I’ve used two different Hennessy hammock tents in my state park travels, and I want to tell you about them! I link to Hennessy’s site below, but I’m not affiliated with the company and don’t get paid for clicks.
First: I’m not a born camper. I went on a few bring-the-whole-family Boy Scout camping trips as a kid, and a handful of times as an adult where mistakes were made (extreme overpacking, sunburning all day or freezing all night, frantically rattling one of those stupid shake flashlights in the dark trying to see what was making all that creepy noise, and so forth.) I’ve always been more of an inside gal.
But then I started volunteering and working at my local state park and fell head over heels for the great outdoors. I wanted to hike, I wanted to camp, and I wanted to do it right.
Currently I’m solidly a car camper, but I hope to eventually go full roughin’ it and replace all my bulky gear with titanium stuff sacks and Band-Aids cut in half.
The first thing I replaced was my tent. It’s not a terrible tent (I think, I used it once), but like many tents it requires pitching, and when you’re done setting it up it’s still on the ground, which is also where you’re expected to sleep. My feet love the ground, but my back hates it!
So I replaced it with a Hennessy hammock tent. I started with “The Scout” because I’m apparently no taller than the average Boy Scout and, most importantly, it was only a hundred bucks, which was my upper spending limit for things I know absolutely nothing about.
I used it for the first time at Lake Tawakoni State Park. Set-up was easy–I tied each end to a tree, then rolled up the snake skins and staked down two side lines. The weather forecast was grim so I put up the rainfly, crossed my fingers and mentally prepared myself for a midnight crawl into the back of the Sube.
But, I was happily surprised. The inside stayed dry (other than a little condensation on the surface of my reflecting pad) and at a very cozy temperature, and the built-in mosquito netting kept out visitors. The sound of heavy rain (along with the fact that I’d spent all day hiking) lulled me to sleep almost instantly. It was a restless sleep–the close sides cocooned around me felt strange enough to affect my dreams and I kept half waking up convinced raccoons were crawling into the hammock and snuggling up against me for warmth. Weird, but cozy! But I still woke up early and feeling refreshed.
I didn’t get the hammock set-up 100% right this first time–I didn’t compensate for how far apart my trees were and hung it just a bit too low, meaning a few times my butt went bump in the night.
The second time I used the Scout (at Martin Creek) I had the opposite problem–my trees were too close together, meaning the hammock was more banana-shaped than usual and all my bedding and I were in a jumbled up in a heap in the middle, and thrashing around only made it worse (I also couldn’t get the rainfly over it aligned correctly). While setting up I tried, instead of finding a better pair of trees, to compensate by pulling the side lines out extra hard, and one of them detached completely (although it was easy enough to tie back on.) Live and learn.
On my third use of the hammock tent (at Atlanta State Park) I finally got it right. Well-spaced trees and plenty of height, rainfly perfectly aligned so that I only needed two stakes total for both hammock and fly.
More importantly, I figured out how to successfully get inside the darn thing. I don’t know if this applies to all hammock tents, but in my Hennessy Scout Hammock once you’re lying down you’re committed to the microstate of your bedding–trying to scoot the pad around or spread out the sleeping bag or adjust the blanket around you just increases the entropy.
The key seemed to be this: lay everything out where you want it and unzip your sleeping bag, then sit down in the middle-ish (a little closer towards the side where your head will be) then in one fluid motion pivot on your butt and tuck your legs in the bag and lay back. If the pad or anything else is in the wrong place get out and try again. I’m a pretty active sleeper who switches frequently from lying on my back to either side, but as long as I got orientated in the beginning the rest of the night was…mostly fine. Sometimes I’d wake up shivering and find that the pad had migrated to somewhere around my head.
Sound like a pain in the butt? I finally thought so, too, and decided not long after to upgrade to a new Hennessy hammock altogether. Hennessy had apparently anticipated me and came out with the 4Season Expedition Zip right around this time. This one has a sleeve on the bottom for the pad (it comes with a thin one but you could stuff anything you want in there). This makes so much more sense than trying to keep a pad inside the hammock itself from sliding around, and it’s also more convenient than tying on an underquilt. The pad prevents heat loss in the winter and mosquitoes can’t bite through it.
With my Expedition I still fidget with the bedding a little when I first climb in, but it was completely worth the money to not have to worry about the wandering pad. It’s also a little longer than the Scout–I haven’t gotten any taller, but the extra room is nice.
I also opted to get one of their larger rainflies. While the smaller fly kept the hammock itself perfectly dry I wanted something that stuck out a little more so I could sit a chair and some other gear beneath it, and now I no longer need to bring a tarp for extra shelter.
Conclusion: even if it seems a little crazy and awkward to use at first, hammock sleeping is superior to snoozing on the ground. Once I’d get settled I’d feel so comfortable and relaxed (and there’s a very slight swaying motion that I find incredibly soothing). Upgrading to the slightly superior design took away any qualms I might have had in recommending a hammock tent. Hammock tents are great, and everyone should try them!