Using the Clark Vertex Hammock at Boy Scout Camp
This year, Boy Scout camp was exhausting (wait? Isn’t it every year?). Mornings began around 4:45 AM as we jumped in the pool for Polar Bear swims or the Tenderfoot Run around camp, and ended at 10 PM (or later) with evening campfires and Cat Eye hikes. One thing that I looked forward to every day was sleeping in my hammock.
This year I brought along a variety of hammocks, thinking that some of the scouts or leaders may want to try one out. My troop loves the Tentsile Stingray “alien tent,” which had to be used in turns during the week because of high demand. I also strung up the DD Jungle Hammock, Eureka! Chrysalis Hammock, and the brand-new Hummingbird hammock single for different members of the troop to use. One of the positive feedback items from the troop’s review of camp was to ditch the on-site platform tents and just use hammocks. Sounds good to me!
This year, my 11-year-old son joined me on his first summer camp. I had just been shipped the two-person Clark Vertex Hammock to review for my book and I was eager to try it out with my son. We spent the week in the Vertex and enjoyed out time together.
The Clark Vertex Hammock is a two-person hammock, designed around two Mayan-style hammocks connected together by a fabric spacer and enclosed with an integrated, zippered bug net and weather shield. The fabric spacer has four main storage pockets. Two of the pockets are separated by a hook-and-loop fastener that can be separated to make one large pocket.
Hammock: 67 oz (1,909 g) (in stuff sack)
Poles: 7 oz (193 g) (in stuff sack)
Tarp: 22.5 oz (639 g)
The bug net and weather shield are held up above the head and foot end with small-diameter, segmented, fiberglass tent poles. These poles help create a spacious interior but are not required to pitch the hammock. Tie-out points both inside the bug netting and outside allow the fabric to be pulled out without the tent poles to save some pack weight.
A large outer storage pocket is present on the lower foot area of each hammock, and a pouch is located on the top foot end of the hammock to store the weather shield and bug net if not used.
A separate tarp protects the hammock from the elements.
The overall build quality and construction is excellent: the stitching is even and consistent and the fabric is high-quality. The hammock comes with a multi-page owner’s manual showing how to set up the kit for optimal performance.
When going through the package, the only thing that appeared missing was webbing straps for the trees. I was disappointed with the included suspension rope, which is polypropylene based and has a cheap plastic feel. It’s a three-strand, twisted poly rope. Compared with the rest of the hammock, this was a low point. The instructions indicate using the poly rope as the suspension system by wrapping it around the tree. While this technique may work with some anchor points, it is a no-go for trees.
The poly rope is also resistant to knots and Clark secured them with bread twisty ties until the knots “set” under weight (the twisty ties are only meant to be a temporary hold and should be removed once the suspension has been used a few times). The poly rope does have other advantages: it has a lower stretch than nylon and is resistant to wicking moisture. The stiff rope also doesn’t bind as easy when knots are used, allowing you to untie a lash or knot more easily. In talking with Clark, they admit that the poly ropes are designed to reach a broad customer base who may not have any prior hammock experience. The ropes provide a baseline suspension. They’ve also designed the suspension so it can be easily removed should you want to swap out for any preferred method.
One of the first things I did was remove the poly ropes and replace them with continuous loops of 7/64″ Amsteel. These continuous loops allowed me to use a variety of suspension systems. On the foot end, since the two hammocks converge to a single point, I connected a single loop of Amsteel together on a ring or carabiner to make set-up a little easier.
Since I didn’t need the weather shield, I unzipped it to the foot end and tucked it away into the storage pocket.
The tent poles use a unique connection system since the diameter is so small. I haven’t seen tent poles this small; it’s very cool. The longer pole on the head end kept separating, so I super-glued the shock cord segments so they would stay together. I’ve been told that all the new models the pole tips have all been glued at the factory.
Clark has really pioneered the use of segmented tent poles in their hammock designs, but these have been carefully crafted to provide just the right amount of lift without really requiring the structural support you need on a tent. The smaller diameter allows the fiberglass poles to flex more as you move in the hammock, thus lowering the strain on the fabric. I guess it would be fair to call these hammock poles, since they offer a similar yet distinctive role compared with tents.
Besides the Clark hammocks, there are only a few hammocks on the market that use integrated weather shields to convert the hammock for 4-seasons. The weather shield encloses the top of the hammock creating a more tent-like capsule to retain heat around the occupants. The shield also helps block any wind or air circulation that the tarp cannot. This is really nice feature to have in an all-season shelter and a welcome component to the Vertex.
After a week of using the Vertex, one worry I have is the sharp corners along the zipper where the bug netting meets the hammock body. There was a lot of strain on the fabric right where the zipper turns. I’ve yet to try the Vertex without the tent poles, but I speculate that if I remove the poles it will help reduce the strain along the zipper line. I didn’t experience any failures on the zipper or create any tears, but it was difficult to pull the zipper around the corner.
Strain on the zipper is due, in part, to how the Vertex is hung. With this test trip, the trees were not very cooperative in providing three perfectly spaced trees. The distance between them was longer than desired and I had to climb higher up on the trees to set an anchor point. While the hang itself was suitable, it wasn’t ideal for the Vertex, and since there is no ridge line to keep the hammock in an ideal sag, the further apart the anchor points, the more the hammock will splay, which puts more strain on the zippers for example.
In talking with Clark, they highly recommend looking for locations that have trees closer together to achieve an optimal hang.
Outer Storage Pockets
The outer storage pockets are large enough to hold a pair of shoes or boots, but I just used it for holding unused stuff sacks. These pockets end up being around my upper leg and knee when I lay in the hammock. The pockets are gusseted and have ample room for gear without impacting the lay of the hammock.
Inner Shelf and Pockets
The inner shelf has a listed weight capacity of 150 lbs (68 kg), so my son and I placed our packs and gear in this area, keeping it protected from the elements and bugs. Interestingly enough, when this center area was loaded up with our gear, it made my sleep less comfortable. All the gear really loaded this area down and negatively affected the way the hammocks performed. I finally removed most of the gear and got a much better lay in my hammock bed.
I was really impressed with the tarp included with the Vertex. The deep green hue is very attractive; it’s a shade I’ve not seen with silnylon. The tarp has a rectangular shape with six side tie-outs and two ridge line points. Hook-and-loop fasteners line the peak sides of the tarp, which I’ve guessed can be used to seal closed the ends, much like doors, if pitched correctly.
Because of the tent poles, I had to pitch the tarp fairly high to clear the top of the hammock. This is actually one thing I like about hammocks verses tents: I was able to easily walk under the tarp without ducking or crawling. For better weather protection, primarily in the winter, pitching a tarp lower to the ground helps prevent drafts, but the Vertex with tent poles makes it difficult to do this with the stock tarp. Removing the tent poles and just using a guy line to hold up the bug net allows the tarp to be pitched much lower, if needed. However, combined with the weather cover and pitching down the corners, there really isn’t a huge need to lower the tarp.
Sleeping in the Vertex
With two separate hammocks, my son and I could enter and move without disturbing the other. I often went to bed after my son, and when getting in, I never shook his side or made him wake up. As I mentioned before, with the center panel loaded with gear, I wasn’t able to get the best lay, but when I removed the heavy gear, it worked out much better.
In my testing, I noticed that if both occupants sleep in the same diagonal direction (e.g, feet to the right, head to the left) it reduces interaction at the foot end (feet colliding) and improves the lay for both people.
The hammock beds themselves are typical.
Setting Up At Camp
I’ve pitched two tents side-by-side before, much like how the Vertex is set up, but I found some challenges when setting up the hammock at camp. You’d think that with a forest full of trees (or in my case, a particular camp site), it would be easy to find three trees that would work, but it proved harder than I thought. The Vertex cannot be set up if the two trees on the head end are too far apart (width) for fear of ripping the hammock apart. If the trees are closer together, that is fine; it just means the center panel is not taut, but it still works as a storage area.
Set-up on the Vertex was more difficult than using two separate hammocks, but I really liked having an enclosed space that my son and I shared together. It made it more convenient to stay protected from the bugs, and being so close, we could talk and feel close even though we were in separate beds.
Upgrading the suspension system really improved the setup time and usability, plus I could use tree straps; a necessity in many areas.
The Vertex is really a great hammock, especially if you are looking for a two-person hammock that has the feel of a sharable tent space. The “table” area in the middle is a nice touch and a convenient place to store small odds-and-ends. I wouldn’t recommend putting anything large or very heavy in the middle because of how it makes the hammocks change their lay.
Disclosure of material connection: The author (Derek Hansen) was provided with a free sample from the manufacturer for testing and evaluation purposes. The comments in this post (written & spoken) are of my own opinion, which I formed after personally handling the gear. I was under no obligation to publish a review of this item.