Camping hammocks have been around for a while, and are used all over the world where you want to be above the ground and the trees outnumber people. The Scout Hammock Combi from Exped is a hammock, tarp and mosquito net combo that helps keep you dry, warm and away from biting things.
It's worth saying at the start that I don't really get on with hammocks. Hammocks are weird. They work really well in places where trees are plentiful and flat spots to pitch a tent in short supply, but they have their drawbacks - particularly in the UK climate. If there is any kind of airflow under the hammock you are likely to end up with a cold spot where your hips and shoulder compress the insulation of your sleeping bag. They also can be a bit of a faff to set up as you wander around looking for trees the proper distance apart and strong enough to keep you suspended.
Also, you can fall out of them. I have yet to fall out of a tent, despite trying several times after a visit to the ODG/Clachaig/Vaynol/pub of choice.
The Exped Scout Hammock Combi has some well considered features that overcome some of those issues, and an interesting design.
Inside a nylon stuffsack you get a PU-coated tarp, two nylon webbing loops and a hammock with a couple of karabiners at either end. There is also a set of instructions which detail how to rig the whole thing – a process which does require a bit of practice. It weighs in at 1.74kg, with the tarp and hammock weighing 0.675kg and 0.875kg respectively. There are no poles, no pegs, and apart from the karabiners at either end there is no other metalwork in the bag.
What is it and how does it work?
After getting to grips with how it all works I tried it out on a multi-day course, and loaned it to a freelance instructor friend for a second opinion. Our impression of the Exped Scout Hammock Combi is positive, but there are a few small niggles that need mentioning too.
I made this short video to demonstrate the Scout Hammock Combi:
To try it out I first wandered up to the woodland we use as a teaching area for our courses and found a couple of trees that looked to be the right distance apart. The nylon straps loop around the tree and back through themselves, terminating in a strip of cord pre-stitched into loops, a little like a climber's daisy chain. With a strap around each tree it's simply a matter of clipping the two karabiners into the two lengths of cord, with a bit of adjustment to keep both ends roughly the same height above the ground. You are trusting your weight to the suspension system, so as with climbing equipment it would be wise to inspect the straps and daisy chains periodically for signs of wear. While the chance of anything really serious happening is remote, falling onto your back in the middle of the night is still a startling way to wake up, and not entirely painless.
The hammock is in two halves, the bottom section being a thin nylon fabric that feels very similar to the sort used on sleeping bags, and the top section made up of no-see-um mosquito netting. An elastic cord runs along the top, which connects to the hanging straps to suspend the mosquito net. Finally, the tarp is rigged as a separate item above the hammock with a very satisfying adjustment system for tensioning the guylines from the surrounding trees.
Inside the hammock there is a double floor to prevent any insects biting through, but more importantly to house a sleeping mat (or clothes, dry leaves, grass etc) to provide an insulating layer and to prevent the cold-spot issue, without the mat flipping and ending up on top of the occupant. There are also a couple of mesh pockets to stash headtorch, watch, phone or anything else you want to keep to hand without losing under your sleeping bag.
Although it works best when hung between two trees (or vehicle roof racks, as we discovered) the Exped Scout Hammock Combi can also be pitched on the ground, using poles to keep the ends of the hammock and tarp off the ground.
The tarp is great. At 3m by 1.9m it is a more than big enough space to sort out kit under during rain, and the tensioning system is a vast improvement on the traditional sliders used for guylines. A 10,000mm hydrostatic head should withstand the heaviest of storms. There are eight guylines around the edge of the tarp, in each corner and at the intermediary points. The lines tuck away into tiny mesh pockets that prevent the spider web effect. I would like to see this on every other tent and shelter on the market. Overall it isn't a bad weight or packed size. The inclusion of some kind of pegs would be nice though, particularly as without them you need to find enough trees in the correct positions to tension all of the corners.
The hammock itself is comfortable and spacious, even with my 6'2" height and, erm, broad shoulders. The sleeping mat insert section works surprisingly well – particularly if using a partially-inflated one to curve around the body. A bit of practice is needed to get the hammock hung at the correct tension: You need a little sag to sleep comfortably, but too much and your knees will be by your head.
There are webbing tubes over the top where you can insert trekking pole sections or even short branches; this keeps the netting away from your body and reduces the feeling of claustrophobia that mozzie nets can sometimes induce. There is one part that I would like to see improved on however, and that's the zip that separates the two halves. It has a habit of snagging on the fabric either side, and I catch it nearly every time I use it. It's no worse than every sleeping bag I own, but it is still a minor annoyance.
As far as one-person shelters go this is not the lightest, but if you are planning on spending a lot of time camping in forested areas or where you need to sleep above the ground then it's as good as, or even better than, anything else I have tried. The addition of some lightweight pegs would have been nice. Aside from long term wear and tear on the suspension system and being careful with the zip I can't foresee there being much to go wrong with the Exped Scout Hammock Combi. It keeps the rain off, keeps the mosquitos (and midges) away and deals with the insulation problem. The main drawback is having to find suitable trees from which to hang it. In the treeless hills of Britian this is likely to be a major headache a lot of the time, and as such it's more suited to a lowland woodland context than to hillwalking.
Enjoy the satisfaction of swinging outdoors, day dreaming, or sleeping. Scout Hammock Combi includes a large sized hammock with mat sleeve, mosquito net, and a tarp with guylines and cords.
- Sleeping area length: 215cm; sleeping area width: 140cm
- Body size max: 195cm
- Tarp Length: 300cm; Tarp width: 190cm
- Hammock weight: 875g; Tarp weight: 675g; Rope weight: 150g; Packsack weight: 40g: Total: 1740g
- Max load: 150 kg
- Product contents: Hammock, Tarp, Packsack, Suspension Kit, Drip Clips, Instruction
- Material hammock: 15 D No-See-Um Mosquito Mesh Polyester, 1500 mesh/square inch 40 D Ripstop Polyester
- Material tarp: 70 D Taffeta Nylon, PU coated, 10'000 mm water column
- Warranty: 5 years
- Price: £225.00
For more info see exped.com
About Richard Prideaux
Richard Prideaux is the owner of established North Wales outdoor skills training and activity business Original Outdoors. He spends on average one night per week sleeping in a forest, up a mountain or on a beach somewhere in the UK and further afield and the rest of the time teaching navigation, foraging, tracking and other wilderness skills.
For more info see originaloutdoors.co.uk