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Adventure / July 31, 2016

Gear Review: Hennessy Expedition Asym Zip hammock

Written by: Phil Lindeman

I’ll admit: when I first took the Hennessy Expedition hammock into the woods, I wasn’t smitten.

I went with a small group to Shrine Pass, our regular hangout at the top Colorado’s Vail Pass, for a single overnight hammock trip. We arrived just as the sun was beginning to drop below the horizon. The sunset was going to be spectacular—and perfect for product photos.

It was my first time camping with the Hennessy Expedition, also known as the Asym Zip, named for the admittedly sleek asymmetrical design and zippered mesh screen. It’s one of the few hammocks to sport a tent-style design—the tagline goes, “It’s a tent, it’s a hammock, it’s a chair, it’s a supershelter!”—and at a little over 2.5 pounds it’s one of the lighter camping shelters around. It’s eleven feet long, which is roomy as most two-person tents.

For $179.99, the Hennessy Expedition is also $100 less than high-end bivvy sacks and $300+ less than high-end two-person backpacking tents. My hopes were high.

Setup

With the sun rapidly setting over East Vail, I took the hammock and included rainfly from a stuff sack about the size of a Trapper Keeper (remember those?) and was met with rope—tons and tons of rope. It threw me off.

I’ve been hammock camping before in an easy-to-use Grand Trunk single-person hammock. That model ($59.99) is made for casual lounging and camping, not backpacking expeditions, and the hanging system is designed to be idiot-proof. The two ends of the Grand Trunk hammock attach to webbing straps with carabiners, and within 30 seconds it’s ready for action. Or sunset photos.

The Hennessy expedition is a different story. The two ends of the hammock attach to webbings straps with rope, not carabiners, and so hanging it requires familiarity with knots and the Hennessy system itself. (The webbings straps are surprisingly small and don’t fit around a tree much larger than my bear hug. We had to find another grouping after the webbing wouldn’t fit the first.)

But this is camping, right? Knots and ropes are part of the deal. Thankfully, instructions for hammock and rainfly setup are printed on the back of the Hennessy stuff sack.

They read like this:

“Tighten each wrap and repeat lashing at least three more times in a figure-eight pattern and tie off with two half hitches, leaving at least 6” (15cm) of rope. ”

Not impenetrable, exactly, but definitely instruction-manual-ese. And I was unprepared for a manual, in the woods, in a time crunch. I kept thinking, “What if a nasty storm was approaching, instead of a gorgeous sunset?” I’d be soaked.

The folks at Hennessy claim that setup takes three minutes, but that estimate comes with a steep learning curve. You’ll have to practice the hanging system three or four times with straps, trees, ropes and the rainfly before even approaching the three-minute mark.

Shrine Pass the first place I even removed the hammock from its stuff sack—a cardinal sin of camping gear, which everyone should be familiar with before leaving the comforts of home—so I didn’t know what to expect.

Frustrated and caught unprepared, my friend and I got frustrated with setup after about 10 minutes. The sun dipped behind the peaks and we left for camp. At least the hammock was easy to pack back up.

Pros

When we reached camp and I had time to fiddle with the Hennessy system, I was happy to have it with me. It’s a sexy number, featuring an asymmetrical design through the “bed” of the hammock. I’ve had trouble sleeping overnight in my Grand Trunk because it can feel like a claustrophobic cocoon, and I tend to spread one (or both) knees to the side for extra room. The Hennessy design skirts this problem with extra room built into the fabric—it contours to the body.

The shape also works well with the zippered mesh covering, and that’s the hammock’s true claim to fame: full closure. It didn’t make a major difference at 9,000+ feet in Colorado, but that mesh covering could do wonders against the bugs and humidity of lower elevations.

Hennessy was born and bred on the western coast of Canada, where founder Tom Hennessy invented the design for camping in the muggy, buggy woods on his home Galiano Island. It’s modeled after a World War II U.S. Army hammock, which might explain the old-school lashing system. It might also explain the additional rope tie-downs on the hammock and rainfly. The system doesn’t come with tent stakes, and so the instructions recommend lashing to ropes to nearby trees, bushes and rocks. (I recommend investing in a cheap set of stakes, just because.)

The rainfly/canopy is another welcome addition over bare-bones hammocks. It doesn’t fit tight and taut like a tent fly, but instead hangs over the hammock in a similar asymmetrical shape. It hangs over the hammock just enough to double as a cover for backpacks, shoes and other gear. You can sleep with all this in the hammock, but I wouldn’t recommend it. Sleeping with anything but a dog in any hammock is obnoxious.

 

Cons

The learning curve. If you aren’t familiar with ropes—or aren’t willing to learn—opt for a recreational model instead, like a Grand Trunk or ENO. I was able to set up and tear down the Hennessy Expedition in about five minutes after a few practice sessions at camp, but I still had a bad taste in my mouth from the aborted sunset photo shoot. Tent poles are intuitive—this hammock is not.

 

Verdict

The Hennessy Expedition is made for a specific audience: veteran outdoorsmen who want the comforts of a high-end shelter when they camp solo. The design is smart, the zippered mesh closure is a lifesaver, and the included rainfly makes it a true three-season weapon. You also can’t beat the weight and size for the price. Just be sure to practice setup before leaving home.

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about the author

Phil Lindeman

Phil Lindeman is a gear junkie based in Summit County, Colorado, where the powder is deep and the singletrack is nearly endless.

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