Thursday, December 30, 2010
Thursday, December 23, 2010
After reading many articles by seasoned backpackers, singing the praises of ultra-lightweight camping, I decided to purchase a hammock. I pored over various products and eventually decided on the Moskito Traveller by Byer of Maine. This hammock was light, cheap and best of all, came equipped with bug netting to keep those biting critters out. I was extremely excited about using a hammock/tarp setup, and performed a successful test run in the backyard. In August, I finally had the occasion to test the setup under actual primitive camping conditions. What follows is my resultant review.
At a mere 11 ounces, the Moskito Traveller is certainly light. The parachute nylon feels thin, but relatively durable. It's surprisingly comfortable to lay in, if one can overcome the awkwardness of climbing in and laying diagonally ("Brazilian style"). The attached mosquito netting is suspended overhead by two points, and generally doesn't touch the sleeper or otherwise interfere when laying down. I imagine that this is about as comfortable as a lightweight hammock can be, due to limitations on size, weight and materials.
This is where the rubber meets the road, and when it comes to practical utility, I found the Moskito Traveller to be lacking. The ends are supported by a multi-cord system which seems inherently prone to tangles and irritation. With a little patience, it is fairly easy to untangle the twists and knots, but this still makes for an unnecessary hassle. The hammock doesn't include any straps for attaching to trees, but those are easy enough to come by. The Moskito Traveller was generally easy to get in and out of, but every now and then it would slip and jerk, making entry/exit a potential problem. The bag which contains the hammock is a fixed component, and doubles as a small bedside container when the hammock is set up. This is a useful feature, and also ensures that the bag is never lost.
The biggest reason for my purchase of this particular hammock was for protection against biting insects, namely mosquitoes. The netting, while intact, did serve its purpose. The problem I found, however, was that the bugs would simply congregate on the underside of the hammock, where they could easily bite through the parachute nylon. That was a major annoyance, as I was continually devoured throughout the night. This could probably be rectified with some sort of sleeping pad or extra blanket, but then the user is adding weight which begins to defeat the purpose of ultra-lightweight camping gear. I'm also not sure how easily a sleeping pad could be incorporated--I had a difficult time maneuvering inside the hammock with just one light blanket.
In this category the Moskito Traveller also suffers. The manufacturer's max capacity is rated at 250 lbs. That seems about right, though I wouldn't care to push it. The parachute nylon is exceedingly thin, and the support felt tenuous even at my weight of 165 lbs. Included is a length of shock cord which is used to hold the mosquito net elevated. It feels cheap, but serves its purpose.
I mentioned above that the hammock is relatively stable, but sometimes "slips and jerks" when one is getting in. At one point in the night, I had left to heed the call of nature. When I was climbing back into the hammock (carefully, mind you), it shifted suddenly, pulling on the shockcord and ripping a four-inch hole in the fragile mosquito netting. Well, it was bad enough when the bugs were voraciously biting me through the nylon bottom; now they were swarming in through the hole. I'm a lightweight 5'11" who is exceedingly careful with his gear. This hammock couldn't make it through the first night. How long would it last with anyone heavier or clumsier?
- Extremely lightweight
- Easy to pack, unpack
- Self-contained bag
- Low cost
- Will not, by itself, keep bugs away
- Prone to tangles
- Cheap materials/construction
- Arguably too fragile for the trail
This product does not serve its function satisfactorily. The price (generally around $40.00) is attractive, but if you plan on using it in buggy areas, be prepared for modifications or sleepless nights. If bugs are not a problem in your area, this hammock might be okay as an ultralight alternative to a tent. Regardless of price, I expect a product to perform to its stated purpose for a reasonable period of time. Any product that cannot withstand one night of modest, cautious use, is a product that I cannot endorse.
69/100 - D+
(This photo depicts the first "test" setup in the backyard. Note that when the hammock was actually used, care was taken to level the supporting ropes and to allow the hammock to hang appropriately, per the manufacturer's guidelines.)