We received two models of Hennessy Hammocks, the Ultralight Backpacker and the Extreme Light Racer. The only functional differences between the two lie in the material that is used for the hammock body (lighter obviously, in the Racer model), and the strength of the hammock cord used for tying the hammock to trees. We tested both models for several months during two seasons of wet spring and the intense insects of Yellowstone National Park.
Materials and Construction. The Hennessey Hammocks are well-made products, featuring an attention to detail indicative of a well-managed production shop. The excellent quality is the most noticeable first impression we received. This becomes most apparent after the hammock is pitched – it pitches taut and is incredibly comfortable.
Ease of Setup. While the manufacturer states a setup time of 2 minutes, you will not achieve this right out of the box. Even after more than 60 nights of experience setting up the hammock, we still ended up fiddling with the setup to make sure the hammock was level and taut. Having said that, setup and adjustment is indeed rather easy. A very nice feature is the set of instructions provided on the imprinted stuff sack, which shows how to tie the right knots and find correct tree spacing.
Ease of Entry/Exit. This is where the Hennessy shines. The hammock has a self-closing slit in the bottom through which you crawl, sit in the hammock, swing your legs up, and lie down. Exit requires you to poke a leg through the slit and reverse the process. The slit can be completely closed with its Velcro overlap, which does usually require the use of your hands to get it all lined up.
Photo Copyright Hennessy Hammock
Gear Organization. Although there’s no practical means of bringing your pack into the hammock with you, it can lie in the protection of the canopy beneath you (a good place for your shoes as well – but watch those salt-loving critters). The hammock does include a mesh storage pocket that slides along a ridgeline and proved to be our favorite home for flashlights, watches, and a midnight snack (don’t tell the Yellowstone Rangers).
- Weight: 29.4 oz (as measured, includes hammock only, no stuff sack
- Weight Limit: 200 lbs
- Suspension: 1400+ lb test Spectra reinforced ropes with tightly braided polyester covering
- Tree Protection: 42″ x 1″ webbing straps
- Body Dimensions: 100″ x 48″
- Body Fabric: 70D nylon taffeta
- Canopy Dimensions: 121″ x 106″ (dimensions of new model, not the one we tested)
- Canopy Fabric: Single piece 1.4-oz silicone-coated nylon
- Body Mesh: 1-oz polyester noseeum mesh
- Stuff Sack: Ripstop nylon bag with imprinted setup instructions
- Packed Size: 5″ x 10″
Comfort. We had seven reviewers test the hammock. Six of the seven had tried other backpacking hammocks, including the Clark Jungle Hammock and models from Crazy Creek. All six of those reviewers commented noted that the Hennessy was so much more comfortable than the others that it wasn’t even a contest. The lone reviewer without hammock experience spent one night in the hammock and purchased three more the following day. She and her family have been Hennessy converts ever since. What makes comfort so good in a Hennessy Hammock? The ridgeline of the hammock extends across the roofline – consequently, load tension is distrubuted in the roofline rather than in the hammock body, as is conventional with other hammocks. Thus, there is no need for the body tension caused by your weight to fight the suspension forces distributed at the roofline, resulting in a much greater ability to lie level. This is the only hammock we’ve tested where one can actually be level. This, of course, requires that you sleep at a slight diagonal off the centerline, which is the norm with this hammock. Apparently, comfort has been improved even further with a new, asymmetrical design.
Insect Protection. The entry/exit design, bugproof body fabric, and noseeum mesh make this a paradise in insect-rich environs. We used the hammock in June and July in Yellowstone National Park, where bogs, marshes, and lingering snowmelt pools provided maddening quantities of mosquitoes. The Hennessy Hammock was a terrific retreat, and we only let in one or two mosquitoes inside during entry in conditions where our tent-bound comrades were battling dozens of intruders.
Cold. The biggest complaint with hammocks is that with no bottom insulation, you will get cold. In the cooler mountains of Yellowstone, we concur. We always required the use of a 3/8″, 3/4-length closed cell foam pad for nighttime temperatures less than 45 degrees. This is no particular limitation of the Hennessy Hammock.
Rain. The Hennessy’s canopy was large enough to keep out wind-driven rain experienced during late night thunderstorms in Yellowstone and the steady hard rains of June. Entry and exit in wet conditions is not bad – at least there is no risk of getting rain inside with the “door” open. However, our review corps unanimously agreed that a few more inches of canopy width to provide a little extra protection for changing clothes, cooking, and doing other chores outside the hammock would have been worth an extra ounce or two.
Wind. In the absence of wind, the hammock gently sways you to sleep. In windy conditions, the hammock moves very little – again, as a result of having the load-bearing forces for suspension distributed across the roofline and not through the body. More problematic is the flapping of the fly in the wind. The canopy is akin to a small tarp suspended at only four locations, and flappability can be a problem in winds greater than 20 mph.
Snow. Most shelters, including non-silnylon tents and tarps, accumulate snow during the commonly wet snow storms of spring, summer and fall in the Western U.S. mountains. The Hennessy, surprisingly, with its silicone-coated fly, was an outstanding snow shelter. We woke up on several occasions with 1-8 inches of snow on the ground, and there wasn’t a single flake on the hammock canopy. In one spring dump, when we took the hammock on a ski backpacking trip, it successfully weathered two consecutive nights of heavy snowfall that brought more than 40 inches of snow in the Montana Beartooths.
Condensation Resistance. The Hennessy Hammock is made with its entire upper body of mesh, and unlike double-walled tents that have all-mesh inner bodies, the significant amount of space between the canopy and the mesh body allowed for unrestricted airflow and virtually no condensation. On cold, still, and humid nights, there was less condensation on a Hennessy Hammock that on any tents in our party. Only tarp-campers that pitched their tarps high above their face were drier. One the one night when nearly everyone in our party was soaking up condensation with their PackTowls, a single paper shop towel wiped along the entire underside of both Hennessy Hammocks wrung out only a few drops absorbed moisture.
Durability Comments on the Light Racer Model. Caution is warranted by the manufacturer for the 21.4 oz (our verified weight) of the Light Racer Model, which uses lighter materials that are less durable (primarily, lighter ripstop nylon in the tent body and lighter suspension cord). However, we used the Light Racer under normal backpacking conditions and it showed no less signs of wear and tear after sixty nights than our Ultralight Backpacker model. Hennessy is making an even smaller, lighter model for the hardcore outdoor athlete – 15 oz! – the “Adventure Racer.”
The Hennessy Hammock is well made, more comfortable than any other hammock we’ve tried, and hits the sub-two-pound sweet spot for a lightweight, fully-enclosed, solo shelter. Our only gripe: a slightly larger canopy and the flexibility to add more interior pocket storage (as an add-on option) for organizing smaller items.
Final Grade: A minus