Hammock Habitation: a Hennessy Hammock Gear Review 

Disclaimer: So I very much hope none of you have been laboring under the very false impression that I am in any way an expert in backpacking or hiking. I’m am average person who only recently began to take an interest in the activity. That being said, I believe the opinion of a novice can be just as valuable as an expert, if taken with a grain of salt.

Today I want to focus on one of the most essential pieces of equipment for a backpacker: the sleeping quarters. There are many options for a hiker when it comes to how to rest your head. Some choose to bring just a sleeping pad and take their chances in a shelter or under the stars. Some a simple tarp that can be pitched. Others choose from the endless varieties of tents. Personally, I made the decision to hammock camp. If you’ve ever researched the subject, hammock campers tend to believe very strongly in this choice, I seem to fall into that camp.

So why did I choose the hammock? Well I knew I didn’t want to rely on a shelter while thru hiking, the privacy is nearly nonexistent and I wished neither to be exposed to the smell of other hikes while I’m sleeping or expose them to my nearly prolific snoring. I considered a tent, noting the obvious increase in privacy, something I found important as a woman. My decision in favor of a hammock came down to comfort. I am individual with a history of back issues and the hammock offers comfort and support that sleeping on the ground cannot.

So now down to the nitty gritty of choosing the hammock. I considered an Eno hammock or maybe an amazon cheap parachute hammock, but one brand stuck out more than the rest. I liked reading about the passion put in their products and just had a gut feeling that this was the best decision for me. So basically it was guesswork and a little magic combined with an obsessive combing of reviews that led me to choose a Hennessy hammock.

Hennessy is a company founded by Tom Hennessy that specializes in hammocks of high quality. They offer a few varieties, but I settled on the Hyperlite Asym Zip. With a pack weight of 1lb 12oz, it’s light and easy to carry. I thoroughly enjoy the asymmetrical design of the hammock. This allows me to extend or sleep on my side without feeling an uncomfortable dip in my spine. The built in bug net is convenient and creates a comfortable cocoon to enjoy without gnats and mosquitos. With bonus bug proof, water proof, and windproof features, the one year warranty was just a cherry on top.

When ordering my new hammock, I was lucky enough to receive a solid deal. As a free add on to my Hyperlite, I also acquired a Hex Asym Rainfly 70D polyester, a free set of snakeskins and water collectors, and an upgraded 72″set of straps. All this for a whopping $190. In preparing to write this review I revisited the Hennessy website and found the same hammock, with only 42″ webbing straps and no snakeskins for $279.95. I am quite happy with my lucky timing.

Despite the awesome deal I got, I would still say this hammock is worth the 280. Prior to the first backpacking trip I described in the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Part One, I had not had the opportunity to set up my hammock. So, the morning before the trip was spent in the front yard of my sister’s home pouring over videos that described fancy knots and confusing explanations for how to appropriately hang the hammock. This was confounded by the rambunctious nephew running circles around the whole operation and the refurbished Mario cart crashing into my hammock tree. It was about this point that I said fuck it, I’ll figure it out. And I did just that, the formatting of the hammock and rainfly making it almost intuitive to set up. In addition, I found my disorganized and amateurish attempts at sloppy knots had no difficulty in holding me up all night. What I’m saying is, even am idiot can hang this hammock and sleep easy knowing it’s not coming down.

The products I used to supplement my hammock set up included:

An additional snakeskin to separate the hammock and rainfly in the event of rain. This allows the hammock to stay dry.

A Klymit Hammock V, I find this to be rather cumbersome to inflate and deflate. Though I appreciate the shape and the extra comfort it provides in a hammock, I don’t see it as a necessary alternative to cheaper rectangular options. In addition, I did not get an insulated version, a decision I regretted deeply on a chilly night. I don’t think this was $100 well spent. 

A Halti Summerlite +40° mummy sleeping bag. This works for now, but I am considering upgrading to an under/upper quilt. It’s not terrible quality for a $40 sleeping bag, but it’s certainly not warm enough for a cold night.
Finally, some basic lightweight tent stakes that I picked up at REI.

I have spent both overly hot and overly cold nights in my hammock, though not at the fault of product. Overall, I would highly recommend Hennessy Hammock. It is super light, well made, comfortable, and easy to use. I cannot wait to test it’s limits to find out just how well suited it is for me. So if you care about the opinion of an average Joe, take my advice, buy a hammock. (But also get some insulation, that shit is fucking freezing when it gets below 65 at night.)

Honestly, it’s probably better to check it out yourself than listen to my gibberish.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Part 1

Part 1: Success

A few weeks ago I took my very first backpacking trip, ever. Terribly exciting, right? The trip consisted of 2 overnights and a total distance of 14 miles on the Appalachian trail in New Jersey. Our party was myself (obviously), my oldest sister, C, her husband Ce, and three of her children, J, K, and A. A, though a wild and adventurous boy, unafraid of running into the middle of the street if given the opportunity, is still too young to navigate a hike, so spent the trip on C’s back.

I learned a few important lessons I’d like to iterate.

1. The sun rises in the East.

Unfortunately for my exhausted mind, on day three I forgot this important bit of navigational information and was insistent that the lake on our east, was the one indicated in the guide book to the west. The devastating realization that we were not as far along as I thought we were was not good for morale. Thank you C for pointing out the error in judgement.

2. No matter how many times you say a mountain is not a mountain, it’s still a mountain.

J came up with a wonderful inspirational motto for our hike: “tis not a mountain, but one foot in front of the other.” Unfortunately the two large ridges we had to scale up and down disagreed with her statement.

3. When hiking in a group it’s far easier to be the fastest than the slowest.

The person in front can hike ahead and wait for the stragglers, but the latter is forced to keep going in an attempt to keep up with the fastest. It creates an imbalance of exertion. Also, a 28lb child who is prone to bucking and steals all your water while he hangs out on your back makes it really hard to keep pace.

The relevant beast.
4. Appropriate underwear are vital.

If you wear boyshorts with a lacy border an then buckle a hip belt over top the for 3 days, you will get a rash on your lower abdomen from the chafing. I don’t recommend it. I really should expand beyond a thousand pairs of the same style underwear.

5. 2 lbs of spaghetti is never a good idea.

Honestly I don’t know when this is ever too little food, even for 6 people. We only used like a quarter pound and had to carry the rest out. Portioned meals are an excellent idea.

6. Bug spray ratios and reapplication are not as hard as I expected.

In the whole bunch we only got a single tick. The basic rules of thumb I’ve learned is deet on the legs and natural eucalyptus lemon bug spray on the top half. Reapply when the gnats get too annoying.

7. Throwing your cooking pot across the field at a shelter is never productive and actually rather rude.

After spilling my Ramen on the ground I may have thrown my jet boil as far as possible in a fit of hangry rage. This did not assist in the acquisition of food into my belly, but did spread food particles in a bear heavy area. I apologize profusely to the other hikers on the trail for my poor judgement and lack of care.

8. If you trip with a top heavy pack, said pack with slide forward and smack the back of your head which, in turn will lead you to smash your face on a rock.

No permanent damage done, but I did break my favorite sunglasses and ended up laughing hysterically as a lump formed on my head and my family looked on worried. I recommend head injuries while hiking even less than wearing lacy underwear. I have to say it was a rather funny experience and I wasn’t hurt badly, so it all works out. 

In memory of my sunglasses.
9. Hiking with people you love has both ups and downs.

The obvious benefit is the shared memories with your loved ones. Bonus, less embarrassment about the more taboo bodily functions that occur in the day to day, as those barriers have long since broken down. The negative is the other side of that same coin. Because we are family there is a certain amount of rudeness allowed that would not be acceptable among strangers, or even friends.

10. Everything will hurt. 

It really really did, but once you warm up, it improves. But I mean everything. But it was worth it.

I want to wrap up with a quick review of some of my gear. I carried a hennesy hyperlite asymmetrical zip, and I absolutely love it. It went up easily and I was relatively comfortable sleeping. I was freezing though, so I may need to invest in an under quilt. My ULA catalyst pack sat comfortably, I especially appreciated the straps which allowed for 3 across the body buckles, which helped distribute the load. I will definitely go more into detail about my gear in a later post when I feel like it. I really can’t praise these two pieces enough. One thing I’d like to say is don’t waste money on BodyGlide, it doesn’t do shit. Here is a great video with some alternatives and a better explanation than I can give about the previously mentioned product.

https://youtu.be/QFwKzk2mRJY
Finally, I’d like to say thank you to my sister and her family for the amazing support you give me and for the adventure we went on together. I’d additionally like to broaden that thanks to my entire family. All of you have been more supportive than I could dream of. Each and everyone of you is vital to my success and has helped me on the path to where I am today.

P.S. I thought of a couple more things I learned.
There was some crazy wildlife, I was unaware that porcupines lived in New Jersey. We also saw some tiny baby birds, wild turkeys, and various rodents.

SO LITTLE!

People will mock you if you just try and relax in your sleeping bag and happen to be in the middle of a parking lot.

It was just warmer, alright!?

I really need to invest in legitimate hiking clothing, regular t-shirts and lularoes aren’t cutting it.