Hennessy Hammock has been producing fully-featured backpacking hammocks since 1999, making them one of the most experienced companies in the business. The Hennessey Hyperlight Backpacker A-Sym is a refined and feature-rich hammock that weighs in at 1 pound 10 ounces. It offers full rain and bug protection, sets up quickly in places that a tent cannot be used, and provides what may be the most comfortable night possible in the backcountry.
- Full-coverage rain fly and full bug protection
- Bottom entry is very easy to use
- Quick setup (with practice)
- Asymmetrical cut flattens the sleeping position, increasing comfort
- Saves 5 ounces over the Ultralight Backpacker A-Sym without sacrificing durability
- Inconspicuous green color for true stealth camping
- A wide range of aftermarket accessories from Hennessy, Jacks ‘R’ Better, and others including larger rain flys, under insulation, wind/vapor covers, and “Snakeskins” speed packing system
- Reasonably priced at $219.95
What’s Not So Good
- Limited to 3-season use without costly accessories
- Quick setup takes practice
- Less usable interior space than a tent
- Requires more insulation than ground-sleeping systems to stay warm
|2007 Hennessy Hyperlight Backpacker A-Sym hammock|
|Solo backpacking hammock with rain fly|
|Rain fly: 1.1 oz/yd2 (50 g/m2) 30D silicone nylon; Hammock fabric: 30D high tenacity, high thread count nylon taffeta with heavy duty ripstop; Mesh: 1.0 oz/yd2 (90 g/m2) 20D polyester No-See-Um netting|
|100 in x 48 in|
|a parallelogram: long side 92", short side 65", long diagonal 122", short diagonal 105"|
|4 in x 8 in x 7 (43 cm x 18 cm)|
|Measured weight 1 lb 10.3 oz (745kg), manufacturer specification 1 lb 10.0 oz ( kg)|
|Measured weight 1 lb 10.1 oz (1.79 kg); includes hammock, rain fly, included guy lines, Tree Huggers, and two titanium stakes|
|Varies by angle of rain fly|
Floor Area/Trail Weight Ratio
|Tree huggers - 42 in long 1 inch wide webbing straps 1.8 oz (50g), stuff sack 0.6 oz (17 g)|
|Snake Skins (for quick setup, take-down and storage) 1.9 oz (54 g), longer Tree Huggers, larger Hex Fly|
The Hennessy Hyperlight Backpacker A-sym is a lighter version of the popular Ultralight Backpacker A-Sym. The only difference between the two is that the Hyperlight uses 30D “high-tenacity, high thread count nylon taffeta with heavy duty ripstop” instead of the 70D nylon used in the Ultralight. By using this nylon, the Hyperlight shaves 5 ounces over the Ultralight without durability or failure concerns.
While not the lightest hammock in the Hennessy lineup (the 15 ounce Adventure Racer holds that honor and is featured here), the Hyperlight Backpacker A-Sym is the lightest fully-featured hammock. When compared with the Adventure Racer, the Hyperlight accommodates taller hikers (6’ 0” vs. 5’ 10”), has a larger rainfly, has an internal storage pocket, has Velcro closure in the entryway, and features the A-Sym cut for a flatter sleeping position.
The Asymmetrical cut of the hammock means that you sleep at a diagonal, flattening the body in a comfortable “sweet spot”.
A defining feature of the Hyperlight Backpacker A-Sym is the asymmetrical cut of the hammock. With this cut and by staking it at the sides, the hammock has a shape that is more trapezoidal than the traditional banana shape. Instead of sleeping in the typical hammock curve, you sleep at a diagonal, resulting in a much flatter position. When lying in the hammock, you quickly find a comfortable “sweet spot” that is much more horizontal than a typical hammock. The result is the most comfortable position in a hammock that I have ever experienced. In fact, this position led to the most comfortable nights that I have ever spent in the outdoors; sleeping in an A-sym Hennessy is an absolute dream compared to the experience of most ultralight ground sleepers.
Although the Hyperlight is cut for hikers up to 6’ 0”, I am 6’ 2” and fit in the hammock quite well. For those that are taller or surpass the hammock’s 200 pound rating, the Explorer line is both longer and more robust.
Looking down, you can see the asymmetrical cut of the hammock and rain fly.
The Hennessy Hyperlight offers full bug protection with an integral (and non-removable) canopy of No-See-Um netting. A rain fly made of 1.1 oz silicone nylon provides full rain protection. The rain fly extends well past the head and feet of the hammock and has an asymmetrical cut to cover the hammock without excess weight. In downpours, the fly did a great job of keeping the hammock dry and provided a dry space below for cooking and packing.
A Hennessy Hammock can be pitched in places where no tent could be pitched such as a wetland swamps (left) or on a 35 deg. slope (right). (Note the curve (right) that comes from a too-short pitch.)
Using a hammock means having the ability to camp in places you never thought possible. During testing, I pushed my conception of reasonable camping, pitching the hammock in wetland swamps, on steep hillsides, and in small groves of subalpine trees above boulders. As long as you have two trees, you can pitch the hammock in nearly any location. This means that a hammock user can camp far from other people for true stealthy solitude or to continue hiking past established campsite to get in a few extra miles. This is a real advantage of using hammocks.
For those times when trees are unavailable, it is still possible to use the hammock as a shelter on the ground but I didn’t attempt this setup.
The rain fly is attached to the main hammock line with an adjustable tensioner and a plastic clip (left). The hammock is attached to the nylon “Tree Huggers” with simple figure-8 lashing (right).
To set up the hammock, you find two trees that are spaced 12 to 25 feet apart and lay out the hammock for spacing. The “Tree Huggers” nylon webbing wraps around the trees and attach the Spectra reinforced rope using simple (and easy to untie) figure-8 lashing. Once this is done, the rainfly is tightened. You have to start out with the rainfly a little tight because laying in the hammock causes some loss of tension. Last, the hammock body and rainfly are staked out at the sides. It is possible to stake the hammock and the fly to the same stake but I found that two stakes per side was better.
In wet conditions, the attached rainfly makes it possible to pitch the hammock while keeping it dry.
With practice, I was able to quickly find an appropriate pair of trees and I can easily set up the hammock in less than 5 minutes. I never came across a place where I couldn’t set up the hammock.
Getting in and out of the hammock is easy, even with additional outer quilts attached.
Getting in and out of a hammock can be interesting. However, Hennessy has a brilliant solution to the problem - bottom entry. A Velcro slit at the bottom of the hammock allows easy entry and exit: you simply open the slit, climb in bottom first, pull your feet in and relax. Tension from the hammock closes the slit automatically. Although the Velcro is not actually needed, it does provide a more secure closure and keeps bugs out. Even with multiple underquilts in deep-winter usage, getting in and out of the hammock is simple.
A sliding storage pocket and two clips allow for convenient storage of small items.
One downside of hammocks in general is that you can’t have your pack or extra gear in the shelter with you. Instead, I put my pack in a waterproof bag and laid it by a tree or under the hammock. Small items in a hammock quickly find their way underneath you and must be stored above for easy access. For items that you’ll need through the night such as a flashlight, watch, or book, a sliding storage pocket provides storage that is easily slid above your head or near the foot area. Two additional clips are helpful for attaching other items.
The inside tension line offers additional storage possibilities. I used this line to hang flashlights, tuck in gloves or water bottles, or even store a hammock pad in case of extra cold winter nights. While storing items in the Hyperlight requires some additional planning and isn’t as easy as when ground camping, it is certainly workable and having items above you makes them easy to access.
In addition to the storage pocket, the inside tension line allows for additional storage options.
Living with a hammock is different than living with a tent. Once you find that comfortable position, it’s not as easy to move around and get additional items out of your pack. Instead, you quickly learn to plan ahead before crawling into bed. Also, moving into a traditional sleeping bag or positioning a foam pad underneath your body is a real pain; that’s why most hammock users prefer quilts for inside the hammock and insulation that hangs under the hammock such as the Hennessy Supershelter or the Jacks ‘R’ Better Nest Under Quilt . That said, I often used a Gossamer Gear hammock pad inside the hammock and was able to position it without too much hassle.
It is more difficult to stay warm in a hammock than it is in a tent. Even with the fly staked down, breezes swirl inside the hammock, robbing warmth. While this is marvelous in hot conditions, it is definitely chillier when the temperatures drop. Further, the hammock compresses any insulation that is tucked to the side of the hiker. By using under-hammock insulation combined with wind covers and by selecting protected sites, I was able to use the Hyperlight Backpacker A-Sym right through the winter (even with 8 feet of snow on the ground). However, it is much simpler to use a hammock in 3 season conditions, where the joys of sleeping above the ground are really highlighted.
The optional Snake Skins ($19.95, 1.9 oz) make the hammock into one long tube, speeding up take-down and set-up and making hammock storage a breeze.
With this hammock, I also tested the optional Snake Skins. These sub-2 ounce tubes make take-down and set up of the hammock really fast and eliminate the need for a stuff sack. To use the Snake Skins you pull the side stakes and slide the nylon tubes down, concealing the hammock and rainfly in a long slender tube. One Snake Skin is found on each side and they meet in the middle. Once the hammock is rolled up, it is detached from the trees and the Tree Hugger straps can be slipped into the middle of the tube. After this you simply roll up the hammock tube and slip it into your pack. I would highly recommend buying this option when purchasing a Hennessy Hammock.
There are other hammocks on the market, but none that balance light weight with superior usability and options like the Hennessy Hyperlight Backpacker A-sym. For 1 pound 10.1 ounces, you get full bug and rain protection, a simple entry system, and a super-comfortable diagonal sleeping position. There are a host of accessories and quilts available for the Hennessy as well, making it possible to use the shelter in virtually any conditions.
Compared to ground sleeping, the Hennessy offers comfort that the thickest sleeping pad can't match. The best nights of sleeping that I’ve ever had were in a Hennessy Hammock.
Recommendations for Improvement
This is a highly refined product and I can see only a few nitpicky areas of improvement:
- I’d like to see adjustors added to the rain fly guylines for easier adjustments.
- A slightly deeper interior storage pocket would fit larger objects like a paperback book.
Last, I tested a prototype Cuben fiber rainfly with the Hyperlight hammock that cut an additional 5.7 ounces from the weight of the hammock, bringing it to 1 pound 4.4 ounces. I’m sure it would be expensive, but I’d love to see this come to market as an optional fly.