Weight (tested): 38.3 oz
Weight limit: 250lb
In 2000 I had decided a hammock was the way to go for my next shelter. The first manufactured lightweight hammock I found on the market was the Clark Jungle Hammock and I came very close to buying one. But as fate would have it I found and ended up getting the Hennessy Hammock. At the time I made the decision all I hade to go by was a couple of internet reviews since both products were fairly new and there was not much information out there at the time about either.
Now there are many owner and professional reviews of both hammocks which praise both of them. Often I wonder from reading them if the Clark wasn't a good thing I passed up, but I've also been so impressed and often surprised by my Hennessy I've never looked back.
Then one day over on The Lightweight Backpacker, me and a guy named Animo got into a debate about the Clark and the Hennessy. The end result was a promise to swap hammocks and see what the other was talking about. So I sent him my Hennessy A-Sym Ultralight Hammock and he sent me the Clark Ultralight Jungle Hammock. Now I was finally going to get to see what I passed up.
The Clark looks like it is built for the long haul. The hammock itself is made from a heavy nylon weave and is secured to the trees with a polypropylene rope with over a 1200 lb load capacity. Under the hammock next to the head end are two pockets that open on either side, so you can get to a pocket no matter which side you zip open.
Attached to the hammock is a mosquito net made from nylon instead of the standard polyester so it has more stretch, and it is closed with a heavy duty zipper with two pulls like a sleeping bag, that way you can open the fly in two directions from wherever you rest the zipper.
The fly and both ends are made from silicone coated (not impregnated) nylon - although according to Animo they have changed that. There are many other strings and fasteners to finish the set up and a couple of thick metal rings (drip rings) for the main ropes to prevent water from traveling down the cords and getting the hammock wet in rain storms.
To set up the hammock, first tie out the two main lines to trees. After tying a Hennessy, the hammock looks pretty small with just this part up. The head end is the end with the pockets.
Next put the fly on it. The fly has two distinctive ends:
1. The foot end simply ties to the tree by a string, then fastens both corners underneath the hammock with a shock cord, and then uses Velcro to close this end totally around the foot. There is a hook under the fly to attach to the foot end of the netting which lifts it up. Looking at the set up, it makes since to tie the hammock with the foot end into the wind during storms because at that end you are practically wrapped in the fly. There are two eyelets so you can stake the foot end out, but there is no cord attached, you must supply that.
2. At the head end you tie a string to the same tree as the hammock, and then you attach the fly to the head end of the net by another string. The string on top allows some versatility. You can either have the Fly up high off the net for ventilation in hot weather, or keep it down low in bad weather for better protection. Lastly you have two strings connected to the corners for holding the fly out and up. The side corners can either be staked out or tied to trees nearby.
Last thing to adjust is the mosquito net. You can have it unzipped all the way except for a single attachment point near the foot, or you can zip it up all the way for protection. I found it best to set the zipper pull beside the external pocket so I could unzip the net and reach directly into the pocket.
Although I have a lot of experience in hammocks for camping including hundreds of nights in a Hennessy, I'll try to cover this section as a new user.
First of all is the comfort. A night sleeping in the Clark is very comfortable - more comfortable than any night I've ever spent on a Thermarest. Your back feels great in the morning, you don't slide to one end like sometimes happens in a tent, and there aren't those mystery lumps you find under you after you have gone to bed for the night. But because of the Clark's narrow sleeping area I found it hard to get comfortable on my side or stomach. This isn't a show stopper because your back will love you in the morning if you sleep laying on your back instead of your side.
The next benefit a hammock provides is the increase in sites to set up. Instead of looking for that level, clear, large spot with no drainage through it, you can set up a hammock anywhere there are two trees the correct distance apart. I have found that a hammock works best inside a draw on sloping ground because it gives you better storm protection. With the Clark you should always try to get the foot into the wind when doing this.
The hammock campsite is unique because the fly for the hammock can also serve as a vestibule for eating, changing, etc. The Clark fly could be a little bigger, but it does a good job, especially if pitched close to the ground. There is now an optional XL rain fly that is 2 ounces heavier but is 38" wider for only $96 or a $20 upgrade to the regular hammock price. Because you can zip the net back, the hammock is also a seat while relaxing in camp and gives you a dry space to "hang out" while lounging in camp. With lots of head room, you can zip up the net and relax away from the bugs
The pocket space in the Clark is one of it's biggest draws. The handy side pockets are great for putting extra clothing, a book, a water bottle, rain gear, etc. Things that you may need while in the hammock or handy if you need to get up in the night. the interior mesh pocket is about right for a LED flashlight, glasses, or other small items.
The hammock's ability to handle wet weather is great. Despite the small fly, it keeps you very dry during rain storms. Because of the silicone coated nylon ends on the netting, you have an extra wall of protection between you and the wind, especially if you can set up with the foot into the wind.
As I started to use this hammock, I tried to go in without a pre-conceived idea of what the hammock could or should be. But as I used it I was constantly comparing it in each area to a Hennessy to see how this problem or idea was done by the Hennessy or the Clark. It was a hard road to hoe to keep on track. So instead of fighting that urge, I decided to write a section comparing the two.
Most of the stuff is self explanatory, but I'll cover some things here in detail:
Dimensions: The Clark feels more cramped to me than the Hennessy. I must admit the head room is enormous - I didn't know what to do with all that room after a long time using Hennessy Hammocks. But the side and end room were not what I'm used to. If you look at the dimensions for the sides, there is only a 4" difference, but the two different designs makes that impact felt. The Clark makes a curved bottom to make a truly no-tip hammock - like riding in a canoe. The Hennessy is only 4" wider, but uses side tie outs to hold you from tipping, and this also spreads out the hammock making it feel more roomy. Since the Clark doesn't have any side ropes to tie out like on a Hennessy, so the hammock can get a sway going a lot easier and lasting longer than a Hennessy. Length wise, even though the Hennessy is longer, they both have about the same usable room for a sleeper. Both hammocks have upgraded models that provide larger sleeping spaces, but I don't have a need for either.
This design difference also impacted comfort. The Clark "cocoons" the sleeper more than a Hennessy which isn't bad, but if you try to sleep on your side, the Hennessy is more comfortable. That wide base allows you to sleep at a slight angle to centerline for a flatter sleeping surface, but the Clark hammock keeps you in it's bottom. Set the Clark tightly and you get a slightly flatter bottom, and looser you can sleep a little more at an angle - but the U shape of the Clark bottom doesn't let you deviate as much.
Pockets: The Clark's pockets are truly inspired. they are easy to get into while you are in the hammock and very convenient. The Hennessy Entry method would not facilitate similar pockets which is a shame. You could make pockets on a Hennessy, but it would be trying to play catch up and wouldn't work as well. But an idea the pockets of the Clark gave me, combined with the wide "corners" of a Hennessy was to make diamond shaped mesh pockets at each corner. these pockets could serve the same purpose, but also have the gear inside the hammock with the sleeper. Imagine having a side pocket with your rain gear, book, spare clothing, and a water bottle inside with you.
The thought of mesh pockets also got me to thinking about why not replace the exterior pockets on the Clark with mesh - they would be lighter.
The interior mesh pocket of the Hennessy is good for small items like an LED or glasses, but not much else. The only change I would like to see is a similar pocket on the Head end of the Clark.
Entry Method: The Clark's side entry is a lot easier than the Hennessy method. Simply unzip the net, set you bed up like you would in a tent, then climb in and zip shut. o learning curve at all.
The Hennessy isn't as bad as the Clark Hammock site would have you believe though. It does take getting used to, but what piece of gear doesn't. For a better idea of what Hennessy Hammock entry is like - go here.
Net: But besides getting in, the Clark with it's zip off net allows you to use the hammock as a lounge or chair. True the Hennessy can also do it, but not as well as the Clark.
One thing that concerns me is zipper failure. I've had a few zippers go down in the field, and that is one reason Hennessy uses Velcro instead of a zipper. If you get a Clark make sure you take good care of the zipper.
Tie Outs: Both hammocks can be tied directly into trees or bushes at all points. But I recommend carrying at least 2 stakes with either of them for tying out the sides
Cold Weather: While I don't have a chance to put this into actual test with the Clark, I can say based on this design, the Ultralight Jungle Hammock will have the same problem as a Hennessy Hammock in cold weather. It was suggested to me that the pockets would provide insulation and could be stuffed with extra clothing to provide additional warmth. But with the two pockets directly under the shoulder/neck area, they cannot provide enough. The Clark Deluxe Jungle Hammock appears to have enough pocket space to solve this, but it comes at a penalty of 18 extra ounces and $100 more.
And as I mentioned, the Clark with it's no- tip design tends to cocoon more than the Hennessy. In either hammock I would recommend a 1/2" thick closed cell foam pad during cold weather.
Wet Weather: I have had extensive time in a Hennessy Hammock during severe weather including a tropical storm in 2001. I consider the Hennessy to be one of the most weather proof shelters I've ever used.
The Clark design is very weather resistant and the silicone coated nylon panels are a cool idea that don't hamper the ventilation of the hammock. I think this could be a cool addition to the Hennessy.
Bivy: I have been able to set up my Hennessy Hammock as a bivy in situations where adequate trees were not available. It only took 4 stakes and two trekking poles.
I couldn't find a good way to make it happen with the Clark, but it can be done. The trick is to get the netting to lift up off the hammock in a stable way. Given more time I'm sure I could find a good way to make it happen.
No matter what you currently use for a shelter (unless you already use a hammock) I would recommend a hammock as the most comfortable and versatile sleeping/shelter system available. Depending on your taste, either of these two hammocks would be a great choice.
Personally I will still go with the Hennessy because it is more comfortable, costs less, roomier, and simpler - I'm a big subscriber to the KISS principle. I don't find the lack of pockets or the bottom entry to be problems and would rather have the extra room, space, comfort, and lighter weight of the Hennessy.
If I could change the Hennessy after these comparisons I would:
1. Add some side mesh pockets inside.
2. I would add 1' long panels of sil-nylon to the ends with about a 6" "Skirt" of sil-nylon where the hammock and the net attach. The benefit would be better rain protection if the wind carried some rain under the fly. I don't think this would hurt the Hennessy in weight or durability.
On the other hand, if you don't like some of the features of the Hennessy, then a Clark isn't a bad choice either. The pockets and headroom are great.
If I could modify the Clark, I would do the following:
1. Make the fly bigger for more area coverage when using the area under the fly like a tent vestibule.
2. Replace the rope with spectra nylon. It's very light and strong.
3. Replace the bottom pockets with mesh pockets.
4. Make side tie outs to spread the hammock bottom out some more.
5. Replace those huge drip rings with something a little smaller like a drip line.
6. Move the interior mesh pocket to the head.