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73167OWNER REVIEW - Speer Hammock 8.5A

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  • G-Force
    Mar 26, 2007
    • 0 Attachment
      Here's my second try at an owner review and a link to it in the test upload
      area.

      http://www.backpackgeartest.org/reviews/test/OWNER%20REVIEWS/OR%20-%20Speer%
      20Hammock%208.5A/

      Text of review included below.

      Looking forward to some feedback. Thank you.

      -Greg

      =========================

      SPEER HAMMOCK 8.5A
      BY GREG SCHOLZ
      OWNER REVIEW
      March 26, 2007

      TESTER INFORMATION

      NAME: Greg Scholz
      EMAIL: gforce.hiker@...
      AGE: 35
      LOCATION: Central Connecticut
      GENDER: M
      HEIGHT: 6' 4" (1.93 m)
      WEIGHT: 200 lb (90.70 kg)

      I started backpacking 25 years ago, hiking with scouting groups and taking
      weekend and 50-mile backpack trips. In the 1990s, as president of a local
      Outing Club, I organized and led several outdoor adventures. I hiked the
      Appalachian Trail in 2000 with a variety of gear, some of it homemade. I
      hiked parts of the Florida Trail in 2000. I backpacked the Inca Trail to
      Machu Picchu in 2004, and JMT in 2005. I teach Boy Scout groups and judge
      scouting competitions. I enjoy hiking the AT, LT, and MMM in New England,
      where you might often find me.


      PRODUCT INFORMATION - HAMMOCK 8.5A

      Manufacturer: Speer Hammocks Inc., Marion, NC

      Year of Manufacture: 2006

      Manufacturer's Website: www.SpeerHammocks.com

      MSRP: US $125 hammock only, $224 with tarp, $112 make your own kit w/tarp,
      $77 kit hammock only, $99 tarp separately.

      Listed Weight: 14 oz (397 g) for hammock itself, 13.5 oz (383 g).

      Measured Weight: 17.4 oz (493 g) for hammock, 14 oz. (397 g) for tarp. Bug
      netting with ridge line is measured at 4 oz (113 g).

      Color: Brown with black webbing straps. Tarp is brown with orange spectra
      cord.

      Other details: Many pricing and sizing options are available. Pricing
      varies depending on if you are willing to sew together the hammock yourself.
      You save about $50 per item (tarp or hammock) if you are willing to sew it
      together yourself. Sizing varies by weight and height. 8.0 designates folks
      up to 6' tall, while 8.5 are for folks up to 6'5" tall. "A" designates up
      to 250 lbs, while "C" designates up to 350 lbs.

      Photos shown were taken with the optional Speer Peapod around the hammock,
      but still show the basic setup of what a Speer hammock setup generally looks
      like. More photos of actual hammock are available on the Speer Hammocks web
      site.


      FIELD USE - Speer Hammock 8.5A

      I have used a Speer Hammock on several occasions in the field over the past
      five years. Throughout those years I took the hammock on at least one trip
      per year, lasting anywhere from a couple of weekends to an entire week at a
      time. This totaled to about three to four weeks of overnight experience in
      the Speer hammock. The temperatures I experienced in the hammock ranged
      from warm summer night lows of 70 degrees Fahrenheit (25 deg C) to cold
      winter night lows down to 2 degrees Fahrenheit (-16.66 deg Celsius). Most
      of my experience has been in the fall, winter or spring in temperatures
      below 40 degrees. All of my experience with the hammock has been on the
      east coast, most of it on or near the Appalachian Trail. Additionally, I
      have used the hammock in campgrounds and in backyards. Although I have
      spent more time in a tent than in my Speer hammock over the past five years,
      the primary reason for this is that I traveled more with my significant
      other during this time than on solo trips. I use the hammock primarily for
      solo overnight trips.

      Recently, I used this model Speer hammock for five nights on the Appalachian
      Trail in North Carolina/Tennessee, with two additional backyard-type nights
      in the southern Appalachians. In February, I also used it for two winter
      weekend nights in western Massachusetts. In every case I was comfortable,
      warm, and dry sleeping in the hammock. It rained two nights on the trail,
      but I hardly noticed the rain. The tarp was wet packing in the morning but
      was easily kept outside my pack and hung to dry over lunch the next day. On
      the trail the hammock was light, compact, and easy to deal with. It is my
      shelter of choice for extended solo trips.

      Some concerns I encountered while using the hammock in the field:

      Having the tarp and hammock flap in the wind while putting it up. This was
      due to having a windy site, which can be remedied if one were to hide from
      the wind, something easily done by setting up on a slope away from a ridge
      or open area. A tarp with cords flapping and dangling in the wind can look
      like an over-enthused and uncontrollable octopus.

      My fingers got cold putting up the tarp and hanging the hammock, which was
      due to not having appropriate gloves for the task and taking the time to
      make sure all of my knots were tied properly.

      One needs to be careful with nylon, and sil-nylon in particular. Although
      it is strong, it can easily be cut by something sharp, or singed by a
      campfire cinder. The Speer tarp and stuff sacks are made of sil-nylon. The
      hammock is a tougher material, but still needs to be handled with care, like
      most modern backpacking equipment.


      SUMMARY - Speer Hammock 8.5A

      The Speer Hammock is a versatile, simple design hammock built in the USA by
      Speer Hammocks, Inc., a company managed by Ed Speer. This company provides
      a variety of hammocks and accessories designed by Ed. Ed has been an active
      member of the hammock community in the years since his Appalachian Trail
      thru-hike in 2001, and wrote the book called "Hammock Camping" in 2003. Ed
      brings his 20+ years of hammock camping experience to his hammock and
      hammock accessory designs.

      Currently, the Speer hammock itself is made of 1.9 oz/sq yd ripstop nylon
      fabric in brown. A larger Model C version is made from 3-4 oz/yd ripstop
      nylon fabric in green. The hammock is sold with black no-see-um bug
      netting, a ridgeline (made from no tangle 1/16" orange spectra cord ), black
      webbing (1" wide for "A" versions or 1.5" wide for "C" versions), and
      velcro-type hook and look fasteners.

      An optional brown 1.3 oz/sq yd waterproof silnylon tarp is also sold with
      the hammock, or separately for $99. Several other accessories for the
      hammock are also available.


      THINGS I LIKE

      Features that I like that are specific to the Speer Hammock 8.5A:

      -Top open design allows easy access into and out of the hammock, allows for
      lounging or sitting and reading any time of day, and allows you to look
      around easily out of the top of the hammock day or night in any kind of
      weather.
      -Has deluxe features and optional accessories that are appreciated by
      experienced hammock campers
      -Quality construction made in the USA, designed by a veteran, well known
      hammock camper
      -Design allows you to set up tarp first, such as in rain and lets you keep
      the rest of your gear dry when setting up or breaking down camp.
      -Simple design, easy setup with minimal things that can go wrong or break
      -Straps do not damage trees
      -Component-based design - do not have to carry or use bug net or tarp in all
      conditions, and allows you to use the tarp and sleep on the ground in
      certain conditions if necessary, unlike other well-known hammocks.
      -Many additional components or accessories are available for keeping warm
      and dry
      -Unique features of Speer Hammock and accessories provide options
      unavailable by other hammock manufacturers. This includes top entry,
      optional use of bug net, and staying warm and dry in a wide range of
      termperatures.
      -Can be as warm (in winter) or as cool (in summer) as any other shelter when
      used properly with the appropriate knowledge and accessories. [DISCLAIMER:
      however, my experience does not include sleeping below zero Fahrenheit (-17
      degrees Celsius)]
      -Can be at least as comfortable as any other type of shelter when used
      properly
      -Often better than most other shelter systems in summer conditions - maximum
      flexibility at minimal weight.
      -Packs small
      -Light weight
      -Owned by a company with a dedicated designer, tester, and well-known author
      in the hammock camping field
      - Accessories make it an excellent winter camping solution
      -Many accessories and purchase options available including the Speer Peapod
      (insulated sleeping bag around outside of hammock), Top blanket (lightweight
      bag for use inside hammock), Segmented Pad Extender (allows you to add
      insulation easily), water drip strips, create-your-own-kits, and hammock
      materials purchases.
      -Great customer service and phone support


      Things I like about using hammocks in general (versus other shelters):

      -I find it more comfortable than sleeping on the ground in most cases -
      especially when a site needs to be cleared of sticks and/or rocks, or if the
      ground is very hard due to overuse.
      -Provides versatility of where to camp, where I can set up just about
      anywhere there are trees
      -Avoids ground-dwelling critters and minimizes impact to the ground
      -Follows Leave-No-Trace (LNT) priciples
      -Allows you to camp out of the wind on slopes or in dense forests to stay
      warmer, or in the wind on ridges to stay cooler and/or away from bugs
      -Allows you to stay dry by being off the ground in wet or snowy areas
      -Allows you to avoid crowds, mice in shelters, or other undesirable
      situations
      -Looks "cool" to the uninitiated in hammock camping


      THINGS I DON'T LIKE

      Features that I do not like specific to the Speer Hammock 8.5A:

      -Can take more time to setup than other systems, especially in colder
      weather, but it can also be relatively quick once familar with setup
      -Not ideal for folks who don't like to fuss with their shelter, since
      setting up a tarp, hammock, and accessories can take slightly more time and
      energy, especially at the end of a long day of hiking in cooler weather
      -Slightly heavier than other ultra-lightweight hammock systems, but not
      significantly so.

      Features that I do not like that are specific to hammocks in general:

      -Takes more experience to learn how to use a hammock properly, but once
      learned it can easily as good as or better than other systems
      -One needs to adapt to weather conditions in different ways than other
      shelter systems, which takes experience with the hammock in various
      conditions
      -Hammocks can be heavier in cold weather than other systems due to
      additional insulation requirements
      -May be less comfortable for some people who cannot get used to sleeping in
      a hammock
      -Modern materials (nylon, sil-nylon) need to be taken care of. They can
      easily be cut by something sharp or singed by a campfire cinder.


      CONCLUSIONS - Speer Hammock 8.5A

      Overall, I find that using a hammock provides flexibility and comfort, but
      also requires some special considerations in regards to insulation and
      technique.

      COMFORT: Cumulatively, I have slept in this model Speer Hammock for several
      weeks and found it to be very comfortable. During this past December I
      slept outside for 8 days in North Carolina and Tennessee where it got down
      into the 30's nearly every night. I slept in the hammock in early February
      where it got down to 2 degrees. In all situations I was plenty warm with
      the exception of a minor cold spot under my butt (one of the nights). Wind
      did not seem to be an issue, and no precipitation occurred. Laying down
      diagonally in the hammock is just fine, even for my height of 6'4". I could
      sleep on my back or side, but not on my stomach. My back felt fine the next
      day. Each morning I felt well rested, and actually didn't want to climb out
      of the warm nest of the hammock in the morning. I like the freedom of
      climbing out of the hammock from above rather than below. I didn't feel
      trapped in any way.

      WEIGHT ANALYSIS: This is the year 2007, and a plethora of ultralight gear
      exists that wasn't available just a few years ago. Overall, weight of a
      hammock system isn't bad, but it could be better given today's choices in
      ultralight gear. This problem does not only affect this particular hammock,
      but it affects hammocks in general when compared to tents or tarp solutions,
      and mostly just when camping in "colder" temperatures where additional
      insulation is required. Your decision will have to be comfort and
      flexibility versus weight efficiency, and may also depend on type of trip.
      I don't mind carrying an additional pound or two for the benefits of a
      hammock, but not everyone would agree. The comfort and flexibility is worth
      it for me.

      FLEXIBILITY: A hammock allows a lot of flexibility as to where I can set up
      my camp, as long as there are trees. Still, I need to be careful to have
      enough room to set up the tarp and trees spaced apart the appropriate
      distance. The hammock also doesn't have to be used as a hammock, but can
      be used on the ground as a bivy (or burrito as some call it) if its
      particularly cold.

      WEATHER: As long as the hang-site isn't too windy, the hammock can be set
      up in most places where a tarp strung between sizable trees can be set up.
      It can also be set up in some places where you wouldn't want to sleep on the
      ground. If it was raining or snowing I would have to put up the tarp first,
      then do everything else under the shelter of the tarp. This is in-line with
      the benefits of using a tarp. If it was too cold I would just sleep on the
      ground under the tarp. I could wrap myself in the hammock, and sleep on top
      of the foam pad.

      UNIQUE FEATURES: The top entry provides an easy way to get in and out of
      the hammock, and allows you to lounge in the hammock and still talk to other
      people in camp. Unique accessories made by Speer Hammocks Inc. allows you
      to customize how you use the hammock in various situations.

      COST: The Speer hammock gear is slightly more expensive than other hammocks
      available. However, this is not out of the ordinary for quality outdoor
      gear. You can use gear you already have in combination with the hammock,
      and can choose what gear you want to buy from Speer Hammocks. Speer
      Hammocks sells kits that will reduce costs if you choose to sew and/or
      assemble your own gear. For do-it yourself-ers, you can get the hammock and
      tarp kit for $112 to save you half the price. This might be a relatively
      inexpensive way to get into hammock camping, by using your own sleeping bag
      and pad inside a hammock of your own creation when summer camping.


      FINAL THOUGHTS - Speer Hammock 8.5A

      The Speer Hammock is straight-forward to set up and use, and actually quite
      fun. There's something unique about hanging between two trees and rocking
      yourself to sleep. Still, there are some compromises to make when using a
      hammock. As when using other gear, you need to adapt to the conditions
      (temperature, wind, rain, bugs, etc), but you also have the benefits of
      flexibility to set up where a tent cannot, such as uneven or rocky terrain,
      or even over very wet areas. You also wouldn't have to flatten or pack down
      snow or find a level spot to set up a tent.

      Although some people aren't sold on hammock camping, I recommend people who
      are interested in hammock camping to give this hammock system a try.
      Hammocks might weigh a little more in colder weather than comparable
      tent-based systems. They might also take a little longer setting up.
      However, I believe a hammock provides greater flexibility, comfort, and has
      a unique "fun" factor. Throughout the year you can take just the gear you
      need for the conditions, rather than having to carry too much all of the
      time or not enough some of the time. It's not for every situation or for
      every hiker out there, but definitely worth a try. If you get hooked on
      hammock camping, you just might not go back to sleeping on the ground.

      I recommend a Speer hammock if you are looking for a comfortable way to
      sleep outdoors and/or want some flexibility in where you camp. For cooler
      weather, it is a little more expensive to get into hammock camping in
      general, since you will need more insulation and optional accessories for
      cold weather. Hammocks aren't necessarily for everyone (couples for example
      would have to string up two hammocks side-by-side) but if you do want to
      give hammock camping a serious try, this is a great system for both long and
      short distance backpackers of all shapes and sizes.
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