The Greenhorn Report
After quite a lot of research and soul searching, I finally decided that the Hennessy Hyperlite gave me everything that I wanted and still stayed within my meager budget. So, I plunked down the old credit card, opted for the two-day shipping, and received it on the second of November. Sweet!
Note: The folks at Hennessy were super and have been very helpful and above all, very generous. I received my hammock right on time and they have answered all my inquires in a very prompt manner. Kudo's! They have a customer for life.
When I received my hammock, the first thing I noticed was how amazingly light and compact it was. I'm not a gram weenie and although I'll sacrifice a little weight for comfort, I do count ounces. The Hyperlite actually takes my overnight Base Pack Weight (BPW) down to 8.56 lbs and I can't complain about that.
I literally have no where to hang my hammock in the back yard and since I live on a very busy street, hanging in the front yard was out of the question. So, I bought a couple large eye screws and mounted them on opposite sides of my garage (length wise). That meant the span from ”tree-to-tree” was around twenty feet. That's pretty excessive, but you can only work with what you've got...so...I took out the webbing straps and got busying hanging my Hyperlite for the first time.
No, I wasn't able to hang it in two minutes...but I'm not really concerned about speed and I'm not afraid to tie a few knots. I took my time, checking everything out carefully, pausing every now and again to double check my work. I've watched the video of Tom Hennessy tying that figure eight a dozen times, but there's something about taking that initial leap of faith that just made me a wee bit hesitant. Speaking of that, my wife came out to check on my progress and I asked her if she wanted to take it for a spin...”Hell no...you first!”, she replied. I explained to her that it was all perfectly safe and then she asked why the Therm-A-Rest was sitting on the floor right underneath the hammock. I said, “Just in case.” She declined my invitation to take the Hyperlite's maiden voyage...so...I gingerly spread the fabric, poised my *** over the edge, and ever so slighty eased my weight onto the hammock in a sitting position. Then, I held my breath, laid back and...nothing. It held! Woohoo!
I admit it, I had visions of the eye screws shooting out of the walls, simultaneously striking me in the face and back of the head...or...more likely, one or both of my knots would come loose and I would plummet to the concrete, cracking my skull and breaking my forty-five year old back...or...maybe I was just fearing that the fabric would rip under the weight of my new winter insulation that I securely keep wrapped around my waist (Fat). Regardless of my unrealistic fears, nothing happened, and I was very happy about that.
So, the next step was to climb aboard. Since the Hyperlite is the only current Hennessy that isn't offered with a zipper, I entered through the tried and true bottom entry. Easy peasy lemon squeezy! My first thought was, “This is pretty comfortable.” So, I decided that I'd try and sleep in it that night. So, around midnight I went out to the garage and mounted up. I have a regular length Therm-A-Rest Pro Lite and a Lafuma 45 degree bag. I threw in the pad, with no air, and then proceeded to go through the gymnastics of getting in a mummy bag, that's already pretty tight mind you, inside a hammock that is swaying back and forth. It reminded my of my Navy days, except without all that nasty pitching up and down.
I managed to get situated and I was rather comfortable, but I couldn't sleep. I'm a bit of an insomniac anyway, but by 4:30 A.M. I finally gave up and went inside. Part of the problem was that my shoulders were cold. The temperature was hovering around 60F and every time my shoulder would touch the side of the hammock, it would feel quite cold. I was also a bit amped up and simply couldn't turn my brain off, which is pretty typical for me.
Believe the hype. Hammocks really are much colder than tents. An under quilt (UQ) would be ideal, but I simply can't afford one at the moment. So, I decided to run out and get a CCF mat from Kmart and add it to my sleep system (more on that in a moment).
Getting out of the Hennessy isn't as easy as getting in. It's kind of awkward in the beginning, but I'm getting used to it. I think it all depends on how high you hang it and how centered it is between the attachment points (Trees, Poles, etc...) I'm still experimenting, but I'm not sure I'm even hanging it right. The ridge line seems a bit taut, but I assume that it is supposed to be like that, because no matter how I hang it, it's always the same tautness. Then again, I'm limited to distance and height at the moment. It'll get a true test once I get out in the wilderness.
I can't decide if I should hang it level, feet higher, or head higher...I'm still experimenting.
Trying to get inside a sleeping bag, inside of a hammock, is doable, but unorthodox and it requires a certain amount of flexibility and skill that is usually reserved for world class gymnasts. I'll use it as a top quilt (TQ) in the future.
As I said, I purchased a cheap CCF pad from Kmart. It was 70”x20”, so I laid it out lengthwise and then cut it in half. I then placed each half next to each other just above the entry point and then positioned the Therm-A-Rest on top of and between the two CCF Pads. This provided extra insulation for my torso and prevented the annoy cold spot on my shoulders. A cheap solution to the problem, but as I said, an UQ is ideal.
This night I opened the garage doors, so that I could test everything in cooler conditions. However, it was warmer this night and even with the doors open, the temperature still hovered around 60F all night. Like the previous night, I slept in only my base layer, but I added a knit cap and used my fleece jacket as a pillow. The pillow was a welcome addition and the hat kept my head warm and toasty. I also re-rigged the hammock, this time with the feet a few inches higher and few inches closer to the attachment point. Once again, I was comfy, but I couldn't sleep. When I did it was only for short periods of time and by 6:00 A.M. I gave up. The good news was that I did not experience the soreness that I usually do lying on the ground or in a bed for that matter. The bad news was that I was exhausted.
The CCF pads really did the trick though and using the sleeping bag as a TQ was great. It gave me more freedom of movement and I was surprisingly very warm laying directly on the pads.
Pads and and sleeping bag as a TQ worked pretty well. So, no adjustments there. However, after digging around in the forums again, I decided to rig the hammock higher. My attachment points are exactly six feet off the ground, but twenty feet apart. Consequently, I don't have a lot of hanging options. I've tried head high, feet high, so what's next...let's try perfectly level. So, I re-rigged the hammock, trying to get it perfectly centered and level. I even went so far as to hang a string level from the ridge line at the center point of the hammock.
Exhausted from my previous nights lack of sleep, I fully expected to collapse and wake up sometime next week, but...once again I had a difficult time falling to sleep. I even resorted to ear plugs, which helped with the distracting road noise, but it took me longer to fall asleep than I expected and I woke up an hour and a half later. I wasn't cold or uncomfortable, I was just unable to fall into a deep sleep. Anyway, I fought it for awhile, dozing on and off, trying various positions, but I just couldn't stay asleep. By now my bad hip was bothering me and so I decided to get up, stretch, and reconfigure my pads.
It was pretty darn chilly this night. Around 43F outside and 53F inside the garage, despite the rear door being fully open. The main garage door was only slightly cracked, in an effort to reduce the road noise. Still, when my socks hit that cold concrete, I was eager to get back in the hammock. Plus, it had been raining all day and night, so it was a pretty damp cold. Still, I was plenty warm with just the pads and TQ, although, I regretted leaving my knit cap off. I ended up waking up with a headache that pretty much lasted all morning, but I digress.
I readjusted the pads, eagerly crawled back in, and tried a few new positions...oh yea...I decided to blow up the Therm-A-Rest this time. It was probably about 80% inflated. This time I felt much flatter and although I still had the sensation that my toes were above my head, I was able to get into a very comfortable fetal position. Note: Because of my bad hip, I usually sleep with a knee pillow, but I never carry it with me on my hiking/camping trips. I might reconsider that now. Anyway, it didn't take me long to fall back asleep, but I woke up around 4:30 A.M. With a slight twinge in my hip. Flipped over onto my back and slept solid until around 7:30 A.M.
When I woke up, I was still on my back, but pretty much centered in the hammock...burrito'esc. This is something that I noticed almost every night. I'm not sure why I keep ending up on the center line, but it has happened pretty much every night at some point.
The pads really work well at providing that extra bit insulation and the Therm-A-Rest stays pretty much in place, although it did slide down just a few inches during the night. Tonight it will be even colder and tomorrow, when I'll be in the woods, it's supposed to drop down to 38F. I'd be lying if I weren't a little concerned about staying warm. So, I plan on having plenty of fuel for my campfire, just in case.
When it's chilly, make sure to forget your knit cap.
I actually enjoy the process of rigging the hammock with old fashioned knots. I know it isn't the quickest or easiest way of doing it, but there is something about doing it old school that gives me a lot of satisfaction.
I tied a small piece of gold ribbon to the snake skin on the “head” of the hammock. I also plan on tagging the tarp as well, in the event that I pack it separately.
I placed two of my daughters hair ties (used for ponytails) over each end of my tarp. That way I can roll up the tarp and then slide the hair ties over the tarp to keep it rolled up. This allows me to I have the hammock open, but keep the tarp in place for an emergency. If you already have your stakes or attachment points laid out for the tarp, it takes about ten seconds to unfurl and re-pitch the tarp. Maybe someone else has already posted this as a tip, but not bad for a Greenhorn...huh.
To be continued (tonight)...
P.S. I welcome any tips, tricks, advice, and constructive criticism. I'm a fairly experienced hiker, but a complete Greenhorn when it comes to hammock hanging.
Me: 5'8” 190lbs (Yes, I know...I need to shed more than a few pounds.)
Hammock: Hennessy Hyperlite
Suspension: Stock Hennessy w/Webbing Straps
Insulation: Two torso length CCF pads and a Therm-A-Rest Pro Light (Regular)
TQ: Lafuma +45F sleeping bag (I augment with additional clothing)
See "The Greenhorn Report" album for related pictures: