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15222HH on PCT report

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  • Brian Lewis
    Aug 11, 2006
      I'm a fairly new hammock camper, and I just came back (Tuesday) from a
      10-day (150 mile) trip on the Pacific Crest Trail in Washington State
      that I did with a couple of "dirt campers" (solo tent dwellers).

      I used my HH UL backpacker asym, with the supershelter system
      (undercover and underpad). I brought a 54" long ccf pad for inside as
      well to hopefully ensure sufficient warmth, and I have a lightweight
      down bag rated at 32 degrees that I used as a blanket. I also brought
      a space blanket for optional use in between the layers.

      Lowest temperatures were somewhere in the 30's. My cheap thermometer
      told me it never got below the low 40's inside the hammock (I hung
      this from the ridgeline inside). Only a couple of the nights were
      cold, but my 54" long ccf pad wasn't long enough, so I sacrificed my
      shoulder area (wore more clothes there) to ensure the ccf pad extended
      to my feet (and I just yesterday bought a longer and wider ccf ...).
      Feet and butt were coldest. No real problems, but I did satisfy
      myself that the space blanket really does help when temps are low. A
      standard space blanket, btw, also has the same problem my pad did ---
      too wide but not long enough. Kind of a hassle to put in and take out
      the space blanket each night too.

      Speaking of which, my total setup time is still substantially slower
      than my dirt camper friends. Tear-down is just as fast, but
      estimating or measuring space between trees (to decide how high to
      hang), maybe clearly some sticks etc from the ground area, getting
      straps sized to trees (I carry two sets of two sizes), getting things
      level, getting things taut, etc etc always took me longer. I might
      continue to get a little faster at this, but I think my setup time
      will just flat be slower than for pitching a tent. So be it.

      Hiking with dirt campers made me a little concerned about finding good
      hanging spots nearby, but in none of the ten nights did I have any
      significant problems. Sometimes I was a bit farther from camp-central
      than others, but no worries. OTOH, it was very handy some nights
      that I had a hammock as we sometimes struggled to even find two flat
      spots for their solo tents at some of the sites.

      On my last night out I was pretty confident and setup with no problems
      until I sat on the hammock to tighten up knots/etc ... and realized
      that one of the trees I had tied to was dead (all the bark was there,
      this wasn't immediately obvious). The way I found this out was that
      the tree started to give way (my way). I hopped off/out quick enough
      that it didn't come down and I didn't even have to move much, as
      another nearby tree offered an alternate anchor point close enough.

      That same night I had a big rock with the remains of a small tree
      stump poking up about where I ended up handing, and thought I had hung
      high enough to avoid issues. Nope. At some point I realized this
      somewhat pointy tree stumplet was poking me in the back/side. Whacked
      on it in the dark with a big rock, raised my foot end slightly higher
      and tightened cords and that solved it.

      Using the supershelter system I'm still really enjoying a compression
      stuff sack to keep the underpad in as part of the system. Works
      great, saves some hassle.

      Overall most nights the weather was surprisingly warm and dry (no
      dew), to the point that I finally stopped putting up my tarp and left
      my bag in its stuff sack hanging just outside the hammock until maybe
      2 am or so. This isn't what I consider typical for the pacific
      northwest! A little warm underneath, but I left the undercover and
      underpad in place knowing things would get colder later in the night.

      No major condensation problems, but always some with the ccf pad in there.

      Trees are big here in the NW. I bought 72" straps from HH to augment
      the 42" straps that come standard. Mixing and matching these always
      got me through. I use the standard HH wrap on one end, and a figure 8
      and tautline hitch on the other (the figure 8 loop helps me quickly
      figure out which end is which when pulling the hammock out of the
      compression sack). On the tautline hitch side, sizing the strapping
      to the tree is easier because if it comes out a little long I just run
      one end of the strap through the other and tie off to that. This
      solution doesn't work well with the HH wrap/knot.

      I had been having trouble with a sort of crick in the small of my back
      on earlier trips. I had very little of this after the first couple of
      days on this trip. Dunno if I just got over it, got used to it, or
      was so tired I didn't notice it! <g> The hammock system worked
      fine, with setup/tinker time and temperature control the biggest
      issues. I didn't encounter enough rain to comment on. I did have a
      very windy night, and my dirt-camper-constrained location wasn't in an
      ideal direction to the wind at that site. Weighting the side corners
      of the tarp made a big difference; I just wrapped a mini-bungy cord
      around a piece of volcanic rock for both sides and hung them from the
      supplied plastic hooks. The noise of the flapping tarp would
      otherwise have been pretty annoying.

      I originally was willing to try the HH based on the low weight of the
      base hammock, just under 2 pounds. I reckon, however, that by the
      time I add up all the hammock-specific crap I'm carrying I've lost the
      weight battle substantially ... hammock + standard tarp + undercover +
      underpad + two sets of straps + compression stuff sack weigh 3-1/4
      pounds. Add in a space blanket, a ccf pad, light stakes, mini-biners,
      an optional tyvek ground cloth in case I have to pitch as a ground
      tent, maybe a line level, maybe the HH funnels for rainy nights, and
      the total comes to over four pounds. My bivy sack + a thermarest
      come out at 3 pounds.

      The flexibility of setting up just about anywhere tilts me to accept
      the extra pound. Grumblingly. <g>

      Brian Lewis

      P.S. Someone asked the weight of the standard HH fly (tarp) alone.
      Mine is 7.6 ounces. That counts the thin plastic bag I carry it in,
      but I think that's almost negligible.
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