First Look: Grand Trunk Ultralight Travel Hammock System

I have been toying with the notion of trying out a hammock for quite a while now. And while I will admit, I would love to get my hands on a Warbonnet Blackbird (WBBB), at this time I cannot convince myself to drop the $$$ for one of these just yet. Before I do that, I think it would be wise of me to simply find out my general thoughts on hammocks in general.

Then the Jolly Green Giant posted about his “secret piece of gear” (not his secret “weapon”, as I say in my following video) in a recent blog post over on his site, Lightweight and Ultralightweight Backpacking. Without spoiling ALL of the post, I will tell you that he list’s one of his secret pieces of gear as a Grand Trunk Ultralight Hammock. When I followed his pluged-in link, I found myself drawn to this hammock…and to be quite honest, it was the $19.99 price tag that did it… Well, that and of course, the Green Giant’s recommendation!

Looking around on the site I found that the hammock was roughly $20, but the suspension  or tree slings, needed to be bought separately for $17.99, unless of course one suspension or another was already owned. In my case, this was not the case, so I needed the suspension as well. Although $38 (+ tax and s&h) is not necessarily a load of money, it was more than I needed to “ask” for at the moment…so I let it go (but stored safely in my mind).

Then just a few days ago I happened to come across a for sell thread on Whiteblaze.net in which a certain poster was selling this exact hammock, with the tree slings for $30, shipped. I immediately took it as my sign, and PayPal’d him the money! Then just a few short days later I found a box waiting for me to come home from work…

So, as usual, I will hit up some of the specs from the video, as well as some that I picked up off of the Grand Trunk site that I was not sure of:

    • Measured Hammock Weight: 11.6 oz
    • Listed Hammock Material: Polyester taffeta
    • Listed Hammock Weight Limit: “up to 250 pounds”
    • Listed Hammock Length: 9.5 x 4.5 feet
    • Measured Tree Slings Weight (In Stuff Sack): 7.9 oz
    • Listed Tree Slings Material: Synthetic 5 mm Cord
    • Listed Tree Slings Weight Limit: “up to 400 pound loads”
    • Listed Tree Slings Length: 20 foot cords each (this will vary though due to number of knots tied in cord)

So, a few initial thoughts…

The first time getting into the hammock I will admit that I was a bit nervous. I was expecting the rope to snap, or the bottom to fall out, spilling me out…or more so, for the hammock to flip around and like in the cartoons and send me flying fast as a bullet… :) However, once I got in it and realized that it was going to hold me up (at least for a little while) I managed to relax my grip a little and begin to move around a little… you know, just feeling it out…

From reading about hammocks, it seemed that many achieve a flat lay by simply lying on a diagonal, so I tried laying at a diagonal. I found that it was fairly simple enough to get shifted over and lay in a diagonal position, but actually managing a flat lay was not as easy. At the top, I felt like the material was trying to roll me over, and at the foot end the center was so tight that it made it hard for me to get my legs flat. So, I decided I would try to hang the hammock just a little tighter and try it again.

By hanging the hammock a little tighter (but still not stretched across) it did seem to offer a little better lay, however, I do realize that it will take me a while to get it figured out like I want it. So, I guess I know what I will be doing this weekend while I am on call and stuck at the house…

I will admit though that laying in the hammock was pretty dang relaxing. I could gently rock myself and it seemed as if I would rock for quite a while. Talk about getting rocked to sleep at night… but I have not laid in it near long enough to determine if I could actually completely fall asleep in it and then stay that way. Once I figure out how to hang the hammock a little better to my liking I will then give it an overnight trial…

Some of the obvious benefits of using a hammock is the ability to easily choose a camping spot. With a tent, or a tarp (for sleeping on the ground) it is obviously not always so easy. The 2 biggest obstacles for a ground sleeper is (1) finding a flat spot and (2) finding a flat spot in a large enough opening to pitch a tent. Of course with a hammock, this process is made much easier. It doesn’t matter if a spot of land is sloped, or even has vegetation growing on it (to an extent). All one needs, is 2 trees, or other objects in which a rope can be tied to about 6 feet off the ground, and anywhere from 8 to 15 feet apart (depending on suspension). Although, on the other hand, if one should find themselves in a place without these objects, well, then it doesn’t really matter and that person should hope that they brought a sleeping pad to use on the ground…

However, a hammock system could quite possibly be heavier than a ground system, especially in colder temperatures. Due to the hammock being suspended in mid-air, the user is much more subject to being cold, which means more weight may be spent in carrying insulating layers. While one on the ground can get away with simply using a pad, a bag, and a tarp; the one in the air needs all of this, plus extra insulation beneath them.

Let me add to this that I have not explored all the areas of hammocking, and especially not in cold weather, so therefore I am not familiar with all the options, or general overall weights. In my mind though, it does seem like more, although I am not trying to say it is true. I will go as far as making an assumption though that to get a hammock set-up as light weight as some ground set-ups, a lot of $$$ would have to be spent on high quality down items as well as other items I am not sure about… So, I will just leave it at that…

Anyway, as I have somewhat alluded to, there are lots of things to consider about using hammocks, and as for myself, I am looking forward to hanging out for a while and figuring some of them out…

So, until later, thanks for reading and feel free to leave a comment…

~Stick~

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About Chad “Stick” Poindexter

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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15 Responses to First Look: Grand Trunk Ultralight Travel Hammock System

  1. Karl says:

    The critical bit about staying warm in a hammock is definitely to avoid the dreaded CBS (cold butt syndrome). Pads work, but are a bit of pain when it comes to actually staying on top of them during sleeping. Underquilts are so much easier to keep warm with. I’ve suffered from the CBS too often before, but don’t do it any more when using underquilts. The downside is of course the extra $$$ you need to spend on the underquilt.
    Go have a look at Shug’s hammock introduction video series (Hammock Hangin’ How-To Parts 1-10). He explains things much better than I could ever do plus it’s funny to watch.

    http://www.youtube.com/user/shugemery

    / Karl

    • Stick says:

      Karl,

      I already know that if I decide I like hammocks, an under quilt will be the way I would want to go…I can already picture a WBBB with a nice down under quilt… :)

      And I agree about Shug’s videos. They are great. I have enjoyed watching him for a while…and now that I have my own hammock, I will have to re-watch the hammock series and pay more attention… :)

      Thanks for stopping by!

      ~Stick~

  2. Joe says:

    Nice write up as usual Stick! I put a hammock in the thought process as my Packa- Once you go Packa you never go backa. I’ll rarely sleep on the ground again! You will end up liking it so much that you’ll get the WBBB. Welcome to the addiction Stick. Happt Trails-Two Tents.

  3. Raul says:

    Stick what’s your weight…. I can shoot you a loaner Blackbird for a month (1.7 single layer). Just pay shipping both ways. The only thing I cant provide is a tarp or bottom insulation.

    • Stick says:

      Raul,

      I appreciate the offer and I would love to take you up on it, I must decline…I would hate for anything to happen to it. I will be happy I think trying out my GT UL hammock for a while. I just took it back out and hung it a little tighter and it was much nicer…I will have to spend a night in it though to see how well I sleep in one…

      Thanks for the offer though dude! That is super cool of you to do and I really appreciate it. And of course thanks for all the inspiration… once I start looking into it more though I may shoot you some questions about some other suspension systems for this one though (and of course it would be nice if the suspension system could be used on others, say for instance on a WBBB… :) ) Right now though, I would like something light and small. I don’t mind tying it off to trees at all, but would like the rest of the adjustments to be super easy… ideas?

      ~Stick~

    • Raul says:

      No problemo buddy. And the offer still stands even though you declined. It’s my loaner so I dont mind loaning it out to you since it wont be used for basically the rest of the summer.

      As far as suspension the least bulkiest and lightest is in deed the whoopies. I also have an extra set of WB adjustable webbing suspension but that’s heavier and bulkier but definitely easier to set up than what you got there.

    • Stick says:

      Raul,

      Awesome, then I will definitely keep it in mind.

      I figure if I ever do order a WBBB I will probably call to place the order. This way I can ask questions and stuff first… It seems like there are a number of different buckles, cords, and strap systems out there to choose from… Right now that makes it a little more confusing for me, but I would imagine that once I figured this stuff out more, the greater amount of choices would be nice to have…

      Thanks again,

      ~Stick~

  4. Keith D. says:

    I was given an Amazon gift cert 2 years ago and picked up a GT UL. Nothing like free. Just the same reason, wanted to find out on the cheap what Shug and other hammock oriented bloggers were talking about. It’s a decent little hammock. Can’t beat the weight or cost. The GT folks are top rate. Got a problem, they’ll talk to you and try to make it right. Right now it’s hanging in my basement and I’ll sag out in it for a nap, Nascar race or to watch a movie. Haven’t been able to make a whole night. That being said, the main drawback is that it is a rather small hammock. The GT Parachute hammock is 6 or so inches wider, as are all other camping hammocks, and a foot longer at a little over double the cost. Diagonal lay would be much easier. The double occupancy models are 2 feet wider. I had the same problems as you. The outer edges sag, you have to lie just right and always feel like your going to lose the tension on one side or the other. Pictures you see of other gathered-end hammocks, like a Speer, show them wrapping up around the user with more edge tension. I even tried to W-whip the ends Speer style. It improved, but shortens the useable length. I’m back to the original gather. It’s hung from the joists using the included suspension ropes along with an adjustable nylon web tie down strap. That’s really good for experimentation. Most comments I’ve seen say the UL is best in a tighter hang than you’d use with a WB or Hennesy. I haven’t tried it outside as we don’t have big enough trees in the yard yet. I have been restricted to day hikes in the last year and a half. I saw JGGs post and I’m going to try carrying it next time. Got to make some 20′ hanger ropes. I keep meaning to try a ridgeline, but I’m lazy.

    • Stick says:

      Keith,

      Thanks for the detailed comment. I had read over on the Hammock forums that a tight hang was more ideal for this specific hammock. So, tonight I took it back out and strung it a little tighter and I definitely noticed a difference…I need to get out there some more but work has been rough this week, and I gotta go back in the morning…

      One goal I have is to figure out this whole ridge line thing…

      Thanks again,

      ~Stick~

  5. Pat Combee says:

    I have a Grand Trunk that I use for lounging, but for camping it use: Warbonnet Blackbird It rocks!
    They are the Cadillac of hammocks. Hammocks systems are actually not that much heavier than ground set ups. 2 pounds for hammock and tarp; and about 2 pounds for underquilt and top quilt; and you can probably go less. Raul’s system is pretty darn light! Check out his summer UL video series part I. I use the Blackbird 1.1 double (but I am a lightweight and could use the 1.1 single) and I just scored my Cuben Hammock tarp with doors from Joe at Z-packs. Whoopies slings are very nice (and I like saying Whoopie sling because it sounds kinda dirty). You could easily put Whoopie slings on your grand trunk too. I put them on mine just because it makes it easier to adjust. I now hate the thought of ground sleeping.
    Definitely check out Shugs videos for Noobs; If you are really wanting to hammock, his videos will way shorten the learning curve for you.
    Nice review too. Keep ‘em coming!

    • Stick says:

      Pat,

      That is what I seem to keep hearing about the WBBB…probably why it is stuck inside my head…

      ~Stick~

    • Fu says:

      Yep, whoopie slings are the way to go.
      Also I really like having a fixed-length ridgeline between the ends of the hammock. That way the hammock always lays the same because the distance between the ends of the hammock is always the same. 200 pound test Dyneema cord is strong enough for the ridgeline.

    • Stick says:

      Fu,

      I placed an order last night for some whoopie slings as well as a few other items… crazy thing is, I will have about 5 times as much $ in my lines, etc as I do in the hammock…haha… but I think that the hammock has potential. At this point, the only thing I could ask differently out of it is lighter weight…and with the slings, etc I will drop just a little…

      I will get a video up once I get it all set up…

      ~Stick~

  6. Raul says:

    When it comes to bug protection…. you can check out papasmurf’s site this is really light and he can make it for you or you can give it a shot yourself:

    http://www.mydiygear.com/pages/projects/bug-protection/bugsock.php

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