In the outdoor gear industry, the following piece of conventional wisdom is often repeated: “Reliable, light, or affordable. Pick two.” This statement indicates that it's seemingly impossible to accomplish all three goals at once. For example, it's easy to find high-quality, reliable, and lightweight gear—but it's usually going to cost an arm and a leg. On the other hand, you can buy inexpensive items that are lightweight and compact, but they may end up breaking after one use. You get the idea.
So, given this saying, we're always a little skeptical when we hear about a product that seems to meet this supposedly-unattainable trifecta of dependable, light, and affordable. On the other hand, we never say never, so we're always willing to test gear manufacturers' claims and tell you the results. No matter what, we're honest about our impressions.
Recently, the team at Serac Hammocks reached out to us, and suggested we try out their Classic Camping Hammock. After browsing around the company's site, it's clear that this hammock is claimed to meet the three criteria above, so we were curious to see if it really does. Read on to see what the Serac web site states with regards to each goal.
Reliable: Serac's hammock uses strong 100% parachute nylon, triple-stitched seams, durable polyester straps, and carbon steel carabiners. It is rated to support up to 350 pounds. The company also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, and a 5-year no-questions-asked warranty.
Light: The hammock itself is said to weigh 14 ounces, which is several ounces lighter than hammocks offered by competitors such as Grand Trunk, Eno, and Kammok. The included straps weigh 4 ounces each, for a total packed weight of about 1.4 pounds (22 ounces).
Affordable: The Classic Camping Hammock is available for $37.95 with free shipping. That's considerably less than the big-name competitors—especially when you consider the Serac hammock includes straps at this price (most other manufacturers sell them separately).
Ok, so now we know what Serac says about their hammock, but we also know talk is cheap. In order to find out if this product really covers all the bases, we got our hands on one for a full review.
The Serac Classic Camping Hammock is sold through Amazon.com. If you've got a Prime account like we do, it's available with 1-day free shipping. Otherwise, the $37.95 hammock still ships for free, but only if you can add another item to get your order up to $49 or more.
When we received the hammock in the mail, we were impressed by how compact it is. In the included stuff sack with the straps, it packs down to under 7 inches by 6 inches—easily small enough to pack into a backpack or bug-out bag. We did find that the hammock weighed slightly more than claimed online, reading 1.86 pounds on our scale (Serac's site says 1.4 pounds). That's a fairly small difference unless you're an ultralight backpacker, but it's still worth noting.
For comparative purposes, we set the Serac stuff sack next to another hammock from ENO (Eagle's Nest Outdoors). The ENO sack seems smaller, at about 4.5 inches by 5.5 inches, until you realize the straps come in a separate bag. With the straps and hammock all in the same stuff sack, the Serac is definitely more compact than the ENO.
Serac offers three color combinations to choose from: Golden State Yellow/Blue, Wildflower Purple/Teal, and Iceberg Blue/Grey. The first two were a little bright for our tastes, so we selected the third blue and grey option. All Serac hammock variants come with black polyester straps.
Serac states that their hammocks can be set up in one minute, since they require no knots, ropes, or poles. We don't have too much experience hammocking, so we figured it would probably take us longer than that. Nevertheless, we were surprised to find unpacking and setup was much easier than expected.
First things first: you'll need to find an optimal location with two sturdy trees. The hammock is 9 feet long, so you'll want to select anchor points about 10 to 15 feet from each other. The 6-foot straps can accommodate a wide range of tree sizes—just make sure you find trees big enough to support your weight. If you can't wrap your hands fully around the trunk, it's probably big enough. Also, be sure to avoid young saplings (which will bend) and dead trees (which may snap or drop “widowmaker” branches on your head).
After finding a suitable location, we released the drawstring on the stuff sack, and removed the straps. Looping a strap around each tree at about chest or shoulder height, we then pulled one end through the other. Finally, we removed the hammock from its stuff sack, and grabbed the carabiner ends. One carabiner was clipped onto to each strap, and the straps were pulled firmly to make sure they were secure. Within less than a minute, the Serac hammock was set up and swinging in the breeze.
Ideally, you'll want to adjust the hang to place the hammock at about chair level, as this will make getting into and out of the hammock easier. Some cases may call for increasing this height, but it's a safe bet to never hang higher than you're willing to fall.
We've mentioned before that hammocks in general are a great choice for survival situations for a number of reasons. They're compact and easy to carry in your existing bug-out bag, and they can be set up and torn down quickly without leaving a trace on the ground below (unlike a tent). They're also quite comfortable when set up correctly, and can elevate you away from insects and other nocturnal creepy-crawlies on the ground. The Serac Classic Camping Hammock is no exception to these points.
More importantly, however, we need to compare this hammock to others in its category. That said, we found the Serac to be an excellent hammock for the price. We didn't have astronomical expectations at the sub-$40 price point, but it really delivered great bang for the buck. Its materials feel strong and durable, and we appreciate the fact that straps are included with each hammock. We will say we wish there were some more subdued color choices available, and maybe even a larger “double” hammock similar to those offered by competitors, but overall we were satisfied with what we got from Serac.
Despite the common saying that you can't have gear that's reliable, light, and affordable all at once, the Serac hammock seems to meet all of these criteria. Even if you're already prepared with a tent or another form of survival shelter, you'd be wise to consider adding one of these to your bug-out bag as an inexpensive back-up option.
For more information on Serac hammocks, visit ExploreSerac.com.
To summarize, here's a final list of pros and cons: