January 26, 2017

Hammocks

And now for something different!

Hammocks have come a long way from the useless and wretched mesh nylon hammocks that used to be sold in low end outdoor shops. There is a whole hammock culture out there, and I have barely discovered the tip of the iceberg.

Some people make their own hammocks, which is an interesting idea. (I ended up making my own.)

Hammock camping can transition into a more serious high level tree camping thing (if you have big trees in your area and some serious rope skills). A concept which I find interesting.

I recommend the book, "The Ultimate Hang" by Derek Hansen. The following link will take you to an interactive "hang calculator" on the books website:

The premier online resource is:

After that, take a look at:

I hear great things about the Hammock Gear "incubator" underquilts (which are full length and then some). And people love the JRB Mount Washington 4 (a full length 4 season underquilt).

Te Wa is in Arizona! And te-wa is a commited ultralight backpacker. He makes 3/4 length (52 inch) underquilts, which you can compare to 2/3 length (46 inch) underquilts like the "Yeti" from Warbonnet. Hammock Gear makes a well regarded 3/4 length underquilt (the "Phoenix") in various temperature ratings. The 20 degree Phoenix has 8 ounces of fill and a 17.5 ounce total weight, which compares very closely to the 8 ounces of fill and 16 ounce total weight of the Te-wa "antifreeze". From what I can tell the Phoenix is wider (46 instead of 40 inches) than the Antifreeze. This is 3 inches on either wide, which as many have pointed out is about the length of your thumb. Also when you consider that both have 8 ounces of down, you have to ask yourself where you want that 8 ounces: spread out and thin or gathered and thicker. Clearly thicker is better as long as 40 inches is enough to cover your backside without gaps on the sides. Also, to save a bit of weight, his quilts are 40 inches wide (instead of the

Many of these hammock makers sites have lots of useful information, especially the Speer site.

I could be wrong, but the hammock camping thing seems to have an east coast bias to it.
You gotta have trees ...

The Henessey Ultralight weighs 31 ounces, including a bug net and tarp, costs $220.
The Henessey Hyperlite weighs 25 ounces, costs $250.
The Warbonnet Blackbird can be as light as 18 ounces, costs $160, no tarp.
The Speer "Switchback" weighs 22 ounces (with net), costs $170.
The JRB "Bear Mountain Bridge" costs $200, and they aren't talking about the weight.

Henessey says their hammocks fit a person up to 6 foot. Me being 6 foot and 1 inch, is I guess out of luck (or doomed to be cramped?). Such is the bias in the world against tall people.

A lot of people say good things about the Warbonnet Blackbird, and it is said to nicely handle people up to 6 foot 3 inches.

My current sleep system includes an Exped 7 downmat, which weighs 31 ounces. With a hammock I could exchange that for a hammock and under quilt, but would need some kind of backup plan if I found myself above timberline. My theory in any event is that I can work up a hammock based sleep system that doesn't weigh any more than my current ground based system, perhaps even less.

I found a very informative post by a fellow named Jeffrey McConnell on BPL. He said it was simple to sew a gathered end hammock. (And I ended up sewing one myself just as he did.)

It was easy enough to put my sewing machine into zig-zag mode, adjust it to make bar-tacks and then sew up a pair of tree straps (I made mine 8 feet long out of 1 inch non-tubular webbing). Making whoopee slings is trickier than I imagined, see details in a separate posting:

He likes the big mamajamba tarp with doors from Warbonnet Outdoors. He went with a 3/4 length underquilt (they call the "Phoenix") from Hammock Gear, but he also recommends quilts from Leigh Lo and Te Wa.
His hammock gear breaks down like this:

DIY hammock 10 ounces
Cuben tarp  6.5 ounces
Stakes and guy lines 2.3 ounces
Dynaglide Whoopee slings, ridgeline, and toggles 1.1 ounces
Tree Straps 3.9 ounces
Te Wa 20 degree quilt 22.7 ounces
Hammock Gear 15 degree "phoenix" underquilt 15.7 ounces
AHE Snoring Bear pillow 5.5 ounces
Mont Bell UL down inner parka  9 ounces
AHE down socks 3 ounces

Hammock campers who are really shaving weight go for cuben tarps and like the Henessey Hyperlight.

Some random links:

I already have one item of hammock gear, a JRB Rocky Mountain No-Sniveler down quilt (32 ounces). As near as I can tell, this is now replaced by their "High Sierra Sniveler" with 3.5 inches of loft.

Take a look at this CDT gear list by Francis Tapon. Rumor has it he started the CDT trip with the JRB Sniveler and wasn't warm enough, the Rocky Mountain Sniveler was produced to solve his problem! No, he is not a hammock camper, but I was intrigued by his gear list and experiences with the JRB Sniveler regardless.

A JRB full length underquilt is 21 ounces in the 3 season version ($300) and 27 ounces in the 4 season version ($360). Given that I sleep cold and people say hammocks tend to be cold, I am tempted towards a full length underquilt, and perhaps even the 4 season version. However, hammock territory (down in the trees) is warmer than the timberline high country that I often find myself shivering in. I guess if I find myself unexpectedly ground camping, I should be carrying some kind of closed cell pad; maybe a torso length. If I end up on the ground, which is likely to be someplace high and cold, I can always put the underquilt up top as an extra layer!

Here is one way to look at it. I could be trading the Exped (31 ounces) and my Marmot 15 degree Pinnacle (44 ounces); 75 ounces total, and which I do sometimes carry together. I would be trading them for a JRB RMnS top quilt (32 ounces) and a JRB under quilt (27 ounces in the 4 season version), which would be 59 ounces - quite a savings (16 onces). This 16 ounce weight budget almost allows the addition of the Henessey Hyperlite (including tarp) for only 9 ounces more. And I could be leaving behind my usual bivy sack (17 ounces) and my Jardine Tent (21 ounces), for an overall savings of 29 ounces. Some of that 29 would be bitten into by the weight of a closed cell pad and the straps and such, but it would be comparable in weight at worst and lighter at best. The Jardine tent though has been shared equipment with some of my partners. This may become a problem for them to work out.

Gossamer gear has some light, thin, and wide pads that are recommended for hammock camping. This is an inexpensive way to get started and find out if you are really into the hammock thing. Also, some kind of pad is almost required in case you end up sleeping on the ground. The have their thinlight pads in various thicknesses and widths, but I am led to believe the 1/4 inch thick and 41 inch wide pad is what you want.

Just a random note: the "Down Works" in California are said to make nice custom and very light quilts:

Down Works
222 River St
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
831-423-9078

Have any comments? Questions? Drop me a line!

Tom's hiking pages / tom@mmto.org