My Review of The Ultimate Hang in Cool Tools

hammock-camping-book

I recently had a review of a book published in the awesome Cool Tools blog that was started by Kevin Kelly and is current edited by Mark Frauenfelder (BoingBoing, Make: magazine, Gweek podcast, etc., etc.). Serious nerd achievement unlocked. Is there a patch for that?

I reviewed Derek Hansen’s The Ultimate Hang: an Illustrated Guide to Hammock Camping, which is THE book to get you started on hammock camping. Read the review!

Camp Cooking

During the summer — the hottest, humidest, nastiest part of the summer — I get the jones to go camping. The Boy and I camp quite a bit with Scouts during the school year part of the year, usually about once every 4-6 weeks. But, during the hot part of the year, we don’t camp much (or at all). I hate camping in hot weather. I can’t sleep, I sweat too much. It’s not fun. BUT, I get the urge every year in August.

Instead of actually going camping though (which would usually be miserable this time of year), I tend to sort through all my gear, cleaning and repairing what needs work (and what doesn’t). I also tend to acquire more gear this time of year than any other, too, which isn’t always a good thing.

This year, my plan is to channel some of that energy into working up some camp recipes using my dehydrator (which I didn’t have this time last year and which is mostly just a fruit leather and jerky-making machine at our house). I also need to work on my cooking gear, which is pretty oddball at the moment. I can boil water and just-add-water one pot dishes, but that’s about it. I’d like to get a little more creative and branch out some. I’m thinking of adding a Banks Fry-Bake, which is used by NOLS, Outward Bound, and countless other outfitters.

I’d also like to do some more dutch oven cooking, though that will be restricted mainly to car camping (and cooking at home).

I’m going to start trying some recipes from great places I’ve found online, especially trailcooking.com, which is an amazing resource. In addition to her book, which is available there, Sarah has all sorts of recipes and advice on cooking outdoors. Her blog on that site is fun and informative, too.

Anyway, I’m going to do some practicing for when camping kicks in this fall in September. I have two or three Cub Scout pack campouts, at least one campout with a Boy Scout troop (since The Boy is a Webelos Scout and is currently looking at troops), and I’m doing Wood Badge this fall, which includes two weekends of camping (though food will be provided for us on those weekends).

I’ll report back here on what was successful and what wasn’t.

Hangin’ Out

Prime camping season is upon us, and I thought I’d talk a little about my hammock camping rig, as hammock camping has revitalized camping for me. Once I realized that with the right type of hammock, you can lie diagonally and very flat – and comfy! – a good night’s sleep in the woods was soon forthcoming.

imagesIt started just over a year ago, when The Boy decided he wanted to try hammock camping. As I am wont to do, I did a lot of research, including buying the Kindle version of Derek Hansen’s The Ultimate Hang during a bout of insomnia one night and reading the whole thing in one sitting), and reading a lot of posts on HammockForums.net. Derek’s book is a great place to start, and Hammock Forums is easily the friendliest and most welcoming forum on the Intertubes.

I got The Boy a nice camping hammock (Warbonnet Blackbird) and tarp (Warbonnet Superfly) for his birthday last year. Yes, I don’t believe in half measures. He loved sleeping in it in the back yard and also at Cub Scout campouts. After a few nice naps in his hammock, I eventually got one for myself (a Dream Hammock Dangerbird 60) and a Warbonnet Edge (the Superfly’s little brother).

I did 6 nights in a hammock over a month or so last fall at various campouts, and I really enjoyed sleeping in it. At one Cub Scout campout, I awoke late to find people eating breakfast and Scouts running around all around me. I had slept soundly (and well!) through at least an hour of not-so-quiet camp activity.

The hammock has also led to reduced bearanoia, which I tend to suffer from, especially on the first night of any campout. In a tent, especially one with a rainfly on it, if there’s an unidentifiable noise outside the tent, I have to get out of the sleeping bag, unzip the tent, unzip the fly and look out. Kind of a pain in the rear. I’d usually just lie there and speculate about what it could be (BEAR!). Now with the hammock, I just look over the edge (I usually have my tarp pitched pretty high (or rolled up, if the weather’s nice) and I look around a bit, easily identifying the noise as a branch rubbing, or a squirrel, or (once) a surprisingly heavy-footed 8-year-old Cub Scout looking for the latrine that was nowhere near my hammock.

Also, as I get older, I find sleeping on the ground (even on my nice thick Luxury Camp Thermarest pad) not so comfy. I can get a pretty good night’s sleep in the hammock, though I have had to figure out the best way to side sleep in one.

I’ve also spent tons of time playing with different suspensions (biners, whoopie slings, UCRs, Dutchware, etc.) for both the hammocks and the tarps.

At the moment, my rig is fairly simple.

Hammock

Dream Hammock Dangerbird 60

This is a heavy-duty hammock made from 2.6 oz. crinkle taffeta nylon. Includes a zip down bugnet and a “weather shield” that can replace the bugnet (can’t deploy both at once) and protect against light drizzle, light snow, or windy conditions and can raise the temp by 10* or so. Very comfy.

My hammock has continuous loops of Amsteel in the ends. I have Amsteel whoopie slings with Dutchware Whoopie Hooks in the adjustable loops that hook onto the continuous loops and act as drip rings, too. The whoopies are loop-to-loop connected to the end of 1″ tree straps that are attached around the tree with titanium Dutch Clips. I can put this hammock up in about 2-3 minutes.

Tarp

Warbonnet Outdoors Edge

This is a hex-shaped cat-cut silnylon tarp. It’s smallish at 126″ by 98″ but it weighs only 10 oz. and packs small.

Instead of using anything fancy as a ridgeline for the tarp, I’ve been using braided (NOT twisted) mason’s line (another tip from Derek Hansen) and doing separate ridgelines on each end. I don’t typically need a continuous ridgeline for my tarp, as I don’t hang anything from it. I attach a 12 foot length of line to the ridge tieout with two half hitches (could also use a bowline, I suppose, but the 2HH is easier to undo) go around the tree, through the ridge loop, then tie a tautline hitch. That hitch is adjustable, and I use it to center and then tighten my tarp. Quick and easy.

I have four tieouts on the bottom, and each of those has a self-tensioning guyline on it made from braided mason’s line and 3/32″ shockcord. Those help keep the tarp taught during the night if it sags due to moisture, as nylon has a tendency to do. They are attached to the tieouts with a bowline (though 2 half hitches might work), down through a loop on the stake (I use MSR Groundhog y-stakes), and then I tie a tautline hitch to tighten them up.

I often pitch the tarp in “porch mode” using a couple of branches (since I don’t use trekking poles) unless it’s raining.

I’ll have more on here about hammock camping in the future, I’m sure.

Boy, trout flies are smaller than I remember

One of my resolutions this year was to tie flies. To be honest, as much as I love being outdoors and flyfishing, I used to love tying flies almost more. Maybe it’s the sense of anticipation in tying, thinking about the fishing trips to come. Before The Boy came along, I fish and tied a lot. More than I realized, and now that I’m 10 years older, I’m realizing the changes in my eyesight mean more to my tying than my fishing.

bifocalsI’ve always enjoyed tying bass flies more than trout flies. My bass flies look better, and I just think they’re more fun to tie. Part of that is while you can tie pretty dry flies all day long, they’re not what catches trout in Arkansas for 95% of your flyfishing here. So, they’re less potential-packed than nymphs or streamers. Scuds, sowbugs, midge pupae — those are your bread and butter Arkansas trout flies. And they’re small, especially the midges. By the time I hit 40 a few years ago, I hadn’t tied trout flies much in several years, and I hadn’t realized how much my close-up detail vision had suffered in the meantime.

Despite the bifocals I’ve been wearing for the last 18 months, the itty-bitty stuff (and by “itty-bitty” I mean only size 18 and smaller) is really hard to see. I’ve tried wearing reading glasses over my regular glasses, but I get a nasty headache after about six flies when I do that. I may invest in a magnifying lamp. Though, the better idea may be to just stick to the bass flies and let The Boy’s younger eyes tie the itty-bitty stuff from now on. I’m afraid he’ll prefer the bass flies, too, though. There are worse things that can happen.

In the meantime, we’re going trout fishing tomorrow, and I need some midge pupae. At least they tie fast.