What is it?

The Hennessy Hammock Ultralite model is a truly innovative approach to backcountry sleeping. It is a lightweight solo shelter designed to be suspended between two trees. I borrowed the Hennessy from a friend to try it out on a recent hike in the Rocky Mountains.

©Matt Souveny

Upon first hearing about the Hennessy I was skeptical about having to sleep in a banana-shaped apparatus, however Hennessy has designed their hammocks in an aysmmetrical polygon shape. This means that the individual sleeps at somewhat of an angle across the middle axis of the hammock, flattening out the sleeper’s body.

I ended up spending two nights swinging in the trees and had a chance to see how it stood up to both heavy rain and snow. Here are the main details:

  • Complete shelter with rainfly, bugnet, webbing and straps
  • 1 lb 15 oz / 860 g packed weight
  • Ultralite model supports up to a 6 ft tall person at 200 lbs
  • Available with velcro or zipper closure
©Matt Souveny

What’s good?

It takes a bit of time to understand how to set up the Hennessy, but once you have it figured out it is quick and simple. It does take a little more effort to find a suitable pair of trees, especially if you do most of your hiking in parks where tent sites have been laid out. If you do most of your hiking in undeveloped backcountry the hammock can be even more versatile than a tent, as long as you have sturdy trees.

Hennessy’s Ultralite model has a number of features which make it an effective solo shelter:

  • Asymmetrical design keeps the sleeping area mostly flat
  • Bug netting is attached directly to the hammock body to make for a very bugproof enclosure
  • Suspended rainfly creates double wall style ventilation, meaning no condensation forms on the inside
  • On warm summer nights you can leave the sleeping pad behind and save some extra weight
  • The fly kept me completely dry through both rain and snow and because you are suspended you don’t have to worry about ground run-off
©Matt Souveny

What’s not so good?

The biggest drawback for the Hennessy Hammock is that the asymmetrical design is only able to keep the sleeping area mostly flat, not completely flat. This shouldn’t be much of an issue if you are a back sleeper, however for me as a side sleeper it can be impossible to get into a comfortable position.

I figured that I would be able to fall asleep on my back once fatigue set in, however during my second night in the hammock I still found it very difficult to sleep. Some things worth considering before purchasing a hammock shelter:

  • It is not very comfortable to sleep on your side unless you are Gumby
  • It is not very easy to change your clothing inside the hammock unless you are good at yoga
  • If you move around a lot during your sleep you can slide off of your sleeping pad and get cold
  • Four season use requires extra insulation on the bottom, either in the form of a warm sleeping pad or the Supershelter kit from Hennessy
  • If you hike in places without sturdy trees, you will be disappointed

Summary

All things considered, if you are a back sleeper and looking for a lightweight, well-built, bug-proof, rain-proof solo shelter and don’t plan on hiking above the tree line, then the Hennessy Hammock is an excellent choice. In fact, if I was able to sleep on my back comfortably I would purchase one without hesitation. However, as I’m not willing to retrain myself to sleep in a different position, it looks like I will stick to the ground in a more traditional tent design.

The Hennessy Ultralite Hammock retails for $199 .95. Check out their website for more information.

©Matt Souveny
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