A travel gear review of the much fabled Hennessy Hammock Tent/ Travel shelter. I initially became interested in this type of tent while traveling by bicycle in Eastern Europe in the summer of 2008, and I finally acquired one a year later. I must say that the Hennessy Hammock lived up to all expectations that I held for it.
The Story of Vagabond Journey and the Hennessy Hammock
“I just basically sleep under an old tarp that I tie up to a couple of trees,” I explained to Bicycle Luke as we rode side by side through the open country of Hungary.
Luke looked over at me from his bicycle seat momentarily intrigued, before stating proudly that he had a Hennessy Hammock.
What the hell is a Hennessy Hammock?
But I did not ask this question, as I did not want to seem as green to bicycle travel gear as I was. In my mind, bicycle touring gear consisted of an old boneshaker bicycle, a beat up milk crate, clothesline, bungee cords, and plastic grocery bags. While Luke was a professional bicycle traveler by every extent of the definition:
Riding next to him on his nice new touring bike and top of the line gear, I felt like a bum smoozing on Wall Street: inconsequential, a man standing on the outside looking in. As far as travel gear was concerned, with Bicycle Luke I was far out of my league. There was a lot that I could learn from this guy.
So the notion of what, exactly, a Hennessy Hammock was kept titillating my mind as the wheels of our bikes turned. Luke had said that he slept in it — how does one sleep comfortably in the bush in a hammock? Didn’t the mosquitoes eat him all up? Didn’t the rain soak him to the bone? Didn’t . . .
I just asked him.
What the hell is a Hennessy Hammock?
And Luke explained:
A Hennessy Hammock is a tent/ hammock combo that is strung up like a hammock though is fully enclosed like a tent. It keeps you off of the ground and has mosquito netting and a rain fly.
This sounded like the perfect travel shelter.
Though I must admit that the image of a caterpillar in a cocoon momentarily jumped into my mind –and image that was soon to be confirmed as Luke strung up the much lauded hammock inside of a Budapest hostel for me to inspect closely.
It took him about a minute to set it up between two railings in a courtyard.
It looked good. It was set up like a normal hammock — off the ground and tied between two posts (or trees in a standard situation) — though it was enclose like a tent — the top of it was all netting and there was a rain fly to set up over it like a tarp. The enclosure is entered through the bottom and the hammock is weighted so that the opening automatically velcros shut when you lay back in it.
“And if you can’t find a place to tie it up, you can always just use it as a bivy sack,” Luke was quick to add.
I wanted one. From that day forth, I looked upon my previously precious tarp with a touch of scorn — particularly on a stormy Hungarian night when I was on my way between Budapest and Lake Balaton. I wanted a Hennessy Hammock.
But I did not come across one until a year later. I am not good at buying things; I am a notoriously pensive and gingerly consumer. I am just not good at spending money. But my wife’s brother came to the rescue and bought us a Hennessy Hammock as a wedding gift.
So now provisioned with a Hennessy Hammock Safari, my new wife and I went off into the north Maine woods. This hammock was designed to either fit a giant of a man or two regular sized people comfortably.
I highly recommend doing a dry run with the Hennessy hammock before trying to set it up out in a north country forest with a rainstorm bearing down upon the land. My wife Chaya and I rarely do things the right way, and as we fumbled about with the cords, lines, rain fly, and tree ties, the rain began falling upon us.
The instructions for the hammock says that it could be set up in four minutes. We hoped that these were correct.
I think it took us 10 minutes to set up the hammock the first time. But even though it took us double the suggested time, this was still vastly quicker than any other traveling shelter that I ever had — even my trusty tarps.
Now that the hammock was up, and the rain fly was battened down, we had to figure out how to use it.
Chaya and I poked at prodded at our new Hennessy that was dangling in the forest for a moment before I just jumped into it through the opening in the bottom.
“Heaven is above and Beijing is far away,” I muttered as I tentatively transferred my weight into the hammock and then laid back.
I did not crash to the ground. It worked.
My pregnant wife then squiggled in with me and we moved up to the top of the hammock and pushed into it with our shoulders.
The velcro opening at the bottom of the hammock closed automatically — as it was suppose to do. We were now securely inside.
Though I felt as if I was securely inside of a banana rather than a tent. But even with one man and one big bellied pregnant woman in the hammock, we still had a comfortable and dry night of sleep through the storm.
The next day we took down the hammock and stuffed it into its “snake skins.” These are essentially two sleeves that roll over the hammock and meet in the middle, so that the entire apparatus looks like a “snake” when packed up. This really condenses the hammock down into a really small package and allows for easy hauling. I know that Bicycle Luke was able to stuff his hammock and the rain fly into the “skins,” which meant that he only had to tie the hammock up to a couple of trees and unfurl the covers like a sail to set it up.
Bicycle Luke really was able to set up and take down his Hennessy hammock in a span of moments.
But our rig came with an extra large fly, so it was difficult to stuff it all together into the “snake skins.” We eventually separated the hammock from the fly and then furled only the hammock into the skins, while folding up the fly in the conventional style. It all fit back into its bag comfortably, which is a miracle for most standard tents.
I highly recommend travelers to get the snake skins (they cost around $20) as well as not getting the over sized rain fly (just get the standard package, ours was a special order as it was meant to cover two people). The way that the hammock can be sucked up into the “snake skins” is ingenious, and allows for the tent to be easily packed up and unpacked with a minimum of effort and time.
When camping on the sly in the bush, ease and quickness of camp set up and break down is vital. Sometimes in travel you find yourself in weather conditions that demand you to make camp quickly, and other times you get caught camping by not so happy locals, and you need to be able to flee the scene in a flash. The Hennessy Hammock with snake skins allows for you to do both.
I highly recommend this set up for travelers who opt to sleep in the bush outside of formal campgrounds, as these conditions demand speed and efficiency in making and breaking camp. The Hennessy Hammock is perhaps the ultimate camping on the sly travel shelter.
On the second night of using the Hennessy Hammock in the Maine woods, Chaya and I found that we were able to set it up and tie out the fly in a matter of 5 minutes. This is an amazing set up time for any travel shelter.
When put into its bag, the Hennessy Hammocks weigh anywhere from 1lb. 15oz. to 4lb. 3oz. depending on which model you purchase.
I must report that the Hennessy Hammock has lived up to all I hyped it up to be, it has now become a permanent part of my travel gear. Vagabond Journey.com recommends the Hennessy Hammock to all travelers cutting out their own path through the world.