One thing I am looking to do more over in the upcoming year is some reviews of gear – so you up and coming small bike (or light-packing) travelers have a sense of where you spend your hard earned gas money (on non-gas things).
The two most expensive things I have with me when I travel are my sleeping bag, and my Hennessy Hammock. It didn’t used to be that way, and I used a normal, set-up-on-the-ground tent for years and years without complaint. In fact, if I could find a replacement for about what I paid for it (About $20) I would and the hammock might be left behind. Lucky for me (and the quality of my night’s sleep while camping), Ozark Trail (the Walmart company who made that old tent of mine) changed the design of their small tent and the new one I find uninspiring.
So, the hammock. I got it because it packed up very, very small. There are tents that pack smaller, but they are usually bivy bags, and I wanted something comfortable enough to stay in, if I was somewhere with poor weather. I read someone on ADVRider.com singing the praises of their hammock, and I found one on the shelf in Anchorage and bought it more on less on impulse. It saw use immediately as I went camping in the Kenai for a few days.
I have always been a restless sleeper, and when camping am usually awake by 630 or 7, simply unable to sleep any longer. In the hammock, in the Kenai, I was rarely awake before 8 and woke rested. It was a dramatic change.
I used my Hennessy (the Expedition Classic – which I picked because it was the one available) all the way south. When there weren’t trees and I needed shelter I learned how to set it up on the ground as a bivy, but whenever possible I hung it. Despite sleeping on my side or stomach on the ground, I slept on my back in the hammock (I could lay on my side, the hammock allowed for a relatively flat surface) both comfortably and well.
I will say that hammocks sleep cold, and to stay warm you need something under you, even when hanging. I’ve used a sleeping pad, the same one I used on the ground and convenient for when I have to set the tent up on the ground. I am probably going to invest in a more traditional piece of hammock insulation called an underquilt. Hennessy makes one for their hammocks, which I will probably purchase. I am also considering a replacement hammock from Eagle’s Nest Outfitters (ENO). I love my Hennessy, but the ENO hammocks offer a little more flexibility.
Packed, the hammock is about the side of two 20oz soda bottles, and weighs (with straps and stakes) just under 3lbs. It cost $160, just under what my sleeping bag cost, and I consider it money well spent.