Today we introduce the system Sea to Summit hammock : hammock, bug net, suspension strap, tree protector.
If you are a fan of bikepacking in complete autonomy, you will have to opt for a bivouac solution. The hammock is one solution, among others (e.g. tent). In this article, I detail the hammock model that I use when I go out on a self-supported trip over several days. In this article, I will present my setup used for my self-supported bikepacking trips lasting several days. I will describe each element of the bivouac, and I will explain the reason why we (and yeah, we are usually travelling in a group) chose this system.
Indeed, when it comes to bedding systems for hiking, whether on foot or by bike, there are a large number of solutions. The most common is undoubtedly the tent. However, due to the bikepacking constraint, we decided to search for a more portable and lighter system. Indeed, we conceive our practice of bikepacking only on roads in a pacy manner, which is different from relaxed bike touring. Nevertheless, we stop on the way to admire and capture scenic routes, magnificent landscapes, or singular fellows through pictures or videos. You can discover our vision behind bikepacking in the following article(coming soon,).
In this context, our material should fit in the following bag packing:
- a saddle pack;
- a handlebar pack;
- a frame pack.
In total, we can pack around 30 litres with some limitations regarding the sizing. Under these conditions, a tent with frames are generally too bulky, or the frames are oversized in comparison with our Rapha or Apidura packing kit. The only available product is the ultralight tent named Duplex from Zpacks. This tent could have been perfect both in terms of weight and compactness. However, it requires to transport trekking poles to be set, which is not possible during our bike trips.
After investigating all possible tent kits, almost fruitless, we expanded our research scope and hammocks seem a reasonable solution. In terms of offers, an extensive range of hammocks is available. Nonetheless, we have decided on the “Sea to Summit” brand for several reasons:
- a unique system avoiding mixing products of other brands at the risk of having a sub-optimal kit;
- a fastening system, certainly proprietary, but extremely fast and reliable;
- a genuinely light kit compared to other hammocks, and other bivouac kits as well.
The kit that we present also has some pitfalls which we will discuss when going into details into each element of the hammock kit, made of:
- a hammock;
- a mosquito net;
- a suspension straps;
- a tarp.
So, let’s go for a detailed presentation of each element.
The hammock: Sea to Summit Pro Hammock
At first glance, the Pro Hammock looks like any other hammock, but at first glance only. This hammock is built in a nylon cordura ripstop 70D so that it is indeed very light and resistant. Therefore, it only weighs 360gr taking 1L capacity. The dimensions of the mounted hammock are 3m x 1.5m and support a maximum weight of 180kg. In the end, this product, like all “Sea to Summit” products, is part of the high end of the price range without being downright wacky. Indeed, you can easily find one below 60€.
NB 1: This hammock is available in 2 sizes called “single” or “double”. Be aware that the “double” version does not accommodate two persons, as one could expect in comparison with a double tent. This hammock is just a little bigger for more comfort if you are tall and/or stout.
NB 2: This hammock comes in an ultralight version lowering down the weight to 155gr. This version is made of 20D nylon that forms a kind of mesh fabric that is not insulating nor breathable, which is to be taken into account depending on the weather condition during the trips.
NB3: This hammock is delivered alone without the suspension straps presented below.
The suspension straps: Sea to Summit Hammock Suspension Straps
The Sea to Summit Hammock has hex-shaped fasteners at these ends that can be connected to conventional karabiners or a specific Sea to Summit suspension straps system. Each strap has a male pin that snaps into place within the female pin from the hammock. The advantage of these suspensions is that they are compact, fast to install, and robust. Indeed, they do not need to require to make knots. To set the straps, one needs to pass the straps around the treed, and that’s it. These suspensions are packed in a small bag of 0.3L – 0.5L (I cannot say exactly) and can be easily packed. This bag can be placed into the hammock compression bag. In terms of weight, they weigh only 170gr and support a maximum load equivalent to the hammock (180kg). The suspensions are long enough to be used on two trees at a distance maximum of 6.5m. The circumference of the tree trunk should be around 70cm to 80cm. In this configuration, you will need to put the suspensions at about 2.5m from the ground. To have an idea of what represents this height, it is the height from the ground to the ceiling in contemporary homes! In the end, you should remember that these suspensions can be used when trees are separated between 3.5m to 6.5m from each other.
NB: These suspensions are available in a so-called ultralight version for a weight of 77gr. Budget-wise, you will need to spend an additional 10 euros. It should also be noted that the maximum load is lower and limited to 136kg. They are also 0.5m shorter than the standard version. There are no small savings to gain a little weight.
Tree protection: Sea to Summit Hammock tree protector
The previous suspensions presented are not wide and can damage the trunk bark while sleeping. Sea to Summit offers a set of straps, wider than the suspensions, which should be placed around the trunk. It allows to:
- protect the trees;
- extend the length of the suspensions.
These tree protectors fixing system is the same than the suspensions. If you want to pack those into your bag, you have to consider that you add an extra 135gr, which is almost as heavy as the suspensions kit.
The mosquito net: Sea to Summit Bug Net
In general, the mosquito net is an essential element of a wild bivouac, and even more necessary when you opt for a hammock kit. Indeed, a hammock is not a closed system. A bug net prevents any bug or wild animal from disturbing or attacking you (silly bird, true story …) during your sleep.
The model proposed by Sea to Summit is perfectly adapted to the previously presented hammock system. In fact, it is designed especially for it! One can install the bug net easily. No more than 3 minutes and you are done. You only need to pass the hammock through the bug net when setting the kit. Then, you install a foldable frame to give some structure to the net such that it will remain above the hammock. Finally, you end by attaching the side strings to the hammock such that the net remains as stretched as possible.
I found the bug net very easy to install, as before said. However, the side strings can be too small, especially when the distance between trees exceeds 5.5m. In this case, you will be required to have a short cord and a carabiner (to save time and energy) to ease the setup. I will come back on this matter a little further in the presentation.
The tarp: Sea to Summit Tarp
The tarp is the last element of the sleeping kit. For those not familiar with bivouacking, a tarp is a waterproof canvas placed above the hammock or sleeping bag protecting against wind and rain. The model form Sea to Summit has:
- 2 cords to be fixed to the tree;
- 3 cords to be fixed on the ground.
You will need two additional pegs to set the floor cords since they are not included when purchasing the tarp. At the price of around 100€, it is a pity that the pegs are not provided. However, it allows to choose:
- a model of good quality;
- a model adapted to the soil where you will be bivouacking.
With our practice of bikepacking with the constraints that we impose on ourselves, the hammock is the right solution. However, it has some limitations:
- Of course, you need trees to install your bivouac. It could seem obvious, but this might be challenging when travelling in Iceland or across a desert.
- If the temperature is below 10°C, it will be necessary to isolate your setup by blocking the air passing underneath the hammock. For this purpose, you can use a so-called under-quilt or hammock-quilt. It is a kind of sleeping bag that is placed externally around the hammock. While a quilt is an efficient isolating solution, it requires some extra room when packing. Indeed, it takes a capacity of around 6L, in the best-case scenario. Thus, you might need to allocate an extra bag in your bikepacking kit.
Additional and useful materials to include in your kit:
- Two small carabiners and dyneema cords. We saw that the system can be set quite easily. However, it becomes more challenging if the trees are further than 6m away. This cord will allow you to have anchor points around the tree to install the tarp and the bug net. Indeed, it will ensure to have these two elements perfectly stretched and at the right height.
- A headlamp to be able to set up the bivouac during the night, to go satisfy a natural need, or to modify your tarp configuration in a hurry due to sudden weather changes… I use the Petzl Bindi model. It has the advantages of being compact, robust, and powerful enough in terms of lighting quality.
- Regarding the pegs, you should choose a resistant model for hard ground, such as the MSR Core 6 inches Tent Peg.
- Finally, an excellent little add-on is the Sea to Summit Hammock Gear Sling. This is an extra-small hammock to hang your gear under your hammock instead of using the ground floor. In this way, you can keep your precious belongings (camera, wallet, phone, luggage, etc.) nearby sheltered from the rain. Besides, potential criminals will have difficulties to access your gears, safely stored in your bug net, which requires opening the zipper.
Before to go, we advise you to test your setup thoroughly. Indeed, it avoids disappointments as it happened on our first trip. For example, we did not check the tarp set up beforehand. We improvised mounting the tarp for the first time in the middle of the night as the storm and the rain threatened. And comes the questions: how to fix it on the trees? Where to place the pegs? Now, we know to travel with 2 extra carabiners and some dyneema cord for an optimal setup. Then, we will also know to always install the tarp. You will be better protected from the wind and because this is just better.
Links to buy this kit :
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Hammock : Sea to Summit Pro Hammock
Suspension Strip : Sea To Summit Hammock Suspension Strip
Tree protections : Sea To Summit Hammock Tree Protector
Mosquito net : Sea to Summit Bug Net
Tarp : Sea to Summit Tarp