hammock camping

Warbonnet XLC

DSCN1876Here is a short video I shot today of a first look at my new Warbonnet Outdoors XLC.
The XLC hammock is an improvement of the Blackbird hammock.  XL standing for “Extra Large” is 1 foot longer than the Blackbird giving the hammock a more comfortable and flatter lay for larger hangers.  Since I am 5’11” I notice a big difference in the comfort right off the bat.
The “C” stands for convertible.  The bug netting can be totally removed to create a Traveler Hammock or a winter cover can replace the bug netting for winter camping.  I personally opted not to get the winter cover as I have winter camped in the Blackbird for many years without one and do just fine.. that and it saved me $65.
I chose to use Whoppie slings instead of webbing and buckles, this takes down the weight a bit and gives me some options when it comes to tree distance.
Anyway, check out this side by side comparison of the Blackbird and the XLC.  You will find that basically they are the same hammock, the XLC edging out the Blackbird in comfort and lay for taller hangers.

Let me know what you think.  Are you doing the hammock camping yet?  If not.. why?
Off for a wonderful nights sleep in the hammock tonight in the backyard hammock lab.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Hammock Basics

I have received a bunch of emails recently asking about this “Hammock Thing” basically wondering why I hammock camp and what does it really involve.
Last summer I shot a video that answered some of those questions, so I thought I would drop it here on the blog from my YouTube channel.
The basics, kind of an extension of the post I did the other day on the Big 3.  The hammock set up takes care of two of the three, the shelter and the sleep system.  The third element would be my Pack, the hammock set up saves a lot of weight and space in my pack.
I have to be honest with you.  One of the main reasons I love the hammock camping set up is all the tweaking and playing around with the set up.  I suppose you don’t have to mess around with it.  The system is great out of the box, but it is so fun to try new things and learn more about the system.
For example, I am currently trying out different ways to do a “Pole Mod” on my tarp,  This is will be an alternate way of using the pull outs on the sides of my Warbonnet Super Fly Tarp.  I will keep you posted on how that goes.  I just got the poles yesterday, now it’s time to fiddle with it and try different techniques and set ups.  I’ll let you know how it ends up.
So check out this video, let me know what you think and please feel free to ask all the questions you would like.  I love to talk about hammocks and hammock camping.

I hope this video showed you a little about hammock camping and the hammock set up.  If you are interested, let me know.  If you already hammock camp, let me know that too.
Leave a comment, I love to know what you think.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

5 Reason’s I Hammock Camp

wbbbThis last weekend I got to hang out with some great Scouters at our Lodge’s Rendezvous.  A few years back a few of the guys became interested in my hammock set up, which I use every camp out.  Slowly the interest became more hammock campers.  This year there were about 5 or 6 hammock set ups that I knew of and it seems that the interest is growing more and more each year.
We got to talking about our hammock set ups and as we discussed this fantastic way of camping there were a few people who had lots of questions.  We all had our tips, tricks, and way we do it, but most of it was common.
Some one asked why?  Why hammock camp, after all, what’s wrong with tents?  So it got me to thinking about why I hammock camp.
Here are the top 5 reason’s I am a hammock camper.
1.  Comfort.  In a hammock I wake up rested and no sore body parts.  When you are laying in the hammock you have no pressure points.  Hips, Shoulders, and Back are all suspended in nylon.  Without the pressure points I find I don’t toss and turn and wake up well rested.
Using the under quilt and top quilt is warm and comfortable and easy to get in and out of.  Nylon and Down wrap around me and I feel snug as a bug when I am sleeping.
2.  Easy set up and take down.  I like how easy it is to set up my system.  The tarp goes up quick and my hammock is just a matter of two straps and buckles.  I can set up in a driving rain and keep everything dry.  The same goes for take down.  I can stand up under the tarp and pack my gear, take down the hammock and keep everything clean and dry.  Because all of the components of my system are in stuff sacks, everything is easy to unpack and pack.
3.  Leave No Trace.  I am a big fan of leave no trace methods and work to practice them no matter when and where I camp.  Hammocks can be set up places where tents cannot comfortably go, as long as there are trees.  Because I am hanging above the ground I am not leaving the impact that a tent does on the ground, nor am I restricted to tent platforms or designated tent sites.  Since I am not on the ground, I do not need to clear the area of rocks twigs and other debris that show I was there.  Tree straps are tree friendly.  They do not damage the trees and the weight is distributed so as not to hurt the trees.  If there is a concern about softer bark, I use the Philmont method of wrapping rope for bear bags in the I insert twigs around the straps to reduce the impact if there would be some.
Because most, not all, but most hammock campers practice light weight backpacking practices, I am reducing my foot print in gear and how I camp and think about LNT all the time.
4.  The Gear.  The nature of hammock gear is light and small.  Everything from the hammock to the tarp fits in small sacks and does not take up a lot of space in my pack.  The quilts are light and compress real small.  I never will be an Ultra light backpacker.  It’s just not something that I am willing to dedicate too much thought and energy to doing, but I am dedicated to being a light weight backpacker and the hammock set up really allows for that.  Along with the hammock, tarp, and quilts, hammock campers typically look at lighter solutions to camping.  Stoves, cook kits, and the other items that fill the pack are looked at carefully for its functionality, purpose, and size and weight.  Becoming a hammock camper got me into tinkering with gear and finding the “perfect solution” for my backpack.  This has been super fun for me.
5.  Hang anywhere.  I have found that I can hang pretty much anywhere.  I have hung my hammock inside of shelters, off of rocks, and of course between tress.  There never seems to be a place that I can not hang my hammock (except at Philmont).   I do not have to be uncomfortable camping in the hammock.  I noticed that as I started getting older that I started having a harder time sleeping on the ground.  Even on a cot at the National Jamboree I tossed and turned.  The weather, the temperatures, and the terrain are no longer obstacles in camping.  I can hang anywhere in my hammock set up.
Well there are 5 reason’s that I love hammock camping.  I am sure that I could list a few more, but it really comes down to comfort and fun.  I always encourage our Scouts to try new things and when they find that they like it, it adds to the adventure of Scouting.
I can say this… once you go to the hammock, it is hard to go back to the ground.  But Hike your Own Hike and do what you like.  I am a hammock guy and love it.
Have any questions feel free to ask, leave a comment.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Staying warm in your Hammock

phoenixI had a fun discussion this weekend with a reader of the blog that is interested, but not sold on the whole hammock camping thing.  We were talking about when I camp in my hammock.  The answer is all the time, every month in every season.  So the question was, “so how do you stay warm in the hammock?”
There are many ways to keep warm while having a great nights sleep in the hammock.   I use a Top Quilt and an Under Quilt.
It’s science.  You see, when you lay in a sleeping bag on a pad (or in a hammock) you crush the fibers or the down that is creating loft that keeps you warm.  Down feathers and synthetic fibers must have air pockets to allow for the warm air to become trapped and create warmth.
The quilts made for hammocks are designed to create the most insulation.  They are constructed with a nylon shell filled with either down or synthetic materials.   The Under quilt hangs below and on the outside of the hammock.  When you lay in the hammock, you are surrounded by the underquilt and none of the material is compressed.  Because the hammock is made of nylon also and as such is a breathable material the body generates heat and fills the insulation keeping you warm underneath.  If you are worried about wind robbing your quilt of the “R” value, Underquilt cover is hung below the quilt and snugged up to the quilt to protect it from wind, rain, snow, or other heat stealing agents.
The top quilt is basically a blanket with a foot box.  It is easy to get in and out of and coupled with the under quilt provides comfort and warmth.
For added warmth, a sleeping bag liner can be added.
A good under quilt and top quilt will cost you about $550, but because there is no wear on them, they last a long time, if you take care of them.
If you don’t want to spend that kind of money, there are other options that will keep you just as warm.
A regular sleeping bag works just fine.  It is a heavier option and is a little harder to get in and out of, but you can stay just as warm.
Use a closed cell foam pad in the hammock to provide insulation and take away what hammock campers call CBS or Cold Butt syndrome.  Your self inflating pad will work also, just don’t fill it all the way.  The CCF pad works much better though.  Air on air is not great insulation.
Reflectix pads or a sheet of reflectix material or emergency blanket works real well to provide a great heat source.  Reflective materials or reflectix will bounce 70% of your body heat back at you.  That’s pretty good for the size and weight of the materials.
Once you have the gear, the rest is up to how you sleep.  In the winter, I will sleep in Poly Pro long underwear and a beanie cap.  When it’s really cold I will wear down booties on my feet.   I have also placed my down puffy jacket over the hammock and zip it up creating a foot pocket.
I try to keep my load down, so I use clothing that I already have in my pack.
A tarp is a must to keep the elements off of your hammock and you.  A tarp pitched in a tight “A” frame is roomy and provides great protection from the elements.
As we prepare for our winter camping this season, I will post some video to illustrate my winter set up.
As you can imagine, I love to talk about gear, hammock camping, and being out in the woods, so I was thrilled this weekend when the questions started coming.
Hope that helped you get a better picture of how to stay warm in your hammock.

Have a Great Scouting Day!

Water Purification System

In this video I demonstrate the way that I carry and purify my water.
Water is an essential part of backpacking, and in the discussion of hammock camping systems this becomes a large part of how we camp and the gear we use within the system.
My philosophy is to keep everything simple. This water filtering method is just that.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

A couple much needed days

Just got home from a couple much needed days on the Pacific Crest Trail.  My buddy Mark and I hit the trail on Sunday for a few days of lolly gagging south bound from Timberline Lodge down to Frog Lake.
Here is the video I shot.
I also shot some video on hammock stuff that I will be posting in the very near future.
Have a Great Scouting Day!

Hammocks in Scouting

ImageIt 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!