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.
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.
|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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
The Details: Review of Dutchware Chameleon Hammock
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
- Main hammock body (huge choice of fabrics!)
- 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
- New buckle suspension system with an optional spreader bar for hanging hammocks side-by-side from the same tree.
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!
- 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 set up 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.
It often seems like you have to pick your poison with backpacking gear.
- 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.
- 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 manufacturers 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).