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Hands-on Gear Review
Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker Asym Zip Review
Cons: More complicated to set up, bug net isn't removable, stakes for rain fly not included
Bottom line: A fantastic combination of lightweight and expedition features, the Ultralite Backpacker from Hennessy provides a unique and versatile hammock camping experience.
The Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker Asym Zip is one of the only hammocks we tested that, without an upgrade, comes with a rain fly. The only other model with this feature was the other Hennessy we tested, the Hennessy Expedition Asym Zip, which is a heavier, burlier version of this hammock.
The Ultralite Backpacker is a well-executed marriage of decently lightweight materials, solid construction, and backcountry-ready features. It was the most comfortable of all the models we tested that claim to be ultralight. It's also heavier than those models, which is a definite theme; the more material and dimensions offered, even just a few inches, the more comfort you generally have also.
This hammock has a noticeably steeper learning curve than pretty much all the other models we tested, and it took us longer to get pitched and get comfortable. But for those that don't mind a little practice and enjoy the process of tweaking their rig, this is a great hammock in all respects.
RELATED REVIEW: The Best Hammocks of 2017
Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
Be prepared for almost anything the weather or terrain throws at you, all without straining your back, with the Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker Asym Zip. Solid construction and a unique asymmetrical design mean better durability and more comfort than we saw with any other ultralight model.
At first we weren't sure that we found this hammock particularly comfortable. But each subsequent pitch brought us more understanding of how to properly adjust the hammock and our bodies for maximum comfort. There's a very specific way to set up and lay in Hennessy hammocks — to the point that the back of the bag has detailed instructions printed on it. This can be a bit frustrating at first, but if you stick with it, we feel confident that you will find the sweet spot and be able to get quite cozy in this impressive expedition model.
We found the other tested Hennessy model, the Expedition Asym Zip, to be a bit more comfortable, mostly because it's roomier. The Ultralite Backpacker was not in the top for comfort for us, but it did hold its own and was definitely the most comfortable of the ultralight models tested. The Grand Trunk Nano 7, Grand Trunk Ultralight Starter, and the ENO SubLink Shelter System all have weight advantages over the Ultralite Backpacker but were also a stiffer, more constricted hang.
The Ultralite Backpacker weighs 22.3 ounces on its own and 33.6 ounces for the whole package with rain fly. This might seem heavy for an "ultralight," but consider that the hammock has an integrated bug net and the package includes your suspension system. Yes, it seems impressive that the Nano 7 only weighs 7.5 ounces and the Sub7 barely registers on the scale at 6.4 ounces, but realize that this does not include straps for hanging and does not provide anything for bugs or rain. Those hammocks are great for throwing in your back pocket and having a nice sunny lounge somewhere, but for true camping in variable conditions and terrain, this is a much better buy.
We tested the Sub7 as part of the SubLink Shelter System, a package deal from ENO that bundles the hammock with suspension, a bug net, and a rain fly. But even considering the hammock part of that package only weighs 6.4 ounces, the whole bundle weighs 44.6 ounces — considerably more than the Ultralite Backpacker. We liked the versatility of that package, the larger fly, and how it allows you to leave pieces behind, but if you know you will always want your bug net and prefer a roomier diagonal lay, this is a better purchase.
Ease of Setup
The one place this hammock struggled a bit compared to the other models we tested was with ease of setup. In some respects this seems unfair because, after a bit of practice, this system is really as easy to set up as any other. But the initial learning curve and the amount of tweaking it took to learn how to lay was mildly frustrating. If you purchase this hammock we highly recommend spending some time watching videos and practicing in your backyard before going out for any extended trip. If you found yourself at the end of a long day trying to set up this hammock in the dark for the first time we can pretty much guarantee a swear word or two would be uttered.
One annoyance we had, which would be an easy fix: the rain fly is asymmetrical, just like the hammock and needs to match the shape when it's pitched. There is no sort of color coding to help guide this process as many tents have, so it's an awkward eye-balling process. We would recommend somehow marking the corners that align with the hammock to make this process much easier.
Stakes are not included for the rain fly and, while it can be set up on the hammock's ridgeline, this feels pretty claustrophobic, and we recommend bringing an additional guyline.
Durability and Protection
The Ultralite Backpacker offers pretty outstanding protection for an ultralight model. No, correction: It offers outstanding protection, period. The ultralight part is an added bonus. Right out of the bag you are equipped for bugs and rain with a bag barely over two pounds. Pretty impressive.
This model obviously has thinner fabric than the Hennessy Expedition and should be treated with the care and diligence you would give any professional lightweight gear. If you do that, you will undoubtedly have this hammock for many years, as it is well constructed and an all-around solid design.
Considering you are protected from insects and weather and also able to remain lightweight, this is a very versatile hammock. However, a few things brought the Ultralite Backpacker down from a perfect score. The tree straps included with the hammock for suspension are quite short (42"), so if all you have around you are large trees you will have a problem. The straps can be upgraded to 72" or 96", which we would recommend. The rain fly is also a bit on the small side and we definitely saw a theme with other reviews online in which people expressed frustration at not being able to get as protected as they needed. The rain fly is also a parallelogram, effectively restricting it to being used one way (matched up with the hammocks asymmetrical body). Still, the fact that both of these features are included at all is a huge plus and something we really appreciated.
It would be a nice minor addition to allow the attached bug net to be tied away or stashed as we were able to do with the Warbonnet Blackbird and the Warbonnet Ridgerunner.
This hammock is best for people who plan to go on extended backpacking trips where both protection from the elements and weight are important issues. The Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker is a great setup for the serious camper who wants to ditch the weight of a tent yet still be covered for weather unknowns.
At $250 ,this hammock is a bit of an investment. But when you consider that suspension, bug net, and rain fly are all included, it's actually a really great deal. You can start out with a cheaper hammock and upgrade later in pieces as you see fit — but if you already know that you'll be doing a lot of camping in your hammock, this is a great way to go. For a bit of a price break, though, consider our Editors' Choice, the Warbonnet Blackbird — it's light, includes a bug net, and starts at $170. And if you really do need a tarp and weight isn't an issue, the Hennessy Expedition Asym Zip starts at only $180 and includes everything that this model does.
The Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker takes some time and patience to learn how to set up and get comfortable, but once you do, we think you'll be happy with this purchase. It's lightweight and includes everything you need to get started on serious hiking and camping adventures in the backcountry.
Other Versions and Accessories
If you don't need to go ultralight and want a bit burlier setup, the Hennessy Expedition Asym Zip is almost identical to the Ultralite Backpacker but offers more room and a $70 cheaper price tag.
Hennessy offers all their hammocks with the "classic" entry instead of with a zipper. These hammocks have a bottom entry with a Velcro closure — a unique construction meant to help you enter the hammock without allowing any bugs in with you.
All of Hennessy's Jungle Series hammocks have a double layer bottom and are bigger.
SnakeSkin stuff sacks allow you to easily deploy your hammock without it ever touching the ground.
Insulation pads, under pads, under covers, and over covers are all available from Hennessy to help you further insulate your setup for colder weather conditions.
— Penney Garrett
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