Hennessy Hammock SuperShelter - Owner Review
Review Date: November 25, 2008
Tester Biographical Information
| 6' 4" (193 cm)
| 220 lbs (100 kg)
| kwpapke at gmail dot com
|City, State, Country
|| Minneapolis, Minnesota USA
Backpacking Background: mostly in Minnesota and Oregon - all of the
Hiking Trail and Border Route, Isle Royale, dayhiking and backpacking
in the Columbia River gorge.
Extensive dayhiking in Utah,
Colorado and Oregon. Mostly Spring/Fall season hiker, but easing
into more cold-weather/Winter backpacking. I am a passionate
hammock camper -- I gave up my tent for a Hennessy Explorer Ultralight
in March 2008 and have only used my tent one night since.
One of the greatest challenges in hammock camping is staying warm,
especially from below, a problem not shared by tent campers where the
ground protects the camper from cold air.
The Hennessy SuperShelter system consists of two components that are
currently purchased separately, but when first introduced were sold
together. The SuperShelter is sold in two sizes to match the
hammocks they are paired with, in this report I will discuss only the
larger size which fits my hammock, the Hennessy Explorer Ultralight
Asym. The two components of the
- The UnderCover + UnderPad. This supplies insulation and
protection to the bottom of the hammock. The UnderPad is an Open
Cell Foam (OCF) pad with elastics that attach it to the underside of
the hammock. The UnderCover is waterproof, windproof SilNylon
double-wall bottom cover that protects the UnderPad and camper from the
elements, and protects the somewhat fragile UnderPad from damage.
- The OverCover. It is uncoated 30D nylon and acts as a
wind/air barrier. It attaches to the hammock with elastics and
covers the mosquito netting for extra warmth in cold, dry
conditions. It has a moderate-sized ventilation hole up near the
head area to allow fresh air into the hammock at night.
I have covered both components in this one Owner Review, because it is
very hard to understand the Overcover separate from the Undercover/pad.
Side view of the Over/Under covers.
The OverCover is the green fabric atop the hammock.
The UnderCover is the brown fabric underneath.
Closeup of the OverCover ventilation hole.
The hammock mosquito netting is visible through the hole.
|Listed Weight (no stuff sack)
oz (397 g)
|Measured Weight (no stuff sack)
oz (391 g)
oz (136 g)
I purchased my SuperShelter system in April 2008, shortly after buying
my Explorer Ultralight Asym hammock after determining that I did not
care to use a sleeping pad underneath me in the hammock. I have
used the SuperShelter extensively this year on multiple backpacking and
cross-country camping trips, spending in excess of 40 nights sleeping
in it. A sampling of the use locations and conditions are
tabulated below. In all the field uses through September 2008,
only the UnderCover was used. In the October & November 2008
field uses the OverCover was added to the configuration.
|May 23-27, 2008
|Border Route (BRT), northern
Minnesota in the Boundary
Waters Canoe Area Wilderness
|1500 to 2100 ft
(460 to 640 m)
|28 F to 50 F
(-2 C to 10 C)
|May 27-31, 2008
|Superior Hiking Trail (SHT),
in the Superior National Forest
of northern Minnesota
|600 to 1900 ft
(180 to 580 m)
|23 F to 45 F
(-5 C to 7 C)
|July 8, 2008
|Mount Adams, Washington
|July 11, 2008
|Banks-Vernonia State Park,
|September 7-14, 2008
|Isle Royale National Park,
|600 to 1600 ft
(180 to 490 m)
|40 F to 50 F
|October 14-17, 2008
|Superior Hiking Trail (SHT),
|800 to 1300 ft
(245 to 395 m)
|28 F to 40 F
(-2 C to 4 C)
|early November, 2008
In the following narrative I describe how I pack/unpack the
SuperShelter. I attached the UnderCover to my hammock when I
bought it and I haven't taken it off since. The UnderCover gets
rolled up into my snakeskins along with the hammock.
The OverCover I normally carry in a side pocket of my backpack.
It is really designed for very cold, dry nights, so I do not leave it
attached at all times. I find that once I do attach it to the
hammock, I leave it on for the rest of the trip.
I carry the UnderPad separate from the rest of the
hammock system. This is not the only way to do this, in fact Tom
Hennessy, the designer, just leaves his UnderPad in-place and rolls up
the whole mess and stuffs it into his pack. This is less effort,
but the one time I tried this, it required considerably more space
in my backpack.
Setup of the system consists of:
In my case I normally attach the hammock side elastics to my trekking
which are also holding up my tarp as can be seen in the photo
below. I double up the hammock side elastics to provide more side
tension by simply tying the loose end back to the plastic ring to
which it comes attached. This makes for easy looping over my
trekking poles as depicted below, and provides me with adequate side
tension on the hammock.
- Setting up the hammock as normal: tie the hammock to two trees
with the "tree huggers" (webbing straps), slide back the snakeskins,
stake down the tarp.
- Taking the UnderPad out of the stuff sack.
- Putting it in place in the UnderCover. The UnderPad is not
symmetric: the wide side goes at the "head" end of the hammock, the
narrow end at the "foot" end. Also, one side of the pad has an
"egg crate" pattern. This side faces up to maximize the trapped
air. If the pad is either installed upside-down or reversed
(head/foot), the UnderPad loops used in step #5 will not be properly
positioned next to the openings in the UnderCover. If BOTH of
these are backwards, the loops will be in the right place, but the full
insulation power of the pad will not be achieved.
- Attaching the UnderPad elastics to the ridge line hooks.
These hooks are positioned along the ridge line with a prusik knot that
slides up and down the ridge line to adjust the tension of the
tarp. I adjust the prusik to tension the tarp, and do NOT make
any changes to accommodate the tension on the elastics of the
- Threading the hammock side elastics through the UnderPad side
and the openings in the UnderCover and attaching them to whatever I
choose. It may be possible to attach the side loops in other
ways, for instance by tying them to the hammock side tie out points,
but I have found that simply threading the elastics through the loops
easy to do and effective.
In the picture below, the result of the
setup process is visible. The side elastics (not under tension in
the photo) are threaded through the OverCover from the plastic ring
attachment, then through the UnderPad side elastics at the top of the
picture, and out through the opening in the UnderCover. The
silvery metallic fabric is the space blanket positioned atop the
In the picture to the left, the various
layers are more apparent. Starting from the top is the green
OverCover, the silver space blanket, the gray OCF UnderPad, then the
One of the UnderPad seams can also be seen in the picture.
The UnderCover & UnderPad come in their own stuff sack. The
fit is very tight, and I have had great difficulty in getting the
UnderPad back into the sack, so I have switched to packing the UnderPad
in a Sea-To-Summit 8 liter dry sack. This allows me to carry it
strapped on the outside of my pack, just like any other sleeping
mat. The UnderCover and OverCover are rolled up directly into my
snakeskins along with the rest of the hammock including the tarp.
comes in a lightweight plastic zip-lock bag, not really suitable for
The advantage of storing the UnderPad in a dry sack includes:
The main disadvantage of this approach is the effort required to remove
the pad from the hammock, roll it up and place in the sack, especially
in the rain. The good news is that with practice I have become
very adept at this. The steps include:
- It is rolled up neatly and reasonably compact
- It is kept dry and protected
- It does not need to take up precious space in my pack interior
The convenience of being able to roll up the UnderCover ad OverCover in
the #4 snakeskins with my hammock cannot be overstated. Deploying
them is effortless.
- Detaching the UnderPad elastics from the ridge line hooks.
- Detaching the hammock side elastics from whatever they are hooked
to and unthread them from the side UnderPad loops.
- Rolling up the UnderPad. I do this in the UnderCover itself
-- this keeps the pad clean and dry and allows me to perform this under
the protection of the tarp.
- Place into the dry sack
- Strap the sack onto my pack
- Tear down the hammock as normal: roll up the hammock into the
snakeskins, untie from the trees and place in my pack. I have
been pleased that the UnderCover and OverCover will all fit nicely into
the #4 snakeskins along with the hammock and tarp. I haven't had
any difficulty getting all the gear into the snakeskins with the
additional bulk from the SuperShelter.
Attaching the OverCover or UnderCover
The following procedure is not meant to be an instruction set to be
followed by a prospective user, but merely to illustrate the steps
Both of the hammock covers in the SuperShelter system are attached to
the hammock in virtually identical fashion:
- Detach both suspension ropes from the trees, if the hammock is
- Determine which end is the head/foot end of the cover. The
UnderCover has an elastic slit in it that matches the hook-and-loop
slit opening at the foot end of the hammock, so the foot end has the
slit. The OverCover has a hole approximately 5 in (13 cm) in
diameter at the head end.
- Draw the suspension rope through the opening at the end of the
cover (this is more difficult if the snakeskins are left in place).
- Attach the cover elastic to the hammock end ridge line hook.
- OverCover: drape the cover over the top of the mosquito netting.
UnderCover: drape the cover under the bottom of the hammock.
- Draw the other suspension rope through the other cover end
- Attach the remaining elastic to the other ridge line hook.
- OverCover: thread the hammock side elastic through the matching
hole in the OverCover.
UnderCover: the side elastic is threaded through it in step #5 in the
setup procedure described above.
Complexity of setup/tear down
Setting up and taking down the SuperShelter is actually much simpler
than it appears in this report. A lot of words are required to
describe what is really a very simple procedure. Hennessy has
several short videos on their website that make it very clear how to do
Adjusting the configuration for changes in temperature
On a warm night I can simply not install the UnderPad. Hammocks
are surprisingly cold on the bottom at temperatures below 70 F (21 C),
and so far I have never chosen to do this, but then again I do live in
Minnesota. I do occasionally omit the space blanket.
If I want to look at the stars, I can drape both sides of the OverCover
to one side of the hammock. Again, so far I have not chosen to do
To be effective at temperatures below 50 F (10 C), I find I must use a space blanket on top of the
UnderPad. This has given me good insulation performance in all
conditions listed at the top of this report. It shocked me what a
huge difference this makes. The good news is the space blanket
has very low weight and bulk, and once put in place over the pad it
does not move all night even if I toss and turn. I use an
Adventure Medical Heatsheet, and it has lasted the entire season with
no apparent damage. I leave it on top of the UnderPad when
packing, and roll it up inside the pad. I find the space blanket
gives me enough insulation to be comfortable down to about the freezing
point with no additional clothing.
I have read a fair amount of discussion in the hammock camping
community about why a space blanket is so effective when positioned
above the UnderPad. They are designed to reflect radiant heat and
act as a wind barrier, but positioned just below the thin hammock
bottom layer they also seem to act as a vapor barrier. On warmer
evenings I often use my mummy sleeping back as a quilt, and the
somewhat moist warmth is quite apparent against my back. In this
vapor barrier role, it also protects the UnderCover OCF pad from
perspiration which helps maintain its insulating efficiency.
I have been experimenting lately with the Exped MultiMat as ancillary
insulation. Information on those results can be found in my Exped
MultiMat test report on backpackgeartest.org.
I have spent one night with my PrimaLoft parka in the UnderCover
underneath the UnderPad (space blanket on top). Temperatures
dropped to 19 F (-7 C), and I was quite comfortable all night.
This shows that the SuperShelter system can be augmented with other
cold-weather clothing to provide colder-weather performance.
Sleeping bag & clothing:
I use a down 30 F (-1 C) mummy bag exclusively. I typically wear
lightweight silk long johns and top at night in most conditions.
I add a 200 weight fleece pullover, stocking cap and gloves on cold
nights. When I am expecting conditions below freezing, I
substitute mid-weight Power Dry long johns and top for the silk.
The only night I have been truly cold in my SuperShelter was the one
night on the SHT when the temperatures dropped to 23 F (-5 C). My
back and buttocks were quite chilled, but I was too lazy to get out of
the hammock and put on my fleece pullover, which has kept me quite
toasty on a number of other cold evenings.
I have slept through several nasty rainstorms in my SuperShelter,
and so far I have yet to get a drop of moisture anywhere on my sleep
system, even though I use the stock Hennessy tarp which many hammock
campers consider too small for good protection. I have not gotten
up in the middle of the night and trudged out into the rain to see how
much ground splash or rain the UnderCover has kept off of me, so I
cannot say for sure whether it was the UnderCover that kept me dry.
For the first six months I owned the OverCover I never used it, though
it was always in my backpack. I enjoy looking out the side of my
hammock at night, and I didn't want to obstruct the view. As
temperatures dropped this Fall, I decided to give it a try. I was
amazed at how effective it is. It added at least 10 F (6 C)
degrees of differential warmth over ambient on my October SHT
backpacking trip. During testing in my backyard, when the
environment was 19 F (-7 C), the interior of my hammock (with me still
in my mummy bag) was 32 F (0 C). When I get out of my sleeping
bag the interior hammock temperatures seem to rise another 10 F (6 C)
from my additional body heat. This makes doing chores in my
hammock in cold temperatures much more comfortable, and has helped me
overcome my reluctance to get out of my mummy bag on cold mornings.
The UnderPad has proven to be somewhat fragile. On my May
backpacking trip through the Boundary Waters the pad (in its sack) got
severely poked several times by sharp branches from trees that have
fallen over the trail. This has resulted in several small holes
in the OCF pad, but oddly enough, no hole in the stuff sack. The
good news is the pad holes have not grown, and
they seem to have a negligible impact on thermal performance.
The hammock camper has many options to stay warm and dry in addition to
a basic hammock system including sleeping pads and under-quilts. I
chose the SuperShelter because it was less expensive than a down under
quilt, and I hoped more comfortable than using my Therm-a-Rest Prolite
4 pad in the hammock. After 7 months of intensive use, I have
not been disappointed.
One of the key benefits for me is that the UnderCover system does a
great job of augmenting the stock tarp, which seems quite tiny.
This has allowed me to minimize weight in my backpack by not having to
purchase a larger tarp to protect me from windblown rain.
- Effective 3-season insulation system - keeps me warm.
- Keeps me dry, and the insulation performs well in wet conditions.
- Lightweight and not bulky.
- Inexpensive compared to down under quilts.
- Does not interfere with the comfort of my hammock like a sleeping
- Easy to pack/unpack, especially when used with snakeskins.
- The UnderPad is somewhat fragile and susceptible to holes being
poked in it.
- Attaching or removing the UnderCover or OverCover in the field
takes a few minutes and requires that the hammock not be hung at the
time. This is a hassle in the rain or in cold temperatures when
my fingers don't work so well. This is not a major issue for me,
as I leave the covers on for an entire trip or longer.
- Requires a space blanket in cooler temperatures.
- Requires additional insulation when temperatures drop much below
- The OverCover does not always fit tightly against the UnderCover
top - there is often a 1-2 inch (2-5 cm) crack near my head. This
is not all bad, as it allows fresh air in near my head, and does not
seem to have severely impacted thermal performance.
- Limited utility in a ground-sleeping situation. Hammock
campers have to be concerned with having to sleep on the ground in
unusual situations, and unlike my Therm-a-rest pad the UnderPad would
not be comfortable as a ground pad. That said, so far I have
never had to resort to sleeping on the ground, so this has been a
non-issue for me.
Read more reviews of Hennessy gear
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