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Hennessy Hammocks Supershelter: Field Tests

The Hennessy Hammock Supershelter contains three components: an Undercover, an Underpad, and the Overcover. The Undercover is a waterproof, windproof, Silnylon layer that provides another layer of material under the hammock protecting your back from the cooling effects of the wind (9.0 oz).  The Underpad is a foam pad (8.3 oz) that is sandwiched between the UnderCover and the Hammock, and the OverCover is a Silnylon layer that covers the no-seeum netting on top of the hammock (with the exception of a ventilation hole), blocking heat loss and providing another wind barrier.

I’ve tested the UnderCover and UnderPad on a number of long backpacking trips in Vermont and New York State over the past year in nighttime temperatures ranging from the mid-twenties to the mid-fifties (F), but I can’t say that I’m completely satisfied with them. I just received the OverCover from Hennessy and will be testing it when temperatures drop in a few months.

The UnderCover, like the Hennessy Hammock itself, has a birth canal style opening that you poke your head through to enter the hammock. To install it, you loop it under the Hammock and thread the Hammock ridgeline through its ends. There are elastic bands at the ends of the UnderCover that you then loop over the hooks attached to the ridgeline and adjust to tension it. The UnderPad shown in the picture below, is a foam pad that you roll up for storage in your pack. To install it, you unroll it between the UnderCover and the Hammock, again attaching elastic bands over the ridgeline hooks.  However, unlike the UnderCover, the UnderPad does not have a birth style channel making it very awkward to get in and out of the hammock.

Henessy Hammock SuperShelter UnderPad Hammock Insulation

Hennessy claims you can just simply slide the pad out of the way to enter the hammock, but it is impossible to grasp it once you are inside without putting your hand right through the foam material, as shown in the picture above. Since you can’t reposition the pad, it stays under half of the hammock and you end up getting chilled at night.

After much experimentation, I discovered a solution to this problem. I fold the UnderPad in half and position the upper half that is located above the birth channel split, between the UnderCover and the hammock, as intended. Getting in and out of the hammock at night to pee is easy and I don’t have to fumble with the position of the UnderPad when I get back in. The area under my legs remains uninsulated but my sleeping bag has enough insulation to keep me warm. In addition, I don’t tie-in the UnderPad to the UnderCover using the hammock side guy lines and it stays in place. I’ve found that using the guy line tie-outs is a major contributing factor to UnderCover and UnderPad misalignment and you are better off not using them at all.

This layout works well down to the mid-thirties, except that in the morning, there is a noticeable amount of condensation on the inside of the UnderCover and soaking the UnderPad that you need to let dry or towel down before you pack up for the day. In colder weather, I also slip a small pad that I carry under my sleeping bag inside the hammock and under my back if I need a little more insulation under my core.

The lack of a birth channel and these condensation issues make the UnderPad solution a sub-optimal solution in my opinion. I like the JRB Nest, a down filled under quilt with a birth channel split much better for insulation down to the high thirties. I have not layered an UnderCover below the Nest yet, but plan on trying this later in the year.

Disclosure: The author owns this product and purchased it using their own funds.


  1. Earlylite,

    Did you use the space blanket on top of the pad as suggested by Hennessy? The only time I have had any significant condensation is when I did not use the space blanket, which also added quite a bit of warmth. Also, isn't it designed to only cover the right side of the hammock at the foot end, which is all you need with a diagonal position? I just push mine to the right side when entering and it pops right back to where it is supposed to be when I get in, I don't have to do anything. I have not tried it without the side tie-outs. I'll have to try that!

  2. I went back to the Hennessey web site this morning and saw the space blanket comment. It makes perfect sense that a space blanket would reduce the condensation. I assume it must be placed over the underpad. I wasn't under the impression that the underpad required diagonal sleeping and it's not how I prefer to sleep in the hammock, but I could see the underpad working better if you slept that way. However, I'm still sold on the Jacksrbetter down underquilt Nest as the way to insulate an HH and they've also just introduced a Winter Nest

    with even more fill. Part of the reason is simply compressibility. The HH underpad is very bulky in my tiny ultralight packs, whereas a down underquilt has the predictable compressibility of a 800+ fill down bag. Thanks for your comment. Look forward to more.

  3. I forgot – you should also check out JustJeff's site on Hammocks and staying warm –
    I recall reading on his site that he has used an exped downmat 7, this is a downfilled inflatable sleeping pad, as cold weather insulation for his Hennessy hammock. I was going to give this a shot too since I own one. They have as much insulation as a down bag but provide a better vapor barrier than the nylon cover of an JRB nest, and they compress extremely well, down to the size of a down sleeping bag.

  4. This is great to go back and re-read. My son and I just got our first HH's and are now considering if we want to add insulation for cold-weather camping. The JRB underquilts are very expensive, so it's nice to see all the DIY stuff that JustJeff references. Thanks.

  5. I went back and looked again myself – pretty wild stuff.

  6. i just purchased my HH, and I am looking into the supershelter. the nest is too expensive and my concern is weight and size for portability. Most of my trips are to the Boundary waters and in early May temps could fall to 15dgree's or less @ night. The supershelter looks easy to setup, but will it be warm enough with space blanket over underpad?


  7. There's no way. I'd buy a winter nest if you insist in hanging a hammock in those conditions. Let me put it this way. If you sleep in a hammock in cold weather, you need as least the insulation equivalent of sleeping on the ground in the same temps. The under pad in the super shelter is simply a foam pad – hyped beyond belief.

  8. I will also have my sleeping bag.. 15deg in the hammock as well, thinking of bringing my mummy bag instead now.

    I'm trying to go lite,and small, but don't want to freeze either. we usually go for 10+ days, so fish poles, minimal tackle, gear, MRE's and dry change of clothes add's up.

    What about some DYI undercovers? the pads I found on another site.. i'll post it here later when I find it again..

    Any info earlylite is much appreciated..


  9. I hate to rain on your parade, but using a hammock in winter conditions requires so much extra insulation (you are lying on your mummy so it's not insulating your back) that you'd do better to just bring a tent or tarp and sleep on the ground. You'll need less gear and you'll save weight. I don't even think about a hammock until June in New England.

  10. I just returned from a 1 night backpack trip in te PNW. I used the hennessy Asym Zip (side entry) with the undercover & pad with a space blanket, plus the over cover. My pack with the hammock system, sleeping bag, and extra clothes was mere 16 pounds before 10 essentials and food.

    We got 2 inches of rain in a 24 hour period and the temp dropped to just over freezing. Due to the rain we retreated to our respective shelters right after dinner and stayed there until about 7 am (thank God I saved a few web pages for reading on my Droid – 12 hours in the sack). I was totally warm and dry and spent the majority of the evening with my bag mostly unzipped. My back doesn’t do well on the ground even with my upsized thermarest, but does great in the hammock! I can’t imagine spending 12 hours in a small tent waiting out the rain.

    I did have quite a bit if condensation on the over cover which was likely increased due to the heavy rain but not so much that it affected my sleeping area.

    The best part was waking up dry. My back backing friends all had some level of water in their tents – even the ones that were higher end. My backpack was clipped on a carabineer on the strap where I tied my hammock off and I draped my poncho over it – it stayed dry as well!

  11. Bought down throw quilt at COSTCO. Folded it double and sewed the perimeter and added loops for the elastic cordage (both end loops and sides). Used it instead of the Hennessy underpad. Spent a couple of nights in it last week during storms. Warm, comfortable and the throw is VERY light. Total cost was about $24.

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