Hennessy Expedition Asym. My 5 Month Home Away From Home.
I bought a Hennessy Expedition Asym a few years back, when it was the only camping hammock available. So by the time my father and I decided to thru hike the AT it was broken in and ready to go. My dad tried it out and bought one of his own for the trip. These hammocks would be our mobile homes and nightly shelters for the next five months, during which time we became well aware of every feature and flaw which I will cover in this review.
I grew up sleeping in tents, whether I was off on a camping trip or just having fun in the backyard. Sleeping on hard and uneven dirt was just part of the experience and I accepted that I would wake up sore and poorly rested. Enter the hammocks! When sleeping hammocks like the Hennessy Expedition Asym hit the market a few years ago I had to try it and converted immediately.
No matter how you swing it, camping in a tent is not as comfortable as your bed, but sleeping in a hammock can be. Web MD states that the rocking motion of a hammock helps people fall asleep faster, and with no pressure points, it's a restful sleep. I've experienced the best outdoor sleep I've ever had while using a hammock.
Other specs enhancing comfort include a mosquito net for bug-free nights, and pockets along the ridge line to store anything you need in the shelter. Over five months of use the bug net never tore or let mosquitoes or no-see-ums through.
The side zipper between the hammock and the bug net designed for easy entry converts the hammock into the most comfortable hiking chair you've ever sat in. With the Hennessy Hammock, you'll never have to sleep on the cold, hard ground again.
The air was thick with humidity. Dark clouds rolled in our direction as thunder rumbled in the distance. The evening sun was quickly replaced with an eerie gray light. We’d been hiking for hours without seeing any good campsites. With time growing short we crossed a small dirt road and stopped in a clearing on the other side.
Two trees and two rocks, that's all we needed to have our hammock shelters set up before the rain came. It was a familiar routine which we executed quickly. The gentleman we were hiking with that day wasn’t so lucky. He scanned the area for a suitable spot for his tent, we shook hands and he disappeared into the woods as the first drops of rain fell.
To me, the biggest reason to own a Hennessy Expedition Asym shelter system is the convenience. From backpack to shelter, the hammock can be set up in around two minutes. As long as there are two trees the right distance apart, the hammock just needs to be tied up, the tarp strapped down and home is ready.
The system includes tree straps, but I discarded these to save on weight and just used the strings instead. These were sufficient in the months that I used it and never frayed. This quick video will show you just how easy it is to set up and take down.
Hennessy also offers a product called The Snakeskin for about $20 that slides over the entire system like a sheath. This makes set up and take-down even faster. Instead of taking a mess of hammock, tarp, and rope out of the bag it's a single snake-like object so there's no tangles or headaches.
Furthermore, the hammock never needs the "right spot" in order to be set up. I've strung my Hammock across creeks, on steep hills and over debris. There were many days on the trail where I was set up and relaxing for the night when tenters had to move on down the trail for lack of spots.
Even though the Hammock is suitable for any hike on or around the Appalachian Trail, it might be disadvantageous to a hiker who won't be around many trees. For example, there are utalight hikers who bring the hammock when trekking the PCT where there are many burn areas, desert lands, and high elevation. The Hammock is grievously limited to forested areas.
When I started my thru-hike I brought along a small repair kit I never used. After living almost exclusively out of the Hennessy Hammock Expedition Asym for over five months it never ripped, snapped, or lost its waterproof properties. The Hennessy is made of a 70 D Nylon fabric, which I must admit is not as comfortable as the Eno's parachute fabric, but definitely does the job.
Drawbacks of the Hennessy Expedition Asym
In weather and rain, the tarp that comes with the Hennessy Expedition Asym is simply too small. A fellow through hiker named Old Timer also had one and referred to the rain fly as a "dew rag" referring to its insufficiency in the rain.
I highly recommend purchasing the Hennessy Hex Symmetrical Rainfly which is much larger. After making this switch I could not have been happier with my shelter system. It down-poured many times following my purchase and I was always safe and protected. I could even slide out of my hammock and sit underneath it as I waited for the rain to stop. The larger tarp added some extra weight but it was totally worth it.
Hammocks are much colder than tents, which can be good and bad: Good when it's midsummer and scorching hot out, and bad when the night time temperature drops below forty.
You have two options to fight the cold. If you're not afraid of a little extra weight you can purchase a hammock under quilt.
Or bring a warm sleeping bag.. which I paired with a sleeping pad and worked out well.
Where to Get Your Hennessy Expedition Asym
We've spent hours researching where to find the best price for an Expedition Asym and Amazon and REI have the best deals:
If the Hennessy Expedition Asym can stand up to the daily use and wear and tear of 5 months on the Appalachian Trail it can take whatever adventure you have in mind. The price, compared to a tent, is a great value and if you make a few of the adjustments I mentioned in this article I am confident you will get a ton of use out of it for years!
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About The Author
Joe Deitzer is an outdoorsman, writer and hell of a good cook. He splits his time between the rolling hills of Northeast PA and the peaks of Colorado. The summer of 2016 he and his father through hiked the entire Appalachian Trail. You can read some of his other gear reviews and our post hike interview.