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  1. #1
    Senior Member Cannibal's Avatar
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    Review of the Clark NA and NX models

    A little bit of and a lot of

    Well, I finally got to try-out some Clark hammocks and wanted to share what I found. Iíve got to send out a big Thank You to cavediver2 for offering to let me try a couple of his Clarks for a month and change. I was supposed to have posted this review a looooong time ago, but things have gotten very busy in my corner of the world AND I have no pics to post. The latter most certainly being criminal and I apologize. I had these hammocks during a time when I was replacing an old camera and had not received a replacement yet. The only pics I have are blurry and funny colored; I donít want to induce a flashback in any of you that it may apply to.

    So, what did I get? cavediver2 sent me a Clark North American (NA) and a NX-200 (NX) to give me a good perspective on the Clark line of hammocks. Now, I gotta tell ya, it is quite an amusing moment when someone like me (who likes to pretend to be a ULer) opens a box to find a couple of BIG and HEAVY bags that hold hammocks. I think I just stood there for a minute in shock. These things ainít small when packaged! However, the rational section (tiny area) of my brain started going through its checklist and quickly accepted the size and weight of the hammock bundles based on all the extras that are compressed into the one package. Initial fear; conquered. Seriously, when youíre holding a Clark bag youíve got most of what youíre going to need right there; hammock, tarp, and suspension. Like a Hennessy rig you say? Well a little, but thereís more to a Clark than the Hennessys. The Clarks are much more feature laden than any HH Iíve had my hands on so far. For the record, I absolutely LOVE the weathershields on the Clark line. I mean I really like them! They really provide a Ďtentí experience above the ground like no other hammock Iíve tried.

    I started with the NA, but (with a few exceptions) Iím going to speak about them both because they are very similar hammocks. Cavediver2 had already replaced the stock line with webbing, rings, and biners. This was nice because thatís how I normally roll; no new lessons to learn there. Iíve seen the stock line the Clarks use for their hammocks and to be honest, I really donít like it. Then again, I donít like many of the cord/line suspensions. The line Iíve seen is very heavy; kind of like the yellow nylon line one would use to tie-up a boat. Glad I didnít have to worry about that, thanks Pat!

    I got the NA strung-up within a few hours of receipt of the package; surprised? The thing about the Clarks that has always fascinated me is the pockets. I kept hearing about how people use them and must admit to being a little jealous. In a few regards, I was correct to be jealous. However, for my style of hanging, they wouldnít be of too much use for me. Maybe some clothing could be stored in them, but anything bulky would interfere with my underquilts. Cannibal no like pads, Cannibal like quilts! Still, the outer pockets are neato and if you are a pad user, I think they would be incredibly convenient. They are quite spacious and I donít think I own a pair of boots that wouldnít fit; even my cowboy boots from my Texas days would fit in those pockets. Yeah I know, thatís a visual nobody needed, but still better than the Yoga crack later in this review. The point is valid; them pockets are large and could be very useful.

    Once I had taken a look at the pockets, I wanted an answer to a fairly common question about the Clarks: do underquilts work with them? A resounding YES is the answer. I set my SnugFit to the bottom of the NA in no time at all. No different from any other hammock in that regard and easier than a couple of them. Itís pretty obvious that the Clarks were designed more for pad use than for uqs, but I didnít have any problems fitting, or using, my SnugFit or my Yetis. The Yetis may have lost a little bit of performance because the Clarks are straight hammocks. By that I mean they are narrow (really narrow), so you (I) tend to lay more in a straight line as opposed to diagonally like I do in most of my hammocks. Since the Yeti was designed to be used on a diagonal, the fit isnít ideal. Doesnít mean I got cold, just wasnít perfect. No reason the Jackís quilts wonít work perfectly, but I didnít try it. If underquilts are the reason youíve held off pulling the trigger on a Clark, time to exercise that finger and pull the trigger. They fit and perform fine.

    So now itís time to climb in. To me, the Clarks are a strange mix. The hammock itself is small, or at least feels that way. It is most certainly a narrow hammock and while I didnít measure anything, it sure feels short too. Honestly, I wasnít very comfortable in the NA for several nights. I did finally find a position and hang that worked for me, but it took a lot of doing to get to that point. This saddened me because a Clark NA has been on my wish-list for a good while and based on my sleeping experience, Iím pretty much taking it off the list. This is where the NX comes into play. It is slightly larger and seems to be larger in all the right places to make a difference. I will stipulate that I had already been in the NA for a couple of weeks before I got around to the NX. So there may have been some benefit from Ďpracticeí with the NA model that led me to a more comfortable experience with the NX model. The Clark site says the NA is comfortable for folks up to 6í4Ē, but I canít figure-out how. Iím 6í and am usually around the 220 Ė 225 lb mark, not counting holidays. So, Iím firmly in the Ďcomfort zoneí of the NA according to the Clarks; Iíve got to disagree. The NX was better, but still felt narrow.

    I tried hanging them with lots of sag and none. I tried sleeping on my back and my side. In the end, I found a reasonably tight hang was my preference and side sleeping seemed automatic in the Clarks. This was another change for me as I almost always fall asleep on my back in a hammock. I do sometimes find myself waking on my side in other hammocks, but in these it was a guarantee that I would awake on my side. Maybe itís the narrow hammock bed and my big manly shoulders are just too wide to accept sleeping on my back, but my side is where I slept in these. Not bad, just different.

    Once inside the hammock you get to really see the quality of the Clark hammocks. There is this one fella in Colorado that makes an amazingly well built hammock, but the Clarks could easily give him a run for his money in this area. I was very impressed with the craftsmanship on the Clark hammocks; very impressed. There wasnít a stitch out of place on these hammocks and they had been used in the field; these werenít out of the box. I couldnít see any significant signs of wear on either of them and Iím sure cavediver2 has put them through the wringer many, many times. The stitching was dead straight with no cosmetic blemishes at all. Most every line of stitching was double stitched so dependability is a given with these set-ups as near as I can tell. The Ďqualityí measurement gets an A+ from me; extra credit for making it look good in the process.

    Kind of a sweet and sour thing: There is tons of vertical room in the Clark hammocks, but not much extra space between the shoulders. My other hammocks tend to be the opposite, more room for my shoulders and less for sitting up. While I really like the extra room above me, I think I prefer having the extra room to go towards sleeping. Since I tend to spend time in my hammocks only for sleeping, thatís where I could use the extra space. If I spent a lot of my time at camp in a hammock reading, playing a tin flute, or whatever the extra headroom of the Clark might be a good sell point for me. The narrow hammock bed is really the only thing I really donít like about the Clarks, but that may not be an issue for some of you folks. Remember, I like cheeseburgers and I carry my extra insulation with me at all timesÖ.dang it.

    Letís cover some features. Weíll start with the tarps. I donít like them! Fair enough? Since I was sleeping in them nightly, I was set-up in my basement most nights. Donít really need a tarp there unless there is a plumbing problem upstairs. Since I have kitties running around, I didnít want the tarp laying on the floor next to the hammock where it could be destroyed, so I disconnected the tarps from the hammock altogether. They never went back on. In the field, I took tarps I already have and understand how to use. The Clark tarps have somewhere in the neighborhood of 75 tie-outs! OK, thatís an exaggeration, but they do have more tie-outs than I am accustomed to and I wasnít on a mission to learn about new tarps, just hammocks. Canít speak about the tarps folks, sorry. In all honesty, I did set-up the Clark in its Ďfactoryí mode once just to say I did it. I slept two nights under the tarp without incident and without rain. The little Ďbeakí at the head-end bugs me for some reason. From the look of them, they will most certainly provide you with good coverage and all the little tie-outs probably allow for an infinite number of set-up options, but I like what I know when it comes to tarps so I stuck with mine. They are of equal quality to the hammocks in construction and the material looked top-notch. Iíve no doubt they are good tarps.

    Now, my favorite thing about the Clark rigs; the weathershield. Ah man, I really like both the concept and the design of the weathershield on the Clarks. Both the weathershield and the bug net are connected to the hammock with pretty heavy-duty zippers with big ol pull-tabs; which is nice! They are double zippers so you can zip and unzip completely or partially depending on your desires. The weathershield can be stowed away out of the way in a handy little compartment. I suspect the bug net can be too, but I forgot to try. Neither of them go all the way to the ends, instead they form (what to me) resembles a cockpit. Imagine the canopy of a jet fighter, how the canopy lifts but leaves Ďend-capsí in place. Thatís kind of what the Clarks are like in that there is a section at either end that is always covered. I caught my foot one morning while exiting and went Ďthudí on the floor. Luckily the only ones around to see it were my cats and they ainít talkin!

    When the weathershield is deployed it really gives the impression of being in a solo tent. You have walls and a ceiling, basically a floating cubicle. If privacy in a hammock is an issue for you, then you need to take a long hard look at the Clark hammocks. The hammock is stable enough to change clothes in, if you exercise a little caution. I never felt like I was going to tip while moving around inside of it. I was also astounded at how much heat it traps. During one of my experiments, I was camped just below 10,000í in an area that is part of a high mountain valley; really pretty. Anyway, the wind kicked up on a night that saw temps in the low 20s. I awoke several times only to find my topquilt bunched up around my feet; guess I got hot. Before the night was over, I had to partially unzip the weathershield because I was uncomfortably warm. Now, I know I personally put off a tremendous amount of heat when I sleep. Iím sure that factors into the amount of heat retained by the weathershield, but dang! Between the trapping of the heat and the ability to block 98% of the wind, the weathershield is a very nice option. I like the fact that it is integrated into the system, opposed to a separate sock. It is always there if you get surprised by dropping temps or a particularly nasty storm. No more ďGeez, I knew I should have brought that sock with meĒ conversations in your head.

    The bug net is a mirror image of the weathershield; another capsule/canopy attached with double ended heavy duty zippers. I canít imagine what it would take to get these zippers stuck or jammed; they are smooth like butter and the large pull-tabs make it very easy to locate and unzip in the wee hours. Nothing much to report here; itís a bug net. Visibility is good and I never saw any arctic mosquitoes. Also, both the weathershield and the bug net can be opened or closed from either side of the hammock; meaning there isnít a front and back to the hammock. Iíve gotten so used to my Warbonnet hammocks that the first thing I do when finding a site is to decide which way I want the opening facing. Not a concern with the Clarks and this was a pleasant change from my other technical hammocks. There are a couple more little storage pockets inside for the little stuff, but with so many pockets on the Clark hammocks youíre going to run out of stuff long before you run out of places to stow it.

    The entire thing stuffs back into itself using one of the large outer pockets and folds in on itself to seal using Velcro strips. Not an easy thing to do the first time, but it gets easier after a few set-ups. My biggest problem was figuring out which freaking pocket was the correct one; there are a lot of pockets. I can see me putting a headlamp in one of the pockets and finding it on accident a couple of years later. I found a $10 bill in my WB ElDorado two weeks ago; another souvenir from the AT I guess. Overall size is going to take-up some real estate in a pack, but probably fewer cubic inches than a hammock, tarp, and weathershield packed separately.

    To sum it up, the Clark NA is too small for my taste. The NX is slightly better, but still somewhat restrictive. I will caveat that statement by saying that I am quite spoiled when it comes to my hammocks. I like big ones (no wise-cracks) that allow me to get nice and diagonal and the Clark NA and NX donít fit that bill. I never really understood the comparison until I got in a Clark, but the lay of the hammocks is VERY close to that of the Claytors; donít know which came first. I have the exact same comfort problems in my Claytors. Still, Iíve got a few friends that prefer the Claytors over other hammocks so the market is most certainly there. Given a choice between those two lines of hammocks the Clark would win without much effort. The features are almost overwhelming and the craftsmanship is among the best Iíve seen yet.

    There may still be a NX on the horizon for me, but it would most likely be used for car camping as it is still a little heavy even considering how much is packed into a relatively small package. Clarks are often berated for their costs, but given how much you get and the quality of the rig I really donít think that is a valid concern. My opinion is this; if you are on the small side and below 6í, want to buy everything at the same time and not go component shopping, and you are not overly weight sensitiveÖlook at a Clark. If you are close to, or above, my size youíll want to try one first. They may very well fit and work for you, but I suspect the larger folks are going to be left wanting more hammock. I wouldnít even bother with the NA, just skip straight to the NX line. It really is a lot of hammock for the money and the only thing left to buy, if you so choose, is an underquilt.

    I give the Clark NA an overall grade of: ďBĒ and the NX a ďB+/A-ď. The only reason they arenít ďAsĒ in my book is the lack of personal comfort, but the overall design concepts, the integration of accessories, and the quality of construction really go a long way to raising the grade. Besides, comfort is such a relative thing that I have a difficult time saying that the hammocks are uncomfortable. What doesn't work for me, may still work great for you. I was and am very impressed with everything except the size of the hammock bed.

    There is another Clark out there that has been talked about recently. I very recently had the opportunity to give it a go around the block too. All I can say at this point, is that the comfort issues of the NA and the NX do not come into play and underquilts are easily usable with a couple of very minor tweaks: The Vertex. While I have not had as much Ďplay-timeí with it as I did with the NA and NX models, I can tell you that it has been placed near the top of my list for ďhammocks I gotta haveĒ. No formal review, just impressions. However, those impressions are very good. The thing is big enough that you could probably do naked Yoga poses inside of it if you wanted to , not that I would.

    I hope this helps anybody looking at the Clarks and Iíll be happy to answer any questions that I missed above. Clark people: What did I miss that you feel is a selling point? There really is a lot going on with these hammocks, which I donít view as a bad thing. Itís going to boil down to a philosophy; these are not Ďsimpleí rigs. They are a little intimidating at first, but after a couple of nights everything makes sense. I would recommend this hammock to a friend, but I would want them to try before buying it. Another reason for all the young hammockers to find a hang-out and start experimenting.

    Have at it!
    Trust nobody!

  2. #2
    Senior Member photomankc's Avatar
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    Great review. You hit the major points, ups and downs, that I have experienced in my 2 years with the NA. I can just add that, yes, the bugnet can be zipped away to the same location as the weathersheild. It's not obvious but you detach the clip from the bugnet rings at the head end and zip the two zippers back on one side and you can completely stuff it away. I tend to just roll it up and tie it up with a string instead myself to get it out of the way.

    I wish the NA was longer and wider because I'd probably be pretty comfortable in the NX but it cam out after I had ordered my NA. The pockets become addictive. I love being able to stow all my gear in the pockets and if I need something at night I just reach out and grab it. I actually like the tarp. I had tried several, including the OES type and I prefer the Clark. One really nice idea is the "storm-mode" that lets you pull the tie outs and velcro the tarp closed around you like a taco instead of a guyed out sail. Then you don't have to worry about a line whipping loose in a really heavy storm. Not something I'd want to do but a tool in the box anyway. I like my JRB 10x11 for the really rainy trips though since the usable area under the Clark RX tarp is not that large.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Cannibal's Avatar
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    Thanks!

    Yeah, like I said, I've no doubt they are good tarps. I just didn't want to take the time to learn a new skill with a new tarp. They are probably the most intimating part of the Clark hammock system, only because they are very different from what I am accustomed to using. In hindsight, I wish I would have spent more time with them. Mostly for the reason you mentioned: Storm mode. Because I sleep so straight in the hammock, I can see how one could really tuck the sides in and down in a storm. You're right about the footprint of the tarp being a little on the small side, but I still think it's plenty of coverage for the hammock and immediate area. That, and I imagine dropping the hammock but leaving the tarp up isn't too difficult and would give you plenty of 'dining room' space.
    Trust nobody!

  4. #4
    Senior Member cavediver2's Avatar
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    Cannibal I want to thank you for taken the time for the review and I know I have asked a couple of times for it and realize that you have been busy so thank you for that.

    It was my pleasure giving you a chance at those Clarks. I think your review was honest and to the point. You said some things that I do agree with you on and some that I didn't and I wouldn't have it any other way. I am really thinking about selling my NA to re-coupe the cost of a Clark 250 because they seam like a smaller version of the Vertex but yet a bigger version of the NX and it seems to have more shoulder room. So some time in the fall when work starts up again I will be getting one of those.

    I am glad you enjoyed the Vertex and all though it is big as heck and full of room the naked yoga is out of the question in fact I don't think that it's going to stay in my arsenal of hammocks. Here is why my girlfriend told me one of the reasons she like to camp in a hammock is that she can set hers up away from me and get away from my snoring she said she didn't want me upset by this but it is a true get away when we do cause other than when I leave town and or when we go camping that is the only time she does not have to hear me snore.

    So to salve that I am going to get the 250 and and keep the NX so that she can have her peace and quite.


    Thanks again for the review and I hope that answers some of the questions that I have been fielding lately for those of you who are maybe thinking of a Clark. GOOD OR BAD I think this was spot on and should help those make there decisions of what to buy.

    I must agree that all 3 of those and the BB I would say that for accessory's I like that Clark as for easy and laying the Blackbird is my choice but I still always go back to the Clark.

    Thanks again Grant very well done.

    Pat

  5. #5
    Senior Member Cannibal's Avatar
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    Thanks Pat. It really was a pleasure to play with those hammocks. I thought I was being all sneaky not telling folks it was your Vertex, but glad that cat is out.

    I am curious, as I quest for all knowledge "hammock", what points do you disagree with? I'd really like to hear some of the Clark advocate views now that I've got a couple of points of reference. It would be very helpful for folks in my meetup group that elect to purchase a Clark. It might help me help them. So please, fire away. No fouls.

    And, ummmm, if that Vertex of yours hits the open market; to say I'm interested is a pretty big understatement.
    Last edited by Cannibal; 06-01-2009 at 18:50. Reason: A "t" that should have been a "d".
    Trust nobody!

  6. #6
    Senior Member cavediver2's Avatar
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    okay it's late but i will write something up tomorrow.

  7. #7
    Senior Member cavediver2's Avatar
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    Okay so I have had some sleep and a couple of cup's of coffee so I thought I might let Cannibal here my disagreements. First off being able to tie out a hammock should for the most part require 6 points of contact that is one for each tree and two for each side to attach to something unless you fold one side over and not use it. The Clarks have just that or at least mine do, I do not think that is an too many tie outs in fact ever tarp I own has that many and one has even more with the exception of my NEO tarp that I never use just had to have one.


    Cannibal likes the weather shield and bug net and that is great and I like them fine but wish that they would unzip completely not just store in the pocket provided for them.

    The pockets even full of stuff and maybe even boots should not cause a problem with an underquilt provided that you don't have one that is made for a asymmetrical hammock and it is fitted right.

    I have been a air pad type of person for a long time but I am going to either try to find some one who has a used underquilt or someone who has a sewing machine that can sew better than me which that should not be hard cause I can't sew worth a flip ( or should I say make gear )

    Cannibal does not like the rope suspension I do all though I changed mine out and with the new way of tying it with the drip rings I think it works as well as the ring and buckle systems. NOTE ( if your going to use the rope suspension please folks use something to attach the rope to other than the tree it's self )

    I like to have a place to hang out at and sit down in and cook other than a hard picnic table or worse a tick infested ground so having the head room to me is a huge plus were as cannibal like's the room to be for sleeping.

    Part of the weight that cannibal was feeling in the NA and the NX was my way over done suspension system I used what I had to make it with and that was a piece of 2 inch webbing that is 10ft long on each end and the 2 inch rings that I had all of which was used for diving not hammocking so I would safely say there was an added pound or two just with that alone. So I say that it is right up there with every thing else by the time you put all the components together so to say it is heavy I wont say that.

    well that is it for now.

    see you cats around the milk bowl

    cavediver2

  8. #8
    Senior Member Cannibal's Avatar
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    I totally agree with you about wishing the weathershield and netting were completely removable! That would/will probably be the first mod made to any Clark I acquire. I can certainly attest to cavediver2's claim of a beefy suspension; didn't think about that when I was holding the hammocks, but yeah you're probably right about that being a big part of the extra weight. I can also see the advantage of having a generous amount of headroom for lounging around camp; certainly makes putting a shirt on easier.

    My question here is how could boots not effect the performance of an underquilt? The boots (or whatever) would prevent the quilt from snugging up against the hammock body, no? In my eyes, this would create air pockets which in turn create cold spots. Am I missing something? I think if I were to go down the Clark road with one of the "N" models, I would probably take a shot at the RAW solution of mini-quilts (I still like "Oompa Loompa" quilts ). There isn't a tremendous amount of 'stuff' left once I've got camp set-up, so for me, the pockets wouldn't be terribly important for storage. But, I could always slide small stuff under the mini-quilts, between them and the outer layer of fabric. Heck, I think half the reason I want one is an excuse to make itty bitty quilts.

    The tarp thing really boils down to me not playing with them enough. I was pretty focused on the hammock itself and trying to figure out the right way for me to hang it. It was just easier to take tarps I was already familiar with, so that I had one less thing to stress about. I'm sure their tarps are of good quality and very functional, just didn't take the time to find out for myself.

    Thanks for your perspective Pat! Judging from some of the PMs and emails I've received, I really do need to take a harder look at their tarps; they have quite the loyal following!
    Trust nobody!

  9. #9
    Senior Member headchange4u's Avatar
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    Terrific review Cannibal.
    ďLight thinks it travels faster than anything but it is wrong. No matter how fast light travels, it finds the darkness has always got there first, and is waiting for it." -Terry Pratchett



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  10. #10
    Senior Member angrysparrow's Avatar
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    Very thorough. Fanstastic review.
    ďI think that when the lies are all told and forgot the truth will be there yet. It dont move about from place to place and it dont change from time to time. You cant corrupt it any more than you can salt salt.Ē - Cormac McCarthy

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