For a truly lightweight inexpensive introductory hammock, the Grand Trunk Ultralight Starter is a natural choice. Made from simple polyester this isn't the softest or coziest model, but it is a great option for anyone on a budget or anyone who wants to try out hammock camping without a huge investment. While not our favorite backcountry hammock, for $30 it might be worth giving a try! It's on par with our Best Buy award winner, the (much heavier) Kootek and is a full $40 cheaper than any other lightweight model we tested. If you find yourself falling in love with hanging under the stars in the wilderness, you can always upgrade to something warmer and fancier and still have the Ultralight Starter around for a lightweight camp chair, gear sling, or general warm weather companion.
Grand Trunk Ultralight Starter Review
Cons: Limited durability and protection, cheaper fabric
Manufacturer: Grand Trunk
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Our Analysis and Test Results
Hammock camping is a great way to experience the outdoors in a totally new way, and the Grand Trunk Ultralight Starter can help make that a reality for a mere $30. Grand Trunk has given the Ultralight Starter hammock a few updates, including new ripstop fabric and swapping out the old S hooks for nautical grade carabiners. Weighing only 12 ounces, this hammock is also a viable option for ultralight backpackers, though many may prefer something slightly more technical.
The Ultralight Starter is 9.5 feet long by 4.5 feet wide, which is larger than any of the other ultralight hammocks we tested. If you've been doing a ton of hammock research, you'll realize that larger hammocks nearly always supply more comfort, and this was indeed the case with the Ultralight Starter. The King Rhombic RipStop fabric was quite soft and comfortable — a noticeable improvement from the previous slippery fabric of the older versions. We were pleasantly surprised by how comfortable we could get in it this relatively small hammock. Adding a sleeping pad and bag made it even comfier.
We found it more comfortable than the Grand Trunk Nano 7 or ENO Sub6. All in all, we were pleased and more comfortable than we thought we would be for $30.
As the name implies, the Ultralight Starter is a very lightweight hammock, weighing just 12.5 ounces including the relatively heavy nautical grade carabiners. Those alone weigh 3 ounces! Swapping them out for lighter carabiners can make this already lightweight hammock even more competitive. While the Sea to Summit Ultralight is substantially lighter at 5.8 ounces (4.8 without its stuff sack), and the Sub6 is only 5.7 ounces, we feel the value of the Ultralight Starter helps offset the small amount of additional weight. It also has 6 to 7 inches more width and length than the Nano 7, Sea to Summit Ultralight, or Sub6, giving it an edge in the comfort department.
If you're interested in saving ounces, you might want to check out the Sea to Summit Ultralight, which practically blew our minds with its 4.8-ounce weight (without stuff sack or suspension). The ENO Sub6 (tested as part of the ENO SubLink System) was lighter as well, at just 5.7 ounces. The Grand Trunk Nano7 was also lighter than the Ultralight Starter, at only 7.5 ounces. But if you're willing to carry just a few more ounces, we think you'll appreciate the extra space and comfort they provide.
Ease of Set Up
The Ultralight Starter does not come with a suspension system, so that's something you'll need to purchase from Grand Trunk or elsewhere. What it does come with are two marine grade carabiners that are crazy easy to use, and much more secure than the previous models sporting S hooks. The overall ease of set up will depend on the suspension system you ultimately decide to use, but with your average trunk straps, the Ultralight Starter goes up in no time.
The small size of the Ultralight Starter fits comfortably between a variety of trees and anchors, providing more options for set up than some of the larger models we tested. It stuffs easily into the attached stuff sack — be careful of the sharp edges on the clasps of the carabiners so as not to puncture the fabric. Overall, it's hard to beat a set up this easy!
Durability and Protection
Since Grand Trunk has upgraded the Ultralight Starter from its previous polyester to 100% King Rhombic RipStop, the durability of this hammock is much higher. We poked several pine needles through this hammock and even the end of a ballpoint pen to see how well the thin material would hold up. Once we retracted the weapon, we could hardly even see where we had stabbed it so viciously!
As an ultralight hammock, this model doesn't give a ton of extra protection, as you would expect. It is wider than all the other ultralight hammocks we tested, so the sides can offer some additional security, but not much. And while we were much happier with the new ripstop fabric and triple-stitched ends, the side seams were just one lonely line of stitching, making us wonder about the lifespan of such a design.
The Ultralight Starter is at home on ultralight backpacking trips and as part of a campsite during warm seasons. It is not a great hammock for bugs or severe weather, and with a low weight capacity of only 200 pounds, it is certainly not meant for more than a single person at a time.
However, with low weight and low price, the Ultralight Starter can easily be used as a simple sit and chill hammock that you bring with you to the park or a friend's barbeque. You're sure to be the envy of everyone NOT in a hammock, and at a measly 9.6 ounces, you've got no excuse to not bring it everywhere. Though this hammock may not have the protection or capacity to offer versatility in the elements, its size and price offer versatility in other ways.
Backpackers looking to save weight or campers looking to get started hammock camping on a budget will enjoy the simple setup and great value of the Grand Trunk Ultralight Starter. It will serve you best in fair, clear weather and is recommended for only one adult at a time, as the weight rating isn't very high.
The Grand Trunk Ultralight is an incredible value, at only $30. Though it used to be our Best Buy winner, with the influx of so many hammocks on the market, it's less competitive than it once was. However, with such a modest price and low weight, there is little reason not to take this product along on the next backpacking or camping trip simply to try it out. Do remember, however, that suspension isn't included, and an average price for that component from Grand Trunk or another manufacturer is $20-30. So you will be paying as much for the suspension as you paid for the hammock!
A skeptic can try out basic hammock camping with very little investment by trying out this hammock. And with such a low price, it's less of a big deal to later upgrade or replace this hammock with a more serious and protective option if you plan to sleep out in varied weather. However upgrading won't make this one obsolete - keep the Ultralight Starter around for backyard lounging, an easy extra camp chair, or as a gear sling to hold your pack while you're sleeping in something else. For $30, what have you got to lose?
Other Versions and Accessories
Grand Trunk makes a variety of hammocks. From regular double and single hammocks to the more intense Nano 7 and even a Junior option for the kiddos! Many of their hammocks come in lots of colors, and exciting patterns and a lot of them are cheaper than the competition.
Grand Trunk also sells accessories to accompany their hammocks. You can add a mosquito net and rain fly, upgrade to lightweight aluminum carabiners, purchase trunk straps, and even get a stand to enjoy your hammock where there are no trees (like in your living room!).
— Maggie Brandenburg