First off I should say that I was rather sceptical about this piece of apparatus. My initial thoughts were that sleeves were just an added expense and since I find my hammock very quick and easy to put up I didn’t really see how they would improve my experience.
I tend to leave my hammock in my pack until all my rigging is set up so I’ve never had a problem keeping it dry. I also like to keep my sleeping bag inside the hammock so once its clipped in its ready to go.
So why did I try them? It was the advent of Winter. As the temperature dropped I started using a sleeping mat inside the hammock as extra insulation, I was having to open the hammock up to put the mat in which was difficult as the sleeping bag would bunch up in the stuff sack and I’d have to take it out to get the mat in first so I figured why not give them a go.
So, what are they and more importantly are they worth it?
Instead of packing your hammock away in a compression sack, the sleeve covers the length of the hammock (as you would expect a sleeve to do). The result is a long soft tube you can stow away in your compression sack or just coil up and wrap the cordage around. You don’t lose any space and there’s no significant additional weight with the skins on.
The distal ends of the hammock are still exposed through a small opening just big enough for the cordage to be available. This is ideal if your using whoopie slings as they are so small. If your hammock has thick webbing it should still fit but it will certainly be much tighter and may be more difficult to slide on and off depending on the brand you use.
Once your rigging is set up you can just remove your sleeved-up hammock, clip the cordage into the anchor points of the rigging at either end and slide the sleeves back to each end and that’s it, all set up. Taking it down is just as easy, slide the sleeves together from each end to the middle, unclip it and its ready to be packed away.
Easy setup is a plus and it does have the added advantage of keeping the cordage separate at either end so you don’t have to spend valuable time untangling it before you can hang it.
The other thing to consider is that in wet conditions your hammock is up in as little time as it takes to clip either end into your anchors. The sleeve also allows you to lay the hammock out between the anchor points without it getting dirty or wet.
Clipping your hammock into the anchors is also easier when you only have to lift one nice compact end at a time rather than trying to hold a billowing hammock in your arms whilst clipping one end in and simultaneously trying not to let any of the material touch the floor or get wet.
Almost all the sleeves on the market are made from weather proof material which not only protects the hammock during set up but also offers an extra layer of protection within your pack should it get soaked through in rain or god forbid, you drop it in a river and somehow manage to retrieve it.
The sleeves also come in handy if the weather turns whilst the hammock is not in use. I always have a tarp canopy set up, even in the summer if you do get surprised by an unexpected shower and the wind is driving the rain sideways, it’s great to be able to slide the sleeves back and protect the hammock.
There is little to dislike about using hammock sleeves, once you try them you probably won’t go back and if for some reason, you don’t want to use them all the time they will happily sit at the ends of the hammock without getting in the way.
Are they all the same? / Which Brand to go for?
So far, I’ve tried two different brand / types of sleeves and I even made my own using an old bit of tarp. (It is possible to make your own but from experience the one’s I purchased worked far better. My tarp creation was marginally heavier and was far more difficult to slide. Perhaps if you have better sewing skills than me and access to the correct material it would work but I suspect that it would be cheaper in the long run to buy one).
The first sleeve set I purchased was the DD Hammock Sleeve as I was using their camping hammock at the time. The DD sleeve is very thin and light (60g) and has the requisite weather proofing qualities, it’s about 2 ½m long so one will easily cover the entire hammock but I have seen some people using one on either end. (Always check the length and overall size of your hammock, the length may be perfect but some XL or double hammocks will simply have too much material to fit easily within this sleeve) They cost around £9 each so are relatively inexpensive. A nice feature of this sleeve is the drawstring at either end to cinch it tightly around the end, this ensures that it will stay in place.
Above: DD single Hammock Sleeve
As with all sleeves they are very easy to fit, I would recommend fitting it to your hammock when its hanging as having some tension really helps it to slide over the hammock smoothly.
My preferred sleeve is the Hennessey Snakeskins. Primarily sold in pairs (one for each end of the hammock) they cost around $20 in the States and are currently sold on amazon.co.uk for £18.99 (pair). These skins also weigh 60g so no difference there but they are designed to be used as a pair with one sitting at either end of the hammock. There is no drawstring on these as the ends are tapered just big enough to accommodate the cordage. (Whoopie slings are ideal for this as some hammocks such as the basic ranges from DD come with thick heavy webbing that only just fit through the hole)
The really cool feature of the Snakeskins is that the sliding end of the sleeve is reinforced to keep it open in an ellipse shape, this makes sliding much easier and quicker. Each snakeskin is just over 2m long so you will have no problem covering even the biggest hammocks.
Above: The reinforced oval hoop on the Hennessy SnakeSkins makes it easier to slide over the hammock.
Snakeskins are ideal during the warmer months to speed your set up as you will easily fit a lightweight sleeping bag inside. (Unfortunately, this wouldn’t be possible with the DD Sleeves)
Snakeskins are designed to be their own stuff sack so once the hammock is covered you can unclip one end and then fold / coil it up as you walk to the other end, unclip that side and wrap your cordage around it and its ready to go in your pack. If you really need the space, then it will still go into a compression sack, I did the first couple of times but I soon gave up and found better uses for my compression sack.
It is possible to use just one snakeskin on your hammock and the other for your canopy but my recommendation would be to use two on the hammock it just makes things so much easier.
The snakeskin only comes in one colour described as a forest brown, it has a very soft silky texture and both looks and feels like a snake hence the name. If you have friends with a nervous disposition its great fun to pull it out of your pack and leave it on the forest floor for them to find. Just make sure they aren’t chopping wood at the time or you may have to find new sleeping arrangements.
If you prefer a choice of colours the DD Sleeves come in green, brown and maroon.
There are other versions available, most hammock producers have their own but in general there is little difference to the DD version and for me the snakeskins from Hennessey just have that added edge. It’s worth mentioning that if you purchase a Hennessey Hammock they generally come with a set of free Snakeskins but always check the fine print, especially if your buying from a third-party supplier.
So, in conclusion, you can use your hammock just fine without sleeves but I would recommend giving them a go I highly doubt you will regret it.
It’s rare that you find stores in the UK where you can try out hammocks and their accessories which is part of the reason I wanted to write about them as I’m sure lots of people are unsure of buying this sort of kit on the internet without being able to try it out first.
If you have any questions about this or other equipment, feel free to drop me a line using the contact form from the “About” menu. I’ll do my best to get back to you as soon as possible.
Above: Be careful where you leave your snakeskins they have been known to cause heart failure if misidentified.