The humble tent: the staple of every backpacker’s first
home away from home, and I’d wager that most have decided to spend the rest of their trail days in one. Tents are awesome; they come in multiple sizes, shapes, single or double walled, and range in price from $28 for a cheap Walmart setup
— which will last about three days in bad weather — all the way up to $6,200 for this offering from Terra Nova
I, too, have burned my way through some pretty great tents. I’ve slept in double walled Mountain Hardwear tents, to REI’s four man beasts — I’ve even slept in $500 cuben fiber solo tents which are manufactured by some of the best cottage industry
manufacturers on the market. I owned (and used a couple of times) the Skyscape X by Six Moon Designs
and was impressed with how lightweight and quick to pitch it was. It was during my 2nd trip, however, that I came to realize that it’s not the smartest idea to stitch No-See-Um netting to cuben fiber – cuben is far stronger, and the bug netting just gave in and tore away from the seams after a few uses. As I’ve gotten older, sleeping on the ground has become, well, not as comfortable as it used to be. I’m typically a side sleeper, and after about half an hour my hip bones start to feel the pressure against whatever sleeping pad I’m on top of.
Let me tell you something: not sleeping on the trail is pretty much up there with some of the worst things that any hiker can endure. I like my sleep, and my tent days felt like they were coming to an end.
It was about three years ago that I was pointed in the direction of the hammocking community. “Hammock, you say?! Shit, I ain’t hanging from no tree in the woods!” Like anything new drawing me from my “norm”, my thoughts were conclusive – it was utter lunacy. “What about the weather?” “What if you can’t find any trees?!” “How are you supposed to wash your nethers if you don’t have the privacy of an enclosed tent!!!” “Hammockers have no desire for comfort and solace, what madmen!” “Sleeping in a hammock may as well come with a sign that says ‘human burrito’!”
How wrong I was. Also, quite the moron.
Fast forward three years and I’ve been hammocking since; the sheer comfort factor alone was well worth the change. Before I ramble on any more, I wanted to post some photos of my hammock setup that I pitched in a local park so I can display what my gear looks like, how it will be used, and the levels of protection / privacy it actually serves.
Here we have it: this is the Gran Trunk Nano-7 hammock, with the EnLIGHTened Equipment Revolt 20ºF underquilt. I attach the hammock to the trees with what’s known as a suspension system. There are quite a few different types of suspension on the market, but I opted for Whoopie Slings for their ridiculous ease of use and minimal weight. The need for an underquilt is critical in weather that drops below 50-60ºF. Given the design of hammock hanging, there’s a big old space of nothing between your arse and the ground: otherwise known as dead space. This empty space gets very, very cold as the temperature drops, and actually sucks any heat away from your body – which incidentally is separated from gravity by about half a millimeter of fabric. You simply have to insulate, and this is where the underquilt comes in. I chose the torso length UQ to save weight, and my legs from my knees to my feet don’t get very cold anyway.
About three years ago — when I first got into hammocking — I went on a wee two day backpacking trip with my good friend Simon and his buddy, Pat. It was August, and during the day it was reaching the mid-80’s. After hiking for ten miles we hit camp and pitched. Lying in my hammock that night was uncomfortable; slimy humid heat, slipping about in my summer bag – it just wasn’t nice. What I wasn’t ready for, however, was the 50-55ºF temps at night, which normally don’t pose a problem. I was frigid. I didn’t sleep a wink. Lesson learned.
So what if it rains? Hail? Yep, I have that covered, too. The line I rigged which lies along the top of the hammock is a ridge line which is going to hold my tarp in place.
This genius little contraption is a Dutch Tarp Fly, and is used to create tautness in the ridge line, shown here by the man himself, Dutch.
My tarp lays over the ridge line and is staked out at the four corners, as seen above. This gives is quite a taut hang, which is important.
This is my setup underneath the tarp – how cozy is this?! I can easily boil my water underneath the tarp to make coffee in the morning if the weather sucks.
If the weather’s good at camp, I can actually use my trekking poles to extend and raise one side of the tarp to create a sort of open shelf, creating much more useable space, per below:
Needless to say, I’m extremely excited about my sleep system. I hope it holds up to the wear and tear of daily use. I do tend to baby my gear so I have my fingers crossed.