I finally decided to leave the ground for the safety and comfort of the trees. Something finally pushed my indecision over the edge and it’s a journey in using what you know and asking others for their skilled advice transitioning into hammock camping. Not just setting up a hammock, but rather how to make the most out of extremes in high and low temps, terrain, weather and established methods to make this type of wilderness shelter an enjoyable and functional experience.
After experiencing a HOT night in the muggy forest, and my buddy was nice and cool in his hammock after leaving his tent, prompted me to ask to sit in his hammock prior to him packing it up. Thirty seconds in and I was convinced. It was comfortable and with a breeze coming up over the cliff wall, it sold me completely.
I found myself asking questions all the way out the trail back to the parking area.
I had a tarp made by FREE SOLDIER, so my first piece was in place. Within the week, I had purchased North Carolina based ENO Brand Atlas Straps, a Double Nest Hammock and a Bug Net. I was eager to find trees and headed to the back yard and sit up:
By mid July 2018, I was quite pleased with my set up and watching many YouTube experts led me on a search for my underquilt as I felt I would rather go this route than to try and position on a pad. I researched many great products and also DIY projects. I finally settled in on a 650 fill Thermarest Slacker. Much of this was initially based on price because $250 – $300 seemed quite excessive.
When the quilt arrived, I was quite pleased with the quality.
So while the current weather is too warm to sleep test this, I have been playing with it. I like the heat reflective underside on this 650 fill quilt. The color is called tomato, so I likely won’t be shot sleeping in it and mistaken for a deer.
Only thing so far that I customized was to remove the #98 paracord draw string that came with it and the metal lock. I changed them out with a #550 paracord and added a rope lock. The installed line was likely more than fine and I did not do so for the strength of the line, but rather to remove the metal clip which I thought may wear on the cord or maybe cut the quilt. Likely not, but my thoughts.
I have looked over the quilt and it is assembled very well and down distribution is fluffy and as expected for a 650 fill product.
In general, the quilt felt quite warm for the conditions I will camp and if needed, I have low cost Double Black Diamond down quilts that i may double up.
I will not be purchasing a top quilt and plan to use my Kelty 20 degree down bag.
I have spent a night in late July sleeping in the hammock on the back edge of my property. So far so good and a great nights sleep. I did use my Klymit X Pillow inserted into a shirt and was as comfortable as I have been outside.
My FREE Soldier Tarp (118 x 126″) is a great tarp from Amazon. I recommend it, but I wanted something a tad lighter and lucked out in getting a larger tarp at less weight.
I purchased a ENO ProFLY XL Tarp. This tarp is 13′ x 9′ so it provides a bit more coverage. Also, the built in tie out points on this tarp are easily adjustable. They can be removed if you prefer to use traditional bowline, adjustable half hitches or a variety of other knots for securing your equipment.
I have a trip coming up and with the exception of maybe choosing a raining night on my property, that will be my next test. It is the dry season in Alabama, but I am eager to try this system in the rain.
On August 17, I received a nice package in the mail from ENO.
Several companies make a similar product, but I decided to stick with the same brand as my other items. This is the ENO Underbelly Gear Sling designed to be suspended below my hammock or easily suspended in another location. I like the idea of placing items off the ground and within arms reach. You should realize up front that this storage hammock should not be used to store items that might draw hungry animals in. In bear areas, I would be more inclined to hang my pack and my food bag out of reach if anything that might sniff it out. The gear sling does offer a nice convenience of being able to place certain items (including a pack when appropriate) close and convenient. I will be including this on my upcoming adventure and will write a separate review on it.
Pre-trip Set Up
With all the pieces together and purchased before next week’s trip, I decided to set it all up and spend a night. All the components went together well and when I entered it was quite easy to get comfortable. It was HOT! Today is in the upper 80’s in Alabama so I am sure the down blankets will be packed away until fall. Tonight I will be sleeping under the stars in my backyard like the teenager I was 35 years ago. I am looking forward to next weekends 21 miles in the Sipsey Wilderness and I am sure I will dream about that tonight.
So fast forward to September and I am taking my first trip out with all the new gear. The weather was beautifully sunny in Alabama’s Sipsey Wilderness, but it was dreadfully HOT and MUGGY!
We did 21.2 miles and really had to conserve water between sources. Much of our trip was uphill which did not help my middle aged stamina. But that’s more of letting my conditioning get away from me.
So after the days first 3rd of the trip, we were on a horse trail with very few camping spots. It was so empty of good spots that we may have just set tent up on the trail itself. But not having tents and really would not have preferred this, we found a small existing campsite that we had to bushwhack into. It had not been used in a while, but there were suitable trees to set up.
We set up our hammocks ate dinner and went to bed as dark set in. It was so hot and muggy, we left our tarps laid open on one side for a breeze. A thunderstorm kept threatening over the horizon. Without any covers other than a bag liner pushed up at my feet, it remained humid most of the night, but the occasional breeze would evaporate sweat and give a cooling effect. I slept comfortably and much better than if I had been in a tent.
About 3:00a, I got out of my hammock to water the trees and upon returning, I unzipped the bug net sat back in my hammock and with a quick “SNAP”, I found myself on the ground staring straight up at the sky with my feet in the air and spotlight in the trees.
My camping buddy, Mike, asked if I was okay and I said “yes”. The next day he said he laid there silently and uncontrollably laughing without me knowing. My other friend Cody thought someone had shot a gun due to the sounds of strings popping. He said he asked if I was okay, and with no answer…. went back to sleep.
I gathered myself and somehow reconnected my bug net (hooks snapped), crawled back in making sure the hammock was open and centered and fell asleep.
At some point during the middle of the night, a helicopter flew directly over our site and within a few hundred feet. Cody initially thought I may have activated my SPOT SOS, but again fell back asleep. I had not and thought it must have been a medical or military flight.
I awoke the next morning and we all had a good time discussing and joking about the nights incidents at my expense.
I decided to keep the tarp off for night two and ran my ridge line through the bug net and it performed wonderfully. We were down in a gorge, so it was a little cooler and a light down blanket was good to have during that cool time of the night. It was a great nights sleep.
So fast forward another week and looking back, I think this hammock camping is for me. I enjoy the trees and being off the ground. The set up and weight is about an equal effort to a tent, but the hammock experience is much more relaxing.
So while the bug net that I fell through held up beautifully, I snapped most of the plastic ridge line clips during my middle of the night fiasco. A quick trip passing by the Chattanooga REI and $59.00 later, I have a new net because I think I will be using my hammock quite a bit.
I will likely sew some new loops and s-biners into the damaged net making it good as new. You can never have enough camping gear!
So thumbs up to hammock camping. I have evolved from the forest floor to the trees like an advancing primate.
Get outside! End….
- ENO Double Nest Hammock
- ENO Atlas Straps
- ENO Guardian Bug Net
- ENO ProFLY XL Tarp
- ENO Underbelly Gear Sling
- Thermarest Slacker 650 Fill Down Under Quilt
- Kelty Cosmic 20 Down Bag
- Klymit X Pillow
- Double Black Diamond 650 Fill Down Quilt