My Hennessy Hammock was one of the first things I bought when I decided to get into backpacking and camping. It’s been a steadfast and go-to friend for my adventures. It’s also something I love to hate.
See – I really like hiking. I like walking in the woods and spending multiple days in the woods, but I don’t really like sleeping in the woods. I’m comfortable, but its still sort of a weird experience. I’d much rather be in a bed for the most part. Nights in the woods are often a little too warm or too cold, and there’s the ever-present feeling that I might have to wake up and deal with something like rain or having to pee. Then in the morning I have to pack it all up, carry it 10-15 miles, and drag it all back out to do over again. Add to it that my normal bed time is around midnight, and I wake up around six. Getting into the hammock at 8 or 9 is a little early and I just don’t feel like sleeping, usually. But, its part of the whole experience, and sleeping in the woods is a very small price to pay for spending a few days away from civilization with some friends.
The Hennessy needed a few updates, however. First was the tie out lines. It originally came with black bungee lines about four feet long, which stretch out to tent pegs and keep the mosquito net off of you. After having tripped over them many times, it was time to change them out. Black lines only show up during the middle of a very bright sunny day, which is seldom the time your hammock is hanging up. So I replaced them with some neon yellow bungees of the same diameter. The neon should be pretty visible in the daytime, at night when the headlamp hits it, and at dusk. Dusk is always a problem, because there is a time in the woods when it’s not quite dark enough to use a headlamp, but its not light enough to see clearly, either.
The second was the ridge line. The hammock originally came with fixed ropes for suspension, and a fixed length of rope running end to end. I replaced the ropes the second year I had the hammock, putting Whoopie Slings on it instead. This threw off the measurement of the fixed ridge line by about two inches, because the whoopies hung slightly different. So I bought an adjustable ridge line, which is basically a smaller diameter whoopee sling.
Now, if you don’t know how a whoopee sling works, one end is a fixed loop, and the other is a variable loop that will get bigger or smaller, making the rope a different length.
The fixed loop worked great, it looped around one end of the hammock suspension, ran inside under the bug net, and then to the other end. The other end was the issue. Once the variable loop was in place and under tension around the suspension rope, it buried itself down in the hammock end, and was REALLY HARD to actually adjust. So on a recent hike when the mosquito net was resting against my face, I couldn’t tighten the ridge line. I made all the adjustments I could with the tie outs, and shoved my fleece jacket against the side of the hammock.
So it was time for an improvement. I disassembled the ridge line (quite a trick to do, since it threads through the hammocks gathered ends, so you have to pull a “place holding rope” into place when you remove it). Then I watched a few youtube videos, and took the ridge line apart until I had one long length of dynaglide. Dynaglide is awesome rope. It has an outer braid and hollow core, so it works like a Chinese finger trap. Connect two pieces of rope together by threading one through the other, pull tight, and the thing holds. Push one end, and they slip apart.
Check out this guy’s youtube video at 5:25 for exactly what I’m talking about
So, I made a fixed loop on a short rope, and a fixed loop on a long rope, and put those on the suspension ends. Then I ran the long rope through the short rope, so down by the foot opening of the hammock theres an easily adjustable ridge line.
It was a new and difficult skill to get right, I have lots of little scrap rope bits around. The hardest part was making a tool to get the ropes through each other, yet be small enough and stiff enough to slip through the hollow core with ease. Dynaglide is smaller diameter than your average iPhone charging plug. Its larger cousin, Amsteel, is 7/64 in diameter. I just purchased some of the larger stuff for updating the hammock chair that I recently bought. Its straps are too big and heavy for backpacking, but that’s another post.
While I was updating the hammock, I decided to give the rainfly tarp a little TLC too. First I bought some new toggles that were about 1/3 the size and weight of my old ones. They are 1/2″ tent pole splicers, intended to be used, of course, if your tent pole breaks. I got two 4″ tubes at REI and already tested them. My old ones were 1″ by 4″ with a 1/16″ wall thickness.
I had the same concerns about reflectivity and being able to see the tie-out straps on the rainfly that I did on the hammock. I had already purchased and tied on some dark green reflective cord from Nite-Eyz. That cord did a decent job at night when using a headlamp. It also worked really well in the middle of the day when you can see the dark green. It didn’t do so well around dusk when you don’t need a headlamp yet, and the dark green blends in.
So, I bought some thin bright yellow-green cord with a reflective strip in it. Not only will it show up during the day, but at night with a headlamp, and the ugly yellow color should show up just fine on it’s own at dusk. Knowing me, I’ll still find a way to trip over it.
I used the same line to retie the tarp’s ridge line. The previous line was 550 paracord, and there shouldn’t be anywhere near 550 pounds of load on my rainfly. So, I went with the lighter and smaller cord to help save a little weight and bulk. I also ditched the tarp tree straps that I had previously made. They were just too big and cumbersome for my newer, lighter, smaller pack. I saved my tarp hooks and just tied them to the ends of the tarp rope. With the right lashing, the tarp hooks should work fine by themselves without any additional straps or other weight.
Personally I like the fact some of the reflective stuff fell on the bed and now the bed sparkles like it has stripper dust on it. It will be a while before I get to try out my new stuff. Thanks to family trips and work stuff, I can’t go hiking until mid July at the earliest. I’m anxious to go on some trips this fall though, and finally put some miles down on the Appalachian Trail.
The unfortunate thing about do-it-yourself is when your ideas outpace your brain. I have two yards of dark green fabric in my closet. For the life of me I can’t remember what I wanted to make with it. Maybe a lightweight top quilt or something for summer, I’m not sure. I’ll remember some time, in the mean time I have a hammock chair to fix, as soon as my amsteel and clips come in.
After trying to get the ridge line right, I was dismayed how easily the UCR connection for the ridge line would come loose. After all, once you get your hammock set up perfectly, the last thing you need to do is bump the ridge line and have to reset it.
So – I pulled the UCR thing apart and made a fixed loop in the shorter rope. Then I fed the longer rope through the loop and made it into a traditional whoopie sling. So I have a whoopie sling again, but the variable loop is right over my feet instead of being buried into the gathered end. Very easy to adjust, but after a few tries in the yard I’m very pleased with it. The key to it is getting that moving loop out where you can reach it. It has about 2 inches of rope I can add or subtract, which is plenty for a ridge line if you have it set pretty close to 83% to begin with.
What I still find amazing is how much that mosquito net cuts the wind. There was a slight breeze, and yet instead of coming through the hammock, the mosquito net would billow up and prevent most of the breeze from getting through.