Hammock Camping Starters; Simple and Cheap

Hammock Camping in Georgia, near Vidalia July 2015
Blue Sky Outdoor Netted Mosquito Traveler Hammock ($42) with Hennessy Hex Tarp ($70), camping near Vidalia, Georgia. The tarp is secured to four stakes using a Cawley Knot, one side raised for better ventilation. The two factory attachment points were later changed out for 5-mintues-to-make-at-home Amsteel Whoopie slings.
Blue Sky Hammock as Mosquito net under bunk in Nosara, Costa Rica
The Blue Sky Traveler Mosquito Netted Hammock used as, well a mosquito net in Norasa, Costa Rica. I’d intended to camp several night in Cabo Blanco at the tip of the Nicoya Peninsula as well as inside Corcovando Park (near Drake Bay), though I never left Playa Guiones (near Nosara) in all of my nine weeks in country.

“…you’re giving up the option to keep occasional company with a hammock. You also have to exit the hammock to pee at night.”

By Beau Blessing

In 2014, I managed over 90 days of camping in a borrowed Viperine 2 by Mountain Hardwear (discontinued), a nearly six pound free standing, front entry tent with 42″ of head height and room for two. While most cyclist were still below this weight (the Seedhouse SL2, for example), riding the Divide Route for the first 2000 miles, however, I passed several CDT hikers who swore by tarps, and still others that swore by hammocks. At any rate, theAmerican West offers a mild-to-cool summer (based on elevation) with few mosquitoes and infrequent rains. The Atlantic Coastal Plains, stretching from North Carolina to Texas, are much warmer, buggier and wet.

Netted Contenders

Hennessy Explorer (disambiguated from Expedition!) $212 (includes Asymmetrical tarp); 56 x 108; rated 300 lbs; weight 3 lbs

Blue Sky Mosquito Traveler $42; 54 x 115; Rated 330 lbs; weight 1.4 lbs

Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter PRO; $60; 60 x 126; rated 400 lbs, weight 2.2 lbs

Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter (disambiguated from larger PRO) $60; 54 x 114; rated 250; weight 1.25 lbs

Other; Enjoydeal $23; 43 x 98; rated 260 lbs; weight 1.4-shipping)

(Warbonnet Blackbird is a hammock that outdoorgearlab loves, though I didn’t look at it too much; it runs $185 without tarp/rain fly.)

That the Hennessy Expedition came with a rain fly and bug netting for $145 was impressive. Unfortunately at 6’1″, I’d need to go up to the longer Explorer version. But at $210 now, I was nearly to my default front entering, free standing 28 square ft tent, the Seedhouse sl2 for $300 and the practically same weight. Already, you’re giving up the option to keep occasion company with a hammock. You also have to exit the hammock to pee at night. (Note: Spirit Airline offers a free sub-carryon personal item; it is limited to 16″ at it longest measurement, 3″ shorter than the folded poles.) The Seedhouse SL2 is my default tent that if I had to pick today, would take on my next cycling trip from Amsterdam to Prague and Vienna and Croatia next summer.

Non-netted, A non-Starter

The popular if not nontechnical Grand Trunk and Eno Nest were reviewed as notably tear-prone based on their material (which is nearly the same as the Blue Sky and Easydeal, too. The Kijara Single is cheaper than both but all three are non-netted. That an optional zippered bug screen would add weight o more than 20 oz was suspect, and the $60 price tag steep. A stand alone bug screen used for sleeping in countries with malaria or dengue was $15-30, but would need to be modified for hammock use and suitable hammock entry; I didn’t want any sewing machine projects. The most basic parachute fabric hammock, and a petite version at that, was $20. So the suitably long Blue Sky netted hammock for $42 seemed to fit the bill. (Carabiners were offered separately for $7 a pop; no thanks.)

Rain Fly

For a rain tarp, silnylon is renown for making light weight shelters and perhaps the go to of ultra light hikers that tarp camp with or without a bug bivy. Cuben fiber is another next gen fabric that is said to collect less condensation. Both are also pricey, and the options vary from $120 for a suitably sized catenary cut (arched, curving length panels) hammock tarp with 6 attachment points to more complex tarps that lend themselves to a myriad of uses and tent-like configurations. Theses material’s wider range of use is appealing but at higher price points, a hard choice to make under so much uncertainty.

 

The poly treated nylon squares would be the cheapest option, an 8×10 costing $50. But attachment would be made using grommets, presenting a possible tear issue. Another option, an 9×6 rectangle with 6 more suitable attachment points at the corners and center lines for $55 seemed reasonable. A review mocking this items description as XL left me size concerned; many places receive more than occasional rain and I’d be taking the hammock with me to Costa Rica.

So working up price wise, at $71 the Hennessy hex (includes tie lines) was big enough at a modified 12×10 but weighting 23 oz., was no worse than treated nylon (itself treated polyester). It also has suitable corner tie points, though I’d prefer cat cut along ALL sides (4 of 6 are) in order to keep the tension distributed equally along the two longest lengths, baffling passing winds and dis-allowing rain to pool along the Hennessy’s hemmed, rasied edges. The ENo Dry fly and Pro fly are a bit smaller, but are cat cut and have appropriate anchor points, but I saw no feature advantage to going up any higher on the price scale and would rather take minor pooling over a smaller tarp.

A last point; the tarp should extend beyond the length of the hammock itself no less than 12-18″ to prevent rain penetration. The attachment points will thus be covered at their closet to the hammock, allowing for the attachment of drip lines, or small lengths of simple cord that are tied to the attachment lines to create a dip edge for rain water trying to follow the lines.

WhoopIe Sling

Nearly every hammock mentioned here is considered a “gathered end hammock”, meaning that the material comprising the hammock is simply brought together at its ends by passing an attachment cord through sewn sleeves; none use spreader bars. The standard cording can thus be replaced with lightweight Samson AmSteel Blue, a marvel of engineering strength and workability.

The whoopee/whoopie sling design allows instant attachment and effortless length adjustment. This DIY Whoopie Sling YouTube shows you how to make your own and gives length and size (7/64) material will need and was the easiest to follow.

Another Youtube shows that water will follow the suspension and whoopie sling to reach the hammock, so a couple inches of small cord tied onto the whoopie just before the gathered end of the hammock and still under the fly will divert any sneaky water, directing it to drip from here down.

Suspension

Attachment to the tree requires only 1″ polyester webbing with a martin head knot (at 4:24) that cinches around the tree, leaving a tag line. A marlin hitch spike along this tag end is where you’ll simply slide over the working end of the whoopie sling, and slide to adjust. For a spike, use just about anything that won’t crush (wine corks DON’T work, bolts do but are heavy; sticks vary). Specially sold Easton Aluminum spikes sound like overkill that I’ll mark as a ‘maybe’.

FLY KNOTS, RIDGELINE KNOTS & STAKES

Secure your rain fly and ridge lines (the two center attachment points) and slide taught using an adjustable Cawley hitch (at 1:32). Not only is it super easy to remember and keeps tension, but releases with a simple pull. For attachment to the ground, any light stakes will work; Easton seem to me expensive and so use 9″ big orange aluminum stakes from Wal-Mart (use a piece of wood in the palm of your hand to press firmly into the ground).

Colder weather camping

On October 19th, 2015 the temperature fell to about 43 degrees near Uvaldia, Georgia. A mattress pad is essential for preventing heat loss. I use the most basic foam, non-inflating Therarest Ridgerest ($30, 1.3lbs) in the  longest lengths for all camping, including inside the Blue Sky Traveler hammock. The argument for non-inflating is that it cannot fail if punctured and provides quick, optional day time seating outside of the tent or hammock. The so-lite model and other newer mattress pads likely beat this classic, but hey, its what I still have.

The rain fly could be used to help retain heat in temperatures below your bag rating, but other flys are available that would do this better. Otherwise, watching the stars as you fall to sleep is something to cherish.

Warm Weather Camping

In warm weather, the netting of the camping hammock will hender breeze, as will any other no-see-um mesh. The parachute fabric sweats more than standard linenes, but still breathes sufficentyly to remain dry while any dampness quickly disipates after the sweating stops eg when it gets cooler. The rain fly, on the other, will impede breezes but is still rather optional unless raining. Morning dampness may be an acceptable trade off for cooler, start filled nights.

Buggy Camping

Treating the bottom panels of the hammock tent with an insecticide will deter mosquito and ticks. Permethrin is a toxin, but may prevent bites from disease carrying mosquitoes and ticks.