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  1. #1

    Default Help me choose a hammock: REI Flash vs Hennessy Explorer Ultralite

    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
    Pros:
    2 lbs 4 oz. - lighter than Flash
    Better color environment
    Longer than Flash
    Snakeskins!
    Asym diagonal lie

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

    Cons:
    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!

  2. #2
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    If your concerned about not liking hammock camping, consider easing into it. Bugs are getting to be less an issue so go netless: https://dutchwaregear.com/product/11...fabric-layer-1

    Use a standard blue construction tarp or what ever you have laying around. Use a sleeping pad and your favorite sleeping bag for insulation. While these are perfect, they offer as much opportunity for you to enjoy sleeping in a hammock as the REI available options with modest investment.

    The Hennessy looks like it is only 108 inches long, WAY to short for a real camping option. REI option you listed doesn't provide a length, don't consider it if it is not atl least 10.5 feet long. You will not be able to lie flat otherwiase.

    I strongly advise you to expand the hammocks you'll consider because those you've specified are far from your bst options.

  3. #3
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    After looking closer at the options you have specified, I would like to increase the strength of my recommendation that you steer clear of both. Hammock camping is really a pleasant exp[erience with the right equipment. A 5'11" 220 poiund guy will never find comfort in euther of those hammocks.

  4. #4
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    Same boat as you....looking for my first hammock. Decided to put off my purchase for 3 weeks so I can attend a hang in my area. I think there are a couple coming up in MA, one in Goshen. https://www.hammockforums.net/forum/.../112-Northeast
    .................................................. .................................................. .................................................. ..........
    Travel not for the destination, but for the joy of the journey.

  5. #5

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    I'd suggest broadening your search. There are several cottage hammock makers who have excellent products at good prices. I have a Dream Hammocks Raven that suits me perfectly. They are all custom so you can get just what you want for little or no more money.
    "It's fun to have fun, but you have to know how." ---Dr. Seuss

  6. #6
    Registered User Just Bill's Avatar
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    Try the REI hammock.
    Bit cheaper and likely to work better with a pad. (what you have)
    A fly is an easy upgrade if that grows to be an issue.

    cynically thinking... it's cheaper and it's REI either way. If that works for you... great. If not, you can always swap it out for the hennessy.

    Inline is okay with a pad, especially as a side sleeper.

    You can always research other stuff later and upgrade, but REI's advantage is always clear when getting going... you got a year.

    FWIW- you will likely find the neo air bottoms out around 45* or so. Neo-air's just are not built for convection. I consider the Xtherm my bare minimum hammock pad outside summer. While it goes zero on the ground- figure around freezing. So you may be facing a pad and tarp upgrade overall with the flash... but it gets you hanging quick and easy.

    FWIW part two. The reviewer you mentioned also owns one of my bridge hammocks. I don't think either REI model he tested made it too far beyond the review but I can't say for sure.

    Get started... go from there.

  7. #7

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    I would suggest (politely) that while you can get some good (if not great) info here on WB from the various hammock users (myself included) and makers... Perhaps instead, swing on over the Hammockforums dot net and start reading. There is a lot, Lot, LOT of info there (both sites share numerous members, and are, or where sisters sites). Heck, you might even be able to find someone close to where you live who has one, or multiple hammocks that they'd be willing to let you try out - not an uncommon occurrence at all actually -


    u.w.

  8. #8

  9. #9
    Registered User scope's Avatar
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    I used the Explorer in classic version for years with stock asym tarp with a pad, so I'm a little biased in leaning that direction. I've read a bit about the Flash and my impression is its an incredibly bad product. That would be unusual for REI, but it just seems like they had some particulars in mind and went about matching them no matter what. Why not the Quarter Dome hammock they make?

    Using a zip version of the Explorer with the stock asym means you'll contantly be "ducking" in and out of the hammock. Personally, that would annoy the crap out of me. That's because the default HH setup is with the tarp attached on the suspension, as opposed to independently attached to the tree. You can always rig it that way, but 1) that requires purchasing additional lines/hardware to do that which seems to negate, and 2) if using the stock tarp, you're going to want it attached down low due to coverage. Works fine in low configuration, but you'll have zero usable space underneath it. I'd get the bigger hex tarp. I know its more weight, but you'll like it so much more in camp that it will be worth it. Porch mode is da bomb!

    I think the HH is a better product, and would have more resale value if you don't return it, but want to upgrade at some point. Now, there are other options in the cottage market, but for the most part you're not going to get less than $300 without giving some things up, like a net. I go netless, but I presume you're not ready to do that. I completely get wanting the safety net of REI, but don't want to see you have a less than optimal experience and ditch hammocking altogether. If there was one site I would check, it would be WarbonnetOutdoors.com.

    Now, about that naivety thing... these are your direct transfers for gear. You can do without underinsulation in a tent, too, but do you? Hammocks are cooler underneath so its almost always a necessity.

    inner tent = hammock
    tent rainfly = tarp
    pad = underinsulation (either same pad or underquilt)
    bag = top insulation (either same bag or top quilt)
    "I wonder if anyone else has an ear so tuned and sharpened as I have, to detect the music, not of the spheres, but of earth, subtleties of major and minor chord that the wind strikes upon the tree branches. Have you ever heard the earth breathe... ?"
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    Registered User scope's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scope View Post
    ...You can always rig it that way, but 1) that requires purchasing additional lines/hardware to do that which seems to negate...
    EDIT: seems to negate some of the integrated features of the product (though everyone mods their HH anyway)
    "I wonder if anyone else has an ear so tuned and sharpened as I have, to detect the music, not of the spheres, but of earth, subtleties of major and minor chord that the wind strikes upon the tree branches. Have you ever heard the earth breathe... ?"
    - Kate Chopin

  11. #11
    Registered User scope's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by scope View Post
    I'd get the bigger hex tarp...
    EDIT, EDIT: I forgot at REI you're buying only the stock tarp pkg and the larger tarp is a separate purchase. If ordering from HH direct, you can sub for the larger tarp, and pay a little more for lighter versions. Also, the classic is on sale, so $175 for both hammock and large tarp. Again, I used the classic for years with a pad. I only changed when I started using an UQ, which it works ok for, but was a matter of either zip modding my hammock or selling it and buying a cheap gathered end, and I went the latter route.
    "I wonder if anyone else has an ear so tuned and sharpened as I have, to detect the music, not of the spheres, but of earth, subtleties of major and minor chord that the wind strikes upon the tree branches. Have you ever heard the earth breathe... ?"
    - Kate Chopin

  12. #12
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    I recommend that you spend some time over at hammockforums and check out the advice there. I would strongly try to steer a 1st time hanger to a cottage vendor that specializes in hammocks versus a big box product. There are lots of great vendors to choose from. I like Dutchwaregear, Warbonnet Outdoors, and Simply Light Designs personally but that's hardly and exhaustive list.

  13. #13

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    Tremendous thanks for all the suggestions! I'm grateful for you time and thoughtful responses.

    in no particular order:

    I was aware of the Dutchgear hammocks but hadn't seen their introductory package. Awesome suggestion! It looks like an 11' hammock with a separate bug net and hex tarp including suspension. The price is good. The pictures show a nice diagonal lie. This is a real contender. Some quick math shows this package weighing about 2.6 lbs (minus stakes).

    The group hang in Goshen is nearby! I'm on the the North Shore from Boston. I should try to swing by. Get it... "Swing?" Hello? Is this thing on?

    I started initially with the Explorer Classic in my cart on the Hennessy website because of the sale. That price was so enticing. But then I though about it and started questioning the practicality of the so-called classic entrance. How does it work with an underquilt? How do you reach down and attached the quilt after you enter? And how do you get into your sleeping bag with your pad positioned below you? Seems like a lot of wiggling. So decided not to punch in my credit card numbers.

    As for Hammockforums.net... I signed up the other day. You think I should paste my original query as my very first posting? I was pondering doing so. I posted here first because I have some other posts and history here. I thought this crowd would be more savvy to weight and bulk considerations due to the backpacking aspect.

    Warbonnet hammocks drew my attention because of their foot box and gear box (?). I just now reviewed their return policy and it's actually pretty good! Return within 60 days for any reason for a full refund minus any cleaning expenses. By that they mean washing to remove campfire smell. That makes Warbonnet a little more appealing as I try to figure out if hammock camping is for me. Their hammocks are longer and I'd be looking at a Blackbird XLC. I haven't yet added up the weights and prices though.

    As for underquilt... I wasn't kidding about fair-weather camping. Under the conditions I'm considering using this, it will be July, August, and maybe September. Temps in 70's-80's. At night. In high humidity. And if I get into shoulder seasons, I'll take one of my many air pads and use it half inflated. (I really do have quite a few.) And after that, I'll go through the usual evolutionary progression of car windshield mat, closed cell foam, and then eventually under-quilt. I still would rather defer that whole issue. If i can find a nice package and test it out on some nice saturday afternoons in the next few weeks, I'll figure out the quilting next year in high season.

    Please keep the comments coming!

    So for now - in play and in order: Dutchgear Complete pack > Warbonnet Blackbird XLC (tentative) >> REI and HH...

    What's the Dutchgear return policy? I can't find it on their site.

  14. #14
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    If you suggest any one other than a cottage vender HF members will run you out of the country. I have several top shelf hammocks but my favorite is a cheaper Wildhorn outfitters single layer 11' hammock, plus all my Warbonnet stuff works with it.

  15. #15
    Registered User Just Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by connolm View Post
    Tremendous thanks for all the suggestions! I'm grateful for you time and thoughtful responses.

    in no particular order:

    I was aware of the Dutchgear hammocks but hadn't seen their introductory package. Awesome suggestion! It looks like an 11' hammock with a separate bug net and hex tarp including suspension. The price is good. The pictures show a nice diagonal lie. This is a real contender. Some quick math shows this package weighing about 2.6 lbs (minus stakes).

    The group hang in Goshen is nearby! I'm on the the North Shore from Boston. I should try to swing by. Get it... "Swing?" Hello? Is this thing on?

    I started initially with the Explorer Classic in my cart on the Hennessy website because of the sale. That price was so enticing. But then I though about it and started questioning the practicality of the so-called classic entrance. How does it work with an underquilt? How do you reach down and attached the quilt after you enter? And how do you get into your sleeping bag with your pad positioned below you? Seems like a lot of wiggling. So decided not to punch in my credit card numbers.

    As for Hammockforums.net... I signed up the other day. You think I should paste my original query as my very first posting? I was pondering doing so. I posted here first because I have some other posts and history here. I thought this crowd would be more savvy to weight and bulk considerations due to the backpacking aspect.

    Warbonnet hammocks drew my attention because of their foot box and gear box (?). I just now reviewed their return policy and it's actually pretty good! Return within 60 days for any reason for a full refund minus any cleaning expenses. By that they mean washing to remove campfire smell. That makes Warbonnet a little more appealing as I try to figure out if hammock camping is for me. Their hammocks are longer and I'd be looking at a Blackbird XLC. I haven't yet added up the weights and prices though.

    As for underquilt... I wasn't kidding about fair-weather camping. Under the conditions I'm considering using this, it will be July, August, and maybe September. Temps in 70's-80's. At night. In high humidity. And if I get into shoulder seasons, I'll take one of my many air pads and use it half inflated. (I really do have quite a few.) And after that, I'll go through the usual evolutionary progression of car windshield mat, closed cell foam, and then eventually under-quilt. I still would rather defer that whole issue. If i can find a nice package and test it out on some nice saturday afternoons in the next few weeks, I'll figure out the quilting next year in high season.

    Please keep the comments coming!

    So for now - in play and in order: Dutchgear Complete pack > Warbonnet Blackbird XLC (tentative) >> REI and HH...

    What's the Dutchgear return policy? I can't find it on their site.
    If you're willing to look beyond REI... the world is a big place.

    Dutch's chameleon is a nice new person hammock.

    However given your needs (and newness) you might consider a Warbonnet Ridgerunner in double layer.
    $200 bucks and given what you have/need you'd be short a tarp.

    In high summer- you might not need anything under you... but having two layers is helpful for bugs.
    If it's a bit cooler- you have a pad sleeve and plenty of pads. So you dodge the whole UQ issue for quite some time.

    There is a lot to take in with hammocks. Bridges are an inline hammock (like the REI) but actually built more like a floating cot.
    No sorting out diagonals lays, left right or symmetrical, fiddling with head/foot heights etc. Just get it up and lay in it.
    It's got an integrated net and the saddlebags so you don't have to sort out where all your crap goes when you go to bed.

    The biggest thing with a bridge is consistent set up. Once you do it a dozen times you got it. Every dozen or so times I take a gathered end out something ends up a bit off and I have to get up and tinker.

    But if you can get to a group hang... that's always ideal. Saves you lots of headscratching.

    unlike simply laying in a tent... there is a decent amount of stuff to sort out. It's not the end of the world... but it helps a ton if you have a spot in the yard or at home to practice easily. Anyone can lay a pad on the floor and practice ground sleeping to work out kinks. But with hammocks if you don't have a spot to practice then the learning curve only gets steeper.

  16. #16
    Registered User Just Bill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SoaknWet View Post
    If you suggest any one other than a cottage vender HF members will run you out of the country. I have several top shelf hammocks but my favorite is a cheaper Wildhorn outfitters single layer 11' hammock, plus all my Warbonnet stuff works with it.
    At the end of the day with gathered ends... you either find the perfect fabric for you or you don't. They all lay a little different. Other than finishing details and customer service there are not that many tricks that really make a difference. But to be fair those little details and customer service do engender some very fiercely loyal customers as a result.

    Worth keeping in mind as the OP mentioned... WB is a bit more homogenous crowd too (long distance backpackers). The fun thing about the hammock side is you're dealing with everything from bedroom hammock users to genius level tinkerers and everything in between. And despite all the differences... they tend to be exceedingly nice.

    I sell hammocks and tell other folks to buy other stuff if and when it makes more sense... I don't care as long as you go out.

  17. #17
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    My first real backpacking hammock was the Henessey UL asm bottom entry. That was sold. I went with the Zip. For me it was a vast improvement. At 6'4'' I have absolutely no problem with the ridgeline ht or converting it into a hanging seat. The zip just like anything other can fail when unduly stressed although I've had my Asm Zip for something like 6 yrs used in high winds on beaches in Hawaii and on treeless ridges in the Pacific Northwest and on teh northern CDT and OR PCT under storm conditions with no problems. First the tarp is attached via mitten hooks. IT IS removable and NOT integrated. BUT I went with a lighter wt cuben tarp that cost $80 I bought used on hammock forums. Great site for ham info. Those guys live the shart. I've learned a great deal from those folks. 2) buying directly from Hennessy is cheaper. They have sales. They often throw in the snake skins too with a $200 purchase. The lay is great for me. At your ht and wt I strongly suspect it will be for you too. Check out the hammock sites for correct set ups! It helps with the comfy level. I dont use a pad in a hammock and never use a ham in winter although I will employ an UQ at times...a tweaked EE 50* quilt.

    I have no experience with the REI Flash. I did buy and use a Dutch hammock kit. Thom is top notch and provides great service. he can get your straps down to very UL wt with a variety of different UL hardware options. When I want to go lightest wt I also have a tricked out Dream UL Darien. Dream only makes the Darien as far as I now know. I use a non integrated sock and a non integrated cuben tarp for it. I like tweaking my gear by compartmentalizing or moduling it so I can take different parts or all of them based on conditions. Since it is the lightest wt I have to be careful with TLC and keeping my wt and wiggling around to 200 lbs max. It was a single layer. Forget the Denier and weave. I'm a side sleeper toss and turner from side to side. In a hammock I tend not to toss.

  18. #18
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    BTW my Hen Explore UL Zip weighs 19 ozs complete( no UQ) with mule tape. Thing is in hammock temp rating of a quilt or bag goes down while wt goes up to allow for bottom chill...at least in my book. I sleep coldest in a hang.

  19. #19
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    In my book, and as stated, I'd buy directly from a cottage hammock supplier. The details and explanations and answers and set up will be more solid than I surmise you'll get from any REI Associate...providing you communicate your needs and desires.

  20. #20

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    To the OP, I can't even begin to describe how much better a UQ is than all the other options.

    At least that's how it was for me. When I first got some hammock stuff I went into my local woods just to test some various options, mainly because, like you, I have so many air mats from ground camping, including several TRs and a Klymit Xlite, and a couple of CCF options. Absolutely hated every one of them at any inflation level. Fidget factor was thru the roof. I'd use them as a last resort, but to plan on using them as regular go-to kit?? Nope, nada, no way.
    UL, because nobody ever asks "How can I make my pack heavier?"

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