It seems as though there has been a lot of talk about hammock camping in the Scouting community lately. And boy does that make me happy.
I have been a hammock camper now since 2010 when I got turned on to the most comfortable way to camp at the National Jamboree at Ft. A.P. Hill. Hennessy Hammocks had a cool display set up and even gave hammocks to a troop to camp in at the Jambo. I thought it was a cool idea and decided to take one for a test ride. 2 days after I got home from Jamboree, I ordered my first hammock and besides our trek at Philmont I have not slept a night on the ground.
Hammock camping is much more than just sleeping in a hammock, it becomes a method or style of camping. As different as car camping and backpacking, hammock camping requires a skill set that is different than setting up a tent. Hammock camping requires the camper to have the skills to select a camp site, develop gear, and in most cases evaluate what is in the pack and how the items in the pack are deployed.
Now, hammock campers are not always backpackers, and they are not always looking for ways to lighten up the load, but what I have found is that some of it goes hand in hand. Recently on the Hammock Forums there was a poll conducted to survey the average age of hammock campers. The survey was obviously not scientific and did not ask what style of camping the participants use.. I found it interesting that on the forum anyway, that the average age was between 40 and 49 years old. Now in my opinion that age group is due to a few things. First, folks in that age group need lighter gear in their packs. This is the case with me. Knees getting older, the want to stay out in the woods, and in our Scouting world, keep up with the youngster. The hammock set up is lighter. Second, the hammock gear is such that it can be a little more expensive or requires some degree of Do it yourself. This age group seems to have both the funds and time and patients for the DIY projects.
So what does this have to do with Hammock camping in Scouting? Well, here is how I see it. In our troop since we focus on the backpacking style of camping, introducing hammocks to Scouts is a sure fire way to get them to like their time on the trail. The hammock set up as I stated is lighter. So, if the pack is lighter they have a better time hiking. Skills. Again, like I said there are certain skills that most hammock campers develop. Now, before I go on, yes you can get a Hennessy hammock complete with tarp that is out of the bag ready to use. But most hammock campers tweek, modify, and set up their gear to meet their specific needs, wants, and style of camping. This is a great opportunity to really get your Scouts into planning, adjusting, and thinking about the gear they take, carry, and use. It is a way to get the Scouts to really take a close look at their set up and make it their own. With that they take pride in their gear, take care of it… and oh yeah.. use it more.
Last weekend I went to the PCT trail days event. I got to talking to a vendor there that represented the American Long Distance Hiking Association. Our conversation led us to Philmont. When I brought up the magical backpacker heaven his eye lit up and he shared that his trip to Philmont as Scout propelled him to a life long interest and love of backpacking. 2 years after trekking through the Sange De Cristo mountains he hiked the AT. We got to talking about gear and that he spends a great of his time speaking to Scout troops about light gear and getting out on the trail.
So again, what does this all have to do with getting Scouts into hammock camping.? It’s different. There are so many Scouters that believe that the only way to camp is with Patrol boxes, cleaning stations, and big tents. The transition to backpacking and looking at lighter alternatives is a new trend that will take Scouting some time to catch up.
A step in the right direction is the Leave No Trace program. A program that supports hammock camping as a great alternative to reduce our impact. I’ll talk more about that in another post. But since the BSA embraces LNT, hammock camping is a nice way to promote it. How and why… well, once again it comes down to the gear and how we use it. Teaching our Scouts to use their gear to reduce impact, lighten their loads to have a better time on the trail and develop a love of camping and mastering their ability built the set up that works for them. That pride in ownership will keep them interested in the outdoors and Scouting. We have already seen this excitement in the Scouts of our Troop that have found interest in getting away from the conventional methods of camping and moving to tarps and hammocks or bivy’s . Once a small group start in, it becomes a point of interest and then more want to try it.
There is a lot of talk about hammock camping in Scouting right now. Maybe this talk will lead to Scouting fully embracing the hammock camping style and making it part of the norm.
Over the next couple posts I am going to discuss hammock camping in depth. But here is a great start. There is a guy on the hammock forums that put this all together and I love it. It is a great way to get started in hammock camping and teaching it to Scouts. MERIT BADGE
Check it out and let me know what you think.
Have a Great Scouting day!