Clark Vertex 2 Person Hammock Review

 

A fantastic piece of equipment, but needs improvements

Vertex HammockThe Vertex 2 person hammock is an extremely comfortable midweight hammock.  With the capacity of 300lbs per person and 150lbs for storage the Vertex hammock is a great addition to have to your gear list.

This review was conducted by myself and a friend while on a 16 day trip sea kayaking in Prince William Sound Alaska.  During this time the Hammock was slept in a total of 14 nights in varying setups, some better than others.  While the weather was Sunny and clear for most of the review it did rain consistently for 36 hours in one stretch and off and on an additional ~24 hours.

This review will consist of 5 sections.

 

  1. Ordering/Shipping and First Impressions

  2. Setup and Adjustment

  3. Sleep and Comfort

  4. Ease of Use

  5. Overall Thoughts

 

About the reviewer.
I have been backpacking and camping in Colorado for over a decade and sea kayaking in Alaska for 4 years.  I am new to the Hammock camping experience but have years of experience with ropes, knots, and the like.  There are portions of this review that maybe would differ depending on my experience, updates will call any such sections out in time.

Ordering/Shipping and First impressions

HammockAfter ordering the hammock and a few drip rings / straps for about $640 and waiting a week it arrived safely in a box. The hammock was nicely folded with all of the accessories in a perfect little pile on top. Beneath this however... was a photocopied version of the instruction manual.  Unfortunately the Clark company may need a new copier as it seem to take every page from the original manual and offset them so that 1/3 or more of the page was missing.  

Moving past the manual, the quality of the hammock is outstanding sans the normal fuzzy tails that come with new tents.  There are a total of 2 full length zippers and 8 zipper heads. In my case, it seems that the bottom zipper is "stretched" a bit on one side.  This is purely a guess on my part, but with hammock laying on the ground you can zip the outer weather shield and once you get to the right side/bottom you can feel'/see the zipper head jump over 1 or 2 teeth.  This doesn't bother me at all though.
There are a total of 9 poles that come with the hammock. 5 for the head and 4 for the foot. These are the smallest poles I've ever used, and understandably they do not have the interior space for a shock cord.  Two of each head/foot poles have rubber tips to facilitate easy travel trough the pole sleeve. 

Recommendations

  • Instruction manual - For the $600+ I paid for an item I would expect a actual through manual. Upon completing this review, I was left with large questions that the manual should have answered.
    • It was not explained that using tie backs on the head and foot pole sleeves is mandatory!  I did not do this and almost busted a pole when I sat in it because there is nothing keeping the pole from coming forward and bending too much.
    • There are 4 guys line loops on the hammock, but it was difficult finding the best angle to pull them from. Really, I'm not even sure exactly their purpose (though I suspect it's wind or sway restriction)
  • Tent Poles - Include clip cords or similar with the poles to help keep them together (During the review trip one of the foot poles was lost). (UPDATE: after purchasing a new set of foot poles to replace the one I lost I was provided for free, a set of clips by the company)
  • More Tent Poles - The head end poles are  black... yes black. That is not the best color for anything in the dark. The foot poles are white.  While this is a better color, you would not believe how much a 10 inch long blade of dead grass looks like a dropped pole.  I would love to see brighter poles, and, the 4 poles which have the tips need some other identification markers.  Because the poles are not connected, during setup you have a tendency to hold all the poles in one hand, then as you feed the poles into the sleeves, and run short, you just connect the next pole in the line.  Then when your finished pushing the next pole up and notice that you connected the wrong pole, it adds time and frustration.  A colored piece of electrical tape fixes this.

Setup and Adjustment

ProfileThe reviewers tried multiple times in the days leading up to the trip to set the hammock up but the lack of properly spaced trees and lack of free time meant that we also had to pack our tried and tested tent with us as a backup. In the end this was vital as I was able to use a slightly modified test pole as a replacement for the one that was lost.

I don't want to harp on it, but I do believe a complete and thought out manual would have been nice.  I had no indication at what angle I should put the rope at, or any clue how and where to use the guy line loops, pole support loops.  A manual would also have been helpful in understanding what some of the features of the hammock are.  Both the rain fly and hammock have Velcro strategically placed.  However, I find no way of A. lining up the Velcro in any useful way and B. there are not equal amounts of Velcro on the tarp to attach to the hammock.  I'm sure these questions could be easily answered if only there was a method to do so! 

The  tent shipped with very ridged and extremely slippery rope. It was very knot unfriendly and tying a taunt line hitch was near impossible. Before leaving on the trip I stopped at the local store and grabbed some rappel rings and 1 inch webbing. I also purchased online 50 feet of 2mm rope and 60 feet of 7/16" Amsteel rope. This apparently has a 20,000lb+ breaking strength and worked great. Very low sag, extremely light, and works well in the rings. I used the supplied rope to construct loops which I used to gather the hammock fabric and insert through the rings. 

 

 

 These rings worked flawlessly on both the rings and on the carabineers I brought. The only issue we had was when using the largest ring you would have to wrap one extra time around the ring to keep it from slipping.

Rain fly that comes with the hammock is just big enough to cover the whole thing, which is just what is needed.  I also have a feeling it will wrap around the hammock if I knew how. When I got the rainfly I actually had a hard time stuffing it as it was so damn slippery!  like oil coated plastic or something.

The Rainfly without the hammock set up yet

Two People One Hammock,you would think that each person would be rolling into the other, but in essence this really is two separate hammocks with a simplest shell over it and a piece of fabric between them. While this set up offers new opportunities it also presents a few challenges. On the top of that list, picking two trees that are two far apart and then sitting down!  Due to the way things like gravity and physics work, if you tie up to trees that are too far apart and put weight on the hammocks, each will want to naturally swing to the shortest point between it's supporting trees. Since the Hammocks only have a limited amount of slack between them it's possible for the two peoples' weight to destroy the trough between the sleepers, but also the roof. 

This provides a simple but effective solution is two tie a piece of strong rope loop to allow the two hammocks to only move apart from each other a predetermined amount.  I'm experimenting with using a rope ring in the middle then using it to help with adjustment.  This same principal works the other way too!  So long as the head end trees are too too close you can use an actual spreader bar tied outside the hammocks on the head end will keep the two sleepers the proper distance apart.  Both of these methods increase strain on the rope, but I think that the hammock is not effected in the slightest.

 

Using this rope I can protect the hammock from ripping apart in "wide tree" situations


Recommendations

  • Throw that rope in the trash! - Sure, it has the one advantage of being non water wicking, it totally sucks.
  • Update the tent poles - I'm not sure if they are saving Clark like 5 bucks an order but they could use a bit of modification.
    • It's extremly easy to loose the poles as there is no shock cord.
    • The poles are black and white making them hard to find at night or in cases with tall dead grass
    • It very easy to put the poles in out of order due to the end poles being indistinguishable from the middle poles.
  • Explain things better  Even if I use the online manual things are not explained well.
    • What is the black webbing on the head ends?  is it a guide on how much to separate the heads? or is it protection to keep the heads from ripping apart?  If it's protection then why say not to use trees that are further than X apart?
    • When should use tie back the poles?  how much since they tighten when you get it?
    • Questions like these had to be found out in the field and it would have been nice to read about them first.

Sleep and Comfort

ProfileThe real test of any sleeping system is how well can you sleep and how comfortable are you?

I was quite sceptical when I purchase the hammock if it would be comfortable.  I own several other day hammocks and whil they are nice, you can't quite sleep in them...  I must note that I have yet to sleep in this hammock without any type of mat. I would, each night roll out my 5 foot long 1.5 inch air matress which I believe does quite a bit in smoothing out the curve of the hammock.

 

Day  comfort is not as important and sleeping but it is worth noting.  The Vertext hammock has somewhat high sides (to help with keeping you in I'm sure).  This makes hard to sit and hang your legs over the side.  It doesn't make it hard on you, but you rest the weight of your legs on a 6-8 tall sidewall which has the zipper on the edge.  During our trip I never felt comforatble putting my full leg weight on this wall as it seem to really pull on the zipper.  I was really afraid at times that I was putting to much strain on the hammock.

Me getting in the hammock after a long day of paddeling.  Notice the high walls that my legs are resting on

Night  comfort is what it's all about it.  This hammock when properly setup (and in our case with a sleeping pad) is hands down the most comfortable camping sleep you can have, period!  When properly set up, I would have a hard time picking the bed over the hammock.  There are no bumps, roots, rocks, damp swampy ground, but a sooth always predicable cloud to lay on.  This review was preformed in PWS Alaska and while it may look like there is dry ground in many places I can tell you that in 99.5 cases if your not standing on rock then at best it's dry ground only until you put your weight on it and then the spongy ground will let the water come forth!  So having the ability to get off the ground is extremely nice.  We woke up each morning on the trip energized and ready to go, well, once we tore ourselves from the perfect bed for the night!  I have gone on the trips many times and I'm being 100% honest when I say that I have never went a full 16 days camping and never once heard "my back hurts".  The ability for this hammock to provide a perfect sleep makes up for all it's other shortfalls.

Me getting in the hammock after a long day of paddeling.  Notice the high walls that my legs are resting on


Ease of Use

While it was expected that a hammock would be more difficult to set up than a tent I was surprised at the learning curve.  The knots are easy to learn, and the hammock itself is not hard either.  The real challenge comes in working with variables.  Sure you need three trees, but rarely will you find three perfectly spaced trees.  More often, you'll find that one of the head end trees may be in line, but several feet further away from the foot tree than the other head tree.  It took a while to learn that no matter where the trees are the angle at which the hammock attaches  must be the same for all points, and it seems that about a 8-10 degree angle is what your looking for.  Any more than this and you really will start feeling like a banana, any less and you increase strain on the hammock making it hard to close and potentially can harm the hammock.

 

Several  
of our hanging setups were not ideal.  This cause for some late night stress as we had to think on our feet (cold and wet they were!).  Each time we learned something new, and it usually was something that you want to NOT do.  Thank goodness for AmSteel rope, I happen to have about 50 feet of 7/16" on me and it saved our asses on more than one occasion.

 


Review Video



 

Day  comfort is not as important and sleeping but it is worth noting.  The Vertext hammock has somewhat high sides (to help with keeping you in I'm sure).  This makes hard to sit and hang your legs over the side.  It doesn't make it hard on you, but y


Overall Thoughts

ProfileThe real test of any sleeping system is how well can you sleep and how comfortable are you?

I was quite sceptical when I purchase the hammock if it would be comfortable.  I own several other day hammocks and whil they are nice, you can't quite sleep in them...  I must note that I have yet to sleep in this hammock without any type of mat. I would, each night roll out my 5 foot long 1.5 inch air matress which I believe does quite a bit in smoothing out the curve of the hammock.

 

Day  

comfort is not as important and sleeping but it is worth noting.  The Vertext hammock has somewhat high sides (to help with keeping you in I'm sure).  This makes hard to sit and hang your legs over the side.  It doesn't make it hard on you, but y