High Gear: Review of Hennessy Expedition Asym Zip hammock
Hennessy Expedition Asym Zip hammock
In a nutshell: A compact, single-person backpacking hammock based on a tried-and-true U.S. Army design and cut asymmetrically to better fit the body
Weight: 2 pounds, 9 ounces
Rainfly/canopy weight: 3.1 ounces
Size: 11 by 6 inches packed, 6 by 4 feet unpacked
Max load: 250 pounds
Hammock material: 210D Oxford nylon
Canopy material: 70D polyester on polyester ripstop
The Expedition Asym Zip comes with webbing straps, suspending ropes and a stuff sack for all parts. Be aware: this model doesn’t include carabiners or stakes. For more info, including additional components to customize like crazy, see the Hennessy website at http://www.hennessyhammock.com.
No one ever said knowing how to work with ropes is a camping requirement. But it sure helps, like that old Boy Scout motto: Be prepared.
I was anything but prepared the first time I took the Hennessy Expedition Asymmetrical Zip hammock into the backcountry. For starters, it wasn’t the true backcountry — it was a last-minute hammock trip to a favorite spot on Shrine Pass, the road leading up and over Vail Pass from Interstate 70 to small Red Cliff.
In other words, this was a car camping trip with minimal hoofing it, and so I didn’t really need the Hennessy Expedition. I could have gotten by with a three-person dome tent.
But, I’d heard so much about this particular model. It’s something of a suspended tent, with included rainfly, zippered mesh closure and asymmetrical design. It’s billed with the tagline, “It’s a tent, it’s a hammock, it’s a chair, it’s a supershelter!” and it rings true. At about 2 pounds, 9 ounces, this four-in-one model is lighter than most backpacking tents and packs down just as small, making it an all-around weapon for multi-day backpackers, hunters, — anyone who needs to travel light and nimble, usually solo.
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It’s surprising that hammocks haven’t really caught on with the high-adventure, low-impact crowd until now. Hammock camping has become increasing popular over the past few years, thanks in large part to very affordable — and very intuitive — hammocks. Companies like ENO and Grand Trunk make hammocks in the $50 to $60 range that can be hung in about 30 seconds with two trees, two nylon straps (usually an extra $25) and a bare-bones hammock (in gorgeous colors) with carabiners. If you’ve seen a hammock before — in person, in a picture, in your dreams — you know how it works.
The Hennessy Expedition is a different story. I didn’t figure that out until right around sundown, just as I was scrambling to get photos of a beautifully asymmetrical hammock with alpenglow in the background. It’s standard Army Green — Hennessy founder Tom Hennessy based his design on a World War II U.S. Army hammock — but the modern angles on the rainfly and hammock bed aren’t just useful. They also look damn sexy.
Remember the knots I mentioned? This is when they would have come in handy. Actually, this is when preparation would have come in handy. If I had read the instructions before leaving — there’s a “South Park” episode about the idiocy of signing up for something you don’t understand — I would have realized the Hennessy Expedition didn’t come with dumb-as-rocks carabiner attachments. No, it required an understanding of knots and plenty of rope. Tons of rope. But, I had read that set-up took no more than 30 seconds, and so that’s what I expected. Not set-up was difficult.
Suspending the hammock takes a few figure eight tie-offs and half-hitches, but the webbing straps that go around the tree are small, and, after about 10 minutes of searching for a new pair of trees in the right spot, the sun had dropped below the horizon. The Expedition didn’t quite live up to its 30-second billing.
But, I can’t judge the entire system on one experience. Truth is, this hammock is perfect for the exact intended audience: experienced outdoors junkies who know their knots, know their routes and know they want something that won’t slow them down. They also know that, at the end of the day, being comfortable after a 14-mile day is on par with heaven.
For these folks, the Hennessy Expedition is a godsend. The zippered mesh covering might be moot in the dry and bug-less heights of Summit County, but that only means it has everything you need for a tramp just about anywhere: desert, jungle, woodlands, river basin. Its Army roots shine through.
After my disappointing first attempt, I took the Hennessy to another location for an early-morning shoot. This time, I knew what to expect, and it went much smoother. It wasn’t quite 30 seconds (about two minutes) but, after one or two more trips, I’ll have it down to a science, and you’d better believe I’ll be taking this rugged model into the woods again. And again.
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