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  1. #1
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    First Time Super Shelter - Questions from a Newb

    Hi Everyone,

    So after much deliberation, I pulled the pin on a Hennessy Explorer Zip XL and a Super Shelter. While not the smallest and lightest hammock, and for whatever reason, Hennessy isn't the most loved brand, I was won over by customer reviews and some friends experience with Hennessy's customer service. My intended use is for Canoe Trips in Northern Saskatchewan - I head up to the Churchill River system several times a year, and am tired of sleeping on the rocks of the Canadian Shield.

    I am headed North this weekend - and am planning on my first adventure with the Hennessy. Temps will dip to around 0 degrees Celsius most nights - and from what I've read, the super shelter can handle those temps for the most part out of the box, provided the space blanket is deployed on top of the included insulation. I have couple of black diamond down costco blankets that I am planning to bring along, with the thought that if temps dip lower than anticipated, I can add one under the insulation, and one over my bag if required (Bag is a Marmot Reactor - rated to -1 Celsius, dri down). I have decent baselayers, and think I will be warm enough. But wanted to ask, is there any other advice or details I should know before giving this a go? I'll have along a down vest and puffy coat that I would deploy if the temps take a crazy dip - but anything else I am missing?

    I didn't purchase the overcover just yet - I know I can probably make it work in a zip system, but for this trip, I wanted to try things out before I added that piece of gear.

    Any advice, details, or guidance would be most appreciated.


    Thanks in advance!

  2. #2
    Senior Member sidneyhornblower's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by dg_sk View Post
    ...Hennessy Explorer Zip XL and a Super Shelter...Temps will dip to around 0 degrees Celsius most nights...couple of black diamond down costco blankets that I am planning to bring along, with the thought that if temps dip lower than anticipated, I can add one under the insulation, and one over my bag if required...

    But wanted to ask, is there any other advice or details I should know before giving this a go?
    My experience is with the Super Shelter and an Expedition, but essentially the same system. Definitely use the space blanket; even if it causes condensation it will be warmer than trying to use the SS without it. I wouldn't say that the SS can handle freezing temps in its stock format, more like maybe 5-7 C or so. Adding the Cosco quilt underneath may be necessary. Your sleeping bag should be fine on top. You won't die using the Super Shelter down to freezing, but I'd say expecting to be comfortably warm doing so is optimistic. Take the Costco blankets and expect to need them.

    Please report back on your experiences after you take the trip.

  3. #3
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    Thanks for the reply and advice! I will be away for 4 nights - so my plan is to try the system stock the first night (or as long as I last), and then make adjustments from there. I am planning to bring along an thermometer (saw it in a Shug video - thought it was a great idea!) so I have some data to work with. I will provide an update when I get back on how it went!
    Last edited by dg_sk; 09-28-2020 at 14:09.

  4. #4
    Senior Member BillyBob58's Avatar
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    Hey there DG! Sounds like you are up for a new bunch of adventures trying to keep warm in a hammock! The learning should be fun!

    Of course everyone varies on how any system like this one or down under Quilts or pads or whatever, works for them. As for using an HHSS at freezing, you see Mr. Hornblower's experience. And if you get that good, IMO that's still pretty good for the cost and weight. Especially considering you won't have to worry much about wind getting past your tarp, unlike most other systems. I'm assuming you're using the original style super shelter, and not the new style 4 season system, correct me if I am wrong. Anything I say is about the old system, which I think they still sell along with the new system. They are similar, but there are some significant differences.

    In my case, I remember from my early testing in 2006-07, that I found for backyard sleeping I was just OK at exactly 32F. Not warm and not cold. I think there have been one or two other folks who have done better than me though. On the other hand, some other folks don't do quite as good. So you will just have to determine how it works for you. Assuming it works at all for you, which it probably will, somewhere between the high 20s low 40s is probably where you will land. But again, you won't have to worry too much about wind and having a large tarp to defeat wind. I have found that even going tarpless, wind has not made much difference to my sleeping warmth with this system. You also pick up a lot of extra resistance to wind blown rain, snow and mist. You can of course accomplish much the same thing with a significantly larger tarp, and/or a very sheltered campsite. And there are other advantages to the larger tarp other than just keeping the wind off your hammock. Still, that extra wind proofing is going to work to your advantage.

    But regardless of whether 40 is your limit or something lower, this system you are going to try has a very much unappreciated built-in advantage. It was designed from the get-go to utilize what ever clothing is available (or any other form of available installation, even dry leaves!) to boost it's wamth. Now say for instance you have a thick fleece jacket(or pants) that you do not need for sleeping and in fact prefer not to sleep in it. Normally, you would just leave that stuff down in your pack. If instead, you zip it up so that you can have double layer insulation, and slip it down into the undercover, beneath the space blanket, either on top of the pad or(preferably?) underneath it, you should notice a rather stout increase in warmth. Maybe add a down vest to cover more area, or one of your costco blankets. One person here has even added a light weight down bag(maybe a 40F model, can't remember) to sleep warm at more than 25 below zero.

    The only caution I would have for you on that approach is make sure that if you add stuff under there, that it is not heavy enough to overwhelm the HHSS suspension/elastics and cause a gap, in which case you will be cold. Whatever gap heavier insulation might cause, you just have to make sure it puffs up enough to fill the gap and snug up against your back. Also, the elastics in the under cover tend to compress down. But if a fleece jacket is in there as well, the weight of that might cause just enough gap so as to cancel out any down loft compression. OTOH, if just adding fleece clothing, you really don't have to worry about any compression of loft. It is all a process and learning curve, and experience counts. So maybe you will be fine with the basic system at 40F or 30F, but if you just throw any dry clothing down there, whatever is not required for sleeping, you can easily gain 10 or 30.

    BTW, another thing to add: do you ever see any open cell foam for sale anywhere? Just adding a 1 or 2" thick square, big enough to cover the butt and lower back, can do wonders. HH used to sell something called "kidney and torso pads". These went on top of the main pads, and boosted thickness roughly 50% for the entire torso area but almost double thickness under the butt and kidney areas, the most critical spots. Now, I was seeping in VB clothing, and I don't know how much that added compared to the space blanket alone, which is also a VB. But using nothing else under me except the basic HHSS and the added kidney/torso pads, I set my personal record(doesn't get cold much where I live) of +6F, warm and toasty. I was so warm that I feel I could have for sure gone at least 5 colder, maybe more. This was with no tarp, using instead just the over cover, but there was not much wind either. Experience shows it wouldn't have made a lot of difference if there had been. I have done 14F with plenty of wind, no tarp, was warm enough. Good luck, and I look forward to your update!
    Last edited by BillyBob58; 09-28-2020 at 15:32.

  5. #5
    Senior Member BillyBob58's Avatar
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    DG, I forgot this tip: the HHSS, just like most full length UQs I have used, tends to have this problem when I go diagonal: if I put my feet right, then the insulation will tend to gap away at my left leg. Usually not an issue, but sometimes it is. If you find this to be a problem, have a several foot long thin piece of shockcord with you. Find a way to attach it to either the undercover or the pad on the left, and then run it up to your RL if the net is open, or over the net to the other side if the net is closed. Attach it to the RL or other side of the UC or hammock, and adjust so that it lifts up enough on the left leg area to keep it closer to your left leg. But consider warranties before making any alterations to the hammock.

    One more tip: sometimes I do not bother running the hammocks side tie outs through the loops on the under cover and pad. I just let the pad wrap up around me. Also, I can grab the pad and rotate it to make sure it is covering where I need it most, or rotate the UC in order to block wind the best. EDIT: Using the small HH asym tarp, I can actually rotate the UC so that it is in contact with the tarp on the windward side, but leaving me with a wide open view and the hammock barely covered on the other, or lee side. Boy is that handy when trying to maximize wind and wind blown rain protection when using that tarp!

    Also: be careful with that pad! It is easy to poke holes in it with your finger tips. This won't really hurt the insulation, and/or is easily repaired, but does make the pad look like crap. And you probably don't want to bother trying to stuff that pad back into it's sack. It can be done, but I don't bother with all of that. I just leave it all on the hammock, and then take the entire system and stuff it either into one large stuff sack, or stuff it all directly into my pack.
    Last edited by BillyBob58; 09-29-2020 at 19:13.

  6. #6
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    Thanks BillyBob58 - This is all great information. I was going to use my Down Vest (North Face 650 fill) as a replacement for the kidney pad, as I will already have it along. But I am going to go hit up one of the textile stores here in town to see if I can find some foam - feels like that might be even warmer and easier to deploy! I really appreciate the information! Looking forward to giving this a whirl!

  7. #7
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    The Supershelter seems to be a complicated option instead of going for the 4-Season models (2 layer bottom with foam pad). Is there any advantage or was it just the "old" way of doing things? Seems like the foam pad is the same material, I guess maybe the undercover traps more air than the 2 layer bottom hammocks?

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by HomerJ View Post
    The Supershelter seems to be a complicated option instead of going for the 4-Season models (2 layer bottom with foam pad). Is there any advantage or was it just the "old" way of doing things? Seems like the foam pad is the same material, I guess maybe the undercover traps more air than the 2 layer bottom hammocks?
    I looked at the 4 season models - part of the reason I went with this system was that the 4 season models were out of stock, plus I don't go often in these tempatures - we usually go up in June before the bugs get real heavy, and then later (but not this late) in the year. I also liked the adaptability of the system - its pretty light, but I can add down blankets, etc underneath it for cold temps. I know it might not be as simple to packup as a down underquilt - but bang for my buck, and given I have a number of things already on hand to increase the warmth, I thought this was the best way to go. Also really like the idea of blocking the wind - the SuperShelter itself is very lightweight, but completely wind proof. I'll see how it goes - I'm still very new to hammock camping, so maybe after a few trips I'll adjust things, but the setup was so simple on my test runs - it doesn't seem like a complicated process.

  9. #9
    Senior Member BillyBob58's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by HomerJ View Post
    The Supershelter seems to be a complicated option instead of going for the 4-Season models (2 layer bottom with foam pad). Is there any advantage or was it just the "old" way of doing things? Seems like the foam pad is the same material, I guess maybe the undercover traps more air than the 2 layer bottom hammocks?
    IMO, it(the old system) is really is not the least complicated, nor does it have the least bit of fiddle factor, compared to my quilts or anything other than pads. It's just a matter of understanding it, and I did not when I first got it. Thus I- like some others- struggled with it.

    Most of us are well versed in breathable systems, and not at all in how to use non breathable systems. I think the reason Tom came out with this new system is because so many folks are already sold on breathable systems, and maybe he was just tired of fighting it. But I might be wrong about that. I talked at length with Tom about his new system, and the pros and cons. It's main difference, it seems to me, is that it has a breathable outer layer. Which adds breathability for those who are set in that approach, but loses the wind proof, water proof advantage of the old system. Ironically, it still uses the space blanket, which is not breathable, but normally uses it UNDER the pad, rather than on top of the pad. He said the advantage of this was that condensation will occur on the other side of the pad so it does not get into the hammock or contact the user. Plus, if cold enough, the condensation will freeze and can be shaken off the next morning. (Although, apparently, the warmest option is STILL to put the space blanket on top of the pad)

    But, to that I asked "what condensation are you talking about?". I have never had any noticeable condensation except the ONE time, in the upper 40sF, I chose not to use the space blanket right under the hammock where it is kept WARM by body heat(as we all know, condensation occurs on cold surfaces). Then, because the old system's under cover was sil-nylon, and was the COLD outer layer, I got a ton of condensation. But using the original system as directed, I have never had more than minuscule condensation, and often I am bone dry. But to do that, I must keep the space blanket warm, the very next layer under my hammock. This also blocks my body's vapor( aka VB) or sweat from traveling to the cold outer UC layer and condensing on it. Condensation has never been a problem for me, and there are a few other HHSS users here who have reported a similar experience.

    But, probably because most of us are trained in breathable approaches, I suppose it just seems too complicated to some, or even many. But I don't think it is, and certainly no more complicated than UQs. Just think of how many threads there have been over the years where folks are cold at 40F with their new 20F UQs. Followed by tons of advice on how to correctly adjust the UQ. IMO, THAT is what is complicated. Here is what the HHSS comes down to:

    1. An open cell foam, form fitting pad is hung, by it's suspension, under the hammock. Unless it is pretty warm, a $5, 2 or 3 oz space blanket it placed on top of the pad, under the hammock. The space blanket serves as a VB which keeps my body vapor out of the insulation.
    2: A custom shaped, wind and waterproof sil-nylon under cover( similar to an UQP ) hangs under the pad and wraps around the sides of the hammock, attached to the hammock at the very end of the rope covers. You just clip it on, being careful not to put it on backwards or upside down. This UC has elastics at various points in the UC which serve to apply just enough tension to elevate the OCF pad so that it just contacts your back, but not enough to compress the open cell foam.

    That's it. There is nothing to adjust, just clip it on, and be warm. Unless I want to add additional insulation, usually in the form of clothing I am not sleeping in, lightest items on top of the pad and heavier items under the pad, but everything still under the space blanket, there is nothing else to do. Pretty simple. I have hung it on non HH hammocks that were of similar dimensions, seemed to work fine. I also loaned my HHSS #2, meant for the larger Explorer sized hammocks, to a friend using a smaller HH Backpacker hammock. With a few adjustments, it worked fine and kept him toasty for a week in the Sawtooth mountains with temps down to 34F. (but he did add a bit of extra insulation down in the UC.)

    I love my down UQs, and loved my Pea Pod before I stupidly sold it. But I have always considered this system I started with to be competitive with other systems. Pros and cons for all of them.
    Last edited by BillyBob58; 09-28-2020 at 17:52.

  10. #10
    Senior Member oldpappy's Avatar
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    BillyBob58 covered it all. I'll just add that if you find your hammock has a 'ridge' / the fabric is tighter down the middle, just loosen the hang up a bit. The ridge line should be slightly snug but not 'banjo tight' when you are in the hammock. I've been warm at 15F/9.5C with adding 20 oz of synthetic insulation. +4C or a little lower is about the lower limits of my comfort zone with the SS right out of the box. Let us know how the Costco down works.
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