method for hanging a hammock is I will probably get 4 answers, and all will probably be touted as the ONLY one I should use. Therefore, I use what my experience has shown to work for me. And this method has yet to fail me.
 
On my first use of the hammock, a night in my backyard, I discovered a modification I needed to make. After getting out of my hammock during the night I managed to trip over one of the tarp guy lines and just about ended up in my koi pond. So I replaced the side guy lines with some reflective ones I use for my other tarps. I also removed the other two guy lines as I found they were getting in my way when setting up and taking the hammock down. I do like how strong and light these lines are so I store those in the hammock storage pocket in case I need them. E.g. hang the tarp separately from my hammock.
 
For my first night in the hammock, I was using the included insulating pad. The temperatures dropped down to around 50F (10c) and I found I could feel a few cold spots, so for me that is about the lower “comfort” limit of the system. During some of my other trips temperatures have gone down to about 40F (4C) and I combined my inflatable sleeping pad with the Hennessey one and was quite comfortable. I suspect I could probably be comfortable down to a little under freezing with that configuration. During my trip to Salt Lake City Utah, I experienced conditions more in line with what hammocks are best for; Warm (hot?) nights. My first night I slept in my tent, or at least attempted to. I was sweating and miserable all night. I suspect the temperatures did not get much below 80F (26C). The following night I put up my hammock with the ends of the tarp suspended so that I could get some airflow above/under me and had a wonderfully comfortable night. The following two nights the temperature dropped a bit and at first I used my sleeping bag under me as insulation and then used the Hennessey pad and both worked quite well.
 
So far I have not used the straps supplied with the hammock much. When applying for this test I knew from experience the standard length straps that come with the Hennessey are too small for most of the trees and tree placements that I encounter. In hindsight I probably should have requested a longer set. But as I already have longer straps having the shorter ones could prove useful. In my yard I have hung my hammock from eye bolts so didn't use straps. The first of my two trail maintenance trips I was able to use one of the supplied straps on one small tree but had to use a longer one of my own for the other end. On my other trip, the size of the trees and the spacing made it necessary for me to use my longer straps. While in Salt Lake, my only option for hanging the hammock was between two trees slightly too far apart for the supplied straps to work so I use my own. However, I shared my camp with someone who just happened to also have a Hennessey hammock (bottom entry type) and his straps were also too short but combined with mine were long enough for him to hang. As such I don’t have much to say about the straps aside for that to the limited extent I have used them they have worked, are easy to use, and seem quite well constructed. I would comment the first time I did use the one strap, it ended up getting tree sap on it and so I have been storing it in a separate bag from my other gear.
 
I have kind of a love/like view of the snakeskins. I love how simple setup/take down is with them. And knowing I can set up my shelter in the pouring rain without risk of it getting wet (wish I could say that about my tent) is really great. There are two things about them that are in my opinion less than ideal. First is that when using them I find the hammock system does not pack down as much as it could otherwise, and so it is a bit bulky. Second (and the one I found a solution for) is that it makes it difficult to tell which end is the head/foot when I am hanging it. To address this second thing I picked up two half-size, climbing rated, carabineers of different colors. I attached the red to the head end (my wife is a read head so this is easy to remember) and the green to the foot. Now when I pull the hammock out I know exactly which end is which.

There are two features I would like to comment on. First is the mesh storage pocket that hangs from the ridge line (see photo in Initial Report section). This is made of the same mesh as the insect netting and is divided into two separate pockets. This has really been handy for the little items I may want to have with me in the hammock such as my light, car keys, etc. I like that I can slide it up towards my head to access the contents and then pushed back down towards my feet so it is out of the way. The second feature is the piece of elastic line attached inside the hammock near the head end. This can be extended out to the guy line and it holds the bug netting out of the way when not needed. I find this to be a nice feature that I don’t think I would ever have thought of. I would note that there are two extra clips attached to the ridge line for hanging items, but to be frank I keep forgetting they are there and so have yet to use them.
 
I have become very fond of the prussic knots that are used to attach/tension the tarp. It makes setting up the hammock so simple. I simply loosen the tarp when I am taking my hammock down and then tighten it again once I have finished attaching and tensioning the hammock suspension lines. I would mention that upon seeing the size of the standard tarp I received I had some concerns about its ability to keep me dry. I fully expected to order the larger version or use my own. However, the first night in the field with the Hennessey it rained, really hard. In the morning everything was wet, except for me! I was amazed at how well it worked. Despite heavy rain, the hammock and I, remained perfectly dry. I have yet to experience rain with strong wind, which could be a challenge for this system, but since it is something that I rarely encounter, I am not concerned as I could simply stake the tarp ends down close to the hammock.
 
If I were to nitpick about anything, it would be the included insulation. It is a bit bulky to carry, far bulkier than what I normally use, and as mentioned above maybe not as effective. At least once I have woken up during the night to find that I had shifted to where I was no longer laying on the Hennessey pad. I would note that this was during a warm night so was not an issue, and had it been cold, I could have easily have shifted back onto the pad so this is a very minor thing. I would mention that I ran into Tom Hennessy at the 2016 Summer Outdoor Retailer Show and while asking him about some of his other products he did give me a tip about dealing with the bulk of the insulation. His suggestion is to roll it up into a tube and use it to line the inside of my pack, which would not only help to deal with the bulk but also help to protect items in my pack. I’ll have to try that.

There is one other nitpick that I have yet to resolve. The zipper extends to the far ends of the hammock which allows the netting to open completely and makes getting in/out easer. But I find once I am in the hammock, it is a bit difficult to get my old fat body to bend far enough where I can reach it. The best solution I have come up with so far is to partly close the foot end before getting in, and grab it with my toes. But since I normally sleep with socks on, that can be difficult. I am going to see if I can come up with a better method.
 
Overall I am not really finding anything about this hammock that I don’t like. There are some things I really love and a few things that are OK, and/or may take some getting used to, but nothing I don’t like. There has also been one or two things that were a pleasant surprise, such as how such a small tarp could keep me dry.

Long Term Report

October 23 2016
Usage
3 days Central Washington Cascades (about 5200'/ 1585 m)

DewyLkDespite some of the best weather I have seen in the Pacific North West in 20 years, I only managed one completely ‘recreational’ backpacking trip this season. 3 days at a lake just off of the Pacific Crest Trail. I left work a little early, grabbed my gear and drove to the trailhead. Almost immediately it started raining.  It was a light rain but it did not stop until sometime that night. So after the short hike to the lake, I set up my camp in the rain, did a bit of exploring, made dinner, and retired to my Hennessy early with my phone loaded with a couple of books and a bunch of pod casts. The system is really great for relaxing in.
 
While setting up camp in the rain is never what I would call “fun”, the Hennessy Hammock with snake skins made this quite easy and quick. I was able to set up my hammock and deploy the tarp without the hammock getting wet. Then place my pack and other gear under the tarp to finish setting up camp. Knowing the weather forecast was for temperatures getting down to around 35F (2C) I brought along a homemade under-quilt system I am working on (includes 2 thin quilts for versatility). I found the tarp did not quite cover the quilt, so the edge of the quilt got a little wet. If there was any wind this would have been worse, and being down it could have been a problem. However since the system was designed with its own insulation system in mind, I can’t fault it for not covering my ad hock system. The first night the my thin single layer quilt along with the Hennessy insulation was enough to keep me from being cold, but I did detect a few cold spots in the wee hours of the morning. So the second night I added my second quilt layer and was very comfortable.
 
As may be evident in the picture, I could probably have been able to use the supplied straps with at least one of the trees I ended up hanging from, but as I did not know that in advance I only had my own larger straps with me.
 
In summary, I really like the system. The system as supplied serves a large range of temperatures and works great in the rain. The snake skins make setup and packing quick and easy even in bad weather so are well worth their weight and the resulting added bulk when packed. I see very limited use for the supplied short straps at least in the areas I have visited, so in hindsight I would go with one of the larger sets. The same is true for the tarp. I appreciate how well, despite its small size it covers the hammock but I would prefer to use one of the larger versions available or my own. So after the conclusion of this test I will probably start using my own larger tarp in place of the supplied one, but that is only because I already have it. If I did not already have a suitable larger tarp I would probably have already ordered the larger Hennessy tarps (which is what I really want, but I can’t justify purchasing another tarp…my wife would kill me).


This concludes my Report. I would like to thank the folks at Hennessy Hammock and BackpackGearTest.org for the opportunity to test this product.

 



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