Tent manufacturers have become so obsessed with cutting weight that we have US$1,800 tents that weigh little more than a bottle of beer. Backpackers that really want to cut weight to near-zero would rarely choose a tent, however. Instead, they’d use a lighter option like a bivouac sack. The Alpine Hammock packages the light weight of a bivouac with the comfort of a hammock tent, creating one light, versatile wilderness accommodation.
Like a number of other serious fastpackers, Mike Brown and Ryan Stolp, two recent engineering graduates of Tufts University, found themselves moving from buying gear to developing their own. Brown explains that after trying out other lightweight one-person shelters like a tent, backpacking hammock and bivy sack, he found that none was 100 percent perfect. He liked the comfort of a backpacking hammock but wasn't sold on the high pack weight when factoring in bug nets, tarps and other hardware. On the other hand, he liked the light weight of the bivy sack but didn't find it particularly comfortable. So, he and Stolp combined them into one versatile product called the Alpine Hammock.
The Alpine Hammock is a lightweight sleeping shelter that works as both a camping hammock and bivy sack. It includes zippered no-see-um bug netting and a waterproof-breathable rain fly, which are both separate from the main hammock body. In this way, it can offer full protection from bugs, weather or both but still serve as a regular open-top hammock.
The market is already swelling with backpacking/camping hammocks from companies like Hennessey Hammocks, ENO and Exped.The Alpine Hammock is one of the few that double as a bivy sack, however. Essentially a waterproof ground sack designed to fit around your body and sleeping bag, the bivy sack is a type of streamlined shelter popular with climbers, mountaineers and backpackers because it offers full protection in a package that's smaller and lighter than a tent. As in the hammock configuration, the Alpine bivy lets you zip in just the bug netting for better ventilation or batten down the rain fly to seal out water and wind.
Adding bivy sack capabilities gives the Alpine Hammock versatility that average hammock-tents don't have. It can be used in desert and high alpine environments where trees may be scarce or nonexistent. Certain backpacking trips, such as mountain summits where you climb above the treeline, may involve both forested and non-forested camps, and the Alpine Hammock lets you adjust on the fly to those different environments.
In its current prototype form, the Alpine Hammock weighs in at 1 pound 6.4 ounces (600 g), which does not include the suspension system for hanging it in the trees. Brown and Stolp intend to increase the strength of the hammock, so the final weight is likely to rise, with a set goal of no more than 2 pounds (900 g).
The duo are currently looking to raise funding to pursue research and development of the Alpine Hammock. They are more than halfway to their Kickstarter goal of $40,000 with just over a week left to go. Should the campaign prove successful, they plan to devote the funding toward purchasing materials, paying for trademarks and patents, and testing the hammock-bivy out with the U.S. Navy Seals and outdoor guides.