Review of Dutchware Chameleon Hammock – Light & Superbly Versatile

One hammock can do it all—and well! The Chameleon, works in all conditions from hot, bug infested jungles to bitter cold winters of the Northeastern US. In the following “Review of Dutchware Chameleon Hammock,” I discuss what makes it possibly the best multi-season hammock. The review concludes with a Comparison of the Chameleon Hammock to its nearest Competitors.

Overview

Over the past few months my wife and I tested a near-production model of the new Dutchware Chameleon Hammock (currently on Kickstarter) in a wide range of environmental conditions: from the hot buggy, disease infested tropical jungles of South america to camping in the snow at 15° F in the Mid-Atlantic winter.

Why we (and possibly you might) prefer hammock camping

For those of you unfamiliar with hammock camping, know that it is our preferred method of camping in areas like the Appalachian Trail. See more on “Why hammocks are best for the East Coast and other wooded areas.” And more on this in our 9 Pound Lightweight Backpacking Gear List.

SECTION TOTALS Lbs
Clothing in Pack (not usually worn) 2.4 Rain jacket, warm jacket, gloves, etc.
Backpack and Gear Packaging 1.9 Backpack, stuff sacks
Sleeping Gear & Tent/Shelter (conventional tent) 2.8 best in high Western Mountains & treeless areas
Sleeping Gear & Shelter  – (hammock)  2.8  best in East Coast and other wooded areas e.g. AT
Click here to see the complete 9 pound Gear list

What’s Good About the Dutchware Chameleon Hammock

  1. The modularity/versatility of the hammock. The Dutchware Chameleon Hammock works in almost all environmental conditions by easily mixing and matching components. All without a weight or functional penalty.
  2. New (patent pending), 2-way separating zipper that opens in the middle on both sides in any location.  This innovative zipper is the key to the Chameleon’s modularity and versatility.
  3. Low wait times (less than a week?) for a custom made hammock to your spec. with your choice of fabric weights, colors, widths, covers, parts etc.

Oh, and it is very light. My version of this hammock is a smidge over a pound (17.5 oz) including suspension!

Review of Dutchware Chameleon Hammock

Swap in the bug net top cover for the solid cover and you have an excellent hammock for hot buggy weather. [Picture in South America along the Colombian coast at the end of a 4-day trek into the jungle.]

The Details: Review of Dutchware Chameleon Hammock

Specifications

17.5 oz (500 g) Hammock body in Hexon 1.0 fabric, bug net cover, and my personal 2.5 oz Kevlar suspension
22.5 oz (640 g) same but with included Dutchware Beetle Buckle Suspension (7.5 oz with two carabiners)
24.0 oz (680 g) same hammock but with solid top cover in Hexon 1.0 fabric
(Bug net cover is 4.0 oz. Solid top cover in Hexon 1.0 fabric is 4.7 oz.)

1) Modularity and Versatility

The Chameleon has three separate and interchangeable parts

  1. Main hammock body (huge choice of fabrics!)
  2. Interchangeable top covers; a mesh cover for hot buggy weather and a vented solid cover for colder weather. And unlike other hammocks, you do not have to pick a right-hand or left-hand lay! Just flip your top cover and you instantly change the lay direction
  3. New buckle suspension system with an optional spreader bar for hanging hammocks side-by-side from the same tree.
Review of Dutchware Chameleon Hammock

All top covers can quickly be exchanged, rotated and/or flipped to meet your needs. Almost any of a huge selection of fabrics can be selected in any combination for both the body and the solid top cover of your Chameleon. [Back to front: mesh bug cover, orange solid cover, and camo solid cover. The solid top covers retain heat, block wind and essentially turn your hammock into a warm, winter bivy sack with a face vent.]

Mix and Match Component to Meet your Needs

To adapt in different environmental conditions, all of these parts can be purchased individually, or in any combination. If you purchase additional components later, they will fit perfectly with your current components. Even if you buy a wider hammock body it will still mate with your original top covers!

  • Dutchware might also be called “House o’ Outdoor Fabrics,” for their huge selection of colors and weights — all high quality fabrics. Almost all of these fabrics can be selected in any combination for both the body and the solid top cover of your Chameleon.
  • You can buy a Chameleon with a netting top cover in the spring. And in the fall purchase a vented solid cover for the colder weather of late fall and winter.
  • In my case, I have one bright orange solid cover for fun when camping with my wife, and another camo cover for stealth camping by myself (it mates to my camo hammock body).
  • Finally, you can use the hammock without a top cover, my favorite option for most spring and fall camping in the Mid Atlantic!

Solid Top Covers are Great in Cold Weather!

Most people are familiar with mosquito netting hammock covers for bug protection. But many are less familiar with the reasons/advantages of using a solid top cover in winter.

  • The solid top cover retains heat and BLOCKS WIND, essentially turning the hammock into a winter bivy sack with a face vent.  This retains your body heat in a sheltered envelope formed by the hammock body and top cover combination.
  • The top cuts down on convective (wind driven) heat loss. But the mesh vent, located where you breathe out humid air, also vents excess moisture that might condense inside the hammock and get your down quilt wet. Finally the top cover is itself breathable, also reducing condensation in cold weather.
  • A solid cover also means that in below freezing conditions I rarely, if ever setup my tarp. This saves the time and hassle of setting up and taking down a tarp. And possibly more important for someone with cold hands, it is one less chore to do that requires the dexterity of ungloved hands. (It only takes a few minutes working ungloved at 20° F to wreck some major hurt on my hands!)

 2) New 2-way, toothed, separating zipper (patent pending) designed by DutchWare

This zipper is two directional. You can both rotate it 180 deg and flip it 180 degrees and it still works.  This is a big deal! Overall, my favorite parts of this new and unique 2-way separating zipper are:

  • I can get out of whatever side of the hammock I want. It opens on both sides (and at the same time) and in any position along either side.
  • I can slide my hands down either side of the hammock at night to check-on/adjust my under-quilt.
  • Chameleon toothed zippers mate perfectly with other zippers, e.g. other Chameleon components. [*Coiled zippers (used for almost all backpacking zippers) do not pair well, even with identical zippers.]
  • Finally, this zipper allows me to flip the top cover to change the lay of the hammock. This is nice when my wife and are hammock camping side by side and want to coordinate lays.

*Virtually all zippers on backpacking gear are coil zippers. If you try and mate coil zippers, for example, to zip together two identical sleeping bags, they won’t mesh well. As you zip, you’ll get a bit of warping and strangeness. This is because the coiled zippers come in matched pairs, and were never intended to be mated with other zippers, even if they are exactly the same type.

3) Low Wait Times for Custom Gear

It often seems like you have to pick your poison with backpacking gear.

  1. You can custom order the exact gear you want from a cottage manufacturer but then wait 4-8 weeks for it to be made and delivered.
  2. You can pick an off the shelf item (usually some compromise/deviation from your ideal choice) and get it in around a week.

With the Chameleon you can have both custom gear and quick delivery. This is assuming that Dutchware continues to deliver Chameleon Hammocks with similar speed as its Netless and Half-Wit Hammocks. [In early February, I talked with Dutchware and they estimate that once in production they should be able to finish and ship a Chameleon in less than a week.]

4) Comparison of the Chameleon Hammock to its nearest Competitors

There are other manufactures of similar hammocks. Some of these hammocks also have an interchangeable mesh and solid covers. But  before I start comparing I want to be very clear that all the hammocks below are great hammocks with established performance and dependability. You would not go wrong buying from any of the three companies below.

I own and like hammocks from all three companies. I know Brandon Waddy of Warbonnet and Tom Hennessy. They both produce excellent hammocks that have widespread use and great reputations. And Tom is rightfully considered the man responsible for modern asymmetrical backpacking hammocks as we know them (and has the patents to prove it).

Hennessy Hammocks Hammock includes rainfly.  Available off the shelf from retailers like REI.
No solid top cover option. Integrated bug net cover only opens on one side. Bug net not removeable. No color choice.
Warbonnet Blackbird XLC Solid top cover option. Integrated “storage shelf” on one side, and “extended footbox” on the other. 1 week wait.
Single zipper only opens in only one location. RH lay only. Limited color choices.
Dream Hammock Sparrow Zipper opens on both sides of the hammock (but only in center). Solid top cover option. Many fabrics and colors.
4 week or longer delivery time.

The main difference between the Dutchware Chameleon and these hammocks

None of the other hammocks offer a 2-way, separating, toothed zipper that both rotates and flips 180 degrees, mates perfectly with other zippers and opens anywhere on both sides. This is what allows fully interchangeable components, allows you to open the zipper on both sides in any location, and to change from Right Hand to Left Hand lay in the field, in just a few minutes. The Dream hammock Sparrow comes closest to the Chameleon with a coil zipper system that opens on both sides of the hammock, but only in the middle. Actually it has four zippers (two on each side that meet in the middle).

By | 2017-02-06T16:55:18+00:00 February 6th, 2017|Hammocks, Recommended Gear|19 Comments

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19 Comments

  1. Vern February 6, 2017 at 5:06 pm - Reply

    Enjoyed review. Thanks

    • Alan Dixon February 6, 2017 at 5:07 pm - Reply

      Glad it helped. Best, -a

  2. Brian February 6, 2017 at 6:28 pm - Reply

    What is the weight capacity?

  3. Keith Grefski February 6, 2017 at 8:49 pm - Reply

    The Hennessy has an overcover for $20 as well as an undercover option

    • Alan Dixon February 6, 2017 at 9:23 pm - Reply

      You are correct. They do sell an over cover. But it’s not quite the same as the over covers discussed here which zip into the hammock to replace the bug netting. Hennessy states “Overcovers only work with Classic Velcro style hammocks.” Which is to say they don’t work with zip version. And therefore you have to use both the netting and the cover at the same time. And that also gets into the Hennessy bottom “birth canal” entry and how one feels about it. And in particular, about its compatibility with bottom insulation options like a down underquilt.

      Not saying there’s anything wrong with that approach–just different. But rather than discuss the merits of design approaches between vendors… For the sake of this review, I was only comparing hammocks that have a zip bugnet with a top entry. Peace, -alan

      • Keith Grefski February 9, 2017 at 2:53 am - Reply

        I have a zip hammock and the over cover and supershelter, they make 4 undercovers for both the large and small HH’s and whether they are classic or zip models. Not sure where you got that quote

        As far as underquilts they work fine on the HH and with the overcover I have a jrb mount washington 4 I use with it when the super shelter gives up in the 20s

        Not trying to argue just providing you info based on my experience and ownership

      • Keith Grefski February 9, 2017 at 3:00 am - Reply

        From their site showing what I was saying

        https://hennessyhammock.com/collections/insulation

        • Alan Dixon February 9, 2017 at 10:16 pm - Reply

          Good to know it works with your zip hammock even tho their site says velcro/classic only. Thanks for the info. Best, -a

  4. Katherine February 6, 2017 at 8:54 pm - Reply

    Is it any more or less comfortable than a Blackbird?

    • Alan Dixon February 6, 2017 at 9:14 pm - Reply

      I would say similar comfort given similar fabric.
      For me gathered-end hammocks have about the same comfort. That is, since the basic body design is so structurally similar, comfort is therefore determined by the stretch of the fabric. My preferred “comfort” fabric weight for Nylon is around 1.6 oz, as it is stiffer and more supportive. But I generally use 1.1 oz to 1.0 oz fabric to save weight. It stretches a bit with my 160# but it’s comfortable enough. Poly fabric 1.2 oz is plenty supportive and comfortable, but is not as strong and can tear more easily. Hope this helps, -a

  5. lilricky February 7, 2017 at 5:20 pm - Reply

    Actually, the Warbonnet Blackbird XLC is available left or right lay, just need to inform Brandon what you need when you order. And the zippers on the Dream Hammock Sparrow can meet anywhere you like, not just the center, put them at the head or the foot, or the center, or off center.

    • Alan Dixon February 8, 2017 at 12:14 am - Reply

      Hi lilricky, I just checked Warbonnets site again, and no order option for LH Lay. Used to be there a LH lay option with an upcharge at some point but WB dropped it from there online ordering. Good to know it’s still available.

      Per Dream Hammock’s Page for the Sparrow: “The Sparrow also features separating zippers that meet in the middle on both sides for easy access from either side of your hammock.” To be clear this means that the two zipper sliders on a side cannot move in unison. That is if you move the zipper sliders away from center you are leaving a gap in the middle of the zipper. In contrast, the Chameleon zippers on the same side can be moved together as a pair to any position, leaving no gap. Or alternatively you can leave a any sized gap, at any location along a side. Best, -a

  6. Brambor February 8, 2017 at 10:49 am - Reply

    That shelf ob Blackbird is priceless. I can’t live without it. Otherwise the two way zippers on Dutch are great.

  7. brian April 5, 2017 at 9:19 pm - Reply

    the warbonnet comes with a overcover that replaces the bug net. You just have to order it at the same time you order your hammock.

    • Alan Dixon April 5, 2017 at 9:23 pm - Reply

      Some WB hammocks do have a solid cover option. But it’s a very different zipper configuration. It’s a single zipper that goes all the way around. As such it is not nearly as flexible in how you can configure it. E.g. you can’t un-zip it on both sides. Best, -alan

  8. PJ Diez June 24, 2017 at 12:51 pm - Reply

    Hi. Good article as always. I’m new to hammocks but a long time backpacker. I just ordered a chameleon. Question: Can you describe your “personal 2.5 oz Kevlar suspension”?

    • Alan Dixon June 25, 2017 at 1:07 pm - Reply

      Good Q PJ. It’s usually 8 to 10 foot – Kevlar Tree Straps. Loop on one end plain on the other. I use a becket hitch to attach it to the continuous loop at the end of the Chameleon and to adjust the suspension length. [Note: you do want to make very sure that this knot is tied correctly. If not tied correctly you will have the unpleasant surprise of landing hard on your back.] Happy hanging, -alan

      • PJ Diez June 25, 2017 at 2:25 pm - Reply

        Thank you. I (of course) had to look up becket hitch. That looks like a simple, efficient solution. I’m going to give it a try.

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