Some background first – I have been looking and wanting to try hammock camping for a while. Being in the Smokey’s most of the time for overnights (KY in general, TN, NC) there is no shortage of trees for hanging a hammock. It wasnt that it would be a cheaper than a quality tent, but that I would not have hotspots from stones, twigs, roots or whatever was on the ground, even with a sleeping pad. So, I have been on the lookout for a good hammock that would last and not break the bank.
Well, on Kickstarter, a company introduced a “top quilt” meant for their hammock system. It could be used with or without a hammock. Basically, sleeping bag without a zipper. So, I backed their “top quilt” at a very nice price. Why start here? Well, I knew from reading and checking various places, a top quilt and under quilt were going to be needed for warmth. So, I got the part that could be used in any hammock. This was back in the spring.
Now, I wanted to also have the hammock and tarp, so I could be sheltered whenever I went camping. Thing is I still could not make up my mind on what I wanted. I went back to the company I got the top quilt from and checked their offerings. They were having a sale on their hammock and tarp, so I went ahead and got them, figuring if I got the same system, it would all work together neatly. I also sprung for the upgraded tree cords with cinch buckles for hanging. So, not I had everything but the under quilt. However, they had it on kickstarter, but I missed the early backer at the best prices. So, I figured with summer being in full swing, I would just use the top quilt as a sleeping pad, and my regular blanket as the covers. At least until I could see what the price was after release.
Well, after trying to get out and try all this stuff, I finally make it to a campground and start setting it all up… Lets say, the wind coming off the lake turned the whole process into trying to raise a sail in a hurricane. It took forever to get the tarp tied down, and because I was over it by that time, I didnt bother switching the hammock around so the opening would be on the lee side of the tarp. The side you see down in the pics was the side the wind was hitting. Well, that made it pretty difficult to get in and out, as the tarp was right on the opening… Lesson learned – get over it and turn the hammock next time.
Well, after getting everything set up, I took a lie down, and a quick nap. It was quite comfortable, even if I was on my back, it was more like being in a lazyboy chair. I still knew it would take some getting used to in order to sleep more than a couple hours at a time. I would find out that was very much the truth later that night. So, after relaxing a bit, I sat down, got my stove ready and made up some dinner. The fabulous 5-star meal of “Chicken and Noodles” from Mountain House. And, actually, for camping they are pretty good. I has the wild rice and mushrooms for lunch and the smaller snack-sized beef stroganof for a snack in the middle of the day.
You know. There is something to be said about taking a weekend and just getting out of the city and sleeping in nature. Granted, yes, it was a campground, but there was no one within 100 feet of where I camped. And then, only one couple who kept to themselves and were pretty quiet. Other than getting the hammock hung, I had no other responsibilities. I sat at the picnic table, or in my folding chair at the water, and either read or listened to music. And with the weather being near perfect (might have hit 70 during the day, but went to mid 40s overnight) it was hard to stay indoors. It was a great day to ride the bike (right at 90 miles one way) and enjoy the scenery.
Now, overnight was interesting. It took me a bit to really figure out how to get in and out while leaving the “top quilt” in place under me. Once that was sorted, I found my pillow wanted to slide down every time, but once I stopped moving, that was all good as well. I didnt fall asleep right away, but I didnt expect to either. I did fall asleep quicker than I would have in the tent. I woke up an hour or so later to the sounds of something walking around the hammock. I was in the woods, away from the water. There were no voices or anything. I shined a light out, and there were 6 deer walking around. Pretty cool. Well, enter having to get up to relieve myself.
It was a process in the dark. From finding the zipper to remembering there are no real good hand-holds and then face planting the tarp… Yep, I was wide awake by the time I readjusted the quilt and found my blanket that was laying under the hammock because I forgot about it when I got out. Right then, frustrating. Looking back, funny as hell. I also realized, at that moment, an under quilt was definitely needed and would make the whole process so much easier. So, after laying there, making micro adjustments, I finally fell asleep, and pretty much stayed that way for the rest of the night. I woke up somewhere around 8:00 AM. Love when the campsite doesnt have direct sunlight. I made some coffee, relaxed a bit and then started the process of breaking down camp.
It took less time to get everything broken down until I got to the lines. When I brought everything down off the hill, they got tangled. So, I took the time to redo them and get them untangled and put away. I also re-threaded the ridge-line inside the hammock through the guide loops so the built-in bug-net stayed in place. Forgot that when I was setting up. Actually, didnt see them at that point. After that, everything folded down and ended up back in their bags nicely and the bike was packed up within minutes after that. I ended up leaving camp right at 10:00 AM. GPS said I would be home at 12:30 PM, however, I was going to take a couple shortcuts, which ended up putting me in the garage at 11:45 AM and the bike unpacked by 12:25 PM.
All in all, it was a successful weekend. I have a lot of notes to take back, including going back and rewatching the tutorial videos as well as updating the packing of the bike. There are some changes with that aspect that I think I can make that will pair down what all I end up bringing. I had the top box, dry bag and side bags, and while I didnt use everything, I wanted to see what the full pack looked like. I have quite a few changes to make, but after I get the under quilt in. I also want to do this before the organized hang at the end of the month.
So, for now, here are the photos I took while down there. If you want to know the stuff I took as far as the sleep system or stove or anything else, just let me know.