Hammocks... take number one!

So, here’s the deal. I love the idea of camping in a hammock, it looks cool as hell and the potential weight savings have always nagged at me. I picked up the 82g Sea to Summit nano bug pyramid to develop a really minamlist bivy-less bivy setup with a polycro groundsheet, but as soon as it came in I realized its true purpose…

This is my first attempt at any flying sleep system, and even from this rudimentary attempt I can see the potential. I’ll quickly step through here what I did right and wrong, with the obvious caveat that there is substantially more of the latter than the former.

The Idea

In my head, it all made sense. The setup had three main components.

  • The cloth bit
  • The sheet bit
  • The bit without the bugs

Hang the hammock, put up a ridgeline, hang the tarp on the ridgeline, and string the bug net from the ridgeline.

Before you read any further, pretty much all of that is wrong.

Well, the first bit is right. The tarp, however, does not fit well on the ridgeline, and probably requires another line to work correctly. I don’t have this set up yet.

My idea was to use the groundsheet from my Hubba Hubba Nx (which I love dearly) as the tarp in this set up, and use the S2S bug net on the ridgeline. Hammock suspension? No clue. The weight breakdown was pretty decent though.

Shakedown

Item Purpose Mass (g)
Hubba Hubba Footprint Rain fly 182
Sea to Summit Bug Net Bug Protection 82
Europe-bound Single Hammock 228
Spikes Hold the fly down 41
Total:   533

This doesn’t include some feet of ropage that I used, and that’s still to be included in this total. I didn’t include it for a few more reasons though, and that will become clearer further down this rant.

With all of this in mind, and with absolute certainty in my goal if not my path, I headed out with about a thousand feet of stretchy neon rope and a pocket knife.

The Implimentation

To say that everything went smoothly would be a tad too generous. However, I had just finished the grueling process of applying for a visa to study in the UK (about a month later than I was supposed to) and thought I deserved a bit of a break. Here’s everything that went wrong in a very well categorized list; rest assured it did not unfold so graciously.

Right here.

Right here.

Hammock

My hammock came in a “80% off” bin, which I believe tells you all you need to know. The first step of this process was to remove everything the manufacturer had helpfully installed so that I could satisfy my inner gram-weenie.

Gram-Weenie (n): A person who cares enough about their base weight to include in the about section of their blog.

Instead of the usual continuous loop at either bunched end, EuropeBound had used some very heavy-duty cordage attached to a 51g carabiner (where did they possibly get these) on each end; all told the cordage plus the carabiners equalled an astonishing 230g. I removed it and replaced it with some (still pretty heavy) rope pending a trip to MEC. The end is tied in a simple double figure 8 knot.

Some rope.

Is this even a knot?

With these two replacements, I had cut down the weight of the hammock considerably. It’s still not an UL piece of equipment, but it will do for now. I couldn’t bring myself to cut off the stuff sack; it was just so pretty.

The Suspension

This was the part that I had the most difficulty with; my game plan of tie-knots-until-it-doesn’t-fall-down did eventually work, but not until I had recieved some concerned phone calls from my girlfriend. In case you need a metric unit, it was four hours.

I started by finding two friendly trees who were interested in consenual rope play. My two candidates were loitering in depths of the back yard, conveniently covered in enough sap to make me regret the whole exercise. I had a few problems.

  1. I brought way too much rope
  2. I brought way too few snacks

After dealing with the second issue first, I first tried to wrangle the second tree. In the spirit of having as few items to work with in my pack as possible, I had thought that a continuous rope between the two trees with knots tied for the attachement points might work.Unfortunately that amount of work was difficult to work with, and it quickly become tangled. I also wasn’t completely certain how to get the knots to work.

I started with a Hennessy hitch around the second tree, which worked, and a second hitch around the first tree, which did not. Foiled, and sticky, I decided to opt for the two-rope method. I kept the Hennesy hitch on the first tree and tied a quick bowline to keep it in place; I then tied the free end in a figure 8 with the free end around the double 8 of the hammock end, which accomplished a pretty nifty looking seal.

Whats hanging

There were several issues with this approach. First, it’s extraordinarily difficult to take down or move, and second it took quite a long time. I also want a more firm attachment point for the ridgeline, and I’m not sold on the hang angle, it looks too shallow to me. Unfortunately I was unable to change it due to my poor set up.

However, the hammock was up, so at this point I had a few very cautious minutes of progressively putting my weight onto it. It’s a lot scarier when it’s your knots keeping you in the air. Above the spiders. Oh so many spiders.

It’s a tarp!

I’m not a huge fan of sleeping in the rain, but I also want a pretty minimal shelter. I already had a pretty small tarp, so I decided to recruit it for today. Set up was pretty minimal, I tied a quick ridge line across the hammock and draped the tarp over. I had to fashion some crude extenders out of twine to put down the stakes, but a figure 8 on one end and a bowline on the other accomplished this in a reasonable amount of time. The only casuality of the whole affair was a Big Agnes stake which unceremoneously flew into the brush after I was too enthusiastic in testing the strength of the pitch. Perhaps one day I’ll step on it and cut my foot.

Overall, coverage wasn’t bad, but I’m certain it would not keep me dry in a storm without pitching it inches from my face. The ends are tapered, which I must assume helps it when on the solid earth, but while in the sky it just means more places for mother nature to spit on my face. I have plans to construct a polycro tarp soon, though that remains a task for another afternoon.

The Bug Net

I have yet to run this through a real trip, so I have no idea how well it will actually work. However, with a few clothes pegs (which I shall have to replace or suffer well-deserved taunts) I was able to get most of my body under it, and only the most enterprising mosquito could make it to me. It did successfully ward off a terrifyingly large wasp which buzzed my way, and I think S2S has earned their money just with that feat.

The pitch was too high to lay the whole thing on top of the ridgeline, so I opted to attach the apex only and use clothes pins on either side to hold up the sheaths. One red corner went to my head and the opposing blue to my feet, while the remaining ends wrap underneath.The seal is not perfect, but then again, no seal is perfect.

Poor guy

The Result

Well, it stayed up for at least a couple of minutes, and really what else did you expect.

Poor guy

I’m reasonably happy with how it turned out. Both my ZLite and Marmot sleeping bag comfortably fit and I’m able to get a good angle when lying down. Inside is airy, and feels a lot more spacious than being inside a tent. I love the feeling of being outside, and if a bear comes, at least I’ll be able to say goodbye before my inevitable demise.

My bucket list of improvements

  • The ability to change the hang angle
  • The length of the ridge line
  • THe tarp hang (I need to get it off the ridge line)
  • The seal on the bug net

The ability to change the hang angle, and also improve the time it takes to put the whole thing up, is going to be solved by a trip to MEC tomorrow and some nylon webbing (read: tree-huggers). This replaces the Hennessy hitch and speeds up the time considerably. If I need more adaptability, I may also try whoopie-slings, which sound like an ammusing way to fall out of your hammock but are in reality a special kind of variable length rope. Exciting, right?

The length of the ridge line will also be fixed with the whoopie sling attachment, though I can also just fix one end with a double 8 and adjust the other with a Hennessy. This wasn’t too bad and the guyline is easier to work with.

Tarp hang remains to be seen. I would love to upgrade, but at this point that’s a pipedream.

To seal the bug net, I will be investing in some small binder clips. And by some, I mean about a hundred. Ever wondered how many binder clips you can fit into a hammock stuff sack? Me neither, but we’re both going to find out.

Debrief

Thanks for slogging through, I hope I’m as dry sleeping in this system as this article was in describing it. This saga will updated as my adventure into hammocks goes further down the rabbit hole, and really dive off the deep end.