The Hennessy Jungle Explorer Zip XL is a lightweight, comfortable hammock system with a unique asymmetrical design for a flatter, more comfortable sleeping experience. This is my review:
So what is an asymmetrical hammock anyway? Unlike a traditional hammock which simply attaches at two points and rolls you up like a spicy burrito, the Hennessy Asym series has two additional attachment points and a unique fabric cut that produces a sleep surface inside the hammock that is more or less flat, but at an acute angle from the two primary tree attachment points. It has a sewn in bug net, a sliding interior stash pocket, and includes a rainfly along with hanging cords and tree straps. The body is built from two layers of 40D ripstop nylon for complete mosquito proofness, while the rainfly is burldy 70D Ripstop polyester with a polyurethane waterproof coating. the kit retails just $259.95 and weighs 3 lbs, 8 oz packed with the included stuff sack and tree straps.
What I liked
I can’t get over how comfortable the Jungle Explorer is. The combination of exceptionally soft fabrics combined with the asymmetrical lay produces a gentle, cradling surface that is feels exquisite for hours on end. Once I get into place the feeling of lethargy swells in as I become purely content with no impulse to ever move again. Instead of a taut line of fabric, the Asym is flared out in four directions, which feels more like laying on a bundle of pillows than the inside a hammock as the walls are pulled outwards, instead of inward and upward. There is no centralized point of tension to be found like traditional hammocks, and the difference is quite notable. It’s a wonderful experience that is genuinely hard to describe, but easy to appreciate. It is probably the most comfortable hammock I have ever tested.
The construction and build quality for the Jungle Explorer are both excellent. The fabrics are tough, durable, and have shown no signs of stretching or fatiguing after lots of use. The stitching and seam quality is great. I had a real struggle finding even the smallest inconsistency anywhere in the hammock, netting or rainfly. The DWR (waterproofing) on the fly has held up very well, and the zippers (YKK brand) slide effortlessly around the perimeter, usually a sign they will last many seasons to come. The cordage is strong and has held up great too. My only small complaint is that the tree straps themselves seems fairly basic, and some of the thread work there is mediocre and has pulled away slightly, not an issue per-say, but something I observed. Otherwise, excellent build quality.
Setup of the Asym is mostly straightforward, although it does take a couple more steps than most. The hammock hangs via two rope lines, one for each of the two required trees. These lines are looped around themsevles via a figure eight style knot which ideally but optionally ties into a tree strap to prevent tree damage. The straps just go around the tree and have a loop on each end for the rope line, which passes through, under and over the strap itself multiple times to create tension and friction. This setup provides infinite adjustability of the tension of the hammock, but does require a little patience (20-30seconds per each side of the hammock once you get the hang of it). It’s a little befuddling the first time you do it, but quickly becomes second nature. The asym corners of the hammock simply stake out while the rain fly clips onto included connectors along the hammock itself. It’s simple enough, and I found it relative fun to do once I got it perfected as I enjoy really dialing down how taut my bed lays, which I can’t do with most other setups.
Pack size and weight are both pretty good. The hammock system uses no metal connections, lightweight rope, and the straps themselves are quite short, which helps shed weight and reduce the overall pack size. All in, it weighs about 3 lbs 8 oz, with an extra 4 ounces for the technically optional webbing straps. It packs down to about the size of a small melon, which I found fits handily into even lightweight day packs, perfect for hiking/hammocking sessions. For those looking for a lighter open, they do have a UL version that sheds over a pound that retails for the same price. It’s nice having the choice of durability or weight, without being punished financially for it.
The Asym has a great double layer body, which not only prevents mosquitoes from biting you from the bottom (an issue with most single layer hammocks) but also supports their insulation system which simply slots in between them. This “Heat Reflecting double bubble” as it is called reflects body heat while simultaneously trapping pockets of warm air, producing a surprisingly effective thermal barrier. As a bonus, it also helps to flatten out the hammock and completely blocks wind or any creature that may otherwise try to punch through with its greedy little proboscis. The buble layer a little bulky to pack, but is very lightweight and doesn’t lose effectiveness when it get wet. It’s also dirt cheap at $35 bucks.
Given the Asym is a complete package, I can’t help but feel like it is an excellent value at $259. For the cost admission it includes the hammock, straps, and rainfly, all of which are of excellent quality. The tree straps are technically optional, but you should absolutely choose them. Straps are often as much as 60 bucks with other brands, and they help protect the forest.
No issues with rain, condensation or wind, as expected. Having tested other Hennessy products in the past, I would have expected nothing less and I wasn’t disappointed.
What I didn’t like
The hanging system, while I enjoy it, can be a little fiddly without practice. Centering the hammock evenly between two trees can be a little bit of trial and error, requiring re-doing and undoing the knots as it is shifting back and forth, at least without experience. Some who aren’t used to tying knots (who should absolutely learn some) may be hesitant to learn the somewhat sophisticated looping technique. The print that describes the technique in detail is handily printed on the stuff sack itself. However, the print on my particular hammock was basically illegible. So, practicing a few times before taking it out for a real trip is very much recommended.
I would prefer if the kit included two simple ground stakes for connecting the asymmetrical corners of the hammock and rain fly. The lines themselves actually allow you to connect to about anything, including trees, stumps or rocks, which is likely the point, but I prefer the simplicity of simply hammering out some stakes and tying them out. Perhaps this is too many years of tenting coming through though. Thankfully, stakes are as cheap as a buck each so it’s barely worth a mention.
The dual layers of fabric can feel a little warm on hot days.
Those seeking a more basic hanging system rejoice. The hanging system can be converted into a carabiner and loop setup. Simply tie the two included ropes into a strong loop by using a “figure eight on a bite”. Then, clip climbing grade carabiners through. It’s now ready to connect to any compatible tree strap. It’s an easy modification for those who don’t like trying knots. You’ll lose some of the adjustability, but will speed up setup.
Lounging around in the Hennessy Jungle Explorer has been a blissful experience. I really enjoy the way the hammock lays level but with enough of a curve to not feel like I’m sprawled absolutely flat. The head and feet sit ever so slightly elevated when I want them to. The materials are exceptionally soft and provide pillow fort levels of comfort and support as they curve around the body. It’s fairly easy to setup, although it can take a little longer than many that I’ve tested. However, the lack of carabiners and discreet connection points means the tension and length can be fine tuned to perfection, for that perfect pitch. It’s light enough, packs down great, and provides an excellent value as a whole. Toss in a couple ground stakes (and maybe carabiners if that’s your thing) and you have an excellent sleeping system that provides sturdy, reliable weather protection.
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