I feel bad. When my son got to an age when he no longer wanted to sleep in the family tent when camping, I thought a hammock might be a solution. Daniel had a Hennessy hammock that he said I could borrow, so I figured, “Why not?” Daniel gave me a quick lesson at the local park on how to set it up, and off we went. I set it up at the camp site, gave my son a sleeping bag, and when it was time to call it a night, bid him a good evening.
The next morning I asked him how he slept, to which he emphatically replied, “Cold!” I was a bit surprised. Japanese summers are warm and humid, how could he be cold? He also complaints of not sleeping comfortably. Weird.
A couple years later I decided to revisit the hammock as a light weight alternative when hiking, and in doing some actual research, I discovered that hammocks suffer from convection heat loss, need to be slept in in a certain way to get a flat lay, and that there are some physics involved in hanging it properly. Who knew?
To solve these issues, there are gathered end as well as bridge hammocks, sleep pads, underquilts, top quilts, ridgelines, whoppie slings, tree huggers, bug nets, knots to learn, and cool titanium bling to buy… it was all a bit complicated and more than a bit intimidating.
I eventually bought a Dutchware Half-Wit hammock to use during the summer when the mosquitos and other bugs are out in force. Although light and comfortable, the half size bug net just didn’t keep me bug free, and I didn’t enjoy using a sleep pad in the hammock. I started to look for another solution. I did a search for a bug net, and stumbled on a company called Sheltowee that had a pretty slick looking solution. After asking the owner, Alex, a few questions on Facebook, it seemed like their bug net might not fit my set up. I didn’t want to pay to have it shipped to Japan only to discover it didn’t work, so I kept looking.
As it was starting to cool down, I decided to get another Dutchware hammock. This time I included a Bottom Entry bug net and a Dutch edition HG Pheonix underquilt. I used it this past summer and fall, and it was great, but all the parts were complicated… Relatively speaking. I knew winter was coming, and that the 3/4 length underquilt wouldn’t work in the colder months. It was time for another hammock. Seeing a pattern here?
Sheltowee hammocks kept popping up on my radar. It seemed like such a simple solution to have everything integrated into a single system. They had just released their Boone hammock with the built in bug net, and I was keen to give it a try. Again, asking Alex about his hammocks, I decided to go with a Boone 20 hammock with the separate bug net to allow for more options.
Sadly Sheltowee hammocks was closed for a few weeks at the end of November, so I was worried that I might not get the hammock in time for my winter holiday. Alex very kindly agreed to rush my order and got it out in just under two weeks. I was excited to have a new hammock under the Christmas tree. However, it took a few weeks to get the hammock out of Chicago, and then it hit Japan just as everything closed down for New Years. Eventually the Sheltowee Boone hammock arrived on the 5th of January.
Was it worth the wait? Let’s find out.
The Boone hammock and Boone Topper bug net comes in two separate stuff sacks. The Boone hammock stuff sack is roughly 40cm tall, 20cm wide, and 20cm deep, but can be compressed smaller if you use a compression bag. The bug net stuff sack is 18cm tall, 9cm wide, and 9cm deep, and included two aluminium pegs.
The Boone hammock stuff sack includes weaved shock cord on one side that can be used to hold your attachment system or, as in my case, a tarp. The bug net will also fit into the hammock stuff sack while it’s on the hammock, so the bug net stuff sack may not be needed.
The package also included two stickers and a cotton bag for storing your hammock when not in use.
Setting up the hammock is pretty simple. In my case, I use Dutchware tree huggers and whoopie hooks. I simply attach the suspension, adjust the height, and deploy the hammock directly from stuff sack. This keeps the hammock off the ground, and ensures that it doesn’t get wet or damaged.
After I attach the hammock I use the Ultimate Hang app to check my hang angle, and adjust as needed until I get close to the recommended 30 degrees. Of course, you can use the thumb and index finger trick as well.
Boone Topper Bug Net
The Boone Topper is made of Nano-See-Um material, which seems to be nylon. This makes it both light weight and allows for some stretch. The trade off is less abrasion resistance as well as increased UV degradation.
The bug net works by having tension on each end, which helps create a seal against the walls of the hammock or underquilt. This tension is provided using two shock cord pull outs, one at either end. The shock cord is easy to attach with a quick tie on to my Vargo titanium nail peg.
I do have a few small concerns with this system though…
– What happens if you don’t have soft or even ground to attach the shock cord to? Will the system work without tying the ends down?
– Will the bug net still create a positive seal if the underquilt is pushed to the side for venting or in hotter weather situations, when more bugs are more likely to be out in force?
– Will “stronger” critters be able to get into the hammock by pushing aside the netting where it seals along the wall? I am talking big spiders, snakes, cockroaches, alligators, bears, my kids, and other scary creatures of the night.
The bug net is extremely easy to install and remove. It simply goes on one end of the hammock and attaches with a cord lock at the gathered ends of the hammock. The net sits on the ridgeline, and can be quickly installed or removed in two or three minutes. You can pack the hammock with it on, although this may damage the net as it rubs against the ridgeline.
The Boone Topper is very well made, easy to take on and off, and weighs in at 130g on its own, or 145g with the stuff sack. Easier to take on and off than my Dutch Bottom Entry bug net, more confidence inspiring than the half-wit, the Topper is obviously made to be a perfect fit for the Boone hammock. The new zippered version probably answers, and solves, the questions I have about the Topper, but for now I am happy with the flexibility that the removable version offers.
The Boone hammock consists of a hammock and an integrated underquilt. The underquilt lower temperature limit can be specified when ordering, available in 12°C, 4°C, and -6°C (55°F, 40°F, 20°F) versions. I purchased the -6° version.
The hammock is separate from the underquilt, which allows it to moved side to side. This allows for venting, or location adjustments. The hammock is made of 2.4oz hexon fabric in olive brown. This fabric is low stretch and very comfortable to lay on. The Sheltowee website states that the hammock is rated for 400 lbs.
The underquilt has 10 baffles that run horizontal along the quilt. This prevents the Downtek down from shifting too much in the underquilt. However, down does seem to collect towards the bottom of the quilt, and needs to be fluffed and relocated when first setting up the hammock. This takes only a moment and will ensure warmth. The underquilt is a generous length, measuring about 186cm (73″) long.
There is a strip of fabric sewn along the the top of the underquilt that acts as a splash guard, and helps block wind and rain. It’s a great design feature that helps keep cold air off you face when you sleep.
As mentioned the underquilt can be moved off to the side and is easy to slide left and right as needed, depending how you lay in the hammock.
At each end of the hammock there are a number of adjustable points to help ensure a warm and comfortable underquilt set up. On the outside shell of the underquilt there are cable locks holding shock cord that is used to take up or let out tension on the upper shell of the underquilt. This keeps the shell taunt and keeps it from hitting your face. Inside, between the hammock and the underquilt, there are three cable locks. Two of them are used to adjust the vertical location of the quilt, pulling it towards the head of feet, depending on the end you are adjust from. There is also a horizontal shock cord and cord lock that adjusts the bunching of the quilt. This helps to prevent cold drafts from getting in between the quilt and the hammock. It can also be used to open things up if you want to vent a bit.
There are also mystery tie outs along the ridge of the hammock. According to Alex at Sheltowee Hammocks, these are for an underquilt insert system that he is working on that will allow adding extra layers to increase the temperature rating of the sleep system… Nice!
The Boone hammock is a gathered end hammock. It is 10.5 long, but Alex has mentioned that he can make custom sizes if people want longer hammocks. There is a permanent ridgeline attached to help provide a consistent set-up and comfortable sleep. The ridgeline meets the hammock at the bunched ends, where the continuous loops for hanging are attached. All of these elements are contained in a bundle and wrapped with material to keep it well organized and prevent twisting.
I am 6’2″ so for my height the hammock seems to just fit. When I hang at an angle to get a flat lay, the adjustment pulls are in my face, and tap my head. This is slightly annoying, but the cord can be pushed out of the way.
I did notice that laying off center doesn’t leave me much material at the shoulder. I am not sure if this really matters, but I am constantly checking to make sure that I am not hanging with my shoulder off the hammock. I miss the footboxes built into my Dutchware hammocks, as the hammock has flopping fabric on the sides where my feet and head aren’t. Again, these aren’t deal breakers, and I find the hammock material to be comfortable, low stretch, and easy to sleep on.
I have also experienced some calf-ridge with the hammock, but I think this is more to do with my set up than the hammock itself.
There are many little extras built into the hammock that show how committed Sheltowee are to pushing forward hammock design.
– The Stuff sack with outside cord is great for carrying tarp or extras.
– Shock cord at one end of the stuff sack is excellent for keeping up on hanging system
– The included ridgeline organizer is well sized and a generous addition.
– The ends of the hammock can be used as small storage pockets for shoes, extra layers, etc.
Packing up the hammock is fast and easy. Simply disconnect one end and stuff it into the stuff sack as you walk it back to the other end. Takes about 3 minutes until you get used to it, and then you can probably do it in half that time.
The Boone hammock is a well designed, comfortable, and convenient sleep system that meets the needs to those that want to push temperature limits while keeping all the different pieces self contained. There are a few areas I would like to see done differently, but many of them are only issues because of my body size, the way I sleep, and personal usage scenarios. For someone looking for a hammock and underquilt that doesn’t involve the puzzle of mixing and matching the pieces from different makers, this is an excellent option. Alex at Sheltowee is professional, friendly, and responsive, and he seems to go out of his way to provide excellent customer service. Initial impressions are that it was money well spent, and well worth the long wait.
Long term review will come after I hibernate in the cold woods for a few months. See you then.