OK, here we go.......this will be a evaluation of the GT ABES, offered at REI.com, by an extremely new NEWB! All of the experienced hangers in this forum please bear with me.
Here is a brief description of myself and it will lead to some of my conclusions. I am 6' 1" tall, 290 lbs, use a 40" opening mummy bag to fit me in the shoulders and my only other experience with hammocks is with a Clark NX 200 "bed" that I received on 1/19/09.
I received the kit yesterday afternoon and it was too late in the day to try and do a "good" evaluation. As reported before, by others, I feel that this is a "hybrid" hammock package,IMO, between REI and Grand Trunk. I could find nothing wrong as far as the craftsmanship and construction of this hammock and tarp package.
It took me a while to get the hammock/fly hung, definitely new at this.
To make sure that the the listed weight capacity was correct, 400 lbs listed on the stuff sack, I got my nieces to help me out. They are 8 and 12 years of age, average builds and were more than willing to give the "cool" new thing a try. The 8 yr old was first and fit in it with plenty of room to spare. I made sure that she was in the center of the hammock and that the rigging was going to hold her and not slip to much. Next was the 12 yr old, after a little tightening of the straps. She still had plenty of room and was totally into the "hanging out thing", as she put it. I was afraid I was going to run out of day light before I could get ther out.
OK, now the stress test is on! I gingerly, yeah I said that, sat into the hommock and made sure that my straps were going to hold me!! After a little slow moving and easing into the bed I immediately noticed some things that caused me some concern. First, I noticed that bed was narrow compared to the NX 200, for me anyway! Secondly I noticed that the zippers were not as rugged as I was expecting or hoping they would be. I laid down in the hammock and gingerly zipped up the zippers. I was making sure not to place any excessive stress, kinda funny saying that, on the netting or the zippers as it has been stated in other posts these are or can be fragile. Once inside and zipped up I noticed that I had plenty of room from head to foot,a good foot at my head and about 8" at my feet. As far as the width of the hammock I was a bit let down. I was immediately hit by the fact that I was having to keep my shoulders bunched up, or atleast that was the way it felt. I believe the term is shoulder squeeze? I noticed that I had plenty of room as far as face to bug net, this was a welcome experience and one of my fears was laid to rest.
In conclusion, this was a great deal as far as a starter hammock rig, IMHNO! I received a quality product in a timely manner. The craftsmanship, construction and material are well made and well put together. I am let down in the width issue but this is just a way for me and the daughter to spend some quality time together in the outdoors. I will now lok for another set-up that will be better for me. If you are looking for a starter, three season hammock rig then I will recommend this set-up to you. If you are built like a fireplug, all I can say is try it and see if it will work for you.