Time for another ‘First Impressions’ entry. I’ve found that I like doing these types of entries because they give me a reference point I can look back on to see how my thoughts and opinions about a piece of gear might have changed over time.
Mine and ConnieLou’s anniversary was coming up and she had been asking for suggestions for something that I might want for an anniversary present. I’ve been thinking about getting a hammock with an integrated bug net for a while now but since the hammocks and bottom-entry ‘Fronkey style’ bugnet that I already have worked just fine, I haven’t pulled the trigger. Still, the thought of a hammock with an integrated bugnet was pretty appealing so I set about doing my usual online research to see what’s available. Ultimately I settled on a hammock which made ConnieLou happier than buying me something to support some of my other hobbies/vices.
There are several different hammock brands available with an integrated bugnet but the three brands that really grabbed my interest were Warbonnet, Dream Hammock, and DutchWare Gear. As I compared the features of the various models from the three brands, I began to realize that only the DutchWare Chameleon had all of the features that I wanted without having to sacrifice one feature to get another. So what would those features be? I wanted:
• An 11-foot hammock;
• An integrated but removable bugnet;
• An optional top cover; and
• Bugnet/top cover zippers that meet in the middle rather than zip all the way around the hammock or to an end.
We placed the order on Thursday, it shipped Friday and the package arrived in our mailbox on Tuesday. Now keep in mind that our anniversary wasn’t until the following Sunday so the package sat unopened in our den until the weekend. To be truthful, ConnieLou told me that I could go ahead and open it on several occasions during the week but I decided to at least wait until Saturday. Of course, when I did open the package it was just for a quick check of the contents and then a mad dash to the woods behind our house to hang it up and give it a test drive.
To date, I’ve spent a grand total of two nights in the chameleon. So what are my first impressions? Check ‘em out:
• The workmanship is top quality, as is the case of practically everything that’s made in the
DutchWare shop (American made too, BTW);
• Attaching the bugnet wasn’t overly difficult and was a bit less aggravating to attach than inserting a hammock into a bottom or side-entry bugnet;
• The 1.6 oz Hexon fabric didn’t seem to be overly stretchy and felt good against the skin;
• The bugnet material seemed a bit more breathable than my DIY bottom-entry bugnet;
• The hammock with the integrated bugnet seemed a little more confining than a hammock with a bottom or side-entry bugnet but not enough to be uncomfortable; and
• Getting in and (especially) out efficiently and somewhat gracefully is going to take some practice. I tend to get in the hammock on one side and out on the other and leave my Crocs on the side I got in on. It’s a bit of a pain to have to unzip one side, reach out to get my Crocs, bring them in the hammock to put them on then unzip the other side to swing my feet out and actually get out of the hammock. Putting a small piece of Tyvek or some other sort of ground cloth under my hammock to step out on should solve that problem.
Is there anything that I would change? The only thing that I can think of that I would actually change would be to make one of the continuous loops at the end of the hammock a different color to make differentiating between the head and foot end easier while hanging it up. Of course, I can take care of that little issue by wrapping a small piece of colored duct tape around one side of one of the continuous loops.
Is there anything that I would like to add? OK, this is where things get fun. I definitely want to pick a vented top cover and the optional Peak Shelf that DutchWare offers (Hello? Santa? You listening?). I’ll also be adding a short piece of cord to the two interior zipper pulls on the foot end of the hammock to reduce the amount of nighttime aerobics required to sit up and grab the foot-end zipper pulls. Maybe I’ll also add a piece of cord that attaches to the continuous loop at the foot end of the hammock to give myself something to pull up on instead of the hammock fabric when sitting up to get out of the hammock.
In general, I think that the Chameleon and I are going to get along well over time, especially after I make a few tweaks to ‘make it mine’.