SGT Rock's Hiking H.Q.


Hennessy Ultralight Explorer A-Sym


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Picture from Hennessy Hammock Web catalog.

Weight (advertised): 35oz

Weight (tested): 36.1oz, 37.7 oz with the Snakeskins instead of the bag, 38.7 ounces with Snakeskins and the bag.

Price: $169

Weight limit: 250lb

Contact Hennessy Hammock directly: 1 (888) 539-2930



The Story


The Review

Military Training

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The Story

If you have never heard about the Hennessy Hammock, start by looking at my article on Hammock Camping.

In about March of 2002, Tom Hennessy sent me a Hennessy Ultralight Asym Hammock to test. Because I'm in the Army, He sent me a camouflage version of the hammock, which is very cool because camouflage sil-nylon is rare and hard to get. In my review of the hammock, I decided the main problem with the hammock for military use would be the size and weight limit. The 200 pound weight limit would prevent some bigger soldiers from using it, and the size makes it hard for bringing gear in with you. In October Tom sent me an even bigger hammock with a heavier weight capacity: The Hennessy Explorer Ultralight A-Sym Hammock.

The hammocks get bigger, and the names just keep getting longer (that is a joke)



 The advertised weight is 35 ounces and the real weight is 36.1 ounces (37.7 with the Snakeskins instead of the bag) pretty darn close. It is just a hair over the weight of the A-Sym Ultralight Hammock's weight of 31 ounces, but the size and weight capacity are much larger.

Starting with the basic hammock, the net and the bottom are the same construction as the Ultralight A-Sym but a little larger - no see 'um netting and 70D nylon taffeta 160 x 90 count. The hammock width is the same as the Ultralight, so no two person system here, but the length has been increased by about 20". This construction is very dependable and can be counted on to last over a long time with proper care.

The support rope looks like the same rope from the Ultralight A-Sym hammock, only a little thicker. They are Spectra Nylon 1600 pound test cord with a nylon cover to prevent fraying. They are slightly longer at 10' long. The Tree Hugger Straps have gotten even thicker to support a heavier hammock without damaging trees at 1.5" wide, but are only 42" long (shorter than the Ultralight A-Sym). Overall the system works well. Something I have been contemplating is putting a small snap-link at the end of each strap so you don't spend time trying to thread the little hole when setting up.

The Fly is a rectangle, approximately (under construction). The technique is to set up the hammock at about 45 angle to the wind, that way the larger area of coverage near your head also blocks out the rain and wind.

The hammock package is also slightly bigger, it's about  6"x12".

So, for 3 more ounces and a couple more inches of bulk, you get a larger sleeping area. Not bad.


The Review

I started using the hammock in a field training exercise in October. There was a 5 day rainstorm, on and off, the last 2 days of rain sending me 12" of rain! Winds were not bad, up to about 20 mph at the worst.

As always, the hammock is pretty darn comfortable. Never a bad night of sleep except when the temp got down into the 30's and my pad wasn't enough (I was trying the Ozark Trails egg crate). But the cool part was the space. I had enough room (because of the length adding height) to sit up and get dressed inside the hammock. I also devised a way to keep some of my field gear inside the hammock with me - I'll cover more on that later. But the point is, if you are about my size and want a hammock where you can bring your gear in, this may be the one for you.

The hammock kept me dry even in the worst weather, and it didn't have a single problem with bugs. The biggest problem I actually had was setting the hammock up. The fault was totally my own, but it should be discussed here. See, with the Hennessy Ultralights I have used up until now, I could tie them up at about shoulder level which has been my way of gauging the proper height for a while. With the Explorer, I did this and ended up with my butt on the ground. Thinking I didn't get the knots right or didn't pull the hammock tight enough, I got out and tried to tweak it - but to no avail. I really did this like five times before my sleep deprived brain got a clue. So I tied the ropes at slightly above head height, and there was no problems ever again. The point here is: the set up is slightly different from the standard. To see my technique, go here.

As for sleeping in cooler weather. This time I was trying an Ozark Trails Eggcrate pad - it didn't work well. My butt and shoulders got cold easily. After that, I switched to my Army surplus closed cell foam pad and didn't have another problem, even down to 26* F when combined with my sunscreen. See using with military gear.

The only real problem I had with the hammock was a failure in the fly. In three previous hammocks, I never had a failure of any type, so I consider this an aberration. Adding to that I simply sent back the torn fly, and Tom had a new one sent to me. The rip happened on a night with about 10-20 mph winds, which isn't that bad compared to what I've had previous hammocks through, so I'm pretty sure it was a material defect. Since I was still out and didn't want too much tension, I took off the  included strings and rigged the tarp to the shock cord for the hammock sides, this way there would be stretch and give in the rigging under load. The system actually worked quite well, so well I may try making this a standard way to set up over the next few trips to give it a shot. I have heard that this is how the Adventure Racer is made - I would like to get an Adventure Racer and check it out. Maybe Tom will get a return he wouldn't mind sending me.


Military Training

Some of this is directly from my review on the Hennesy Ultralight Asym Hammock because it all still applies.

Often I have used my original ultralight hammock when doing field training at work for the US Army. Since it is light grey, I would often have to hide it deep in the woods or cover it with my poncho to remain tactical. Tom had told me when I originally e-mailed him that he had sent some of his original model hammocks made in camouflage to JRTC Operations Group to test, but I have only ever seen one being used in the field other than mine.

So when I received the camouflaged Ultralight hammock and then the earth tone brown Explorer, I saw a prime opportunity to do some more field testing! The sad part for me is I'm now a 1SG and spend most of my time with the supply trains for my troop instead of out on the line in the bush like I have been doing for the last couple of years with my other hammocks.

Since I have covered almost every aspect of using a hammock in the other sections of the review, I'll cover the following here:

1. The hammock in non-tactical field situations.

2. Use of the hammock in tactical situations in a secure area.

3. Use of the hammock in tactical situations in a non-secure area.

4. Use of the hammock with other Army gear.

5. Final recommendations.

The Hammock in non-tactical field situations.

A non-tactical situation is one where you have absolutely no enemy expectation so you set up like your car camping  This is normally in situations like a unit gunnery where you go to the range, fire your gunnery exercises, then return to a base camp for rest, refuel, refitting, etc. Often people set up tents or tarps and leave them standing for when they return.

In these situations the Hammock is a great luxury because you can get the optimal pitch site and leave it there over a few days of training. It was at one of these type of training exercises that I spent 5 days in a tropical storm in my hammock.

The Hammock in a tactical situation in a secure area.

A tactical situation in a secure area is where you are facing an enemy but are far enough back or the enemy situation is such that the possibility of enemy contact is low. In these situations you have time to dig in generators, set up and sand bag shelters, use field kitchens to prepare meals etc. Although I'm using the term "secure" you are never really secure 100%, but you have the time to set up a lot of stuff.

In case of an emergency jump, the hammock can be quickly pulled down and stuffed into a ruck to be packed correctly later. Especially now with the cool Snakeskins.

In these situations the hammock still works fine, because in the big scheme of things, it isn't adding a lot to your set up or tear down time. A 2 minute set up or tear down is hardly a liability and with all the other stuff around you, camouflaging your sleeping position isn't a high priority considering the size of your unit footprint. My hammock color is carbon grey with an earth tone brown fly, the hammock looks military, it doesn't stick out as some sort of civilian gear brought along where it doesn't belong (at least until the Army adopts it!)

The Hammock in a tactical situation in a  non-secure area.

A tactical situation in a non-secure area is where you are out in the bush against the enemy. In these situations the use of the hammock is iffy. This can include being actually out on OP/LP, in a fighting position, or maybe deep in a hide position. Often times you sleep fully clothed with your field gear on and rifle in your hand.

 Some times you can get deep into a hide and have adequate camouflage, then the hammock works fine, but otherwise it is a liability to being able to rapidly act. In these situations, wrapping up in a poncho, or maybe a poncho and liner is all you can afford to do.

I would have to say that 90% of the time in these situations I would forbid the use of a hammock since it degrades the soldiers ability to fight when needed.

The hammock with other Army gear.

Since I'm operating in a fairly rigid military environment that includes directing what you carry, most of my other gear tends to be official issue on these outings. Sleeping bags, poncho liners, and sleeping pads that include both the Thermarest litefoam long and the good old closed cell foam pad.

Stakes - the orange tent pegs suck for rapid hammock pitching. I ended up making two pegs from a steel rod that could easily be pushed into the ground. On later trips I carried gutter nails.

Sleeping bag - the Army Sleeping bag uses a synthetic fill that is very bulky and doesn't compress well. Fortunately that is a plus in the hammock since it maintains more loft under your body. I used one successfully in the hammock into the mid 30s without a pad.

Poncho liner - when traveling light, and in the hot weather of Louisiana, the poncho liner is great. I combined it with my uniform, a filed jacket liner, and a sleeping pad to stay comfortable even in the high 40s.

Army Thermarest pad - this pad is actually a Thermarest Litefoam long in subdued colors and is now an optional piece of equipment most places and issued in some others. I found the bulk and hassle of the pad to be a negative and prefer my closed cell foam pad for hammocking.

Army closed cell foam pad - similar to the blue closed cell foam pads at Wal-Mart except they are green with built in ties. At 72"x24" and very stiff, they make a great bottom insulation layer to keep you warm in a hammock. I have trimmed mine down to 68" long and cut the corners off.

Final Recommendations.

This is the part where I really updated the military stuff from the A-Sym review.

The Explorer Ultralight A-Sym hammock has a weight limit I think would be fine for the Army. While there occasionally are soldiers above 250 pounds, it is quite rare. The 250 pound limit and size make it usable by a great number of soldiers.

The size makes the hammock something for more than just sleeping. I was able to change above the ground in a dry, bug free place. True, getting dressed inside a hammock isn't as easy as when you stand up inside a tent, but it still works. Because of the extra size I was also able to get a lot of my individual gear inside as well. What I did was take a small loop of type III nylon (AKA 550 cord) and put it at the head of the hammock where the Spectra Nylon attaches to the ridgeline cord. On My LBE (Load Bearing Equipment) I use a snap link (AKA "D" ring or carabineers) on the back at the top of the straps for hanging it inside the hammock. I also attached my body armor and protective mask to my LBE, so the whole rig was one piece and hung behind my head at the back of the hammock. I now have a pistol, but holding my rifle while I sleep wouldn't be any different.. The rucksack still won't be coming in.

I like replacing the bag with Snakeskins, it keeps it nice and tactical, no problems with white lettering like I mentioned in the other review.

So overall, I highly recommend the hammock. If Tom would also offer a military version with the camouflage sil-nylon cover, it would be even better. I have asked my local PX if they would carry them because a lot of my soldiers are interested in them, so far they don't. I'm trying to find out how to get them to do so, and Tom told me he has been talking with AAFES (Army Air Force Exchange Service) about stocking them. I could see this being a hot item.


Hall of Honor recipients for this page
Tom Hennessy