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Customizing My Hennessy Hammock

hennesy HammockOne of my old Scouts through-hiked the Appalachian trail a few years ago. He joined us for a camping trip afterwards and showed us the camping hammock he had used for his hike, I was impressed.

I bought a Hennessy Hammock (the deluxe explorer) and used it on several occasions. I was close to being a hammock camping convert but there were several things about the hammock that put me off. The Hennessy has sewn-in mosquito netting and one enters the hammock through a velcro slit in the bottom. This awkward squirming around was frustrating, as was the idea that I felt kind of trapped once inside the hammock. Ultimately I stopped using the hammock.

Recalling the comfort and quality of sleep I had experienced (despite the problem entering the hammock) I decided to see if there were any options for using a hammock on our canoe trip this summer. During the couple of years my hammock interests had lain dormant the hammock camping world had increased exponentially in a way that, I think, augurs the future how we learn,  design, relate to, and refine all the things we use everyday.

I started by looking for information about modifying my hammock to better suit me I found the Hammock Forum, the gathering place for the massive hammock camping subculture! The way people design, build and modify their hammocks reminds me of hot-rodders modifying their cars! It’s amazing!

Zipper modification from 2QzQ

Zipper modification from 2QzQ

I almost instantly found a link to 2QzQ who will make zipper modifications to hammocks and arranged to send my hammock off to them. When it was returned the velcro slit in the bottom was neatly closed and I had a new zipper along one side of the mosquito netting to access the hammock from the top.

While noodling around on the hammock forum I kept seeing references to ‘whoopee’ slings (a simple way to hang the hammock, something that can be a little tricky). I found a number of YouTube videos demonstrating how to make the slings and started searching for a source of the braided Amsteel line needed to make them.

Amsteel from Dutchware

Amsteel from Dutchware

This search took me down a short side trail to discover something called Dyneema, a fiber with incredible breaking strength  used to weave Amsteel. A 7/64th Amsteel line has a breaking strength of 1400 pounds, size-for-size, the same strength as steel. Wow.

Eventually I found Dutchware, another cottage industry established to serve the hammock community, that offered 25′ lengths of Amsteel. Perfect!

Once I had my Amsteel I made up my whoopee slings and replaced my OEM hammock ropes. The best way to describe a whoopee sling is an adjustable loop that locks under pressure the same way the old “Chinese” finger trap gag does.

I used the hammock for our week of canoeing in Canada this summer. As I had hoped the new top-access totally changed things for the better and the new whoopee slings greatly simplified hanging and levelling the hammock.

As I was going though all this it occurred to me that this hammock camping phenomena was a small slice of how the internet has amplified our ability to collaborate on designing, improving and modifying the things we use. There’s a learning curve to hammock camping, it’s new, it takes some experimenting to get a comfortable, weatherproof, trouble-free system set up. Online resources make the experience and knowledge of others available in a way that exponentially increases our own ability to learn.

We also have access to highly specialized businesses that would have been unlikely to flourish in the pre-internet age. I quickly found folks who offered the goods and services I needed to modify my hammock. Incredible isn’t it?

If you’d like to try hammock camping start with the hammock forum. The folks there are very helpful and passionate about the subject. Hennessy is not the only hammock manufacturer out there, check out the alternatives.

The closest thing available off-the-shelf to the hammock I am using now is the Hennessy Explorer Deluxe Asym Zip, and I recommend the brand highly. For just over $200.00 you’ll have a comfortable warm weather shelter that weighs about three pounds and you can start looking at all the ways folks modify the hammock for cold weather (something I am doing now).

Hennessy Hammock at Amazon (best pricing I found)
Check out the many models and variations at the Hennessy Hammock Website (Hennessy offers group discounts)

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