Planning to do the High Sierra Trail this coming August, and was curious if anyone has experience taking a hammock rather than a ground setup on the HST? I know there will be at least one camp at Guitar Lake where I’d have to use my hammock as a bivy, but are there any other sites where this would be an issue, or other reasons hammock camping the HST would be a bad choice?
I have used my Clark Jungle Hammock while exploring rivers in the Guyana jungle, suspended overnight above a half metre of swamp water in Borneo, and used it in West Africa too (where I suspect a leopard would view it as a large green hanging burrito), and it works great. Nice to be above the ants, centipedes, scorpions and snakes, easy to set up, and I make it a bit more comfortable by the addition of the short, wide version of the Neo Trekker mat inside, which lessens that “squeezed shoulder” effect. In BC Canada I prefer a tent. Using a hammock in colder weather isn’t something that I’ve tried, mainly because all the extra quilting required to block the cold and wind would seem to negate this hammock’s advantage – its compactness and simplicity. In the tent I’m typically a stomach sleeper, so was worried how I would adjust to hammock sleeping, but it’s actually quite comfy, and makes a great seat during the day too. In 2013 I’ll use the hammock in Belize, my WE Bug Dome tent (awesome ventilation) in the heat of northwest Australia, and possibly a slighly heavier grade tent along the BC coast later in the year. The Clark Jungle Hammock is the best expedition hammock made, and has looked after me well on many epic journeys.
The spacious and durable Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest is an excellent hammock for outdoor lovers. It's wide and tough enough to fit two people comfortably. It also comes in a bunch of different color combinations. It's heavier than the hammocks we prefer to backpack with, but it’s perfect for camping, hiking, and trips to the park. For the same dimensions but nearly half the weight, we recommend checking out the ENO SuperSub Hammock.
Top quilts are just plain comfy. Since they don’t have a full zipper (or any zipper) like a sleeping bag, they make hammock entry and exit easy. Many companies make them, but you can also make one yourself. Find any cheap, quilt-style sleeping bag, get all set up in your hammock, sling it over you, zip it up to your calves, and let the rest of it lay over you and bunch up on your sides. See? Glorious.
Though, packing for your trek is not always the most pleasant of experiences. There are so many different variables to take into account when planning trips into the woods. One variable is the size/weight of your pack. There is nothing more annoying than being out on the trail and realizing that you over packed. Being under prepared is rather annoying as well, but that’s a different story.
With a hammock, you also have more freedom to sleep where you please. If a campsite doesn’t have a proper patch of clear, flat land for your tent, no worries. You just have to find two well-spaced trees (which isn’t difficult in an Alabama forest). In your hammock, you can nod off while gazing at a starry sky, while folks in their tents are stuck staring at nylon walls.
One of the misconceptions that has sprung from hammocks with structural ridge lines is to pitch the hammock taut between the anchor points since the hammock’s sag is unaffected. This has had catastrophic effect in some cases where ridge lines have snapped under the load. In the real world, it is nearly impossible to hang the hammock perfectly taut as all suspension line will have some stretch, especially when the line is under extreme tensile forces.
Rainflys come in many different shapes and materials. Almost any kind of tarp can turn into a sturdy shelter to protect your hammock from the elements. But there are several rainflys out there that are specifically designed for hammocking. These have some hammock specific features to differentiate them from a standard ultralight tarp. These rainflys are made with silnylon, a strong waterproof material. Silnylon is much lighter than the standard blue plastic tarp but just as effective of a shelter.
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Another thing to look for are widowmakers. Named for their potential to seriously injure the unaware. Make sure you’re not hammocking underneath sections of dead branches. This is especially important if you are camping in the winter where ice and snow can accumulate on branches above. The increased weight can be just enough to send the heavy branch falling on top of you.
Some campers pushing into the 175+ lb weight range are fine with lighter hammock body fabrics (e.g. 1.0-1.1 oz nylon). Other campers in the 175+ lb weight range feel that these lighter hammocks do not give enough body support even if they are technically within the hammock’s weight range, and therefore opt for 1.7-1.9 oz or heavier hammock body fabrics.
Like others have mentioned, hammocks are at no greater risk of predator attacks than tents. The main thing that attracts animals like bears is smell. Be sure not to bring food into your shelter at night, keep clean, and set your camp 200 ft away from your kitchen area. These are some of the main ways to stay safe in bear country. Most of the time, the only kind of critter you’ll encounter are what I call “small bears”: squirrels, rodents, raccoons, etc. They are attracted to the same thing as bears, but most people don’t pay them enough attention when not in bear country and they find their bags chewed through.
Most people (with a properly setup, true backpacking hammock) find it far more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. As such, they get a better night’s sleep, every night. In contrast, ground sleeping changes (many times for the worst) nearly every night due to sloping ground, bumps, depressions, wet areas, rocks & tree roots. It can be near impossible to find a good area large enough for a tent.
Your answer has lead to some confusion. The hammock itself will sag as weight is added to the hammock but typically the suspension lines, even with a structural ridgeline, will also drop down below the original 30 degrees from horizontal after weight is added to the hammock (person enters the hammock). So is 30 degrees the best angle “before” entering hammock even if the suspension lines drop to as much as 45 degrees after? Some people weigh a lot especially if two hammocks are side by side using Dutch’s double whoopie hooks, could be over 500 lbs of tension on the webbing straps coming from the trees.
Starting my adventures in spring, I have a few months before actually having to invest in those quilts. I wanted to start with a second setup, for 3-season camping (>+10°C). Not exactly sure what to pack here yet. I was hoping a sleeping bag (or quilt) plus sleeping pad would be enough, but many of the not-exactly-cheap underquilts you tested were only just suited for exactly that kind of temperatures, so how could a sleeping pad suffice?
Sure is nice. The general design of folding all your gear together like that has been done before, but I like the external mesh pocket. I do wonder how the entire system scales to carry 5 days of food, water, and how it handles walking in the rain. But it is an awesome concept and his execution is very nice. I wonder what the BS 1 and 2 looked like. Do you know if he's selling this yet?
The Skeeter Beeter Pro is a good budget buy for people looking to dip a toe into hammock camping without a big financial investment. It has a traditional hammock shape, so it’s not as easy to lie flat, but it’s long enough to still be comfortable. It also doesn’t come with a tarp, so you’ll have to get an aftermarket tarp to protect against rain and wind. The Skeeter Beeter Pro isn’t our favorite camping hammock, but it’ll definitely get the job done and the price is tough to beat.
Leave the Asym tarp (napkin) at home. The majority of water is kept divorced from precious down by a trap with adequate coverage. Hex or winter tarps provide the most coverage and are easier to center over hammocks during setup. This margin in setup avoids multiple adjustments. Also consider bringing a section of material to place under the tarp to keep gear clean and dry. One thru-hiker favorite budget option is a sheet of Tyvek.
Dispersed camping is permitted in other zones like the Appalachian Trail, Long Trail, Adirondack High Peaks, and Aspen Four Pass Loop. But the number of promising ground sites is naturally limited — there is too much topographic relief and vegetation. In combination with the area’s popularity, the campsites become heavily impacted, and sleep quality is not as good as it could be.
An often overlooked aspect of hanging a hammock is the angle of the hammock suspension to the ground. In the hammock community, the magic angle is 30 degrees. This may bring back geometry nightmares but Derek Hanson figured that this angle can be approximated with ones hand (mine was 28 degrees). Derek wrote one of the best hammock reference manuals on the market, The Ultimate Hang, which is the place to start with all hammock questions.
Get your hammock set up with plenty of slack. It’s important to lie at an angle to get comfortable. All you are doing is shifting your body from the midline of the hammock 30 degrees so that you are lying at a diagonal. What you’ll notice is that the center of the hammock is the tightest, while the sides remain loose. By adjusting the angle of your body, you’ll be cutting across the curve of the hammock. The hammock will flatten out underneath you and give you a flat lay without pressure points. Your neck and feet will maintain a slight elevation and the hammock will conform to your back.