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Reviews > Shelters > Hammocks > REI Quarter Dome Air Hammock > Test Report by Coy Ray StarnesREI Co-op Quarter Dome Air Hammock
Review by Coy Starnes
Initial Report: May 12, 2017
Field Report: July 15, 2017
Long Term Report: September 13, 2017
I live in Northeast Alabama. I enjoy hiking, hunting, fishing, and kayaking. I enjoy hiking with family and friends but also hike solo occasionally. Most of my hiking has been in the Southeastern US. I hike throughout the year but actually enjoy late fall or early spring the most with some winter hiking mixed in. I don't like hot and humid weather of summer unless I can escape to the mountains where it is cooler. My style is slow and steady and my gear is light. I will sacrifice weight for comfort and durability to a degree. A typical 3-season load for me is around 20 lb (9kg) not counting food and water.
Initial Report May 12, 2017
The REI Quarter Dome Air Hammock (I'll mostly just call it the hammock from now on) is a bridge style hammock. Bridge style hammocks are different than the more popular gathered end hammock but do offer some advantages as well as disadvantages. For example, they use less material but then lose the weight saving advantage by needing a spreader bar. They also allow for a flatter lay and eliminate the hyper-extended knee of a more traditional hammock even though laying on the diagonal and making a gathered end longer and wider allows for a pretty flat lay. But enough of that for now
The hammock is an all-in-one system, and by this I mean, everything needed to use the hammock is included in the package except for the sleeping bag or top quilt and some form of bottom insulation. But then again, most hammockers have their own preferred sleeping gear so this is perfectly acceptable and in fact how most all-in-one hammock systems are marketed.
First is the hammock body itself, which is constructed of a durable rip-stop nylon material (exact material not given) with strategically placed webbing reinforcement. The dimensions of the floor are approximately 23 in (58 cm) wide by 81 in (206 cm) long with the sides coming up several inches on either side. The spreader bars at either end are the same 34 in (86 cm) length and are permanently attached to the hammock but do separate for storage. There is no mention of what they are made of but they appear to be aluminum. They are painted black but you can see the shiny unpainted surface on a short section that slides inside the other half. The ends are capped off with a rounded plastic piece to protect the rain fly which will invariably rub the pole ends. The spreader bars don't really support the occupants weight even though it appears they do. Their main job is to keep the ends spread apart and most of the weight is supported by the webbing they are connected too on each side of the hammock.
end view of hammock
The hammock is suspended using a combination of Dacron lines and webbing straps. Webbing (sometimes called a tree hugger) is the preferred method of going around the tree because it protects the tree bark whereas a thin line could damage it. The webbing strap material is not specified but each one is identical with loops sewn in each end and measure 57 in (145 cm) long by 0.75 in (2 cm) wide. Dacron lines that makes up the woopie slings are permanently attached to one end of each web strap. There are carabiners at either end of the triangle formed by the Dacron lines that are attached to the hammock body. These clip into the free end of the Dacron lines coming from the trees. Adjustments on how tight to hang the hammock are made at both ends of the hammock using these same Dacron lines with the built in whoopie slings. I'll describe how it all works under "Trying it out".
Directly over and sewn to the hammock is the bug screen. It is made of a fine black mesh which makes looking out easier. It has a large zippered opening that starts 18 in (46 cm) from each end of the hammock. The opening is 4 ft (1.2 m) wide and about 2 ft (0.6 m) tall but in an elongated half moon shape. It can be zipped closed in either direction or meet anywhere in between using the double zippers. There are zipper pulls on both the inside and outside for zipper manipulation from inside or outside the hammock. Overhead are four sewn in web loops for hanging things inside the hammock. The bug netting is held in place with a small cord that runs from the end out to the outer part of the suspension triangle formed by the Dacron lines. It can be tightened or loosened as needed using line tensioners. There are also two pockets sewn onto the hammock. One is on the inside at the center/back edge of the hammock and measures 7 in (18 cm) tall x 11 in (28 cm) wide. However, it is divided down the center. I can place my iPhone 6+ in either side easily. So far I've stored my cell-phone, headlamp, some water and reading glasses inside it. There is another pocket at the center/front edge of the hammock but it is located outside the bug netting so anything placed in it would not be easily accessible after closing the bug net. It measures 7 in (18 cm) tall x 6 in (15 cm) wide.
bug netting, door and storage pockets - under quilt installed but not part of system
The fly is made of 15-denier rip-stop nylon and is seam sealed with tape down the center (ridge) line and seams near the edge on both sides. The fly is an elongated hex shape and measures just over 11 ft or 136 in (345 cm) down the ridge. It is 72 in (183 cm) wide and the outside edges that run parallel to the hammock measure 85 in (216 cm). The fly is hung using grey cords connected at each end of the fly which means it is not a continuous ridge line. It is attached to each tree with a small piece of hardware tied to the end that hooks over the line after wrapping it around the tree. The fly is further secured with reflective cordage at the four outer corners. They are 93 in (236 cm) long each and have a loop tied on the end. The stakes are DAC aluminum, 6 in (15 cm) long and shaped like a V. There is a small hole near the top end of each stake with a loop of cordage tied on it. The fly is tightened with line tensioners located at each beak end of the fly and at the four corners. The directions show how to tie the fly off high in good weather and low for rain. I'll be honest, the fly seems pretty narrow to me, I would be more comfortable if the fly were at least a foot wider on each side. Another foot on the ridge length would be gravy! Of course a bigger fly is heavier and more susceptible to wind but the same wind makes a small fly more susceptible to rain.
reflective cord for fly guy lines
Trying it out
I carried the hammock on a short 4 mile (6 km) round trip overnight hike for its maiden voyage. The temperature was 76 F (42 C) as I hiked to my campsite for the night. But first things first, the hammock comes inside a long skinny stuff sack that resembles a small backpacking tent. My present pack has no place to attach anything this large externally so it had to go inside my 50 L (3051 cu in) pack along with my synthetic top and bottom quilt. Everything fit in with plenty of room for more gear but not a lot more gear. My total pack weight for the night was 19 lb (8.6 kg). It only dropped down to 62 F (17 C) overnight and did not rain.
hammock in stuff sack
I pulled the hammock out of the stuff sack and saw the stakes were in a small pocket sewn near the top of the stuff sack. Nice! I also noticed the instructions printed on a piece of paper like fabric sewn inside the stuff sack. Good thing too because I've never seen, much less hung a bridge hammock. I should turn in my man card right now because I briefly looked over the directions...
The directions recommended finding two trees about 17 ft (5.2 m) apart. I found two that were in the perfect spot about 14 ft (4.3 m) apart and figured that would work. I was wrong. The directions said to lay the hammock out flat on the ground and place the spreader bar poles together. I don't particular like placing my hammock on the ground but it was dry so no biggie this time. Next I was to wrap the web strap (tree huggers) around the tree and pass the white Dacron line already attached to one end of the webbing through the empty eye and snug it up to the tree at around 6 ft (1.8 m) high. Now take the carabiner at the end of the triangle formed by the Dacron lines coming from the hammock and clip it over the end of the Dacron line that forms the whoopie sling. Repeat for the other end. It's really harder to describe than it actually is to do. Now the hammock can be adjusted for tightness by pulling on the free end of the Dacron line that runs away from the hammock. It actually passes through a small plastic loop and has a small grey toggle attached to the end. To loosen pull on the tab sewn onto the line that says "pull to release". It has an arrow pointing in the direction I should pull. This is where the magic of a whoopie sling comes into play. It is basically a hollow cord that has the same cord passing through a section of itself. So while not the same, think of a snake eating itself by the tail. Anyways, the inside line will slide in either direction when it is not loaded but when lots of pressure is applied it constricts on itself, similar to how a Chinese finger puzzle works. The Dacron line is white in color and lays flat, similar to a shoelace. It's not much bigger either, I was a little nervous the first time I sat down in the hammock.
After getting it set up I realized the hammock was too low to the ground even though I had moved the tree hugger straps as high as I could reach. I basically ran out of adjustment. Part of the problem was that even though I was hanging from fairly substantial trees, I had about 2 ft (0.8 m) of tree hugger strap left on each strap which only left 10 ft (3.1 m) in between for the hammock body, end triangles, and whoopie slings to fit and operate. I found two nearby trees that seemed very far apart (more than I usually like to hang my other hammocks) but it worked just fine for this hammock. Since I had my tape measure along I found these trees were 19 ft 5 in (5.9 m) apart. On the bright side, I got extra practice setting up and taking down the hammock.
After setting up the hammock I got inside to get a feel for it. Once I settled in I was impressed with how stable the hammock felt. I was also really surprised at how flat I was lying. I can lay pretty flat in my gathered end hammock but I know this much, reading in this hammock won't be as easy as what I'm used to. Since I'm right at the weight limit of the hammock I tried not to bounce around much but did turn over on my side. I'm a back sleeper in a hammock but I can now choose side sleeping if I want too. I did notice a little bit of shoulder squeeze but not enough to be uncomfortable and it certainly did not keep me from sleeping soundly in the hammock.. I also noticed how much extra room there was on both ends of the hammock. After I lose some weight I'll be able to store my pack inside the hammock. There was also plenty of room to sit up in the hammock with my head barely touching the bug net. I then flipped the hammock over to see how that would work. It felt no different than with the bug net overhead but I doubt I use it like this very often. We have bugs galore in all but the dead of winter and the bug net blocks a lot of the wind which is good in cold weather.
hammock flipped over - bug netting now underneath
I flipped the hammock back over and placed my brand new, never tried, synthetic under quilt under the hammock. Between it and the hammock I basically committed two cardinal sins. Trying out gear in the field without first trying it at home. Oh well, I was not in "deep" wilderness and could bail out if needed. I then tried sitting in the hammock with my legs off the side. I was impressed with how comfortable it was and just how little the edge material pressed into the back of my legs! I next placed the fly over the hammock using the ridge line cords and centered it. I then staked out the four corners. I wasn't sure how to connect the loop from the end of the stake to the loop at the end of the fly line so resorted to my tried and true clove hitch. The next day I got on an online hammock forum and asked if I was missing something and was told the loop on the stake was more for extracting the stake and what I did was fine.
stake attachment using clove hitch -line tension duties handled at the other end
As for how I slept, I don't recall ever sleeping better in a hammock. Now truth be told, I usually sleep very well in a hammock. This hammock is certainly comfortable. The slight shoulder squeeze did not keep me awake nor make me feel different in the morning. I believe I was lying flatter and almost wished for a pillow, something I never miss with my gathered end hammocks. I woke up twice during the night to pee but exiting and getting back in the hammock was no problem. The zippers were smooth to operate and I could do it with one hand most of the time. Every once in a while it would hit a loose section and I would need to pull the netting tight to continue.
ready for the night - could have used a pillow
Taking the hammock down is basically the opposite of hanging it but I wanted to see if I could do it without letting it touch the ground. After removing the under quilt and taking the fly off I placed the fly inside the hammock, kinda folded along the length of the bed area. I then took the poles apart. This let the hammock fold in half. I unhooked the carabiner from one end and started rolling the hammock up. When I got to the other end I unhooked the second carabiner and placed the rolled up hammock inside the stuff sack. It went in easily. After putting all my gear in my pack I was feeling pretty smug. It was about then that I noticed the tree straps and Dacron suspension lines were still hanging from both trees. I took them down, rolled them up and crammed them inside one of the stretch pockets on my pack and headed home.
OOPS! someone forgot to pack away the suspension
A few other things worth mentioning. I couldn't find any information on the warranty of the hammock but I did find conflicting weight limits. The website and a tag inside the hammock clearly say the weight limit is 250 lb (113 kg). However, the hang tag on the stuff sack stated the weight limit as 300 lb (136 kg). I wish this was true since I am right at the 250 lb (113 kg) weight limit. Anyways, I tried not to overdo it with extras in and on the hammock. My top and under quilt weigh about 5 lb (2.3 kg) total and I had my cell phone, headlamp and a little water inside the hammock. I usually hang my pack off the ridge line and just barely under my tarp but I placed it on the ground.
Using hammocks for camping is not a new idea, going back at least to Brazilian hammocks used by the Native Americans, but tents have ruled the scene more recently. However, hammocks are making a big comeback because nearly every time I go hiking I meet a hammock hanger and often several. I'm not here to debate the advantages of hammocks over tents or even the differences in styles of hammocks. But it is exciting to see all the developments in hammock camping as it becomes more mainstream. It is also a pretty big deal that a company as big as REI is getting on-board. Some may feel it is a threat to the many cottage industry hammock makers but I see it as a threat to tents. Not that I'll be tempted to go back to the ground anytime soon...
Field Report: July 15, 2017
fly set up in porch mode
Test Locations and Conditions
It has been a very hot and humid summer so far this year and with lots of rainfall. I have used the REI Quarter Dome Air Hammock on three overnights on some local trails near my home. The first one was covered in my Initial Report. I experienced several hours of rain during during the night my second overnight trip on June 5 when I hiked about 6 miles (10 km) total. Humidity was high at the start at 87% and obviously went up but temperatures were not too bad with a high of around 85 F (29 C) and a low of around 60 F (16 C). My last overnighter on July 8 was only slightly warmer with a high of 87 F (31 C) and a low of 74 (23 C), but it felt much warmer, probably because the humidity was oppressive at around 95%. It also did not cool down much overnight. For this reason I only hiked about 2 miles (3 km) total and started late in the afternoon and hiked out early the next morning.
Field Test Results
I have been very impressed with the REI hammock. The biggest challenge so far has been adjusting my scouting for suitable trees to hang from. It takes trees a good six paces apart to hang this hammock and I was used to looking for trees at around five paces apart. In my Initial Report I was also critical of the fly size but it kept me dry in some pretty hard rain, fortunately there was not a lot of wind.
On the June 5 trip I wanted to try and hang the hammock without letting it touch the ground and do the same when taking it down. I found that by first putting both tree straps up I could hang the hammock from one tree and spread it out as I walked towards the second tree. Once I was close to the other tree I could grab the suspension from that tree and hook the hammock up. From there it was a simple matter to insert the spreader bars and set the tension with the whoopie slings on each end to center and level the hammock.
I set the fly up in porch mode (high on one side) to start with and it did allow a little more breeze in and gave me a better view on that side. I went to sleep a little on the warm side. I had my synthetic under quilt hung underneath the hammock but used the matching top quilt as a pillow. When I was awakened by rain at 2 AM I had to go grab my pack hanging at the foot end tree. I also noticed water pooling on the porch side of the tarp so had to drop it down in a normal A frame pitch, or as some call, storm mode. I did use the top quilt the rest of the night but with it I felt a little warm and I missed using it as my pillow.
lower view of fly setup in porch mode
I stayed dry even though I did not have the hammock centered under the fly very well. It was at least 4 inches (10 cm) off center but with the fly in porch mode it wasn't real obvious. I also didn't have any problem taking the hammock down in the rain. I just left the fly up while I released some tension on the suspension, removed the spreader bars, folded it sideways to line up the bars and worked my way under the fly to the other end. I put everything in the stuff sack and then into my pack while under the fly. I shook the fly off as best I could but since it was still raining I was forced put it away wet in the outer mesh pock on my pack. After hiking home I hung everything up under my covered deck, the hammock to dry the suspension which was pretty much soaked, and the fly which was obviously really wet. It was still humid but the fly was dry in about an hour. The suspension took several hours to completely dry out.
On my last overnighter I was wishing for cooler weather most of the night. There was no breeze and no rain to cool things down so I was uncomfortably warm despite leaving the fly off, not using my top quilt at all and not using my under quilt the first half of the night. It finally dropped down to around 75 F (24 C) around 1 AM and I decided to put the under quilt on, not because I really needed it but I was starting to feel the night air on my backside. I'm not sure this was the best idea because I felt too warm the rest of the night. I never did use the top quilt except as my pillow. I hiked home dreaming of fall weather and researched putting a small battery operated fan inside my hammock
There are a few things I wish were more practical with this hammock. On top of the list would be that it could be stored inside a snakeskin, but the permanently attached spreader bars prevent this possibility. I also missed having an overhead ridge line. I found the side pocket worked just fine but I like to keep some stuff overhead where there is no chance I will roll into it if I happen to toss and turn a lot. I could add a ridgeline using the overhead loops, I just haven't got around to it yet. Fortunately it makes up for the few shortcomings by being so comfortable to sleep in. That's all I have for now. Stay tuned for my Long Term Report in two months.
Long Term Report: September 13, 2017
Test Locations and Conditions
I went on two more overnight trips during the Long Term Report period. Both trips were in local woods near my home, fortunately, I have some very nice hiking areas right out my front door. I was hoping for a couple more nights use but two separate hurricanes interfered with my recent hiking plans including a two night trip planned for The Walls of Jericho over Labor Day weekend when the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey dumped heavy rain and caused tornadoes in my area. Two weeks later Hurricane Irma was more of a rain and wind event here but I didn't trust hanging out in the trees. Anyways, these were only minor inconveniences compared to folks in the direct paths of these storms.
On August 3rd I left home at 2.30 PM. The temperature was 88 F (31 C) and it did sprinkle about 15 minutes during my hike. I hiked about 5 miles (8 km) and when I stopped at my campsite at 5.40 PM it had cooled down to a pleasant 83 F (28 C). It slowly cooled on down to 69 F (21 C) by 5.20 AM when I woke up the next morning I only had a mile (1.6 km) to hike on home and made it home at 7 AM. My last overnight hike was on August 22nd. It was 84 F (20C) when I headed out at 4 PM and dropped down to 71 (22 C) for the overnight low. No rain was experienced on this trip and the air felt more fall like even thought the temperature was still rather warm.
Long Term Observations
I continue to be impressed with this hammock. The suspension is easy to adjust but I still have to remember to find trees a little further apart than I am accustomed to. This is because the bury (where one cord passes inside the other) part of the whoopie sling is 11 in (28 cm) long and there is one on each end of the hammock. This means that no matter how I hang the hammock, those 22 in (56 cm) have to be considered in selecting the distance between trees. I could get around this by using a different suspension system but finding tress far enough apart has not been a problem so far. I've also noticed that on really big trees the tree hugger strap is none too long. On my August 3rd trip I was hanging from a rather large tree on the foot end and there was only about 6 in (15 cm) of strap left after wrapping it around the tree. With some suspension systems going all the way around the tree isn't critical but with this design the free end must go through the loop and head in the direction of the hammock or it won't work. I could add tree straps with loops in both ends and just make the factory strap longer if concerned I might not find trees small enough to hang from. Most of the time I actually try to find smaller trees in relation to the bigger trees in an area to hang from to reduce the possibility of lighting striking my trees. Also, really big trees are often well away from other trees, often too far apart for a good hang. In both previous reports I mentioned how I could set up and take the hammock down without letting it touch the ground so on my last trip I remembered to take a photo to give an idea of how it is done (taking it down in this case) after removing the poles and folding it in half I just unhook one end and start rolling until I get to the other end. It looks like this just before unhooking the second carabiner.
almost ready to pack the hammock up
The only real concern I've had using the REI Quarter Dome Air Hammock has been the small tarp it comes with. As I reported in my Field Report, I did not get wet during a pretty rainy night but the winds were fairly calm. On the plus side, this tarp is really light weight, but I wouldn't mind carrying a few more ounces just to be on the safe side. I have always wanted a winter tarp that would allow me to seal off the ends of my hammock so I recently bought a much larger tarp. I didn't have a lot of cash so I opted for a fairly inexpensive tarp ($60) that measures 12 ft by 12 ft (3.66 m x 3.66 m). It uses 70D nylon so it is no lightweight tarp. Anyways, I set it up and placed the factory tarp over it just to give a visual. This tarp is actually bigger than I would prefer most of the time, one about halfway between sizes would be perfect in my opinion. In other words a 12 ft (3.66 m) long by 9 ft (2.74 m) wide hex tarp would be my preference for the stock tarp on this hammock for all but dead of winter hangs. Here is a photo of the supplied tarp pitched over the big tarp.
broadside view of both tarps
I live in a rural area with low crime but we do have our share of coyotes. Regardless of the reason, I like to carry a small firearm when I'm out in the woods, but due to concerns of keeping it stored in a safe manner I have always just left it in my pack once I turned in for the night. However, I was always slightly worried someone might happen upon my campsite and steal things from my pack while I was snoring a few feet away. This is one reason I haven't always carried my pistol, however, on my last overnight trip I decided to take my small .380. I was planning on leaving it in my pack overnight like always but as I was looking at the pockets on the back side of the Quarter Dome I thought to myself, I wonder if it would fit inside and be pointed in a safe direction (down), and most importantly, well away from me as I slept. I carry the .380 in a pocket holster that is designed with a rough outside to help it stay inside my pocket when removing the gun. It fit very snugly inside the 7 in (18 cm) tall x 6 in (15 cm) wide net pocket. When I laid down it did move the gun at an angle that was less vertical but it was still pointing well away from my body. The only problem this created was I lost some storage capacity for things like my iPhone, a small water bottle, my head lamp and other odds and ends I like to keep in my hammock. I wouldn't t mind seeing a third pocket added, it would be handy regardless of whether I used one for my gun.
side pockets holding some of my gear
I wanted to comment on the durability of the Quarter Dome Air Hammock, but with only five nights total using it I can only say I feel it is very well made and has handled my 250 lb (113 kg) with no problem. A skinnier (lighter) person would put a lot less stress on the hammock than I do. The only thing I've noticed so far is a slight staining of the tree straps and most of that probably occurred on the rainy night I used it. With the REI 100% satisfaction guarantee I know it is covered for 1 year no matter what. If it tears they will replace the hammock with another one or I could just decide the hammock is not for me and get a refund or exchange it for other gear.
I know I tend to ramble a bit but the bottom line for me is the REI Quarter Dome Air Hammock is easy to set up, offers me a safe haven from bugs and allows me to sleep like a baby. I know understand why the people using a bridge hammock are so adamant about how comfortable they are. All my other observations deal mostly with personal preferences. I know a hammock is not for everyone but for me personally, I'll never sleep on the ground again if I can help it. With the 100% satisfaction guarantee this hammock is a good choice for anyone on the fence about seeing if they will like sleeping in a hammock.
This concludes my review of the REI Quarter Dome Air Hammock. My thanks to REI and BackpackGearTest.org for this testing opportunity!
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