Lawson Hammock Blue Ridge Camping Hammock Long Term Review
Quick info for the attention span challenged:
- Do you like the Lawson Blue Ridge Camping Hammock? Yes, I do. I honestly wasn’t sure that I would, but find it to be a nice hammock for certain situations.
- How much weight can the Lawson Hammock hold? Lawson list a 275 Lb weight limit, but given the heavy materials used in the Lawson Hammock, I expect it can safely hold a good bit more.
- Is the Lawson Camping Hammock a good value?Depends on your intended use. If you are a base camp or car camper, then it very well could be. If you are a backpacker, it is a bit bulky and heavy. There is a lot of subjectivity in how any hammock sleeps. If you sleep well in it, then it has value. If you don’t sleep well in it, then even for free it might be a bad value for you.
Long term review
This is the long term review of the Lawson Blue Ridge Camping hammock after about a year of having it in our test inventory and about 25 nights of use in a variety of conditions.
*many of the links will take you to a trusted retail site where you will find additional product info and can purchase the Lawson Blue Ridge Camping Hammock, if you like.
Where to get one
If you would rather purchase hammock stuff than make it:
DIY projects if you prefer to make your hammock gear
- You can get a kit from Ripstop By The Roll (link) and make your own.
- How to make an Insultex Hammock UnderQuilt (UQ)
- How to make a Hammock UnderQuilt (UQ) from a poncho liner
- How to make a No-Sew Hammock UnderQuilt (UQ) from a poncho liner
- How to make a camping hammock tarp
- How to make a DIY camping hammock
From the Lawson website:
- Total Weight: 4.25 lbs.
- Length: 90 in.
- Width: 42″ in.
- Packing Width: Packs to: 22 x 6 in.
- Weight Limit: 275 lbs.
- Styles: Forest Green
- Large no-see-um net canopy
- Hammock body made of ripstop nylon pack cloth
- Waterproof nylon rain tarp
- Waterproof nylon border on the canopy protects against water blowing up under tarp
- Strong aluminum-alloy poles and shock corded aluminum archpoles for the canopy
- Double coil nylon zipper
- Two interior storage pockets inside hammock
- Nylon rope
- O-ring in ceiling for hanging light
- Brass-plated grommets reinforced with nylon webbing
- Stuff sack
- One-Year Guarantee
- U.S. Patent
Wes at Lawson Hammocks sent the Blue Ridge Camping Hammock as a T&E sample for review.
Intro/preview: If you care to see our initial impressions, then see our Preview Review here.
Set Up instructions: We have a pictorial article showing how to set up the Lawson Blue Ridge Camping Hammock here.
We are editing the video and will add the link here soon.
The Lawson Blue Ridge Camping Hammock is a rather unique design that blends aspects of a modern camping hammock with an old school jungle hammock and a bivy tent. From the modern camping hammock we have the semi-integrated rainfly, small pockets inside for storing glasses, phones, and other personal items and integrated mosquito net. From the jungle hammock are the spreader bars at head and foot end of the hammock, giving it a rectangular shape when in use, and weaved system of support ropes. From the bivy tent are the rectangular shape, coated bottom material and aluminum arch poles at each end to hold up the mosquito net.
Tension, hang angle and ridgeline:
Missing is the structural ridgeline of other camping hammocks like those from Hennessy and Warbonnet. Functionally, a structural ridgeline allows the user to hang the hammock anywhere within a range of hang angles (more on how to hang your hammock at the correct angle here) and get the same amount of sag in the hammock itself. From a practical standpoint, more care must be taken when hanging hammocks without a ridgeline as subtle differences in hang angle can have a dramatic impact on the feel of the hammock… often described as the “lie” of the hammock.
Compared to a hammock with a structural ridgeline, the Lawson Hammock is much more sensitive to how tight or loose it is hung. Too tight and the Blue Ridge Camping Hammock feels tippy. Too loose and it assumes a banana shape that isn’t overly comfortable. The good news is that taking the time to experiment and find the angle that you like best for the Lawson Camping Hammock is very worthwhile. When you find the hang angle sweet spot the Lawson is both rather stable and comfortable for sleeping. I find that it is still tippy if I sit up, like when putting on or taking off a shirt. Due to the design of the mosquito net and the arched aluminum poles at each end, I do not think it would be possible to add a ridgeline.
So, I recommend that new Lawson owners, or those that have struggled to get comfortable in the Lawson Hammock, take the time to do a test hang to tighten and loosen the suspension until you find the tension/angle that works best for you. Then take pictures so you can commit the angle of the suspension to memory and duplicate it easily on future trips.
Straight out of the box the Lawson Hammock requires that the user supply the suspension system… the ropes to connect each end of the hammock to the trees or post that will support it. With so many different suspension options gaining popularity lately, it is easy to understand if Lawson opted to leave out a suspension since many users would just remove it and replace with what they prefer.
For example, those coming from recreational hammocks like the Eno or Grand Trunk, may prefer daisy chain straps that allow 5-15 different adjustment points on each end of the hammock. Others accustomed to camping hammocks may insist on a continually adjustable suspension system like Whoopie Slings (click here for DIY instructions) made from 7/64” Amsteel. Ultralight hikers may opt for Dyneema or another very thin, light, strong line to keep their weight to a minimum.
I would like to see every camping hammock maker ship their hammocks with, at minimum, a basic suspension setup, even if just a rope like Hennessy uses, and a set of 1.5” – 2” wide tree straps to spread the compressive forces of the forces of the suspension line on the sometimes delicate outer n layer of the tree. Here is a tutorial on 3 easy ways to make tree straps.
How to lay in a Lawson Camping Hammock:
I am actually writing this from a Boy Scout camp where one of my mini gear-head’s Boy Scout troop is spending the weekend. One of the Scoutmasters asked me this morning while I was still in my hammock “Why is your hammock twisted?”
What he meant was, the head of the hammock was tipped to the right side and the foot end was tipped to the left side. He assumed that since it is a rectangular hammock, that I would lay straight down the middle. That is what I assumed at first as well. In all of my other hammocks it is expected that the occupant will lay diagonally across the centerline of the hammock, which allows the head and feet to align more naturally with the mid-section. It is really rare to find a setup that allows for a completely flat lie. However, with the right tension on the ridgeline one can usually minimize the amount that their head and feet are above their mid-section. Without a ridgeline and lying straight down the middle of the hammock would require a really tight suspension to minimize the low mid-section, banana lie… and hanging the Lawson that tight would make the hammock tippy. I found a nice happy medium by loosening the suspension a bit for about a 25 degree angle on the suspension lines and lying diagonally across the hammock. I tend to put my head towards the head end right corner (while lying on my back) and my feet towards the foot end left corner.
To me, the main feature that defines a “camping hammock” and distinguish it from a “recreational hammock” is a bug net. It is possible to enclose a recreational hammock like an Eno single or double nest, giving them bug protection. Some people prefer to NOT have a bug net. I prefer a bug net as I don’t care to wake up to the feeling of bugs crawling on me at night. The no-see-um mesh used is heavy enough to be durable, but light enough to breathe fairly well. It does stop some breeze, but is well worth it to keep the bugs out.
Maybe as important to me, the tension that the bug net puts on the sides of the hammock create side walls that keep my stuff from falling out of the hammock as I roll around in my sleep. The Lawson Blue Ridge Camping Hammock’s low fabric side walls and integrated full length bug net do a great job keeping me, my top quilt and makeshift pillow contained as I sleep.
The Lawson Camping Hammock comes with the most form fitting rainfly I have encountered in a camping hammock. I have slept in the Lawson Hammock in the light and heavy rain several times and never got wet in the hammock at all. The integrated tarp does a great job protecting the occupant from rain. However, it pretty much only protects the occupant. It is not possible to extend the hammock tarp to cover any additional area. By contrast, every other hammock setup I have allows me to extend the tarp to give me a protected area while getting in/out of the hammock, for changing clothes, or even a place to cook or sit if the weather is bad. I also like to hang my backpack from the head of the hammock. Since I can’t hang my backpack from the head of the Lawson Hammock I have to find some other way to store my pack and protect it from weather. That may mean hanging it from the head of the hammock, but wrapping it in a pack cover, or putting the pack in a waterproof bag under the hammock. Similarly, sometimes if my tarp give sufficient coverage I will just leave my shoes under the hammock overnight (sometimes in a bag, sometimes not). I don’t think this is an options with the Lawson Hammock’s tight tarp coverage.
Also, with the tight fitting hammock tarp on the Lawson Hammock, it is not possible to look around while in the hammock. ie. when I hear something moving outside and want to take a peek at what it is, the only option is to unzip the door and lift up the rain fly to see… and then it only works on the side where the door is. On hammocks with more standard sized tarps I often pitch them such that I can see what is happening around me. Often not a full 360 degree view, but at least a few sight lines around the hammock.
The good news is that the Lawson hammock tarp is easy to remove. If I want to leave it at home and use a standard hammock tarp, I can easily do so. While I don’t love everything about the included tarp, I will likely use the hammock with one of my other tarps some of the time and consider it a bonus that the Lawson comes with an included tarp that stays attached when the hammock is stowed, making it really quick and easy to set up… much easier than pitching a separate tarp. I don’t consider these contradictory thoughts to be an issue, as all hammock setups are a series of compromises which make the hammock better suited for a particular usage pattern.
I admit to being spoiled by the big storage shelf, plentiful internal side pockets and ridgeline organizer of my Frankenbird hammock (read about it here). One of the great benefits of making your own camping gear is that you can tweak the design to meet your camping style. (read how to make a DIY camping hammock here). For me, ample internal storage options were important. The most frustrating change when using the Blue Ridge Camping Hammock is that there are only 2 little internal pockets. After about 25 nights in the Lawson Hammock I have settled on putting a few key items in the side storage pockets and hanging my top quilt’s stuff sack from the little ring at the peak of the aluminum pole arch at the foot end of the hammock. I worry that this connection point is likely not strong enough for the way I am using it, but it hasn’t failed yet.
There are 10 little tabs around the edge of the bottom of the hammock that are held closed by hook and loop. I have thought about making a storage bag that would connect to a few of these tabs (I don’t think that 1 tab would hold strong enough, so likely at least 2 or 3 tabs). Another idea I’ve thought about is making a storage bag that would hang directly below me outside the hammock to hold things like clothes and shoes.
Interestingly, Wes told me that the tabs were originally included inside the Lawson Hammock to allow attachment of an insulating sleeping pad. The pad is not currently available, but they haven’t told the factory to stop installing the tabs. I like having there since I can possibly make internal storage to use them, or design a way to use them to hold my sleeping pad inside the hammock.
- Material selection on the Lawson Hammock clearly was done with something in mind other than minimizing weight for backpacking. I consider the Blue Ridge Camping Hammock to be strictly a base camp or car camp hammock due to the stowed size and weight. A big opportunity for Lawson or a DIY oriented Lawson Hammock owner is to swap some of the heavier components with lighter ones. Items that I think could be lightened without too much cost or trouble include:
- The woven ropes at the head and foot of the Lawson Hammock
- The tarp fabric
- All of the side fabric sections
- Possibly the bottom fabric
- The steel spreader bars at the head and foot of the Lawson hammock
- Maybe the aluminum arch poles at the head and foot ends
- The clips that secure tension the arch poles with bungie cord
- Basically, I just listed the entire hammock. Don’t get me wrong. I like it as is and think it is pretty well made and durable. I’m just saying that it is too heavy for me to consider for backpacking and I think every aspect of the design could be executed with lighter materials.
How tall a person can the Lawson Blue Ridge Camping Hammock sleep?
This is a big deal to me, as I am a bit tallish at 6’4”. I found that the standard sized Hennessy Hammocks DO NOT fit me. So, it was a relief that the Lawson Camping Hammock is just big enough for me to sleep comfortably. Actually, since I lay diagonally in the hammock, I could probably be a few inches taller and still fit, although it would be snug.
How much weight can the Lawson Hammock hold?
Lawson says 275 Lb, but I suspect that it can safely hold more. Try it at your own risk though. 🙂
I camp a lot with Boy Scouts and see how many of them treat their gear (not very well). By comparison, I tend to be pretty careful with mine. In the 15-20 times that I have put up and taken down the Lawson Hammock and 25-ish night I have slept in it I have only had one issue with durability. The seam attaching the hammock side fabric to the zipper at the foot end of the zippered arch for entering/exiting the hammock is failing. At this point it is about 2 inches long, and it seems to be growing slightly every time I use the hammock. I don’t find this to be a big deal at all, since it will be easy to stitch back together on my thread injector (when making clothes it would be called a “sewing machine”. For making rugged outdoor gear it is called a “thread injector”). I did not ask for this to be repaired under the 1 year warranty since I can fix it myself in less time than it would take to generate a return shipping label.
For me, if it gets below about 70 degrees at night, then my back gets cold when sleeping in a hammock. For my other hammocks I use a fleece and nylon underquilt, an Insultex and nylon underquilt, or both, wrapped around the bottom of the hammock. (here is info on making DIY underquilts) Due to the shape of all of my other hammocks, my DIY underquilts are not flat. The bottom of the Lawson Blue Ridge Camping Hammock is nearly flat. So, I have found that only one of my underquilts fits well under the Lawson Hammock. I have tried a Therm A Rest Z-Lite Sol Sleep Pad in the Lawson Hammock, and it insulated well, but moved around as I moved during the night. As mentioned above, I might design an attachment system for the sleeping pad inside the Lawson Camping Hammock. I may get a DIY Underquilt kit from Ripstop By The Roll (link) and make a custom underquilt for the Lawson.
Being a custom hammock maker I started this review process having to remind myself to have an open mind. None of the hammocks I have made used designs remotely similar to the Lawson Hammock and I had heard from others that the Lawson design was less than ideal. I give Wes at Lawson Hammock credit for sending me this hammock to review, knowing that I make hammocks of a very different design. This review was not a “gimmee”. Ie. There was a very real chance that I would hate it.
After extended use of the Lawson Hammock I can honestly say that I am impressed. It is not the hammock that I will reach for if I am backpacking, due to the size and weight… and the fact that I have a custom backpacking hammock that I made to my exact specifications and it weighs much less. However, it is a well made and durable hammock that I happily use for car camping and base camping.
The Lawson Hammock is the easiest to set up of all of the hammocks that I own or have used. Here is a more detailed report of how to set up the Lawson hammock. Some of my custom hammocks can be a bit “fiddley”… ie. I often spend 15 minutes staking pull outs, hanging the separate tarp, tensioning and re-tensioning things as I progress through the setup. There is none of that with the Lawson Hammock. It is quick and easy to set up and take down. I took the Lawson Camping Hammock down from where one of my mini gear-heads had slept in it at home during the week in about 5 minutes. It took less than 5 minutes to set up the Lawson Hammock at camp yesterday.
The Lawson Hammock also makes a nice seat in camp. Simply sit in the doorway and lean back. I’ve taken more than one unplanned nap in camp using this method. 🙂
For the ease of setup, good weather coverage and relatively flat, rectangular bottom that can be used with a standard sleeping pad, I think the Lawson Blue Ridge Camping hammock is a great choice for anyone that is new to hammock camping and wants a quality setup.