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RE: Hammock Camping Adventures of a recent hammock convert in the wilderness

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  • Ed Speer
    A great trip report--thanks for sharing. You re on your way now--experience is the best teacher. Now get ready for many years of Happy Hammocking! ...Ed ...
    Message 1 of 2 , Aug 19, 2003
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      A great trip report--thanks for sharing.  You're on your way now--experience is the best teacher.  Now get ready for many years of Happy Hammocking!  ...Ed
      -----Original Message-----
      From: nazdarovye [mailto:nazdarovye@...]
      Sent: Tuesday, August 19, 2003 2:45 AM
      To: hammockcamping@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: Hammock Camping Adventures of a recent hammock convert in the wilderness

      As a newbie hammock user, I wanted to relate my experiences on a 4-day
      trip in the Desolation Wilderness (Sierras near Lake Tahoe; Echo Lake
      to Barker Pass) a week or so ago.

      This was my first "real" trip with the Hennessy Explorer Ultralite
      A-Sym. I tried to reduce my load as much as possible, though with an
      Arc'Teryx Bora 65 pack, a full-size, old Thermarest pad and a
      SafeWater filter, I was close to 35 pounds total including the 4 days
      of food and my initial 2 L of water.

      I expected it would be warm during the day and moderately cool at
      night, and as I'm a very warm sleeper and wanted to save a bit of
      weight, I brought just a zip-up REI fleece blanket and a silk liner
      (no sleeping bag), plus several layers of clothing including a fleece
      hat and glove liners, but no down or fleece jacket. (I bet you
      veterans can see where this is leading...).

      Unlike many here who've said that their sleep in the Hammock is the
      best they've ever had, I'll have to admit that my first night in it on
      this trip was, for a variety of reasons, one of my most uncomfortable
      nights in the woods. I'll also say that, by applying as many
      techniques and tips as I could dredge up from my memory - most of them
      garnered from this group and Shane's and Sgt. Rock's sites - I was
      able to turn things around over the course of rest of the trip, and by
      the end I was starting to truly appreciate the benefits (and comforts)
      of the hammock.

      First night: camping at Lake Aloha, on a spit of land jutting into the
      lake, I set up the hammock between two of the few trees available
      (this is near treeline, and there was still some snow on the slope of
      the opposite shore). I used separate stakes for the hammock and tarp
      tie-outs, and while I did get in, bounce around, and re-tighten the
      main straps, I guess I didn't do a suitable adjustment to the
      tarp...because as I was drifting off, a stiff wind picked up, and the
      tarp began making an infernal racket that lasted all night. Too tired
      to brave the winds and cold, I kept thinking it would eventually stop
      or I would drift off to sleep, and so didn't get up to tighten the
      lines. I was also cramped, having chosen to bring my pack, with its
      inflexible hip belts, inside (though I must say it made a lovely
      windblock, sometime in the middle of the night I got tired of the
      poking and dumped the pack onto the ground through the slit). Also of
      note: temperatures were in the 40s, with winds around 10-15 knots but
      gusting higher quite often. So, between the cold, the flapping tarp,
      the occasional too-inflated-Thermarest- and Bora-wrangling, and
      general first-night tail excitement, I really didn't get much sleep at

      Lessons learned: pick sites carefully; consider that windblown dwarf
      pines all hunkered over in the same direction might be a clue that
      maybe, just maybe, conditions are a bit harsh at that spot! Stiff Bora
      hip belts don't give nice hugs in the night. Tighten the tarp
      carefully. Don't forget the ear plugs.

      The second night (at Middle Velma Lake) some of the tips I'd read
      online began to come back to me, and I did things differently. I
      picked a spot better shielded from the prevailing wind; attached the
      tarp lines to the hammock body lines to help keep them taut even with
      sagging of the main line; finally understood how to tighten the tarp
      along the ridgeline (and did so); used ear plugs; stuffed the Bora in
      a plastic bag kept outside; and slept the night through rather
      comfortably (if still a bit on the cool side). I used a clothing bag
      as a moveable pad, which I relocated as needed to shield body parts
      from the hammock fabric depending on my sleeping position (e.g., knees
      or butt when I was laying on my side). That worked well, and I'll
      continue to use the clothing bag as added insulation in the future.

      >From Velma Lake to our next campsite we were assaulted by waves of
      some of the most voracious mosquitoes I've had the misfortune to meet.
      The third night (on a ridge near Miller Creek), they were so thick and
      persistent that we decided to skip dinner and take refuge in our
      shelters. I got into the hammock and was pleased to find only two of
      the little buggers had gotten in with me. Alarmingly, I could hear
      hundreds of them buzzing within millimeters of my ear as I lay on the
      hammock (an indescribably loud and sinister sound); however, I got no
      further bites. Being on the pad and using a hat as a pillow probably
      helped assure that, and the mosquitoes were definitely not happy. Big
      plus marks for the hammock for keeping them at bay and for letting in
      even less of them than a tent usually does during ingress and egress.

      I'm chagrined to report, however, that a bit later, as I turned over
      onto my back, I suddenly felt myself plummeting to the ground - BUMP
      on my butt. It took a second to realize what had happened (the foot
      end hammock strap had come loose), and another horrified fraction of a
      second for it to sink in that this meant facing the enraged
      mosquitoes. Ugh! I set a personal record for re-tying the straps,
      being careful to use something more like the recommended figure-8 knot
      than the clove hitch and snarl I'd used earlier, fed a number of
      mosquitoes, and gratefully got back into the hammock. Another lesson

      That same night, our last for the trip, I found I was just too cold
      again. I donned all of my clothing including gloves and hat, got into
      the silk liner, and pulled the doubled blanket over me, tucking it
      carefully in at the sides. I eventually fell asleep, but sometime
      during the night I began dreaming about what I'd do in case of
      hypothermia! In the morning, I woke up at first light feeling rather
      chilled, and checked the thermometer I'd hung from my ridgeline: 38°F.
      That was inside the hammock, so it was likely even a few degrees
      colder outside. My hiking companion was in a Tarptent with a Western
      Mountaineering HighLite bag and Thermarest UltraLite pad, plus layers
      of clothing; he said that even he was cold that morning. I felt
      fortunate to have remained barely warm enough to have gotten some
      sleep - and not to have ended up shivering and blue. We packed up just
      after dawn and hiked the remaining 4.5 miles to the trailhead and
      cars, keeping a fast pace that warmed us up quickly.

      Final learnings:

      - You can bet I'll be bringing a down sleeping bag in the future
      unless temperatures are guaranteed to stay in the 60s or above!

      - As per advice online, I found that the Thermarest worked best if
      only partially inflated (sadly, it took a night of rasslin' to
      remember this). After my experiences with it, and considering its
      weight and the many other solutions I've seen suggested here, I've
      decided to leave it behind next time. I bought a Target aluminized sun
      screen and am looking forward to trying it out; between that and my
      Marmot down bag, I should be just fine for our fall weather here.

      - The ridgeline is a very useful storage "platform" - I ended up
      hanging my Camelbak reservoir from the ridgeline along with small
      stuff bags, and stored a number of smaller items in the "gear loft" (a
      feature I really love).

      - I weigh about 165 including clothing, but purchased the larger
      Explorer version so I'd have extra support and room for gear should I
      wish to keep it inside; in retrospect, that may not have been a
      realistic goal. However, I'm switching to a lighter pack (UD
      Warpspeed), and intend to try suspending it from the ridgeline on a
      future trip, just to see if it's possible to keep everything inside
      but still remain comfortable.

      - The Tarptent had condensation on it every morning, and its underside
      was always wet. The hammock remained bone-dry the first two days, and
      had condensation only the last day (on the netting and underside of
      the tarp), when it was so cold and I'd battened down one side of the
      tarp to the point where it was touching the netting. Nice.

      - I purchased Snakeskins and am adding them to the Hammock for the
      next trip (though it was absolutely no trouble to roll it up and put
      it into its original stuff sack, I like the idea of them).

      - An afternoon nap in the hammock on a breezy hilltop was a joy - it
      just wouldn't have been the same in a tent.

      Hope you all found this entertaining. Perhaps some other newbies will
      read my post and will skip some of my mistakes...as well as reread all
      of the posts by the pros to cement the real "best practices"!

      A big thanks again to everyone here and on the other sites I mentioned
      for all of the great ideas. Can't wait to try the hammock out again...

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