Bear Mountain Bridge Ultra Light - First Impressions
I benefited a lot from forum users when researching my new hammock setup so thought I'd post my review and impressions in case it helps anyone else.
Background: I've been hanging since 2003, although just a couple of short trips per year, using a Hennessy Backpacker ASym since it was first released around 2004.
Goal: I've been happy with my prior hammock (and grateful to Hennessy for making early inroads in popularizing hammock camping) but on my last couple of trips have noticed that it's not that easy to find the sweet spot for comfort and also not ideal for me to sleep on my back all night as I'm normally a side sleeper. Most significantly, I now seem to be more susceptible to knee discomfort due to the slight inverse lower leg angle in the Hennessy. So after much research on this forum I decided a bridge style hammock was the right choice for me in order to get a flat lay that would actually allow for comfortable side sleeping.
The Contenders: I narrowed my short list to the Warbonnet RidgeRunner single layer and the Jacks R Better Bear Mountain Bridge Ultra Light, mainly because these two reportedly had the least issue with shoulder squeeze. They are about the same weight when you include suspension and bars.
I'm sure I would have liked the RR also, but I ended up choosing the BMBH UL because:
- The shorter length allows for more hanging options. If I were 6'2" or taller I think the BMBH UL would not be the best choice though.
- The spreader bars are more narrow which will reduce the likelihood of rubbing on the tarp. They're 32" and I believe they're 4 or 5" longer on the RR.
One nice feature I lost in the trade-off is the RR's "saddle bags". I think I would have really liked those.
- HammockGear Incubator 20.
- Big Agnes Horse Thief 25 for top quilt.
- Toxaway Tarp (used to replace my beloved 8 year old MacCat Deluxe because the MacCat was just a bit too short I decided).
- Most importantly, I am extremely happy with the comfort of the BMBH UL. It is exactly as I had hoped - a flat lay that is ideal for back or side sleeping rather than just back sleeping. I find it to be very easy to get and stay comfortable in this hammock throughout the night. This may be more applicable to me than to others because IMO a bridge hammock is most ideal for side sleepers like me. It's especially nice to sleep on my side and sort of lean back slightly into the side, and there's room to bring the knees up a bit as well.
- It seems to be well made so I expect to get many years of use out of it.
- A nice surprise is that the fabric is more silky and comfortable than my old HH.
- Another nice surprise is the improved view and sense of openness compared to the really deep and cavernous HH.
- I like that there's no distinct head end so you can sleep in either direction. There is even an internal mesh storage pocket at both ends.
- I think the Jacks did a nice job finding a sweet spot with the necessary trade-offs in a bridge hammock: it's fairly shallow which allows for shorter spreader bars, minimizes shoulder squeeze when back sleeping, saves weight, and improves view, while still being stable enough and providing just enough clearance from the bug net.
- I think the tree straps are too short and they should ship longer ones and let the owner cut to suit. I immediately replaced them with 12' straps.
- The TriGlide buckles are fine and I probably would have loved them if I hadn't already put cinch buckles from Dutchware on my HH recently. But IMO it's nowhere near as easy to quickly put up or adjust as cinch buckles so I have replaced those. It'd be great if the Jacks gave a suspension option when ordering like Warbonnet does.
- There is no ridgeline and I decided to attach a 550 paracord line between the rings to create one. I sized this to the 9'3" length the Jacks recommend to avoid stressing the bug netting and also because it gives me peace of mind to have at least the illusion of possibly blocking or deflecting falling branches from braining me.
- Now that I have a ridgeline I can see how easy it is to raise the bug netting way up, which would let you do things like read a book in the hammock. So I plan to tie a 1 or 2 inch line from the ridgeline and use a clip or something to grab the bug netting and hold it way up. There's plenty of slack bug netting (too much IMO) that this won't be a problem.
In summary, I'm thrilled with the BMBH UL. I highly recommend it to anyone 6'1" or shorter who uses an UQ and prefers to sleep on their side or has knee discomfort in a gathered end hammock.