An Introduction to Hammock Camping, Pt I.

Posted by Trek and Travel Staff on

by Nick Avery

The use of hammocks dates back roughly 1000 years, but the last decade or so has seen much innovation in comfort and capability.

Modern fabrics and designs have created ultralight, durable hammocks suitable for resting and camping in all weather conditions.  While not a complete replacement for tents, hammocks offer a different set of options and comfort, as long as you have a something to hang from. Can’t sleep well in your tent? Hang your hammock by the babbling brook and let a gentle breeze rock you to sleep. 

Not the comfiest or most portable hammock out there, but the view of Maria Alm in Austria was unparalleled.

But you need trees right? Not necessarily. On a guided trip in 2015 through the Red Centre, (The Rock Tour is highly recommended) I woke up in my canvas swag to what I thought were mosquitoes. Mozzies would have been nice, as I was actually covered in ants. Biting me everywhere, I tried not to wake my fellow campers up as I performed a tribal ants-in-your-pants dance under the stars. I shook out my sleeping bag and swag, and dragged them to a new location trying to find the humour in the situation. The next night our campsite had a steel eating shelter with perfectly placed columns. I dug my Hennessy Hammock out of my luggage, tossed in my sleeping bag and slept so well I never heard the dingoes rummaging through camp!  I’ve hung my hammock off fire escapes and fences in the past, and you could easily hang between two 4WD vehicles. In a pinch, you can use trekking poles and guy lines to pull the ridge lines taught and turn your hammock into a bivvy shelter on the ground.

Advantages:

  • The primary attraction is sleeping comfort. A good night’s sleep can make all the difference when on the trail. I am a very light sleeper, and also a side sleeper. Most regular hammocks can leave you a bit banana shaped, and after a few hours the pressure on your knees can keep you awake. The Hennessy Hammock is asymmetrical, with extra fabric for you to lie diagonally, flattening your body out.
  • Being off the ground keeps you away from the creepy-crawlies, danger noodles (snakes) and a flooding campsite. The rain fly that comes with a Hennessy Hammock can be raised or lowered on prussik knots depending on conditions.  Some opt for a larger Hex-Fly to store more gear under at camp.  I usually hang my bag from the tree with the rain cover on at night.
  • Leave no Trace is easy when using wide straps which won’t damage the tree’s bark. You won’t be flattening any native plants with your tent footprint either.
  • Flat ground is not required.  Finding the perfect spot for your tent can be tricky in the mountains, but you can hang a hammock on a hillside if needed.
  • A hammock also doubles as a camp chair to take your boots off and cook, and a clothes line for your wet socks and gear.

 

Weight and Setup time:

Hennessy Hammock complete shelters range from the Ultralight 860g to the “big & tall” 1.4kg versions. With no tent poles to carry, they are a nice advantage for the weight conscious hiker. Setup time is also very fast. Using the optional Snake Skins, (waterproof nylon sleeves) keeps your hammock dry while hanging and makes packing up a breeze.

Warmth Management:

The airflow underneath your hammock can be a blessing in hot conditions, it can also cool your backside more than expected without proper insulation. Tossing a foam or insulated inflatable mattress under your sleeping bag adds easy warmth beneath you. For colder temperatures, a specially made under- quilt  wraps the outside of your hammock in fluffy down insulation.

On Day Hikes:

My hammock is always travelling with me. The Hennessy rainfly is removable, so you can just bring a bug-proof hammock and your favourite book on a day hike.  Stop for lunch, read a chapter and take a quick snooze before heading back. Standard ‘casual’ type hammocks like the Exped or Parachute ones are ultralight and perfect for day hikes and relaxing. I recently took my Hennessy to Brazil for a Jiu-Jistu training camp where it provided much needed R&R between sessions.  After Brazil, I wound up in Austria nestled among the Alps. On a day trip to a mountain swimming hole, I still managed to drift off despite all the kids playing in the water.

Stay tuned for Part II; with tips and tricks for hanging your Hennessy Hammock!

My Hennessy Hammock provided a quick lunch and nap at Lanser See, Austria

 


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