Dream Sparrow Review
Cons: Fixed ridgeline, can get expensive depending on options, long wait for customization
Manufacturer: Dream Hammock
Compare to Similar Products
Our Analysis and Test Results
The small team at Dream Hammock makes all of their products out of the family basement. In fact, a good portion of those who work there are family members. But this doesn't mean they are a rinky-dink operation. Their website is dialed in with comparisons, too many options for customization to list, and even a chart where you can check on where in line for production your hammock is. We tested the Sparrow up against the other major brands in the hammocking world and found it to be one of our favorites for its versatile design, giving the hammock the flexibility to change out components to suit the needs of the trip, the comfort of the 10' 7" foot length, and all the ways in which you can customize it. One thing that really stood out to our testers is the high ridgeline, which gives the Sparrow the most interior living space of any tested hammock. No other model tested allowed us to fully sit up without pushing our heads into the bug netting. If the design and customization of the Sparrow interests you, look into the Dutchware Chameleon as well. These two hammocks were very similar and are both at the top of our list to grab for our next overnight.
As we expected, the Sparrow performs admirably in the comfort metric. An end-gathered hammock of 10' 7" in length could hardly do otherwise, but the thing we didn't expect was how much interior space we would have.
The Sparrow has a shorter ridgeline to hammock length ratio than other hammocks we tested with integrated ridgelines and a fairly wide bug net. When suspended, this pulls the netting high and out of your way. We had plenty of room inside to sit up and read a book, get our sleeping gear situated, and even change clothes. The more livable interior also makes the Sparrow a more comfortable retreat when the evening bugs come buzzing in. We did find that with so much bug netting if we strung the hammock looser, we ended up with a very droopy ridgeline and net that gets in the way.
The sleeping and lying down comfort is very similar to that of the Dutchware Chameleon, as the two hammocks are both built with almost exactly the same length of 10' 7" and width of 4' 10" and both are end gathered. With both of these models, the length allowed our testers' feet more space rather than crunching them a bit toward the end like shorter end-gathered hammocks tend to do. For even more space for your feet, and a flatter lay, check out the Blackbird with an integrated footbox or the Ridgerunner for the flattest and most comfortable hammock we tested.
The Sparrow, along with the Chameleon, are the only two hammocks in this comparison that have zip-in, removable bug nets. In both of these models, the hammock itself is symmetrical but is made to reap the benefits of asymmetrical comfort with an asym bug net. Our testers prefer an asymmetrical hammock to a symmetrical one because of the space it gives your feet and head. All "ready to ship" Sparrows come as a "right lay" but can be customized to be "left lay" or symmetrical. For new hammockers or those who aren't sure they want to commit to one direction, the Dutchware Chameleon bug net is reversible for either lay direction.
The Sparrow comes with tie out shock cords to keep the hammock spread even when you aren't in it and the tie-outs easily clip on and off the hammock so you can choose whether you want this feature. Our testers feel that the benefits to tying this hammock out are that your sleeping gear stays in position better, making it easier to get in and out without repositioning your bag every time. Also, tying the angles of the hammock out can help keep a loose bug net off your face. But, tie-outs are an extra step so if you want a quicker and easier setup, just disconnect them and ditch them at home.
Because of the shorter ridgeline on the Sparrow, our testers found they could leave the hammock a bit droopier than the Chameleon and still have a taut ridgeline that keeps the netting off of your face. This is one small difference that could help someone make their decision between these two hammocks. If you like a tighter pitch on your hammock, go for the Chameleon, where if you prefer the fabric to be a bit more slack, the Sparrow will be more comfortable.
The Sparrow falls in the middle of our favorite hammocks when it comes to comfort. Our testers found the Warbonnet hammocks a bit more comfortable due to added features like foot boxes and spreader bars. The Sparrow and the Chameleon feel remarkably similar. While we ranked the Hennessy Ultralight on the same level, we do feel like we have a bit more space to move around in the Sparrow and Chameleon… but it's pretty close. If you like the comfort and simplicity of an end-gathered hammock but want to feel a little less constrained at the feet and head, the Sparrow is an excellent choice.
We score the Sparrow high in the weight metric, but many other models performed equally as well. The hammock brands who are looking to compete in the backcountry hammock market seem to have the weight pretty dialed in.
To compare on a level playing field, here are the weights of our top tested models when using a single body layer hammock, bug netting, and whichever suspension style we tested. If you can spare a few ounces, the Sparrow provides a little more space than the lightest model tested and a lot more versatility. The Blackbird offers an even more comfortable bed, but lacks versatility and our Top Pick for Ultralight Versatility, the Sea to Summit Pro will give you all the versatility and a super-wide hammock that you can hang out in with a friend.
We tested our Dream Hammock in the 1.6 ounce HyperD Diamond Ripstop fabric but to save a few ounces, you could order a custom hammock in the 1.0 ounce Monolite fabric.
Ease of Set Up
The suspension system typically determines the ease of set up in a hammock. Continuous loops are permanently attached to each end of the Sparrow and because of the wealth of customization options offered on it, you can select from a variety of suspension systems.
We ordered the tree straps and hung the hammock with a marlin spike hitch and a stick to hook the continuous loop around. Dream Hammock also offers cinch buckles, whoopie slings, and loop aliens for various hanging preferences. With just the tree straps, adjusting the tension of the hammock isn't the easiest, but we can't fault the hammock for the suspension choice we made.
Getting the right tension on your hammock is critical to its comfort and the ridgeline is a great barometer, allowing you to quickly see if you are set correctly. The Sparrow is not different from other models with ridgelines; you want the ridgeline to be taut but not "guitar string tight" when the hammock is weighted. Test with your hand to see if you can easily bend the ridgeline. If hung too loose, the ridgeline will dangle in your face when sitting in the hammock without the bug net, and if you are using the bug net, it will sag down.
The Sparrow comes with 4 hooks along each side, 2 of which are intended for you to clip in the included shock cord tie-outs. The other two are added as attachment points towards the end of the hammock to connect your underquilt and get a good seal around the foot and head area. You can customize your order to incorporate the tie out hooks, underquilt hooks, or both. We like that the tie-out cords are easily removable so you can choose to include them for added comfort or leave them home to save the weight and hassle. The stakes are not included with the Sparrow but can be added to a custom hammock order or purchased separately on the Dream Hammock site.
Protection and Durability
We are happy with the supple 1.6 ounce ripstop nylon used in the Sparrow with its soft and silky feel. The ripstop weave inspires more confidence than the fabrics of some of the ultralight models.
The fabric of the Sparrow is lightweight, so if you plan to bring the dog in with you, we recommend customizing your hammock to one of the heavier fabrics Dream Hammock offers.
Dream Hammock uses a coil zipper in the Sparrow. Coil zippers have stronger horizontal strength (according to our google research) which we believe will be important in a hammock with a bug net attached via zipper. A small shift to the side in your sleep and added tension is put on the zipper and bug net.
The Sparrow's bug netting attaches via zippers on either side. At the ends of the hammock, a small piece of fabric covers the gap that is left where the zippers separate. The fabric is held close against the ridgeline and netting with elastic. A mosquito would have to have uncanny reasoning capabilities to make its way through that maze.
For added protection in cooler weather, Dream Hammock offers the option to add a second body layer to the Sparrow. A second layer is an easy way to start hammock camping in cooler weather without investing right away in an underquilt. You'll be able to tuck a sleeping pad or windshield reflector between the two layers to keep you warm without it slipping all over the place inside the hammock.
Dream Hammocks also offers the option to add an overcover to reduce heat loss from above. Just like the hammock body, the over cover can be customized in a huge variety of fabrics and colors and prints.
The tarps and underquilts offered on Dream Hammock's website are from a partnership with UGQ, another small cottage industry company in the business of making customizable lightweight equipment. Both companies offer each other's products on their sites to helpfully outfit customers and cross-promote their businesses.
The Dream Hammock Sparrow is one of only a few models we tested with enough versatility to comfortably be your lightweight backpacking shelter as well as your go-to BBQ hammock.
Removable bug netting seems to be the key to a hammock's ability to transition between shelter and front-country use. The Sparrow, Dutchware Chameleon, Sea to Summit Pro, and some of the ENO hammocks all have this ability, but only the Sparrow and Chameleon have the style that zips on rather than pulls around you like a sleeve. Our testers found the zip in style much quicker and easier to get in and out of.
When the netting is removed, the Sparrow is easy to hop in and out of when used as a casual day hammock at the park or crag. Removing the bug netting is also nice for saving some weight on trips when you don't expect the bugs to be out in full force. The only thing we don't love when the net is off is how the ridgeline can easily hang in your face when sitting in the hammock. If hung with the proper tension it will be higher up but when we are just stringing up a hammock at the park, we aren't necessarily as concerned about the proper tension and sometimes end up with a saggy ridgeline.
The Sparrow features multidirectional zippers on both sides. We like this because after a quick bathroom trip in the middle of the night, we can't seem to remember what side of the hammock we got out of, and have too often been found negotiating tarp and hammock guylines in the dark to get back around to the right side.
Dream Hammock set the zippers up so that they meet in the center of each side of the hammock at a felt stopper. This is a nice feature since you always know where to reach for the zipper pull in the dark, however, if you prefer to have the flexibility to choose where you close your zipper, the Dutchware Chameleon zippers can close wherever you want them to.
The true versatility of this hammock comes in the ordering process. Dream Hammock offers the Sparrow as "Ready to Ship" or "Custom". For folks who are newer to hammock camping, the ready to ship option is great because Dream Hammock has set up a great intro package, so you won't be overwhelmed with choices you don't understand. Experienced and discerning hammock campers will revel in the customization available from the custom ordering page. For many of the options, there are text boxes rather than selections meaning you can tell Dream Hammock just what you are hoping to achieve in your personalized hammock.
If you get confused or have questions, they are happy to help via email. We emailed a few times to understand some of the options and features and always got a quick response with detailed and helpful answers.
You can't always get what you want, but sometimes you'll find… that if you have the money you can! Just like with many of the other backcountry shelter hammocks, the Sparrow isn't cheap. The value comes in paying for exactly what you want and need. The ready to ship hammock with bug netting will run you close to $200, but if customized, you can quickly get over $300 depending on the options you select. If you want the customization, spring for the Sparrow or the and get a cheap tarp to keep you dry until that bonus or tax refund comes through to upgrade your tarp.
For folks who want to support a small business and receive the superior personal care that comes with it, the comfortable, versatile, and customizable Sparrow nails it. The Sparrow is one of the lighter models we tested, its removable bug netting and over cover allow you to pick and choose what you carry, giving you the flexibility to have this be the only hammock you need to own for all-weather and uses. You don't have to give up quality or features to shop small, and you'll benefit from the years of personal hammocking experience that Randy from Dream Hammocks offers.
— Elizabeth Paashaus