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Lawson Hammock Test #2

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  • David & Monica Harris
    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
    Message 1 of 1 , Apr 1, 2001
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      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.

      David Harris
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