One 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!
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.
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)
howie jones says
Clarke Welcome to the hammock cult ! I see them popping up more and more in scouting events .The hammock forum has a lot of Scouters and is very helpful. been in a hennessy for many years now .I to didn’t like being closed in so I sliced out the netting ,later adding Velcro to pull it up when needed.”Jacks are better” is another good brand ,my niece used theirs on her thru hike of the A.T. I love the comfort level over being on the ground. I used to work a camping supply shop and had plenty of high end ground pads to try ,but for the same money the hammock is a lot more comfortable. The low impact on you camping site is a added bonus.
Jim Boggs says
Along with the Ultimate Hang book, I love the Hang Calc App!
I got a Hennessy Scout for my Boy Scout and I have a Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro. We have four hangers in our Troop and 2 more on the way right now. The rest of the boys are curious. My other boys can’t wait for their hammocks. The Hennessy Scout is a great started hammock for the kids. Get the zipper version and you won’t have to worry Velcro at all. I will never go back to ground. We are in the process of building Turtle Lady stands for the few outings where there are no trees.
But, the best part, other than what has already been mentioned about the sleeping, is the Leave No Trace component. We slept in our hammocks for the entire week at camp this year. Not one piece of ground was compressed or grass killed by our tents. The LNT implications are tremendous.
Allan Green says
Welcome to the distraction. I have been using a Hennessy Expedition 2.5 since 2007, and for the two years before that, I was using a rope hammock, as described here:
I found this guys essay on hammock camping, and was impressed when he said he could sleep in a hammock in the midst of a Maine winter. I bought the set up this scoutmaster described. I have not sprung yet for the zipper modification, or for the Hennessy asym zip model, but they will be future considerations.
The hammock has saved my back, and I cannot now imagine camping this long on the ground, as a man in my fifties.
The only downside to looking through hammockforums.com is that you will be tempted to drop a fortune in hammocks, under quilts, over quilts, Cuban fiber tarps, suspensions, clips, stands, and hardware you never suspected that you cannot live without.
Strangely enough, I have not been able to interest the scouts in using a hammock. Not sure why…
Jim Woods says
I have been the happy user of a Blackbird asymmetrical hammock from http://warbonnetoutdoors.com, a small but awesome hammock maker in Colorado, for a couple of years now. I have “slap straps” for hanging, and a whoopie sling-type arrangement is built in. The Blackbird has saved my back on a lot of nights, although I have sometimes had trouble finding trees! I got the double bottom model to try and prevent the mosquitoes from getting at me (like Enoch I am in Texas and this can be a challenge) and it’s been good so far.
Allen Maddox says
Years ago I tried a hammock for camping and loved it. But most of my camping lately has been field style. I need to go back to hammock camping.
Steven Jarvis (@sjarvis) says
Welcome to the world of hammock camping, Clarke! My son (a Webelos Scout who will cross over this year) and I converted a couple of years ago and have no plans to go back.
Other than HammockForums.net (which, as you mentioned, is indispensible), there are two particular great resources for beginning hammock campers: Derek Hansen’s The Ultimate Hang (theultimatehang.com) is a great illustrated guide to hammock camping. Derek is an Eagle Scout and Scoutmaster, and his book and site are very useful. Also, on YouTube, the videos by Sean “Shug” Emery are endlessly entertaining AND useful. He has a beginners series that is invaluable.
For the past three years, I haven’t brought any tents with me on camping trips… only my trusty Hennessy Hammock. There’s definitely a learning curve, though. If you don’t do it right, it can get a little chilly during the winter. Also, I found (quite painfully) that Texas mosquitoes can bite through the nylon bottom. I wouldn’t trade it, though. I enjoy the portability, comfort, and also the challenge! When I’m not sleeping in the hammock, I’m sleeping under a trusty tarp lean-to.
Allan Green says
Although the Hammockformums.com die hard enthusiasts disdain it, I use a sleeping pad underneath me in the hammock. It gives me enough insulation in winter, and protects me from the mosquitoes in the summer. I plan on 20 degree winter weather, about right for Oklahoma, and 90 degree summer nights. Love that wind in summer, but not winter. It just comes whipping down the plains.