Friday, 2 October 2009

Hammock – Eureka Chrysalis

Back in the fall of 2002 I went on a canoe trip to Algonquin P.P. Along for the ride was a very cool piece of gear – a hammock designed and made by one of my co-workers, David Helsdon. It was the bug that bit me and infected me with the hammock craze. The camo one is the early model that I used. (Behind it is one of the newer Eureka Chrysalis models)
(photo by David Helsdon)
It’s a spreader bar model, with essentially a cocoon that surrounds it. The hammock it self was mesh, with a very ergonomic shape, which made it a very comfortable sleep. Different portions of the covering could be moved out of the way, if desired. At both the foot and head end there was quite a bit of storage room. At the head I had room for a 3 day pack. The bottom of the “cocoon” was far enough below the hammock itself that there was room to stash some stuff. I put my rain coat there so that if I needed to get out and it was raining, it was within easy reach. It wasn’t really meant for my sasquatchian frame, but I managed all right. The first night had weather that is honestly the worst weather I’ve ever been outdoors in. Torrential downpours, howling gale force winds, I heard three trees crash down to the ground during the night, one so close that I had to get out to see that my camp mates hadn’t been crushed. Other than the worry that the trees I was suspended between might come down on me, I was positioned with the wind at my head, so I rode out the storm comfortably and totally dry.

All in all, I liked it. I liked the whole idea of hammock camping. My only complaint about the hammock was weight. 8 pounds I think it was. Okay on a canoe trip with not much in the way of portages. Car camping? Sure. On a backpacking trip? Forget it.

Dave got a patent on his hammock, and it has finally come to market. Produced and marketed by Eureka no less.

It has changed quite a bit from the early model. It’s a lot lighter (although still heavy), and the bottom of the hammock is now the bottom of the whole unit. No longer is there a separate bottom, apart from the hammock bottom. In the old model, it would have been possible to rig an underquilt of some sort beneath the hammock. I don’t see an easy way to rig an underquilt to this. In this model, the only sort of insulation I can think of would be a ThermaRest or some other sort of pad, which since this isn’t a double bottom hammock, would have the same high suckage factor as it does in any other hammock that’s not a double bottom.

Here is an article about the launch of it from the Aylmer Express. (Which coincidentally enough is where we both worked and met.) The bottom right image shows very well the shape of the actual hammock of the early prototypes.
Back in the summer I visited with some friends in lovely Springfield. My pal Dawn had one of the newer Eureka models, so I snapped some photos of it. This can’t really be considered a review, since I haven’t actually used it in any real sense, but I figure folks might want to have a closer look at it.
Ventilation slots at the head end.
This is the buckle attachment system that is used, and I don’t think much of it. It adds WAY TOO MUCH weight and I just found it really finicky (which admittedly like many things, you’d probably get used to it once you’d used it for a while). I told Dave to ditch this and go with a descender ring attachment system, since it’s simpler and a lot lighter, but he seems awfully wedded to this idea.
End caps.
The underside. The orange bits on the left are the protectors for the spreader bars when packed up. The spreader bars are two sections that piece together during assembly. I’m a little puzzled as to why the bottom consists of segments that are then seam taped. The only thing I can surmise is that it was done to allow the contoured shape of the hammock itself. If it’s not that, I think it’s a design flaw.
This image and the above two show one of the drawbacks to this design. Since there are no side guy wires, it’s at the mercy of the wind. Now admittedly there is nothing in it at the moment, but even with someone in it, I wonder how badly it would be buffeted by the wind. It could be positioned with the with the feet or head into the wind, but sometimes that isn’t an option, and sometimes the wind changes direction.
The inside showing the spreader bars, and the storage area behind the head.
There is a tag inside it that states the weight limit is 225 lbs. Furthermore, this hammock is best suited to people under 6'. I go over that by about 10-15 pounds, and I’m definitely over the height limit, but I jumped in anyway to take some pictures.
Foot end showing storage space.
The ridge line and the webbing that runs vertically down the sides to help form the tent shape. You can also see some small webbing loops on the ridge line that can be placed where desired so that items can be hung from it.
Vent at the head end.
Some views of the side windows.
Two views showing two different hammock systems – the Hennessy Hammock and the Eureka Chrysalis. Of the two I think the HH offers several advantages. The side guy lines make it very stable, even in heavy winds. The separate tarp is to me perhaps the biggest advantage. While it is a little more head on into the wind here, (in the earlier pictures, the wind was hitting the Chrysalis broadside), even if it were to batter the HH tarp from the side, I would still have a sheltered and dry spot to cook, change, sort and repack. Under the same circumstances, and the Chrysalis was up on its side due to the wind like in the pictures, you would have nowhere to do any of those  and still stay dry. It would necessitate the carrying of a separate tarp anyway to create a sheltered area for food prep, camp admin, etc. This would add more weight to what is already a pretty hefty package, not to mention bulk. A separate tarp would be okay if you were on a canoe trip with a bunch of people, or car camping. But for solo or duo hiking/backpacking, it’s just not that feasible.

The Chrysalis is definitely a pretty comfy system to sleep in. In summer. Or in colder temps if you don’t mind engaging in a wrestling match with a sleeping mat. And you have to be of average height. And you can’t be a lard ass.

I suppose like anything, it has its pros and cons. If you don’t have to carry it, or very far, and you don’t mind bringing an extra tarp for a cooking area, its comfort makes it worth looking at. The internal storage compartments are a feature I really like a lot. Something I really miss in my HH. The two side entrances are good. But if you’re a backpacker who is concerned about reducing pack weight, or a stealth camper (the orange webbing sticks out) this is a hammock you’ll want to take a pass on.


  1. Hi,
    good info, i have just got hold of one of these eureka hammocks, and as you said, the weight limit is 225lb, i like you are a bit over that, did you feel ok in it?, ie did it creek under the extra weight or did it feel ok?
    Regards Gary.

    1. Hi Gary,

      The original model I tried 11 years ago. It was fine with my weight. The newer model I lay in for a few minutes at most. Like I said, I don't really consider laying in it for a few minutes, a true review. Did it creak? I really don't recall and I don't think I can fairly assess whether it would given the length I lay in it.