Rural Missouri - June 2012 - (Page 28)
O U T D O O R S
by Jim McCarty firstname.lastname@example.org
t’s hard to say who was the first to discover that hammocks make great camping shelters. But one thing is certain: A growing list of outdoor enthusiasts have abandoned their tents and taken to the trees. The rise in hammock camping probably goes back to the publication of Ed Speer’s book by the same name in 2003. Ed got the idea to camp in his hammock while touring coastal Alaska and Canada in a kayak. His campsites were in bear country, and heeding the advice to hang all food, he decided to hang himself out of reach of the bears as well. His book, combined with the widespread reach of the Internet, led to an explosion of designs for hammocks and the equipment used to hang them. “I will never go back to a tent,” says Tanner Dimetroff, a member of White River Valley Electric Cooperative from Hollister. “I will never sleep on the ground in the woods again. That’s how much a hammock has proven itself to me. I’ll sleep in that hammock, and I will wake up like I will in bed, refreshed and feeling good.” Tanner’s motivation for hammock camping actually came from his role as equipment supplier for his friends. Often his gear returned in less-than-pristine condition, so he figured the new camping method would cut down on the requests. Ironically, he still keeps a spare hammock for friends. But most of those he camps with now have their own hammocks. “It was always a hard thing trying to find a comfortable spot,” Tanner says of tent camping. “You’ve got to take time to clear your spot, find the hidden roots and the rocks. There’s just none of that with a hammock. You can camp in all kinds of spots that you normally couldn’t with a tent.” Another of those fueling the fire is Stuart Raike, a member of Cuivre River Electric Cooperative from Defiance. “Like so many of us, I was looking for comfort,” he says. “I had been on the ground, and you wake up in the morning cold and stiff and sore. I thought there had to be a better way.” Stuart started hanging with a homemade hammock made from plans he found on the Internet. “And then I stumbled on HammockForums.net, and oh my,” he says. “That was a lot to absorb.” With more than 17,500 registered users — and sections for do-it-yourself projects, trip reports, general information and a forum for hammock brands — the site provided him with plenty of information. While he admits to having half a dozen hammocks, these days Stuart packs a Warbonnet Blackbird hammock made by a small, one-man company in Colorado. This model sports an attached bug net, a storage shelf and an angled footbox that lets users sleep diagonally. Stuart attaches his hammock to the trees with an adjustable suspension system he makes and sells from a company he calls “WhoopieSlings.com.” The suspension consists of a flat tree strap with a loop on either end that goes around the tree, protecting the bark. To this Stuart attaches thin “Whoopie Slings.” The slings, which were developed by arborists, feature a pair of eyes that are braided into thin Amsteel line. They work much like Adjustable Whoppie Slings made by Stuart Raike make setting up hammocks a breeze. Made from Amsteel, they can support even the heaviest hangers.
Stuart Raike of Defiance shows off the Warbonnet Blackbird hammock and tarp he uses for camping. He operates www.WhoopieSlings.com, an online store where he sells suspension parts to other hammock campers.
Campers take to the trees for a good night’s sleep
“We were warm and the Chinese handcuffs — the most comfortable we had ever harder you pull, the tighter slept in the wilderness,” says the splice becomes. One eye Jeff, who maintains a Missouri is fixed, but the other can be • Don’t hang higher than you are backpacking blog at www.baxadjusted, allowing the hamwilling to fall. pax.org. “I’ve since purchased mock to fit between spans of • Borrow a hammock before buying underquilts from cottage supplidifferent lengths. to make sure you like it. ers and couldn’t be any happier. A hammock equipped with • Sleep on the diagonal instead of The top quilt made almost as tree straps and Whoopie Slings straight down the middle. big of a difference for me as the requires no knot tying, which • Check regulations before hamunderquilt. I love hammocks.” eliminates one of the fears newmock camping in parks. Like a lot of those with the comers have: falling. Amsteel • Always use tree straps to protect urge to hang, Jeff soon turned — rated at 1,600 pounds breaktree bark. to making his own gear. He ing strength — is plenty strong • There are many more resources at borrowed a sewing machine (or for even the heaviest hangers. www.hammockforums.net. “thread injector” for those conToday, there are dozens of cerned about the manliness of companies making hammocks sewing) and started practicing. suitable for camping. Besides “I’m finally at the point where I’m sewing at sellthe hammock, there are tarps to shield the user from able quality, and I highly recommend making your rain, bug nets to keep out relentless mosquitoes and own gear,” he says. “Fabric is cheap and hammocks quilts suitable for four-season use. are simple enough to make. ” Top and bottom quilts designed for hammocks A commercial hammock can cost as much as were a huge advance in their comfort factor. The $175. Tarps range from $75 to $135, while quilts can materials used for modern hammocks — typically be as much as $300. However, armed with a yard ripstop nylon — are too slick to make a sleeping sale sewing machine and $10 worth of fabric, you bag an option. It’s almost impossible to get can be hammock camping with little investment. inside a conventional sleeping bag while it is Hammock camping isn’t for everyone, especially in a hammock. those who like to share a tent with a loved one. But intrepid hangers designed quilts that Most users agree hammocks are best used alone. instead hang under the hammock. Then they Of course, an essential part of the experience is came up with modified sleeping bags that are trees the proper distance apart. Hammocks also are open in the back for use as top quilts. an excellent choice for extended backpacking trips. Jeff Bartolotta from Kansas City started ham“I should have done this a long time ago,” says mock camping with a cheap hammock he bought Tanner of his switch to hammocks. at a retail store. He then moved up to a commercial model and tarp, which worked much better. But You can reach Stuart at email@example.com or he says he found true comfort when he modified a www.whoopieslings.com. down comforter to hang under his hammock.
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