Although hammock shelters intrigued me in the past, I never bought into the concept. Finding a level spot to sleep had never been an issue for me, and objectively speaking hammocks were heavier than tents. I could easily use a 3- to 3.5-pound tent, split between two people for a carry weight of 1.5 to 1.75 pounds. On the other hand, even the excellent and venerable Hennessy Expedition Asym weighs over 2.5 pounds. Frankly, I’d rather have the ease and convenience of a tent while carrying a pound less! But hammocks still called to me, and when I stumbled upon the Hennessy Hyperlite Asym Zip, I knew I finally had to give hammocks a chance.
In this overview of the Hyperlite you can see the relatively flat lay and significant volume (shakin’ around room) of the hammock.
The complete hammock shelter (hammock, netting, fly, and line), only weighs 1 pound 9 ounces! At that point, its weight is on par with my half of a tent… and lighter than most solo tents (single-wall tarp-ish shelters excluded). Based on weight alone this was a great hammock, but what also really caught my eye was the side zipper.
I’ve always liked the idea of using my hammock as a camp chair, but I didn’t like the need to unstake and invert other Hennessy models. I wanted to be able to leave my stuff in the hammock, and I wanted minimal fuss. With Hennessy’s introduction of zippered models, you can just unzip the side and plunk down your rear. That sounded comfy AND easy! I bought the hammock and waited impatiently for a chance to take it for a spin.
|Hammock Body/Lines||1 lb 3.1 oz / 0.54 kg|
|Fly/Lines||9.2 oz / 260.8 g|
|Tree Straps (Optional)||2.0 oz / 56.7 g|
|Snakeskins (Optional)||1.7 oz / 48.2 g|
|Stuff Sack (Optional)||0.6 oz / 17 g|
|Packed weight (without optional stuff)||Claimed: 1 lb 9 oz / 0.71 kg|
Measured: 1 lb 12.3 oz / 0.80 kg
Comfy camp seating, with essentially no fuss!
The hammock was intuitively simple to hang and rig, although being new to hammocking it took me a few tries to figure out how far it would sag. (My solution: if in doubt, hang it higher.) As I unzipped the hammock, I noticed a bit of a glitch, or inconvenience perhaps, in the hammock instructions and actual use. The instructions said that the hammock had to be fully unzipped for entry and egress, but once in the hammock there was no way I could reach the foot-end zipper. I didn’t want to destroy the zipper, so pondered a few minutes and came up with an easy fix.
I passed a long-ish piece of reflective cord through the far zipper pull, then through a small plastic ring at the asymmetric point, and tied it off to make a loop. In use, the idea is much like the cord used to raise and lower kayak rudders. From a reclining position I can just pull on one “side” of the loop to unzip, or pull on the other side to close up for the night. I really like the reflective cord for being a cinch to find in the dark. It works just about perfectly and protects the integrity of the zipper.
In this overview, the length of reflective cord I added to the zipper is clearly visible, and you can get a good idea of the loop it forms.
A close-up of the zipper cord modification. Note the loop the cord passes through; it does the same at the foot end of the hammock.
Once settled into the hammock, the first thing I noticed was how comfortable it is. You hear people talk about the asymmetric design, and how Hennessy designs allow you to lay flatter, but I think it’s hard to grasp until you crawl in one. Mind you, you’re not perfectly flat. But there’s just about the right amount of curve for me that I don’t need a pillow, and my weary feet get a little lift to drain. The other significant point of comfort comes from the side tie-outs.
The hammock fully unzipped. Also note how relatively flat the pad is, how much space is available, and the gridstop pattern of the hammock body.
Just before buying the Hyperlite, I had tried using another company’s hammock for a couple of nights. It was a disaster! Turning over was a delicate balancing act, and the sides of the hammock squeezed tightly enough around my shoulders to compress the insulation of my sleeping bag to nothing. In contrast, the Hyperlite Zip was plenty stable for shifting around and rolling over to sleep on my other side. Another point of pleasure: the hammock sides stayed well away from my shoulders and feet, allowing my sleeping bag to loft fully and giving me unrestricted comfort.
This is not a small point. In other hammocks I’ve felt a bit like I was stuffed into a sausage casing, even when laying as cross-wise as possible. There was absolutely none of this feeling in the Hyperlite. In fact, I even had a little movin’ around room!
An insider’s point of view… Plenty of room, even with a zero-degree bag and DownMat 9. The dangly thing center top is a storage pocket, handy for headlamp, glasses, etc.
With some futzing about I can get dressed and undressed in the hammock, but found it easier to change while on the ground. Inside, a small mesh pocket hangs from the ridgeline, ready for my glasses and headlamp. The sides of the Hyperlite come up just enough to give some wind and elemental protection, but are low enough to peer through the mesh while reclining. I liked that you can easily unzip the mesh on a nice day and flip it over the ridgeline for more airflow and a cleaner view. Of course, how much you can view is affected in part by how you’ve pitched the fly.
Getting the “Hang” of It
The shelter is ridiculously easy to pitch once you have things set, and getting it set just took a little playing around. What would require “setting” on a hammock? Just the tension and placement of the fly, really. A plastic hook attaches to a prusik knot on each end of the ridgeline; all you have to do is slip a plastic ring from the fly onto the hook and slide the prusik to adjust. Part of the adjustment is simply centering the fly over the hammock. Once centered, though, you can adjust the tension slightly to create more or less gap between the fly and hammock netting. I’ve found that it’s easiest to leave the system all together, so pitching just requires pulling the hammock out of my pack, tying off to a couple trees, and sinking two stakes.
Tying off to trees brought me a couple surprises. My standard method of rigging a tarp ridgeline is to use a trucker’s hitch on one end. When I did this with the line on the Hennessy, though, the sheath melted and stuck together. Using the supplied tree straps and tightening through them had similar results. Guess I should have read that part in the instructions! Not surprisingly, the best course of action was the one Hennessy recommends: Pass the line through the tree strap, then spiral wrap the line back on itself ~10 times toward the hammock, the same back to the tree, and pull the line through the loop. It works well, but don’t skimp on the wraps.
Well, hello there!
For other hammock newbs out there, I’ve found that how you position the hammock between your hanging points can affect the hammock’s level. If the amount of line on each end is equidistant from hammock to tree, the hammock should hang pretty level. If, however, the line is significantly shorter on one end, that end seems to hang higher. If the line is particularly long on one end, that end seems to hang lower.
I love a good taut pitch, and as I stood back to admire the well-executed design of the Hyperlite fly something caught my eye a few times. The fly just looks too short, like it needs more length. It seems like the hammock barely fits under there. But then, this is the Hyperlite we’re talking about, and minimizing excess is the name of the game. More importantly, the fly has kept me dry in moderate rains… I haven’t experienced any other type of inclement weather with the hammock. I’m confident that despite the appearance, the fly provides good coverage.
Hennessy has an accessory for their hammocks called “Snakeskins” and I tried the skins along with the hammock. You basically put a narrow but long silnylon windsock (a Snakeskin) on each end of the ridgeline. When it’s time to pack up you just roll the hammock up like you would a sleeping pad, then pull the Snakeskins over the hammock to keep it all together. You can rig the skins to cover just the hammock, just the fly, or both. I used it primarily to cover both. And let me tell you, it makes quick work of stashing the hammock! However, I found that packing the long, hard, snaked roll was inconvenient. I just couldn’t find a good way to stuff that big sausage shape into my pack in a way that was particularly space efficient… which bothered me, because I really liked the way the Snakeskins worked initially. I’ve found that it’s easier for me to just stuff the hammock straight into my pack.
We thought it would be interesting (and instructional!) to compare the Hyperlite with other complete hammock shelters on the market. Models chosen were the lightest options from those companies. Although many people say they choose to hang because of the light weight, for example, notice how several of the models compare to a two-person, double-wall tent with vestibule. The Bear Mountain is 32 oz/2 pounds heavier than the Fly Creek, and yet two hikers could split the weight of the Fly Creek, effectively making it weigh ~1 pound per hiker. Other factors, such as comfort or rough country hanging, can still make hammocks come out (ahem) on top. The Hyperlite is the lightest (and cheapest for weight) complete hammock shelter on the market… although the Warbonnet Blackbird is nipping right at its heels.
|Manufacturer||Model||Fly and/or Net||Weight||Cost|
|Hennessy Hammock||Hyperlite Asym Zip||25.0 oz / 709 g||$230|
|Warbonnet Blackbird||Single-Layer 1.1||Asym-Diamond||27.5 oz / 780 g||$235|
|Big Agnes||Fly Creek 2||2-Person Tent||34.0 oz / 964 g||$350|
|Clark Jungle Hammock||Ultralight||38.0 oz / 1077 g||$340|
|Hennessy Hammock||Expedition Asym||41.0 oz / 1162 g||$150|
|ENO||ProNest||ProFly Sil/Guardian||42.0 oz / 1191 g||$270|
|Jacks ‘R’ Better||Bear Mountain Bridge||11×10 Cat||56.0 oz / 1588 g||$330|
So how about it? Is using a side zipper instead of bottom-entry Velcro an improvement? Is the Hyperlite actually, well, light? Is this thing worth considering instead of a solo tent?
I liked being able to leave my stuff in the hammock, as well as the ease of having a ready seat. It’s a simple thing to unstake one side of the fly and flip it over the ridgeline, revealing a pretty grand and comfortable view (depending on your site location). The hammock is the lightest of its kind that I’ve encountered, and I feel that the ounces are well-spent on comfort, weather protection, and ease of use. There were some nights wiggling around trying to adjust things when I would have gladly just crawled into a tent… but this hammock has made me a part-time hanger.
Disclosure: The manufacturer provided this product to the author and/or Backpacking Light at a discounted rate for ownership by the author/BPL. The author/Backpacking Light has no obligation to review this product to the manufacturer under the terms of this agreement.