Lawson Hammock Test #2
- Before I start anything, I must first issue a small retraction
from my original review. Contrary to my original statement,
there was in fact a warranty description on the sheet enclosed
with the hammock. That said, it apparently does not apply to me
(or my fellow testers), as it requires that the product be
returned with a proof of purchase in order to collect.
OK, on to the review....... Today, I had my first opportunity
to set up the hammock in the field. I was paying a visit to our
local Venturing Crew, for whom my wife is an Associate Advisor.
Sadly, I didn't get to stay out with them, so I didn't get to
actually spend the night out in it. We'll have to save that for
the final review.
Rather than jump right into the review, let me start off with a
basic description of the hammock's design so everyone has a feel
for the product. Lawson's website (www.lawsonhammockco.com) is
ok, but doesn't really have any pictures that do a good job of
showing the hammock close up.
The hammock is made up of three fabric components. First is a
bed made of pack cloth approximately 89" long and 46" wide. The
ends of the bed are gathered to bring the width down to ~35".
Across the ends are 10 brass grommets to which the cords are
tied. The cords extend through an aluminum spreader bar (which
separates in the middle to allow the hammock to be folded in
half long ways) and are woven as they approach the ring where
the suspension rope is attached. Rising from the side of the
bed is approximately 6" of ripstop nylon (the same material as
the rain fly) that Lawson refers to as the water buffer.
Attached to the water buffer is a canopy of no-see-um netting
that arches over the occupant to the water buffer on the other
The water buffers and netting are supported by two four-piece,
aluminum, shock-corded poles (note: the shock-cording is way too
loose for my tastes). The poles are pre-curved, and held in
place by two grommets in tabs on either side of the hammock bed.
The poles are threaded through an intermittent sleeve of seven
4-inch sections. When set up, the poles are spaced ~66" apart,
and are held upright by an elastic cord that is stretched from
the support ring and hooked to the pole (another note of
frustration: the use of seven sleeve pieces leaves the center of
the arch pole covered by fabric, making it impossible to have
the elastic cord centered on the pole).
The entrance to the hammock is a zippered semi-circle arch
slightly off-center towards one end of the hammock. The rain
fly is held in place with a series of elasticized hooks that are
attached to the support ring and the suspension cords. It is
further attached with velcro tabs located just under the edges
of the hammock bed.
The end result is essentially a hoop tent suspended between two
trees. Now on to my test.......
When I started to set it up, I discovered that the instruction
sheet had been left out of the stuff sack, so the process
involved a bit of guesswork. This did however give me a chance
to test my theory that it would be difficult to set up
(particularly the fly). As it turns out, the set up was fairly
straightforward, and upon returning home I was pleased to find
that I had set it up almost exactly according to the
instructions. Hanging the hammock turned out to be simple
enough (even though I had to supply my own ropes), but the windy
day made attaching the rain fly more than a little frustrating.
I'm confident that a little practice will make the process go
more smoothly, but having the hammock tossed, turned and flipped
by the wind made attaching the various clips and loops a
Once I had it set up, I had a short opportunity to climb in and
test it out. What follows are a few observations.
First, once set up, the hammock appeared 'loose'. I love a
tight tent, so this was a bit unsettling. As it turns out, the
instructions warn that it will not be tight, and states that it
will tighten up once the user is inside. That didn't exactly
ring true, and even if it had, it wouldn't have really put my
mind at ease. In the field trial I will have to play with the
elastic attachments to see if I can remedy this. My concern is
that if there is inclement weather before I get in and 'tighten'
it up; what's to keep the inside (and its contents) dry?
Another weather concern is the sleeve loops that the support
poles travel through. They come in contact with the rain fly,
and I am concerned about moisture wicking into the hammock
through them from the fly. Other than that, I have little doubt
that the fly, when properly attached, will keep out the weather.
Before taking the hammock into the field, I took the opportunity
to set it up (without the fly) on the floor to see how it would
work as the 'emergency bivy' they claim it to be. This is
almost surely not an option I would use. First, the support
hoops only rise about 19" from ground level. Subtract the size
of the pole sleeves, and you have maybe 16" of clearance. Add
to that the fact that without body weight and ropes to stretch
the hammock, you have little more than the 66" of length between
the support poles to stretch out in. The majority of the
population would find that too short for comfort. Attaching the
rain fly tightly would be nearly (if not completely) impossible
without the combination of ropes and body weight to provide
tension. The end result is a shelter that in my opinion is too
short and too loose to keep out the elements, not to mention
claustrophobia inducing. You could probably rig a simple ground
shelter using only the fly, a ground cloth, a few stakes and a
length of small diameter nylon cord. You'd still need some
small trees or something to keep the fly aloft (using the two
tabs with grommets on the top of the fly spaced the same as the
support poles to run the cord through), but I'll work on that
later. While it could probably be made to work, personally I'd
stick with a true bivy, a tarp, or even carry a tent (after all,
at 4.25 lbs the hammock's not that much lighter than a tent)
before I'd plan on using the Lawson as a ground shelter.
As a hammock, it's a completely different story. Once your body
weight is inside, the bed drapes, making a very roomy shelter.
In fact, it drapes so much so that I had to raise the hammock to
keep my derriere from hitting the ground. It might also have
been the suspension ropes I used, or maybe I'm just fat. The
drape affect still leaves a fairly flat surface to sleep on (I
believe as a result of the gathering at either end), and I am
confident that I will sleep very comfortably. The two mesh
storage pockets are fairly small, but will probably hold most
pocket contents. I still need to work out a means of storing my
boots and Filson (hat) inside with me to keep them out of the
weather and still have them tucked away so I don't end up
sleeping on top of them. I'll report on the progress in my next
Overall, I give the hammock very high marks (assuming I can
tighten it up). I am very much looking forward to giving it a
real test to see if this is really the sleeping solution I've
been looking for. The scout troop for which I am scoutmaster
has a trip planned for the last weekend in April, so I will be
able to make my final report at least by then. I really hope we
come up with a good reason to get out before then.