Hi Hammockers:

Seeking advice and expertise from the Whiteblaze Hammock crowd. Lots of information below. But the key question is:

REI Flash or Hennessy Explorer Ultralite Zip for a first timer?

Quick facts:

I'm 47 years old, 5'11" and 220 lbs. I'm a casual hiker and bikepacker. I'm a side sleeper.

I've been a tent camper with a SMD Lunar Solo and a Thermarest NeoAir Xlite pad.

-->> I'm committed to buying from REI because I want the ability to return the hammock if it isn't for me.

Hammocks for consideration:

Hennessy Explorer Ultralite Asym Zip from REI for $279.95 at 2 lbs. 4 oz. I'd also add Snakeskins for another $20 - so $299.95 total.

REI Co-op Flash Air Hammock from REI for $199.95 at 2 lbs. 13 oz.

More details:

My two most recent adventures have demonstrated significant drawbacks for tent camping. I experienced limited tenting sites on the AT over the Bigelow Preserve. There were almost no tent sites between shelters and then the tent sites were often platforms. While bikepacking the Green Mountain Gravel Growler, I wanted to stealth camp in the road-side woods on "non-tentable" terrain. On both adventures, I felt a hammock would have been preferable.

I naively assume that hammocking negates the need for the 12oz pad (although I also understand that under-insulation is required in cooler situations).

Hennessy Hammock
2 lbs 4 oz. - lighter than Flash
Better color environment
Longer than Flash
Asym diagonal lie

$100 more than Flash
Weight is reported to be mis-represented and likely closer to 2 lbs 8 oz. Then add Snakeskins.
Tarp is frequently cited as too small - especially for poor weather
Concerned about complexity

REI Flash
Looks like a cool, completely integrated system designed from ground up
Pole spreader gives shape
more pockets and storage
Whoppie Slings
Pad straps

Horrible color
Banana lie? (Can't tell)
Slightly heavier
Short (?)

Other thoughts?

*** I like the idea of the Flash. It simply looks cool. Worried about the banana lie and the shortness though. But in one review, the reviewer said he would recommend it wholeheartedly above a Hennessy. And the $100 price difference is significant.

*** But I also like the idea of the Hennessy. It's got a longer history and is more prevalent in the "hammock-sphere." I wish it had Whoopie slings though. And the tarp has me concerned that I'll need to spend more soon.

Please - no flame war on REI. I'm committed to buying from them to increase my dividend and because of their return policy. I also know about underquilts and am not ready to deal with that yet. This will be used in nice weather to start.

Also note - I have a Moskito by Byer of Maine. It's cheap and uncomfortable and I can't imagine ever getting a wink of sleep in it. The ropes tangle easily and the bug net is fragile like crepe paper. If neither the REI Flash nor the Hennessy are significantly better than the Moskito, let me know and I won't bother.

I'm eager to hear Whiteblaze's thoughts! Chime in and offer an opinion!