73167OWNER REVIEW - Speer Hammock 8.5A
- Mar 26, 2007Here's my second try at an owner review and a link to it in the test upload
Text of review included below.
Looking forward to some feedback. Thank you.
SPEER HAMMOCK 8.5A
BY GREG SCHOLZ
March 26, 2007
NAME: Greg Scholz
LOCATION: Central Connecticut
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
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
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
-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
-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
-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
-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
-Can be at least as comfortable as any other type of shelter when used
-Often better than most other shelter systems in summer conditions - maximum
flexibility at minimal 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
-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
-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
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
-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
-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
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
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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