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Extreme winter weather has been the holy grail of hammock hanging pioneers.
For the absolute lowest temperatures in the worst winds, the ground dwellers had us heavily outgunned. To tame the hostile winter nights, heavy canvas tents and steel barrel wood burning stoves coined the term 'hot-tent' and eventually paved the way to todays more innovative and certainly lighter advancements such as the Kifaru tipis, Black Diamond Megamid or Titanium Goat Vertex - all top choices for conversion to hot-tents for ground dwellers. Us die-hard hammock users were left swinging in a very chill breeze.
That is .... until now .... *drum roll* .....
Introducing a new and innovative Jacks R Better prototype hammock shelter.
Product: JRB - Fire Resistant Winter Hammock Tent
Manufacturer: Jacks R Better, LLC
Model: This review is for a prototype version.
Weight: 4 lbs+
Over the next several months, it is my sincere pleasure to be able to showcase this very unique shelter and provide a full field test review. I will update this article as I go through the review process and push at the boundaries of extreme winter temps. I will share all my successes and especially my failures. I hope you might find some part of it exciting, informative or failing either of those, at least amusing. So .. lets get down to business.
Features & Design:
This hammock tent is based on an 11ft folded hexagon. The pole-less shelter is designed to provide a fully enclosed living space around a hammock. The design of this tent is such that it is able to accommodate several unique pitching options covering a very impressive spectrum of possibilities. The fire retardant material is a great choice for conversion into a 'hot-tent', by adding a wood burning box stove.
The most unique feature of this shelter is its versatility in physical dimensions. The tent is designed in such a way, that the user has a range of control over the length, width, and to a lesser degree, the height of the structure.
The tent can be pitched in 'long and narrow' mode. Thus basically making a long tube-like room that fully encapsulates one hammocker. You may remember this pic JustJeff snapped at last years Mt rogers group hang, that displays this well
The tent can also be pitched in a 'wide mode' to accommodate 2 hammocks side-by-side, or to provide additional living space and gear storage.
Shown above, about to set up my second hammock on the other half of
the doorway. There is just enough room for two hammocks, that you don't
have to bump hips all night.
In 'wide mode' the tent offers luxurious accommodation and living space for one hammocker, one box-stove and a large supply of firewood and gear. Or one hammocker, one ground dweller, box-stove , firewood and gear for two at 'mountaineering standards' of space.
Other well implemented design features include:
- cat-cut roof provides a taunt perfect noise-free pitch and easily
deflects rain. (*Current testing results of snow loads and effects of heavy,
and wet snow will be reported on with next update)
- 2 full length, omni-tape opposing doors, that can be pitched full open
to add 3ft additional side coverage to one end. Or 6ft of additional coverage
with both doors open.
- large noseeum mesh end vents provide a large surface area to square footage ratio for easy ventilation and combat against condensation.
- storm flaps with guy-outs to protect mesh vents from driving rain
- second row of stake-out loops for pitching on steep terrain, or to
accommodate the swell at the base of a tree, in a tightly spaced pitch.
Give me a plaid smoking jacket and some fuzzy slippers, ...THIS IS THE GOOD LIFE. I feel like the Hugh Hefner of hammock hangers. This is the cadillac, of hammock shelters. In all the photos of this review I am using a large model all titanium collapsible woodstove made by Titanium Goat.
Gear-Test and Review Goals:
1. To provide proof-of-concept gear test and review data of this product
in extreme cold, and real-world winter conditions.
2. To learn and develop the techniques and skills applicable to a fully enclosed hammock shelter, extreme cold weather camping, and the use of a woodstove in the hammock shelter. To provide feedback and summary conclusions to all of the above.
3. To determine the overall effectiveness of the entire heated-hammock system and provide a summary comparison to a ground based heated tent system.
Current Testing Update
Testing Current to - Jan 7th 2008
Total nights spent in the JRB Hammock tent: 13
- nights spent as part of backyard testing: 10
- nights spent in actual field conditions: 3
Coldest ambient conditions tested: 11 deg F. (accounting for wind-chill)
Highest wind conditions tested: 21 mph
Highest snow-fall while testing: 2.5 "
- the versatile pitch. Being able to "tweak" the dimensions.
- omni-tape doors, are hands down soooo much better than velcro doors.
- The 4 end vents have provided ample ventilation. Absolutely no
condensation issues to report.
- ultimate privacy. Being completely enclosed is great for personal privacy. Nobody can catch a free glimpse of your birthday suit (unless you want them to) while dressing and undressing. Also those 2AM calls of nature, don't REALLY have to be taken outside. Did I mention its a BIG shelter Plenty
of room for a cat hole.
- cooking on the stove while still in my bed !
What's Not so Good:
- the weight. Lets face it. The tent is hefty. In fact for marketing I am going to suggest that is is marketed as a base-camp shelter. However, if used in conjunction with a pulk or sled in winter conditions, the weight penalty is quicky lessened, if not negated completely. Still, I can see the demand for a silnylon version of this tent being much higher and appealing to a greater number of people overall.
- Roof Jack/ Not Standard. - I am somewhat worried about the demand for this tent in a fire-resistant fabric. The only people that are going to want this tent, in this fabric, are those interested in making into a 'heated hammock tent.' That being said, without a roof jack coming as a standard feature from JRB, the market is further narrowed to people willing to modify the structure with DIY skills, or paying to have the tent modified for the stove jack. Personally, I think if this version of this tent makes it to production.. it NEEDS to come with a standard, or at least optional pre-installed roof jack for stove.
Testing hurdles and obstacles thus far:
1. - The most difficult aspect of testing to date has been trying to gauge the effectiveness of the ti-goat woodstove as a reliable and dependable source of heat. I feel that in early testing, I set the bar too high in trying to determine the least amount of insulation I could use with my sleep system, by depending on the heat output of the stove in a sustained all-night fire. I will continue this line of testing, but it will be at a much later date. I have to feel completely confident in my results of more basic levels of testing, before moving on to testing ideas and concepts like "can I remove insulation and some gear - because I have a stove? "
That being said, I have shifted my mode of testing at this time to focus on how the tent performs in unheated sleeping conditions. I will be reporting on heated conditions during waking hours to perform such tasks as cooking, drying equipment, and enjoying leisure time in a warm enviroment.
Until I can provide confident test results for unheated performance on the shelter, I will treat the stove as a luxury feature, and NOT a key component of an overall system. Once I feel confident in my results, I will shift the focus of testing to a hybrid system of minimal insulation system, and using a sustained all-night fire in the stove.
2. - Snow melt has been the most surprising and frustrating component of testing a heated shelter. When setting up on fresh snow, everything is great. However after just a few hours, large quantities of snow inside the shelter will have melted to water. I have spent 4 nights in the shelter while snow is falling outside. Because of the extremely high heat output of the stove, I have not been anywhere close to the point at which snow is capable of sticking to the roof or walls of the shelter, without turning to water within a few seconds - to minutes.
Some questions have been raised as to snow loading on the roof of the shelter. The exhaust exiting the chimney of the stove is around 300 deg F. When setup under over-hanging tree limbs, especially those that are capable of holding large snow loads (spruce, pine etc) ... the exhaust heat from the stove will warm the overhead branches making the snow, wet and heavy... long story- short... - I have had large quantities of snow come crashing down on the roof. While scaring the pants off me every time it has happened, there have been otherwise no ill effects. It has definitely become something to consider though for site selection prior to setup. On a related note - overhanging branches present a very real fire hazard. I have been extremely cautious about testing and carefully monitor the various spark arrestor screens used in my exhaust pipe. I absolutely WOULD NOT light a fire in the stove without some form of protection against sparks and airborne debris. Without these devices, starting an accidental fire outside of your shelter is not just possible but HIGHLY PROBABLE. This is not such a stringent concern for ground based heated tents, as they can set up away from trees. But in a heated hammock tent ... you always have at least 2 trees in your immediate area. Operating a safe fire will become a dedicated section unto itself in my final review and summary.
A last note on snow melt ... when you go to bed and allow the stove to extinguish itself and cool naturally, the melted water on the ground of the shelter quickly re-freezes. This has been the hardest learned lesson so far.
I have had to literally chisel and pry some of my gear off of the ground in the morning, upon discovering this most basic and obvious oversight.
3. - The area i am most lacking for data on is wind. More reports on wind, and the integrity of the structure, tie-outs, stove safety, etc will follow as dictated by mother nature, and my limitations of weekend testing.
4. - I am about ready to pit the structure, and my system against some
real Canadian winter conditions. Reports and reviews will follow the
conclusion of my mid Feb. subarctic trip. (discussed in another thread).
Further updates will follow as more testing is completed.
Notice and Disclaimer
- The product being reviewed and tested is a JRB prototype, and therefore may differ in some way from a future production model. (though I don't know of any planned changes or mods at this time)
- The addition of the roof jack and stove is a PERSONAL modification I have made to the JRB product. As such, I assume full responsibility for any damage or injury as a result of said modifications.