Pretty much love this thing for summer camping, below is how it shakes out...
So I’ve been threatening a hammock camping trip for ages now, and I finally had a chance to try it out at Born To Run Ultramarathons this year. Sure, it wasn’t the backpacking adventure I had in mind, but honestly as a test, I can’t think of a better setting for it.
The temps ran from a high of 96 that weekend to a low of 36 overnight, and I was mostly comfortable the entire time. It’s tough to get out of the heat when it’s just beating down on you, but removing my sleeping pad and catching the occasional breeze was just enough to keep me from sweating into a raisin during the day. At night, my system kept me cozy when the temps dropped and I slept like a baby all 3 nights we were there. So, what was the set up?
Hammock – ENO Singlenest & Doublenest
Just a standard ENO hammock for the suspension. We had a bit of a special circumstance in that my friend constructed a Hammock Heights geodesic dome last year, and we rebuilt it and spent most of the weekend inside of it this year. Nonetheless, I used the ENO straps and carabiners it comes with. The first night I stayed in the Singlenest, but moving around in the middle of the night led my sleeping pad and bag to slipping out from the edges of the hammock, which made for some restlessness until I could reposition myself. The other two nights I moved over to a Doublenest and had absolutely ZERO issues with restlessness. If you’re hammock camping in a gathered-end hammock, get a double, you’ll feel more secure and sleep better.
Bug Protection – ENO Guardian Bug Net
So I made a last minute purchase before heading to BTR to pick up this bug net, and boy was I glad I did! Due to the wet winter we had in California, there were a load of flying critters around our camp sites. This thing was money. Simple set up – literally took me 2 minutes to get it out of the stuff sack, untangled, added to the system, and adjusted. The ridgeline rope is the most complicated part of the system, and it only took me maybe a minute to figure out. Quite literally, within 2 minutes this thing was set up and ready for use.
On top of the ease of set up, I found it really comfortable to use. The ridgeline rope allowed enough clearance as to not feel claustrophobic, and the simple draw-string above my head was super easy to get in and out of. I think one of my favorite parts of this was not waking up to a dewy sleeping bag from my own mad-snoring during the night. The last 3 years I went to this same race and slept in a tent, I woke up every morning dewy. No problem at all with the Guardian Bug Net.
Sleeping Bag – REI Flash Sleeping Bag
I wrote a preview of this bag a while back, and finally got a chance to test it out. I was a bit concerned about it’s construction when it came to hammock camping because they opted for a synthetic insulation under the body to shed weight. Well, because of the sleeping pad I chose (details below) all of my worries were worthless. This bag uses 700-fill down insulation throughout the top and sides in a mummy configuration. It was roomy enough for me (5’6″, 155lbs) to sleep comfortably on my back and sides. The liner was silky smooth against the skin. In fact, as the temps rose on the second night, I didn’t even have to zip it completely to stay warm. I’m super happy with this bag – and it has true 3-season capabilities as the temps dropped down to the high 30’s the first night I was there.
Sleeping Pad – REI Flash Insulated Air Sleeping Pad
So this was my first time even taking this thing out of its stuff sack. I’ll tell you, this is the pad for hammock or ground camping – I’m super impressed. It has two flat valves, one for inflation, one for deflation. It took me about 4 minutes to blow the thing up, while having conversations and not being entirely focused on inflation – but it didn’t matter because the inflation valve does not let air out if you take a break from stuffing your breath in there. Once inflated, you see the indents of the weld-through construction that 1.) reduces the amount of air you need to fill and 2.) creates these awesome little air pockets that keep you warm during the night. On top of that, there is a mylar insulation (kind of like your space blanket) inside of this pad, so it keeps you warm but doesn’t sound like you’re rolling around in bubble wrap. I will recommend this pad to anyone – it’s awesome.
Lessons Learned in Hammock Camping
Well, this was a pretty safe place to test out hammock camping, but I’m pretty dang happy with my set-up. There are a few concerns I have if I take this into an area a bit more wild…
- Weather – If it rains, I’m fucked. I need to look into some kind of tarp system that could help will water management.
- Weight – While it’s lighter than some tent systems – the ENO system I have isn’t the lightest available and when I throw it in a backpack, it tends to cause a bit of instability because of the density and size – this makes it hard to run.
- Tree Line – If I get into places above 10,000 ft. I might be kind of screwed with this set-up. Obviously, hammocks require trees or something similar to secure straps and suspend the system. That said, if worst comes to worst, I can drop the system on the ground and secure the ridgeline to something (even a buddy’s tent) to keep the bug net off my face.
- Cold – Sure, it got into the mid to high 30’s while I was out there and I was supremely comfy, but if I want to really test this in a mountain environment that will likely mean testing it in lower temps. There’s nothing I can do other than continue to test the limits of this (or better) hammock systems and see if my kit meets the challenge. This, without a doubt, means that I will have at least one miserable night of sleep – but it’s all in the name of FastPacked.
Stay tuned for more updates on gear upgrades because I never meant for my ENO to be my camping hammock (looking at you Hennesy, cough, cough)