Speer 8.0 A Hammock and rain canopy in the Kachina Peaks Wilderness Area of Arizona.
The Speer 8.0 A hammock (for people up to 6' and 250 pounds) is a model of simplicity and smart design. There are no seams to wear out in the hammock body. The hanging straps are 11+ feet long, 1-inch wide polypropylene webbing, so separate tree hugger straps are not needed. The rain canopy (8' by 10' silnylon) provides plenty of insurance when you are expecting stormy conditions and can easily be replaced with something lighter when clear weather is predicted. The bug netting can be left at home to save a little weight (bug net and bug net support line weigh 3.9 oz) if it is not bug season. The complete package of hammock, rain canopy, and bug netting weighs 2 pounds 3.1 ounces (1.0 kg).
The hammock is quite wide at 4 feet 10 inches (147 cm). The hammock and hanging straps weigh 16.5 ounces (468 g). We'd like to see Speer offer a narrower, lighter weight hammock.
The Speer hammock should satisfy those who want plenty of rain protection (or want the option of replacing the Speer rain canopy with a lighter one of their own choosing), prefer a top entry hammock, and sometimes leave the bug netting at home.
Speer Hammocks has an extensive website with loads of tips for hammock campers including grids on what gear to add to stay warm. They also offer the hammock in sizes to accommodate larger and/or taller users, and even offer kits for people who want the satisfaction of building their own hammock.
- Simple design with few wear points
- Top entry
- Bug netting can be left at home
- Generous sized canopy
- Canopy anchors to trees so doesn't sag when the hammock is occupied
- Light weight - complete 8.0 A hammock weighs 2 pounds 3.1 ounces
- Excellent camp chair
|Speer 8.0 A|
|Top entry with removable bug netting and separate rain canopy|
|Inside length 8' 2" (249 cm), width 4' 10" (147 cm), manufacturer claims suitable for someone up to 6 ft (183 cm) tall, we concur|
Hammock Hanging Straps
|11' 4" (345 cm) long, 1" (2.5 cm) wide polypropylene low-memory stretch, 700 lb (318 kg) tensile strength – 24 ft weighs 5 oz (7.3 m weighs 142 g)|
|Rectangular black polyester no-see-um mesh, 22" by 8' 10" (56 x 269 cm) with Velcro hook strip sewn around entire perimeter. Netting suspension: 1/16" (1.6 mm) Spectra core nylon sheathed ridge line with short section of shock cord with a plastic clip at one end of the line|
Rain Canopy Size
|8' 1" x 10' 1" (2.46 x 3.07 m) measured, manufacturer claims 8' x 10' (2.44 x 3.05 m), 1.1 oz/yd2 (37 g/m2) silynylon|
Rain Canopy Guylines
|Six included, 9' 7" (2.92 m) long, 1/16" (1.6 mm) Spectra core with nylon sheath, 275 lb (125 kg) breaking strength – 100 ft weighs 1.8 oz (30.5 m weighs 51 g)|
Rain Canopy Tie Outs
|Ten tie outs, reinforced with a second layer of silnylon fabric and extra stitching, two grommets at center of short ends of tarp, four grosgrain ribbon tie outs at four corners and four grosgrain ribbon tie outs 30" (cm) inward of the corners along the long sides of the tarp|
|Speer 8.0 A hammock: 1.9 oz/yd2 (65 g/m2) ripstop nylon with DWR finish, rain canopy 1.1 oz/yd2 (37 g/m2) silicone coated ripstop nylon. Model C uses 3-4 oz/yd2 (102-136 g/m2) nylon fabric.|
Ease of setup
The Speer Hammock is very simple to set up. Wrap a 1-inch (2.5 cm) wide webbing strap around one tree (and itself as described on the Speer website) and do the same with the strap at the other end of the hammock. The straps are attached to the hammock, so there's no chance of misplacing them or need to carry separate "tree-hugger" straps. The straps are long at just over 11 feet (3.4 m), and strong enough that you only need to wrap them around a tree once, which gives more options in tree selection.
Pitching the 8 foot by 10 foot (2.4 x 3.1 m) tarp is straightforward. Tie the guylines from the center of the two short sides of the tarp to the same trees as the hammock has been tied to, then stake out the four guylines attached to the corners of the tarp. The guylines are 1/16" (1.6 mm) Spectra core, nylon sheathed cord that is easy to work with; it holds knots like the tautline hitch and is less likely to tangle than 100% Spectra cord that I've worked with. In foul weather, the tarp can be set up first to provide some shelter.
The Speer Hammock is simply and intelligently constructed. A rectangular piece of nylon fabric is knotted at each end so there are no seams to wear out. The 1-inch (2.5 cm) wide polypropylene webbing is sewn onto itself and held in place by the fabric knot.
The Speer Hammock is based on simplicity and has few parts. The hammock is a rectangle of fabric tied at the ends, each webbing hanging strap is sewn to itself in a loop and held in place by the fabric knot. The rain canopy is a silnylon rectangle, the bug netting is a rectangle of no-see-um netting with hook Velcro strips sewn to the edges, and a detachable ridgeline keeps the bug netting off your face. That's it. The construction is also fairly simple which those who purchase a kit to make their own hammock set up will appreciate.
Although the design appears simple, it is well thought out. All the parts work well together, it's easy to set up, and it's easy to make weight saving choices like leaving the bug net at home or substituting a lighter tarp for a fair weather trip. Strips of Velcro (the loop side) for bug net attachment are sewn to both outside edges of the hammock so that you are less likely to get scratched entering and exiting the hammock. When using the bug netting, open the Velcro where needed to enter or exit the hammock.
Both hanging straps have D-rings to attach the bug net support cord to. The support cord is the same Spectra core material as the guylines with a length of thin shock cord and plastic clip tied to the end so that it is easy to attach and adjusts automatically to different hammock hangs.
The rain canopy has a center seam dividing the long sides in two which is factory coated to make it waterproof. Tie outs at each end of the rain canopy have grommets that can be used for hiking pole tips when pitching the hammock on the ground.
Speer provides an attractive blue silnlyon stuff sack with a light webbing handle along with the hammock. Everything (hammock, tarp, and bug netting) fits into it nicely.
The Speer Hammock is available in sizes to fit people up to 6'5" (2.35 m) tall and 350 pounds (159 kg). See the Specifications above for a detailed chart. Each of the four sizes is also available as a kit with all the materials (even the thread) provided for do-it-yourselfers.
Options available from Speer include various items to help you stay warm. Closed cell foam pads of different sizes and thicknesses are available as well as the down Pea Pod (completely encloses the hammock so loft is not reduced by body weight) and Top Blanket (which the hammocker can use on top as a quilt or inside the Pea Pod and under the hammock for bottom insulation).
Weight / Sizing
Speer designed their 8.0 A Hammock for someone under 6 feet (183 cm) tall and 250 pounds (113 kg). Here the 5'10" (178 cm), 160 pound (73 kg) author enjoys a siesta at the base of Spruce Mountain near Prescott, Arizona.
The Speer 8.0 A hammock weighs 16.5 ounces (468 g) as measured without the bug netting and tarp. It was comfortable for my 5 feet 10 inch (178 cm) frame and has a couple of inches to spare so that someone 6 feet (183 cm) tall will fit as Speer specifies. The sides of the hammock come up very high so there is no danger of rolling out. Some weight could be saved with a narrower cut and probably not impact hammock function to any great extent.
The tarp provided with the Speer Hammock is made of lightweight materials (1.1 oz/yd2 (37 g/m2) silynylon and 1/16" (1.6 mm) spectra core guylines) but is larger than most lightweight hammock canopies at 8' by 10' (2.4 x 3.1 m). The end user could substitute a tarp of lighter material, such as spinnaker fabric, or with smaller dimensions (at the expense of rain coverage) to save weight.
Flexibility of Pitching / Versatility
The flat 8 by 10 foot (2.4 x 3.1 m) rain canopy is easily pitched in various configurations. It can be pitched high enough to stand up beneath it, or with the sides nearly to the ground. The tarp has tie outs at the four corners, the centers of the short sides, and four tie outs 30 inches (76 cm) inward from the corners along the long sides. The tarp does not have tie outs in the center of the long sides.
The Speer Hammock and rain canopy can be pitched on the ground in the absence of tree cover. The hammock serves as a bivy to cover the sides and bottom of your sleeping bag and add a little warmth and wind protection. The rain canopy is pitched for overhead protection, normally "A" frame style, but the tarp tie outs accommodate other configurations. Tether the webbing tie outs to the end supports (most likely your trekking poles) to keep the "bivy" from wandering. One caveat, the nylon used in the bivy is coated with a DWR treatment but is not waterproof, so use your emergency space blanket under the hammock if the ground is wet or for added protection from stones.
The Speer Hammock makes a wonderful lounging chair. Just fold one side over against the other to create a comfortable seat. If the hammock is pitched low enough, you can cook seated in the hammock protected from rain by the overhead tarp.
There is enough length for a 6 feet (183 cm) tall person to sleep stretched out in the Speer 8.0 A hammock (tested). If you have strung the bug net ridgeline, you can hang small items from the ridgeline, or even tie a small stuff sack to it to store things overnight.
The large silnylon tarp provides plenty of room underneath to keep items such as your pack and shoes dry or to cook underneath it. When it is snugged in close in a storm pitch it would be a good idea to have your gear in your pack liner to protect them from spray. During rain the tarp can be strung overhead first to provide some protection from the rain while hanging the hammock although you won't be completely protected when you secure the webbing around the support trees. When the tarp is pitched low, the hammock still needs to be hung high enough so that when you settle into it, it doesn't sag to the ground.
The Speer 8.0 A hammock was tested in Washington state, the High Uinta Mountains of Utah, in desert monsoons, and at 10,000 feet (3,048 m) in Arizona in the San Francisco Peaks. It was tested in calm winds and gusts to 25 mph (40 kph), in temperatures from 85 to 20 °F (29 to -7 °C), and in dry weather and downpours.
The center of gravity of the Speer hammock with a person in it is well below the axis of the end straps if the hammock is hung slack as recommended. The hammock swings gently when you first get in to it since it does not have side ties outs to stabilize it. I normally reach out a hand to the ground to stop the swaying. Once in the hammock with the swaying halted it remains mostly still, although a quick turn over from one side to the other can cause it to sway again, but a hand to the ground easily stills this if the hammock is hung low enough.
Hanging the Speer hammock in high winds can be a challenge since it can catch wind like a parasail. Twisting the hammock around the axis of the hanging straps helps to reduce the hammock's sail area and makes pitching it in the wind easier.
Pitching the rain canopy is similar to pitching any tarp except easier since you always have two fixed points to tether it to. The tarp pitches tautly in an open, calm weather pitch or in a steeper pitch for storms. Speer has attached two tie outs on each long side of the tarp 30 inches (76 cm) in from the corners. There are no tie outs in the centers of the long sides. The tarp can be pitched tautly using only the four corner tie outs or using all eight tie outs.
Here the bitter end of each manufacturer provided 9+ foot (292 cm) corner guyline is tied to the adjacent tie out to form a loop. The loops are easy to stake out, create more stability with two points of tension on the tarp, and are easy to shorten with an overhand knot when you need to "batten down the hatches."
I found that tying the end of each corner guyline to the adjacent tie out along the long side of the tarp created a quick way to transition from calm weather rigging to storm rigging. A nice taut calm weather pitch is possible by staking out each of the loops formed this way. In storm conditions, an overhand knot tied with a quick release shortens the loop. The shorter loop can then be staked out pulling the tarp closer to the ground and providing more rain coverage for the hammock, but also steepening the sides of the tarp and providing a bigger cross sectional target to the wind. In the hammock in a desert monsoon with winds gusting to about 25 mph (40 kph), the tarp first deflected into the side of the hammock and then the two stakes on the windward side pulled out. Obviously tiny titanium stakes in the soft ground were not enough! I doubled the stakes in the two loops on that side before sitting out the rest of the storm without further incident.
It is very relaxing to sit in the Speer hammock and watch the rain come down. The 8 foot by 10 foot (2.4 x 31 m) rain canopy provides lots of coverage, and there is room to cook dinner under it. Sideways blowing rain is a different experience. The hammock bottom and sides need to be kept from getting soaked. The tarp is pitched lower and closer to the top of the hammock and the sides are pitched closer to the ground (and closer to the sides of the hammock). There is less room for sitting in the hammock and cooking, but still plenty of room to lie in it.
Lying in the hammock at 85 °F (29 °C) I felt a little clammy inside the high sides of the hammock, but even a slight breeze cooled me off. In general, the tarp/hammock setup provides lots of ventilation.
Speer hammock with bug netting Velcro-ed to the hammock and supported by a ridgeline.
The 3.9 ounce (111 g) bug netting and support cord provide good coverage from bugs while in the hammock. It, of course, does not protect you outside the hammock. You'll need some other type of bug protection while cooking. There is room inside the hammock with the bug netting supported by the ridgeline to read and lounge, but not to sit up. Depending on if and how the tarp is pitched, great views are possible. The hammock nylon allows some breeze through it for a cooling effect.
The Speer hammock is well made of appropriate materials for a lightweight yet sturdy trade off. The hammock has no seams (other than along the edges) to wear out. The hanging straps are sturdy and securely held in place by the hammock end knots. The tarp has grommets for the end tie outs, and all tie outs are reinforced with doubled silnylon fabric and extra stitching. I've seen no evidence of wear to date.
The Speer 8.0 A Hammock is well made, sturdy, and versatile. However, at about 4 ounces (113 g) heavier and $29 more than the Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker A-Sym, it is priced a bit high. The extra cost may well be worth it though to a person who prefers to leave the bug netting at home (shaving off 3.9 oz) or who prefers a top entry hammock.
Tips and Tricks
- Fold the mosquito netting in two along the long axis so the two hook strips of Velcro stick together to make stowing and retrieving the netting less scratchy.
- Tie each corner guyline on the rain canopy to the tie out closest to it along the long hammock side. Staking out the loop created is easy and provides another point of tension on the hammock for more wind stability. Tie an overhand knot with a quick release in the loop to shorten it when you need to stake the tarp closer to the ground for storm protection.
- If you are not expecting foul weather, or are an experienced backpacker looking to cut weight, take along a smaller, lighter tarp to replace the 14 ounce (397 g) Speer tarp. The Bozeman Mountain Works Stealth 1 (7 x 9 ft, 2.1 x 2.7 m) Catenary Ridgeline Ultralight Backpacking Tarp shows promise and weighs 7.5 ounces (213 g) for a complete hammock setup (without bug net) weighing 1.5 pounds (0.68 kg). Another weight saving option is to use a long poncho, such as the Sea to Summit Poncho/Tarp (9.8 oz plus guylines), to replace the hammock canopy as well as rain gear.
- The Speer hammock makes an excellent lounge chair! Just fold one side over on the other. I thoroughly enjoyed watching a desert monsoon rainstorm while sitting in the Speer hammock nice and dry under the rain canopy.
- It is easier to get in and out of the hammock when it is pitched low to the ground. I like it low enough so that I can cook while sitting in it and can reach the ground while lying in the hammock to grab my water bottle or steady the hammock from swaying.
Recommendations for Improvement
- A narrower cut would reduce the weight of the hammock without affecting function.
- Bug netting that is designed to keep out bugs without attaching to the hammock body would allow the removal of the Velcro strips on the hammock, further reducing hammock weight when the bug netting is left at home. One possibility worth exploring is netting with pockets for weights (stones) and Velcro at the ends that drapes over the netting support line.
- A lighter weight rain canopy option would be nice for fair weather hammockers.