This past weekend was the 5th (I think) annual Spring Hang for a group of campers and hikers from the Hammock Forums. It was at Jefferson Forest in south western Jefferson County. For me, it was about a 30-45 minute ride, even without taking the expressway.
The weather for the weekend was supposed to be fairly decent. And it really was. Saturday’s high got to mid 60s and overnight it got to the lower 30s. The only real issue was the wind, which didn’t seem to want to end even at the end of the day. Some of the campers came in Friday and said it actually ended up dying down after the sun went down, but Saturday, it stuck around.
The camp site was a great one, with plenty of room and trees everywhere. I was able to park the bike within 20 feet and had my pick of locations, even with everyone else already set up. Probably had room for 20+ more people at this location – it’s huge! I got my hammock hung and tarp slung in about 30 minutes – they said it would get quicker as I do it more. I’ll take their word for it, but I trust the logic. Then, I got into the puzzle of the first time hanging the under quilt. I had to make it work, it was the key to surviving the temps coming up. I got the phone out, watched the YouTube video for it and finally got it hung under the hammock properly. Under quilts, for those who are giving this a questioning look right now, hang under the hammock itself. It then creates a buffer of air and down that insulates from the cold air going underneath the hammock. It is outside the hammock so your body does not compress the down. A couple guys helped me cinch up the ends properly and said it looked good to go. And it was. I used my hiking poles to prop up the entry side of the tarp. Worked nice, was a spot also to set my chair up to be a dump for my shoes and stuff outside the hammock, but still covered by the tarp.
After everything was set up, I got in my relaxation mode, got my chair and small table set up near the fire pit in an open spot and just sat and talked to people as they came through from either hiking or running errands or grabbing ingredients for the pot luck. I gave cash, as it was not conducive to bring fresh food on the bike. It was a great afternoon. Considering I was not in a hurry for anything on Saturday, I got to the campground around 1PM – taking my time. The stuff on the grill in the photo is a pot of chicken & dumplings and a “dump cake” (see below). Myself, I pretty much got my stuff set up for the night and talked to people and relaxed, enjoying the weather and playing with the dogs. We ended up with a stray as well, though eventually we called the number on his tags and the owners showed up about an hour later in tears that we had found and held their dog. Hopefully we earned some karmic good points.
Some time around 4, people started working on getting their Dutch ovens ready and cutting up the food for the pot luck. I brought cash for my contribution, and bourbon. The menu ended up being huge: 2 different styles of chili, jambalaya, chicken and dumplings, beef stew, 2 “drop cakes” and 2 pies. There were all kinds of grazing foods as well. The drop cakes were awesome. Basically take the dutch oven, cover the bottom with pie filling (in our case, it was cherry) put your cake mix in (we had yellow and triple chocolate) and then a stick of butter cut evenly and spread over the top of the mix. No water added. After an hour or so of sitting at the fire with some coals on the top, you had a cake. With the filling on the bottom. One of the neatest things I have seen, and man, they were good.
Now, as it got darker and the food settled in, we got more tired. People were taking their leave to hit the hammocks and go to sleep. Even with the assurances I was given and my own knowledge from researching hammocks, I was still skeptical about how warm it was gonna be overnight. Especially with the weather dropping down near freezing. I was a bit hesitant leaving the warmth of the fire to head to the uncertain warmth of the empty hammock. Let just say, within 5 minutes of getting settled, my feet in the foot pocket of my blanket and the pillow adjusted, any fears of being cold were melted away. I listened to a little music, but was tired enough that didn’t last long. From the fresh, cold air and the full belly, I was fast asleep. I was even able to stretch out diagonally and lay on my side! Next thing I knew I was staring the sun right in the face. Now, it was still cold when I got up (wasn’t the last, but close to it) but I woke up without the blanket on my upper body and was comfortable. That under quilt, trapping air warmed by my body, kept the inside of the hammock warm, with help of the tarp keeping it from escaping.
I wormed my way out of the warm cocoon and into the morning cold around 9:30 AM. I got some water, woke up and worked up the give-a-shit (GAS) to get things sorted and stowed for the short ride home. It took less time to tear down than set up, but longer to load the bike than the day before. I got rolling about 11:00 AM (nope, no hurry at all) and hit the road. I was home less than an hour later, and had everything unpacked and put up by 12:30 PM. It was a good trip, and I had spent right at 24 hours away from the house, which is shorted than my normal weekend trips, which run usually from 8:00 AM Saturday until after 6PM Sunday. But this trip was about learning how to comfortably sleep and survive in a hammock. Another tip I got was that the under quilt will generally be needed with any temps below 75 deg, as the air blowing under will quickly zap one’s body heat and leave them with “cold-butt syndrome.”
So, thanks to all from the Hammock Forums for the tips, company and food! I will see you again, at least for the fall hang, if not before!
For those who are interested, here is the gear list for my hammock setup. All can be purchased from Go! Outfitters:
- The GO! Camping Hammock – Bug net is built into this thing, and it is nice and big.
- Apex Camping Shelter – This was plenty big and has so many configurations.
- Adventure Under Quilt – This was the bomb! It kept me from freezing my ass off.
- Adventure Top Quilt – I bought this first, only needing to replace a sleeping bag.
- Cinch Buckle Hammock Suspension System – Made hanging the hammock a cinch!
- Adventure Pillow – This was thrown into my main order as a freebie. Was a great knee pillow.
I do not work for, nor was I paid for, endorsing Go! Outfitters. They are only one company making hammocks and gear, and everyone there had different types and sizes and some were even homemade. This just happened to be the one I bought, and I got a great deal on it when I got it last year. Now, they are having a sale on everything, it seems. Good time to get in. I will say this, G0! Outfitters’ gear is not the lightest, so if you are backpacking, there are much lighter brands out there, but they are very well made and durable – even supporting my frame. Since I am on a bike, I don’t worry too much about a few ounces here or there when it comes to weight.