Hammockology

cougarmeat

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Sep 17, 2012
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This is a partner thread to Tarpology. I will cover a few orienting basics, and not repeat ALL the information you can find at www.hammockforums.net and I will also post a reference to www.westcoastpadder.com in their paddling subforum - an exchange of info across two fields of interest. Note that hammockforums has two tiers, free and "donating member", donating member costs $10/year and is required to access additional sub-forums, including the paddling sub-forum. Most of the posts in "Paddling" feature wide fishing lake boats - not that there is anything wrong with that.

The hammock gives you an alternative when the ground is rough or maybe you've arrived at a small area - like Posey Island - and all the ground spots are taken but there are a good pair of trees. In general, the hammock/tarp is less bulky than a similar tent setup, weighs about as much, but can be much, much more comfortable. In the rain, you can put the tarp up first and do the rest of the setup (or teardown) under the dry tarp. No more crawling around on your hands and knees to get in the shelter.

My comments refer to two basic camping hammock styles; the gathered end hammock (GE) that most picture when they think of hammocks and a Bridge hammock - a style that uses spreader bars at the ends to hold it in a rectangular shape. Note that there are many more varieties. Some are almost like a trampoline suspended between three trees. Some, like, the Amok Draumr, are suspended not at the traditional ends but from the sides (requiring a much shorter tree distance). One can go on and on.

Going on and on, the general camping hammock is about 11 ft long. Note that most cheap (Amazon) hammocks are much shorter/narrower - closer to 9 ft. There's a variety of cottage industry folks making tried and true camping hammocks that are the right length, include built-in bug nets, and have other options like fabric material and pattern. Most cost between $100 - $200.

One of the first mistakes a person makes when starting with a hammock is to try to mimic their sleeping arrangement in a bed. "... I can't sleep in a hammock because I need to sleep on my side. ...". You sleep the way you do in a bed because the bed creates pressure points during the night. As your full body is supported in the hammock, in a day or two your muscles learn they can relax more and you'll find yourself comfortably on your back or with a slight tilt. I'm not saying you can't sleep on your side (the Bridge hammock is good for that), just that you don't need to.

The second mistake is trying to make the hammock "flat" by tightening the suspension so its guitar string tight. DON'T DO THAT. Without going into the physics of it, that setup can almost double the force of your body weight on the material/stitching/connectors. Most hammocks are rated at about 250 lbs (with appropriate hang angles) and different fabrics or a double layer (a sleeve you insert a sleeping pad into) can hold more weight.

You get a flat lie by shifting your body so you are diagonal to the centerline in the (GE) hammock. Your shoulder is near one side and your feet near the other side. You can accomplish this not by making the hammock tight, but by allowing some sag (droop). Hammocks are designed around an 83% - 86% sag. Note that in hammocks there are no absolute numbers. There are ranges and "-ish"'s. Each person finds their own sweet spot-ish. So if you have an 11 ft hammock, 83% of that is about 9 ft. That's how far apart the hammock ends are expected to be. You achieve that by having your suspension coming off the trees at about 30° (or 60° depending upon which corner you measure). Note that for the 9 ft, $25, parachute nylon hammock, 83% would be 7.5 ft long when hung. Your head/feet would be much closer to the narrowing ends. It's okay for a rest, but it's more like taking a short nap on the couch rather than a deep dive to sleep in a bed.

Usually, once someone finds the separation distance (of the hammock ends, not the tree distance) that works for them, they attach a line (called a ridgeline) between those two ends so they can return to that sweet spot each time. If the hammock has a built-in bug net, it usually has its own ridgeline because over-extending it could tear the netting.

Just as with tent camping, with hammocks, one can pursue UltraLight goals. Maybe I should write that as goal$. For example, you can buy a good tarp for $125 that weighs 14 oz. Or you can buy a Dyneema tarp for $340 that weighs 9.3 oz. With a kayak, bulk and weight are not as much of an issue as they could be with hikers.

And when kayaking you have more of a probability of having to go to ground. That means a shift to tarp camping or just bring a backup tent.

Here's a photo of a comfy setup at Ozette Lake:
OzetteTree.jpg


A few words on the bridge hammock ... by far, the most popular is the WarBonnet Ridge Runner. Unlike a GE hammock that is hung at about 30°, a bridge might be closer to 25°. The body is shorter than a GE, but because of the spreader bars, the ends don't taper. So prefer the feel, and visual expanse of a bridge hammock. A vendor, RipStopByTheRoll (RSBTR) sells a sew-it-yourself kit for about $50. It doesn't have a bug net and the spreader poles are extra. A complete RidgeRunner costs about $105. That's a great option. The only downside is because of the length of the suspension, the trees need to be around 14 to 17 feet apart.

And finally (yeah, right), note that a hammock loses heat to air currents flowing under/around it. Most users gravitate to a top quilt (TQ) and an under quilt (UQ) below.
 
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JohnAbercrombie

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Dec 7, 2011
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Victoria, BC
Thanks, @cougarmeat .
I own a good hammock and tarp setup (Exped Ergo) and have used it a couple of times on 'one-nighter' kayak trips, after a couple of nights sleeping in it in the back yard. (My choice, decided freely! :) ).
It's the most comfortable sleeping arrangement I've ever experienced.

The reason I haven't used it more is the 'everything else' issue - epecially in rainy and windy conditions. Where does all my gear go to keep it out of the mud? How to I keep all that gear dry - the stuff that I would keep inside the tent or under the vestibule(s) ? How do I get changed/dressed? Lots of questions!
Even a larger ('winter') tarp with better coverage doesn't fix my 'issues'. :)
 

cougarmeat

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Joined
Sep 17, 2012
Messages
885
Location
Bend OR USA
Hikers just hang their pack, shoes, etc., off the hammock suspension line. You still bring a groundsheet (note my comment about having to go to ground once in a while) and can put your gear on that, under your hammock - assuming you've accounted for drainage if it's a flood. Yes, that does put it "in the open" so it kind of depends on how remote you are. What I've done is ... wait for it ... wait for it ... have a hammock for the gear! :)

They are creatively called "Gear Hammocks" - usually about 5 ft long. Some are waterproof or have a waterproof top flap, some are expected to hang off the ground, under your hammock. It can be an easy DIY project - use the fabric at bolt width, cut so it's about 5 ft long (whatever size you need depending upon your gear), gather the ends, and tie them off.

The idea is, if I have to take something out of a dry bag once, I'll probably need it again. Instead of the stow/unstow cycle, I can put it in the gear hammock for easy retrieval next time. Everything in the gear hammock is accessible at waist level. If you don't want to bother with some kind of waterproof cover, you can still just put your drybags in it. They will be all together and out of sight as much as if they were in a tent. The gear hammock isn't a necessity; it was just something I tried out. My paddle gear is usually stored in the boat (with a rain cover on the cockpit) or it's hanging on a clothesline. My shore clothes are in the hammock. Cooking gear is out on a picnic table or strung up with the food.

As far a changing clothes, If you are standing behind your hammock, the tarp blocks you from behind, the hammock from in front, and the trees do a fair job of blocking you from the sides. If you bring both sides of the tarp down - instead of raising one side as an awning - that's pretty private. And many foul-weather tarps have "doors" - extra material at the ends that fold across to close off the short sides.

Below is a photo of my hammock setup as a bivi bag. Two poles hold up the tarp, my groundsheet and Therm-a-rest are under the hammock, and the bug net is lifted off my face by being tied to the tarp poles. This was at BlackBerry Point where I was showing a paddling partner that my hammock would make a better tent than his tent would make a hammock. I do have the tarp higher than would be advisable if there were any weather concerns at all. Nowadays, there's a portable stand called a Tensa4. Its collapsible poles extend and form two "V"'s with the wide ends on the ground slightly crossed - it looks like a diamond with raised ends. All kinds of other creative ways ... or pull out the tent when necessary.

You can see my black ground sheet and red Therm-a-rest. If it were important, I could have strung the tarp wider and lower.
hammocktent.jpg


This is a bridge hammock on Jones Island - someone is in the hammock, reading. No fear of ants, spiders or other crawly things.
BridgeJonesSmall.jpg


Here you can see the gear hammock off to the left along with a dromedary bag hanging from a branch.
GearHammock.jpg


Why is that bridge hammock so billowy? That extra nylon is called an Under Quilt Protector (UQP) and it protects the quilt (another rabbit hole), from any splash or blowing rain. it adds about 10 - 15 degrees of warmth and keeps the down items cleaner - minimizing washing. But in this case, it was the vendor's version 1.0 and was cut far too full. They rectified the problem with a better cutting pattern and now everything is well off the ground.
 
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glcwhistler

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Dec 8, 2010
Messages
50
I am pro hammock. Granted, I have woken a few times in the middle of the night in a panic after I have almost smothered myself when my head turned my face against the side of the hammock.

I used my Grand Trunk single, which is larger than a ENO single, with a Hammock Gear 20 degree under quilt and a 45 degree MHW Phantom down bag opened as a top quilt through the Alps in 2017. I poached a spot above Zermatt before the sun went down one evening before I crossed over to Cervino Italy the next day, then poaching another spot in the woods under a ski lift in Courmeyer Italy the following night.

Hammocks give you the ability to stealth camp pretty easy. They are comfortable and as long as you have insulation under you, you can sleep out in some pretty cold weather. I also purchased two down sleeping bags from Hyke and Byke, a 15 degree and 0 degree hammock compatible sleeping bag. They have holes at the hood and foot box to allow the hammock to pass through. I have used both as a normal bag and using a tent/pad. I still prefer the under quilt, it is not as confining as the bags. But to have flexibility, they are kinda cool and they really aren't that expensive as sleeping bags go.

I purchased a basic ENO hammock tarp and a bug net system, along with the drip strips for the tree straps if I need them, all are compatible with my hammock system.

If rain isn't in the forecast, I find that as long as I am under trees, the dew hasn't been an issue, waking up in the early morning and not having things being wet. I could carry all the pieces along with my climbing gear in a 45 liter backpack.

I initially purchased a Hennessy hammock, but I don't use it because I like the ability to use the individual hammock pieces as I see fit.

Along the coast, the biggest issues I have run into is the raccoons who will climb the tree you hang your food bag in, nothing a wrist rocket can't handle to give them a reason never to come back, I have spoke with others who have had issues with mice at camp. I think that is why I find the hammocks really nice, you can get yourself off the ground, along with your gear. When I was climbing Rainier, there was few guys whose bags got chewed through because they had food in them and the mice did what they do in the public shelter. Having some mouse chewing through a tent, or gear would put me into mouse killing mode. Just being able to avoid the issue all together speaks volumes about using a hammock if possible.

I have a MSR Zing Wing that I like to use when kayak camping. I feel that in a kayak, it is more like glamping than roughing it camping, or even higher altitude climbing/camping. If you can hang, hang, if you can sleep under your tarp, a sleeping pad, or hammock really doesn't take up much room in a kayak. I think it is all about having versatility. Plus, a hammock is just a great thing to have if you want to relax during any break you take.

I would recommend hammocking to anyone.
 
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