Last winter a friend of mine posted online about a camping trip done he took with his son. The picture he posted showed a wintery forest with a single camo tarp in the shape of a pup tent frostily hanging between two trees. He and his son had spent the night in the woods sleeping in hammocks bunk bed style. I quickly asked how this was possible. My brother and I had attempted to sleep in hammocks at our camp site years ago. The temperature then was in the 50’s I’m sure, and we froze at what these guys would consider balmy. My friend pointed me to a YouTube channel by shugemery, and my hammock camping quest began.
The plan is to review the gear that I am using, and in doing that, some of the useful or needed gear will be discussed as well as why you will need certain gear. Hammock camping is really becoming more popular and as such, many cottage industry vendors and big brand names are offering a wide variety of gear to add comfort and convenience to backpacking and camping.
Advantages to hammock camping are many, but I think they can be narrowed down to a few. The first thought would be the weight advantage, although tent camping can be just as lightweight depending on one’s budget and choice of gear. The big ones for me are comfort and campsite selection.
As far as comfort, many of us have already taken advantage of the bliss of a backyard hammock soaking up the sun while being gently cooled by the wind. Hammocks can be just as, if not more comfortable than the mattress on your bed. But just like sleeping on a cheap lumpy mattress, poor hammock selection can be just as unpleasant. Back in the day, I was told by experts to lie diagonally in the hammock to maximize comfort. The only problem was that my hammock was too small for my 6’+ over 200 pound self. Trying to lie diagonally resulted in high tension on both my head and feet and felt about as good as lying on a railroad track. Lying lengthwise with the hammock was not too bad, but I had thoughts of being a human banana. I later got a proper sized Mayan hammock and what a difference I felt!
There are a few issues to address if you want to sleep in a hammock though. For instance, insulation and warmth. I partially covered this in my Exped Synmat review, and will expand on that in later articles too. A second issue is to consider is keeping yourself dry, and a third is dealing with skeeters, flies, and other pests.
Luckily for the rest of us, pioneering souls have solved these issues and are now making gear for the rest of us to take part in this new trend of leaving the tent at home and sleeping in a hammock. I’ll be posting a series of articles that follow my venture into hammock camping. We will explore what gear is used in this new sport and review specific pieces of equipment that I used. Some vendors have been kind enough to supply equipment for this project, and some I already owned when this process started.
So I hope you come along for the ride. The first piece of gear to be discussed was an option for lower insulation – the Exped Synmat. Warbonnet Outdoors has provided a Blackbird XLC hammock for testing too. So far it has proven to be outstanding. Over the next several weeks, I’ll move on to the rest of the gear I have used, and other great hammock camping resources will be discussed. So let’s get down to hanging out.