Please review, edit, and comment on my Field Test Report.
Personal Biographical Information:
Name: Rami Benhameda
Height: 5'11" (1.8m)
Weight: 200lbs. (90.7kg)
Email address: rbenhameda@...
City: Indianapolis, In.
I've been hiking and backpacking in and around Central and Southern Indiana for the past 20 years. Within the last 5 years, I've become an avid long distance hiker with sections of the AT in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Virginia under my belt. In other areas of the country, I've done section hikes, day hikes, kayak trips, mountain bike trips, off track, on track, and nearly everything in-between. I love being outside and spend as much time as possible in the woods.
I've been trying to lighten my load for about a year, and for the most part, have been successful. My interest in testing a Hennessy Hammock has come from this desire to lighten up, and from a long time interest in sleeping aloft. I expect to put this hammock though it's paces and look forward to learning all I can about using it.
I do most of my camping, hiking and backpacking in Indiana where terrain is basically level with some ravines and moderate hills in the southern half of the state. For my initial testing, I stayed close to home so the terrain was flat and the tree cover was standard mid-western deciduous forest with some pine forest thrown in for good measure.
The weather was very pleasant but dry, with warm days in the low 80's and nights down to the low 60's with mild breezes and very little humidity. There were some mornings where there was condensation on the fly in the morning, but that evaporated very quickly.
Later testing included some Rain, a few cold nights, and even a couple of nights of strong wind. I was never able to leave the contrail Indiana area, so terrain was basically the same as above, but I did vary the locations from heavily wooded to cleared campgrounds with a few select trees.
I'm still in love with Snake Skins!
As I said in my Initial Report, these are the coolest invention to come along in ages. They are long tapered tubes of very light sil-nylon which are used to 'pack' your hammock when not in use. They are no bigger around at the widest than my wrist, yet they completely and easily accommodate the entire hammock. The only trick in using them is to account for, and tuck in, all of your lines before using the Snake Skins.
Pitching the hammock is a complete breeze, and it only took me a couple of tries at home before I knew the proper height for tying the lines so that the hammock would be at a comfortable height for entry.
I like the small lines provided for the fly, and like the ability to pitch it in a traditional way, like an A-frame over the hammock. I also enjoyed trying new methods, like tying the windward side all the way down to block rain, while leaving the leeward side up to allow for a bit of airflow, or tying it with no ridgeline at all, but instead at an angle like sleeping under one side of a steeply pitched roof. This requires the ability to climb up into a tree high enough to tie off the line of the high side so that there is no bend in the fly at the ridge line. Plus it's good for your soul to climb a tree every now and then.
As the Temperatures have dropped into the 40's and even into the 30's at night, I find that my 3/4 Therm-A-Rest is no longer sufficient to keep my legs and feet warm at night, but switching to the somewhat thicker, ( 2" thick instead of 1.5" or 5.08 cm instead of 3.8 cm ) full length Therm-A-Rest is sufficient to keep me warm.
I had been experimenting with different ways of using the bungee cord provided for the hammock tie-outs, but the idea of using one cord for both the hammock and the fly had not occurred to me until I read Shane's description of a self-tensioning fly. I haven't had the opportunity to try it in real life yet, but think it sounds like a great idea with only one drawback. If you remove the fly tie outs, and use the bungee around a tent stake and to the fly as he describes, you are limited to only one way of pitching the fly. This is not a serious issue, but part of the beauty of Tom Hennessy's ingenious shelter is it's versatility, and it would be a shame to limit that.
I am torn by the problem I have with the lashing instructions provided with the hammock. Knots (and lashes which is what this is) are notorious for being confusing to describe in words, and sometimes just as confusing to illustrate. The best illustrations I have seen involve very crisp lines and different colors used to indicate differences in which rope goes where. The problem with the provided instructions is that they are printed on the stuff sack which comes with the Hammock in a sort of hand-drawn, and a little bit blurry, way. While it is good to reduce the amount of throw away papers provided with the Hammock, the benefit of having a clearly printed instruction might justify the change. The other thing is this: With the Snake Skins, the stuff sack is not necessary, and doesn't even go in my pack, so the instructions, should I need them, aren't near by. I realize that not everyone who buys a Hennessy Hammock will also buy the Snake Skins, but the instructions seem to me to be the only negative in the Hennessy Hammock package. I did, with a bit of clear thinking and a piece of parachute cord to practice with, finally master the lash as described on the stuff sack, and it really is simple once you see it.
I have tried several methods of securing the Hammock to trees. My favorite two are; the way described on the stuff sack, and, using a carabiner tied into the line at about the mid point.
For the Carabiner method, I wrap the line around the tree so that the 'biner ends up being on one side of the tree. Then, take one or two turns of the line back around the part that leads to the Hammock, and finally clip the loose (bitter) end into the 'biner.
Before this test, I had never camped in a hammock. I had never even considered camping in a hammock before a year ago. This test has provided me with a unique experience and with the opportunity to expand my experiences. I have really enjoyed using the Hennessy Explorer Ultralight A-Sym, and will continue to experiment with different ways of making it fit into my backpacking style. I don't believe, however, that it is something that I will consider using on most trips I take. I am blessed and lucky enough to have a wife (no, there's more to it than that she actually agreed to marry me!) and children who love to backpack and hike with me. A hammock is a solo sleep shelter, and the added weight to each person's pack for four shelters would make it an illogical choice for a family of hikers. We normally split the weight of two small tents between the four of us, and are able to keep individual shelter weight down to around a pound and a half ( 680 g ).
When one compares weights for a solo trip, the only thing that's going to beat a hammock is a tarp, but for a family of four, four hammocks vs. two tents is an easy choice. The tents win every time. When Hennessy offers a two or four man hammock, I'll be first on the list, but until that time, when I go for a walk in the woods with my family, I'll be leaving the Hammock at home.
[Non-text portions of this message have been removed]