Sea to Summit’s first attempt at an ultralight camping hammock is a mixed success. It’s the lightest model in the test – and, they say, the world – but it’s not that comfortable, and it is small for tall or wide users. In the end, it’s more of an emergency or just-in-case kind of hammock, not one we wanted to spend multiple nights in. They’re slated to introduce a larger ultralight model in 2018.
The most distinctive thing about the Ultralight is the material: a bright monofilament nylon fabric that’s so light you can see through it. Sea to Summit had it developed especially for this hammock, with weight and strength foremost in mind. The fabric looks and feels almost like bug net material, but stiffer. It’s also very compressible, squeezing down to the size of a grapefruit in the attached stuff sack. The material makes the Ultralight breathable in hot weather, but its rougher feel and lack of give mean it’s not that comfortable against the skin.
The single-piece Ultralight was the smallest hammock tested, only 8.5 feet long by 4 feet wide, with a slim profile that starts getting uncomfortable quickly for anyone over 6 feet tall. Forget about lying diagonally if you’re anywhere close to that. Each end is gathered into a small loop of half-inch webbing with an ultra-light aluminum buckle that specifically fits Sea to Summit’s suspension system. The combination of short length and narrow ends means that sleeping bag material was often spilling over the edge like an overstuffed taco.
The suspension straps ($25) are almost 10 feet long and weigh only 6 ounces. They have reflective threads for night visibility. (Really, why don’t all camping hammocks have these?) You attach the straps to the hammock using a special hexagonal-ish aluminum buckle system that only works with Sea to Summit products. The 5/8-inch webbing is strong enough to hold 400 lbs, but to make absolutely sure to abide by the Leave No Trace ethos, get the separate tree protectors ($20), which are 1.5 inches wide and 4 feet, 8 inches in length – not really long enough for large trees. It seems like it would make sense to just make the suspensions straps slightly wider and longer, instead of making you choose between saving weight and not hurting the tree (not to mention buying an extra accessory).
The Nano Tarp ($150) was one of the best of the test, combining light weight with functionality. It’s made of 15 denier Ultra-Sil Nano fabric, making it incredibly light for its size (11 feet, 10 inches by 9 feet, 2 inches). The five-sided design offers one tie-out point on one side and two on the other, combining ventilation and views with protection from rain and wind, assuming they’re coming mostly from one direction. Each corner is reinforced with Hypalon synthetic rubber and has guyline and line locks built in. They also have grommets that fit trekking poles if necessary. The only major complaint is that the guylines on the corners that attach to the trees need to be longer.
Since the hammock’s integrated stuff sack is attached to one end, it’s not easy to use as an overnight random-stuff-holder.
Ease of Use
The suspension buckle system isn’t immediately intuitive – practice at least once by daylight before taking it out. The strap buckles have little graphics etched into them to help make sure they’re oriented correctly. The length of the straps are adjusted by sliding them through the buckles when the hammock is unweighted.
It’s handy that the hammock’s attached stuff sack has compression straps. It squeezes down to fist size on its own, or the suspension straps can fit in there without using the compression straps. Otherwise the suspension straps have their own tiny stuff sack, as do the tree protectors, which have to be coiled up neatly to fit inside. The tarp barely fits inside its sack, to the point that testers’ thumbs were tired by the end.
The Ultralight’s monofilament fabric is supposed to be as strong as regular ripstop nylon, able to hold 300 pounds. The stitching is clean in both the hammock and webbing, and the test model didn’t show any signs of wear. That said, it is made from an ultralight material, so it would be smart to take extra care in keeping it away from sharp twigs and off the ground. It was the only hammock in the test that came with a patch kit.
Unsurprisingly, the Ultralight was the lightest in the test. In fact, it’s billed as the lightest hammock in the world at 5.4 ounces. Even with the tarp (11.7 ounces) and straps (6 ounces), it still comes in under a pound and a half. The tree protectors add another 4.8 ounces. Throw in four titanium stakes (supply your own) and it’s still lighter than a full 1 quart water bottle. This puts the Ultralight well into the category of something to take along, just in case.
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HOW WE TESTED
Over the course of a few weeks, our testers spent multiple nights in each model, using the same sleeping bag, pad and inflatable pillow. Since the testing was based in Oregon, about half the nights involved precipitation of some kind. Each model was set up and stowed in each combination multiple times, on trees of varying diameters and distances. If a model is described as fitting two people, a companion was enlisted to check fit.