Submitted by: Chris - Gambrills, MD
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Reviewed by: TinHatRanchIt is pretty rare that I run across a piece of survival equipment that revolutionizes my way of thinking or I find a piece of equipment that completely changes the makeup of my bag. The Hennessy Hammock just happens to be one of those pieces of equipment. I’ve spent my life thinking tents were the only way to go when sleeping outdoors. It took just one night to turn that tenant upside down. I set out to evaluate this piece of gear from the aspect of how well it would perform in a survival scenario and ended up wanting to tell everyone how great it performed from a basic camping stand point. As you will learn, for a lot of scenarios this could be a superior alternative to tents in a survival situation. It is also probably the most comfortable way to spend a night outdoors. The most important item you can have in a survival situation is a way to get out of the weather easily and quickly. The Hennessy does both. I discovered the Hennessy while looking for alternatives to very expensive lightweight tents. After a little bit of investigation the idea of using a Hammock as a bug out shelter became very appealing, they are lighter than a tent, pack smaller, and you don’t have to deal with poles. Also, the concept of the hammock allows you to set camp in places where tents would be impossible. I contacted Hennessy and after a bit of consultation with Ann the fine folks at Hennessy sent me an Explorer Deluxe asym with a zippered side entry, a Hex Rain Fly, and a Supershelter for 4 season cold weather shelter. I chose the Explorer Deluxe for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it is the most durable Hammock offered by Hennessy. The hammock material is 210D oxford nylon. While they offer much lighter hammocks, I am not going to fret over ounces on a piece of equipment I might have to call on for an extended period of time, especially when I am already saving weight over my old setup. Second, it is one of the largest hammocks and allows you to sleep in a number of positions comfortably. I also chose the larger hex rainfly for extra storm protection allowing me to stay dry in even the most driving rainstorms. Even choosing the larger versions of both the hammock and rain fly the weight and the pack size came in far below the tent I was previously carrying. The Explorer Deluxe comes in at 3lbs 2oz. For those of you looking to shave ounces, Hennessy offers Hammocks all the way down to 1 lb 11 oz. My first night in the hammock was like none other than I have spent in the outdoors. Those used to summer camping might recall images of hot, sweltering, and uncomfortable nights in a tent. This was absolutely not true with the Hennessy. Upon entering the hammock it was so comfortable I immediately noticed the two ticks that were crawling on my legs. The no see um mesh allows just the right amount of regulation to keep the inside pleasant. I can’t stress enough just how comfortable this hammock is to sleep in. In a tent, I wake up 5 times a night. In the Hennessy it was straight on through until first light. If I had to name one advantage the Hennessy has over a tent, it would be a good night’s sleep. As I said earlier, my initial reason for considering the Hennessy was for a survival or bug out situation. In addition to taking weight and bulk out of your bag there are a number of significant advantages it has over a tent. There have been places I have hiked in the United States where I have found myself tired and wondering, if I couldn’t go on there wouldn’t be a place to pitch a tent even if I wanted or needed to. Namely hiking in mountains where the only thing remotely considered flat being the foot wide undulating trail that you were walking on. Since gravity works pretty much universally this rule doesn’t apply to the Hennessy. The rule is simple, find two objects to which you can attach the suspension ropes that are between 12 and 25 feet apart. If you carry some extra rope you can somewhat extend that distance. The same goes for areas with debris or rocks strewn everywhere, you don’t have to clear the ground. This is wonderful, especially when you are in a survival situation and you come upon weather that you must quickly get out of…which brings up another point, the ease a quickness of deployment. Once you have chosen the attachment points for your suspension system setting up the hammock is a quick affair, especially with what Hennessy calls their “Snake Skins”. To deploy the hammock, wrap the tree huggers around one tree and loosely tie off the hammock at eye level or slightly above. Then wrap the tree huggers around the other tree and tie it off with about 4 figure 8 knots. Then go to the other side and draw it tight. To tie the figure 8 knot, go over the rope, under the rope and through the space behind the tree hugger (see the video). Repeat this 4 times and then tie something like a half hitch. Once the hammock is tied off to the attachment points simply pull the snake skins back. The rain fly simply attaches to two clips on the suspension ropes which are itself a very nice touch. The clips slide on the rope allowing you to tension the fly as much or as little as you wish. Lastly, tie off the fly at two or four attachment points depending on the fly that you purchased. With a little practice you can be out of the weather in just a few minutes. When in camp the Hennessy offers a few other positives that you wouldn’t get from other shelters, namely a place to cook out of the weather and a place to lounge. If weather sets in and you have to make a meal, just operate your stove while under the rain fly. When you pull into camp in the evening you no longer have to sit on the ground or a log, just sit back and relax. In a survival situation you never know when you might have drag up in a hurry and this is where the Hennessy really shines. Packing a tent can be time consuming. With the snake skins your hammock never touches the ground. In fact packing it up can be done in less than two minutes. Just pull the snake skins and stuff the hammock into them, untie from the attachment points and put it in the stuff sack. You will be ready to get back on the trail before your counterparts are done stowing their tent poles. This is a major plus for a bug out shelter. Having a shelter that can put you back on the trail just a few minutes from waking is an absolute plus. You also have to consider concealment. Being able to set up camp where no one can see you is a major plus for a bug out situation. You can go far off the beaten trail and as long as there are places to attach your hammock, you can hang there. Because you aren’t concerned with clearing the ground you can hang right in the middle of low growing pines and be surrounded on all sides, invisible to people just yards away. Since most of the Hennessy’s are muted earth tones they also blend in well with the surrounding scenery. Now I will advise you on a few things concerning the Hennessy. First, although it can be setup very quickly if you have never used your hammock don’t let the first place you try be on the trail or worse, when it hits the fan. It is easy to setup but requires the knowledge on how to setup. It would be best to try a few times in the back yard just to get it straight in your head. Second, everyone has a different metabolism. As I mentioned, the Hennessy appears to sleep cooler for me than a tent. One of the nights dipped into the low 50’s and I was in a 45 degree bag. I was snug as a bug in a rug but I still found myself crawling into same the bag on a really humid and balmy 70 degree night. Just as if you were sleeping on the ground it is best to test out your hammock and find out how you react to different temperatures and have a proper method to retain your body heat. And that brings me to my last point. I also got the Supershelter from Hennessy for cold weather camping. The Supershelter is basically an insulation system for your hammock. Expect to see a follow up review from the Tin Hat Ranch in winter to see how the hammock performs in the cold winters up north. In closing, the Hennessy Hammock is a marvelous piece of engineering and a very high quality product. Tom Hennessy has been perfecting the hammock for decades and it truly shows. From the ease of setup to the quick tear down, heck, the hammock even has a place to hang a beer can on the inside. The engineering is impeccable. It is akin to being in the desert, wishing for a glass of water and there it is. Everything is where it needs to be and how it should be. For my personal bag that I carry with me everywhere I go the hammock has replaced the tent and saved me both weight and bulk.
Q.} I am 6'7'' and an active outdoorsman year-round. Which 20ish degree bag has the most shoulder space and is still rather light?
Submitted by: Chris - Gambrills, MD
A.} To get the best answer for your question, I went to two BACKPACKER staffers who can relate: Jon Dorn and Ben Fullerton, both 6’6”. Here are a few of their three-season picks.