I went on my first camping trip when I was 8 months old. Throughout my childhood, I went on a lot of camping trips. When I was 26, I went on a cross country trip for 2 1/2 months, camping for 90% of it. But all of that was car camping. I know how to car camp. Big, roomy tent? YES. Two burner Coleman stove? YES. Big old cooler full of food? YES. Who cares? It all goes in the car.
Until now. Now that I’m hiking the New Hampshire 4000-footers, I’d like to try backpacking. My plan is that I can break up some of the longer hikes by camping overnight along the trail. But that means packing in all my gear on my back.
Additionally, options have changed in gear over the last 18 years (wow, was that trip really that long ago?).
So, I bought a hammock. I’d read about people using them on the Appalachian Trail. After years of tent camping (needing a footprint under it, roasting inside when it’s hot, sleeping on rocks even though you thought you picked the perfect spot, etc.), hanging from a tree in the breeze sounded like bliss. Especially here in New Hampshire, you know, the GRANITE STATE. Mind you, this is not your mamma’s rope hammock with spreader bars that flips over more than a pancake. But a camping hammock. Specifically, this one (I paid for this in full, no one asked me to write this post or review this hammock). I bought this one because it has good reviews, came with all the things, and all the things were in separate pieces (so I could choose to leave items at home if they weren’t needed).
Sure, you can just buy a hammock and be done with it, but if you’re going to camp with it, you’ll probably want a few additional items. This one came with atlas straps, wide straps that won’t harm trees like a thin cord would. The atlas straps are also REALLY easy to set up. You don’t need to know any knots or anything like that to get the hammock hung just right. This hammock also comes with a bug net. Another important item to have when you’re camping, especially in New Hampshire (home to mosquitos and black flies), as I’ll be doing. Lastly, it comes with a tarp to protect you from rain and whatever else may fall from the sky (last night it was acorns).
Speaking of last night, I decided to try it out in my backyard. It was a breeze to set up. My only complaint is that the cord for the bugnet is stupidly short, I’ll be buying a longer one ASAP. Now technically, this hammock is a two-person hammock, so I decided to try it out with my 12-year-old son. All of my research said “sleep diagonally”. This allows you to lay almost flat, if you’ve hung it properly. Let me tell you, that doesn’t really work with two people. You can try, and you’ll be a tiny bit diagonal, but you definitely won’t be flat. I was actually surprised, however, how well we managed to sleep. I’ll most likely buy him his own hammock (hammock only, not the entire system, as we can probably share a tarp when needed, again the bonus of separates), but it’s nice to know that in an emergency, we could fit and sleep two people in my hammock.
Getting in and out was a bit amusing. My research also showed that it’s easier to “put on” your sleeping bag BEFORE getting in the hammock, rather than trying to get in the hammock and THEN get in your bag. With two of us, it was even better advice, and also that much more amusing. Especially with the bug net, you aren’t just swinging your legs into the hammock, you’ve got to swing them in ONLY through the zipper entry of the net. So my son got in his bag, and then up and over into the hammock. He tries to scootch over as far as possible so I can get in my bag, hop over to the hammock, and up and over myself into the hammock.
As my daughter said when I told her we were both going to sleep in it, “You DO know how hammocks work, right?”. And while it was do-able, it was a bit like sleeping in a really old bed with a terrible mattress where two people inevitably slide into the giant dip in the middle. I woke up at one point and my feet had fallen asleep because they were above me.
We did however make it through the night. In the morning, my son went in the house, and I slept a bit longer solo. It was delightful. I could lay diagonally, and therefore nearly flat. I could also lay on my side slightly curled up, which is how I prefer to sleep. Really comfortable, really easy to set up, and equal to (or potentially lighter than many tents). Backpacking sleep system, check!