LTR - Hennessy Explorer UL - Hollis Easter
- Dear Ray,
Here's my LTR for the Hennessy Explorer Ultralite A-sym. A bit shorter
than the FR, thank god!
Thanks for all your help throughout the test.
Long-term Report - 29 September 2008:
During the Long-Term Report period, I slept in the hammock for five
more nights: three in Vermont's Green Mountain National Forest, and
two in New York's Adirondack Park.
I used the Explorer Ultralite while backpacking in Green Mountain
National Forest near Stratton, VT from August 30â"September 1. We
intended a section hike of the Appalachian and Long Trails, but due to
one hiker's injury during the first day, we made a base camp at
Stratton Pond and did day hikes from there. Total mileage was about 18
miles (29 km) at elevations from 1,700 ft (520 m) to 4,000 ft (1,200 m).
I spent two nights in the hammock in the Adirondack Park near Keene
Valley, NY from September 25â"27, 2008. We camped in Wilmington Notch
State Campground the first night, having arrived too late to hike in.
The next night, we camped near Johns Brook Lodge, around 2,100 ft (640
m). Total mileage was about 9 miles (14 km).
Overnight temperatures during both trips ranged from around 38 F (3 C)
to around 60 F (16 C).
Having given a pretty exhaustive description of my use in the Field
Report, I'll summarize here. I still love the hammock: it continues to
provide the best sleep I've had outdoors, bar none. I'm still learning
how to use it properly, which I enjoy.
I've gotten pretty good at finding trees for the hammock. I can
usually find a space for it that's pretty close to the spot where my
tent-bound friends choose to sleep, and I've been cultivating the
ability to estimate proper tree distance. I no longer start putting up
the hammock only to discover that the trees are too close together.
I still sleep on my back in the hammock. For my comfort, I now carry
two stuff sacks inside the hammock: a small one filled with hat,
socks, etc., to support my neck; and a larger one filled with clothing
to support my knees. Sometimes I'll put a wadded-up shirt on my chest
so my hands can rest on something; sometimes not.
I find that if I haven't gotten the hammock quite level, I can wake up
with a bit of pain in my lower back. A thin pad or pillow would
probably help with this. I sometimes carry a line level to help level
the hammock; I rarely use it even when I carry it.
I tend to put my extra clothing in my homemade gear hammock near the
Hennessy hammock's foot, and leave my pack and other gear inside a
contractor-grade garbage bag underneath the hammock.
The Long-Term Reporting phase gave me the opportunity to test the
hammock's performance in heavy rain and in clear weather.
First, the good: When it rained, I stayed drier in the Hennessy
hammock than I have ever been in a tent under the same conditions.
There was simply no comparison. It took me a while to trust that the
tarp would keep me dry, but it did. Usually, except when there was
heavy wind, my gear stayed dry on the ground underneath the hammock, too.
During the last night of our Adirondack trip, it rained so heavily
that I estimated the water flowing off each side of the tarp would
fill a one-liter water bottle in about a minute. We got absolutely
drenched, to the point where everyone else's gear got so waterlogged
that we decided to bail out and cancel the trip. The gear in my
hammock remained perfectly dry. To say that I was impressed is to
understate things somewhat.
The rock that ate the hammock
The rock that ate the hammock
Now, the bad: Rain makes the support ropes stretch. During my night at
Grout Pond in the Green Mountain National Forest, it rained heavily. I
went to sleep, comfortably swaying in my hammock, which I'd pitched
(as normal), as high as I could reach on the trees. I awoke in the
night to feel my rump catching on something as the hammock swayed in
the wind. Rising to investigate, I saw that rain had soaked the
support ropes, causing them to stretch so much that the hammock
lowered me onto a rock, which ripped a small hole in the hammock's bottom.
When I hung the hammock, the bottom of the hammock body touched my
waistline, which means that it was a good three feet above the ground.
I can't tell how much my body weight normally stretches the support
ropes, but I'm not usually sitting on the ground.
Since the rock incident, I make sure to pad the ground underneath the
hammock with my backpack. If the ropes stretch, I'll land on my pack,
which is relatively smooth and soft.
To its credit, the hammock body hasn't ripped any further in the five
nights I've used it since then. I contacted Hennessy's support
department about it, and they promptly sent me a Return Authorization
Number so I could send the hammock back for repair or replacement. I
plan to do so once the weather grows too cold for hammock camping.
A far more pleasant experience came from my testing during clear
weather. On one perfectly clear night in Vermont, I decided to leave
the fly off the hammock, and sleep beneath the stars. Some dew showed
up on my sleeping bag, which makes sense given that the fly wasn't
there to catch it first.
I wholeheartedly recommend sleeping in a hammock under the stars. I
gazed up at them all night long, drifting deep in thought. I felt like
I was floating among the trees, deeply connected with everything
there. I saw bats winging by, their silhouettes obscuring the sky for
a moment. I heard quick footsteps moving by, and minutes later heard
coyotes calling to each other. Something about being suspended in the
air and looking up at the sky was truly magical, and I've never
experienced anything quite like it.
Hammock as clothes line
Hammock as clothes line
I always use the hammock's ridgeline as a clothes line, both during
the night and in the morning. At night, I stretch my socks over the
ridgeline inside the hammock, hoping they'll dry out a bit. They
usually do. In the morning, as soon as I get up, I pull out my
sleeping bag and pads and hang them over the ridgeline outside the
hammock, so that any condensation will dry before I pack them away.
Even in the rain, they stay dry because of the tarp overhead.
I've never had really warm overnight temperatures during this test, so
I can't comment on the hammock's comfort without the use of pads. I've
taken the hammock down below the temperature rating of my sleeping
bag, in relative comfort. I've embraced the habit of wearing a thin
fleece jacket when sleeping--it makes getting up much more
comfortable, and helps guard against cold spots. Working with sleeping
pads inside the hammock remains a challenge, but one that I enjoy.
I've found a workable solution with a standard closed-cell foam pad
and a foam windshield reflector from the local dollar store. I plan to
build a Segmented Pad Extender at some point, and may invest in a
hammock underquilt sometime.
All the mechanics of staying warm aside, I can say that I've slept
comfortably, in terms of temperature, almost every time. I was very
cold at Wilmington Notch, but that was because I wriggled around and
slipped off my sleeping pad, and was too tired to get up and fix it.
Not really the hammock's fault. However, it does bear mentioning that
once I'm in the hammock, I'm in: it's very hard to adjust without
getting out of the hammock and re-entering it. That's not in any way a
criticism of Hennessy, because I think it would be true of any
hammock. It's just something that didn't occur to me before I started
I still haven't managed to get that three-minute setup time that
Hennessy advocates. I've stopped timing how long it takes me to set up
the hammock, because it no longer seems relevant. I've been camping
with tent-dwellers; if we're camping in a designated campsite, it
takes me about as long to find a pair of likely trees and set up the
hammock as it takes them to set up their tents in the convenient flat
However, I can find places to hang the hammock in most wooded areas;
flat spaces for tents are harder to come by. I think that, for social
reasons, I didn't fully test the convenience factor of the hammock,
since I wanted to camp near my ground-bound companions.
* Include longer TreeHuggers. There were times when I had to
choose different hanging spots because the TreeHuggers wouldn't fit
around bigger trees.
* Use support ropes that stretch less when wet. I understand the
need for some stretch, but Hennessy offers other hammocks with
Spectra-reinforced support ropes. Spectra tends not to stretch much;
perhaps it could be offered as an add-on for this hammock.
* Reverse the direction toward which the ridgeline pockets open.
* Use Omni-Tape for the entry slit. As I understand it, Omni-Tape
is a specialized kind of hook-and-loop fastener whose design
(different levels of hooks and loops) makes it stick to itself but not
to other fabrics. The entry slit is still grabbing at my shirts,
jacket, and other items, pulling small threads off them.
* Mark the support ropes for length, to make it easier to center
the hammock between two trees. This could be done with a woven marking
or an indelible marker.
* Mark the fly to show which side goes up.
* Mark the head and foot ends of the hammock and SnakeSkins to
make it easier to set up the hammock correctly.
When I started this test, I was curious about how I would adapt to
hammock camping: whether I'd like it, whether it would be easy to
learn, whether I'd prefer tent camping in the end. It's been a long
and fascinating road, and I expect it to continue.
I find that I'm looking with sadness toward a time when the weather
will become too cold for hammocking, when I'll be forced back onto the
ground. I've come to enjoy living in the trees. I sleep better, and
have more fun. I'd have to carry three hammocks to equal the weight of
my old tent. I stay dry, and so does my gear.
I rave about the Hennessy Explorer Ultralite to people I meet on the
trail. I've tried hard to keep an objective viewpoint about it, I
really have . . . but it will be a relief to be done with the test
series, so that I can be really openly effusive about it. It's a
fantastic piece of gear, and I am so grateful to have been chosen to
* The most comfortable sleep I've ever had outdoors
* Ability to use rough terrain
* Small packed size
* Light weight
* Good ventilation
* Tolerance for poor site choices
* Stealthy color
* Low impact on campsites
* Offers whole new opportunities for bizarre homemade gear
* Really impressive protection from rain
* Nothing really serious, especially in comparison with the many
* Support ropes may stretch in rain, causing me to hit the ground
* Mesh pockets open awkwardly
* Entry slit can bruise the side of my left leg
I thank BackpackGearTest and Hennessy Hammock for allowing me to test
the Explorer Ultralite A-sym. It's amazing.
- Hi Ray,
Just wanted to say thanks, and to thank you for your thoughtful edits,
always delivered at lightning speed. It's been a pleasure.
See you next time,