I've slept in my hammock during 60 mph winds and heavy rain (the meteorologist from Ft. Devens (Massachusetts) said the storm would be so bad that we would have Scouts floating away). I've slept in my hammock when the temperature was zero degrees Fahrenheit and the wind was 40-50 mph (I don't even want to think about the wind-chill factor that night). I've been in my hammock for 15 hours waiting for the rain to stop (try lying on the ground for 15 hours!).
On two occasions, I slept in my hammock for the full week of Scout Camp because of a shortage of tents at camp. My PR (personal record) for winter camping in my hammock is -10 Fahrenheit, a temperature equivalent to about 20 below zero in Utah because of the high humidity in New England. On all of these occasions, I enjoyed myself and spent the nights with no discomfort.
A double-sized hammock, one that will be large enough to contain you, your sleeping bag, and one or two closed-cell pads. Don't use a single-sized hammock, because it will flip and dump you out. The double hammocks are stable and won't dump you.
Longer ropes. Remove the short ropes that are tied to each end of the hammock and replace them with about 15' of rope at each end. You will need that much rope to reach the trees and go around the trunks.
Drip lines. Tie short lengths of string at strategic points on the hammock. The strings act as drip lines and keep water from running down the rope and into your sleeping bag. The strategic points are (a) where the rope ties to the rings supporting the hammock and (b) the point where each cord that comprises the webbing of the hammock leaves the rings. The idea is to divert the water that runs down the tree trunk and then down the rope to the rings. In addition, tie drip strings at other places that might help divert the water. The drip strings are permanently tied to the hammock. These strings are one of the key elements that keep you dry during storms.
A "roof". Get a plastic sheet about 9 feet by 12 feet. The plastic should thick enough so it won't tear during use. This tarp will be placed above your hammock. This "roof" is the other key element that keeps you dry.
Rope to support the "roof". Get a separate rope (1/4" clothesline) about 30 feet long. This rope will be tied between the two trees to support your "roof".
Short ropes. Get four 3-foot ropes to be used in tying the corners of the plastic sheet to trees and bushes during windy nights. This gives you a stable "roof" that won't blow off your hammock. There is an easy way to tie the ropes to the corners of the tarp. Place a small rock or twig in each corner and twist the plastic around the rock. Tie the ropes around the twists; the rocks will prevent the ropes from slipping off.
Wooden clothes pins (6 or 7 of them). Three pins will be used to fasten the "roof" to the rope. The others can be used to fasten the "roof" to itself if you want to be sealed in a "cocoon" during storms. That is, you can wrap the "roof" around the hammock and also around the trees that support the hammock to give you more protection from wind and bugs.
A bug net for your head, if you live in areas infested by mosquitoes, black flies, etc.
This sounds like a lot of stuff, but it doesn't take much room in your backpack.
Setting Up Your Hammock
It takes about 5 minutes to set up a hammock, and it can be done in the dark (hold a mag light in your mouth or wear a headlamp). Here is what you do.
1. Select two trees about 15 feet apart. Trees further apart than that can be used, but your hammock will sag more and might scrape the ground after you are in it. If you use hardwood trees, you can use trees as small as 4 or 5 inches in diameter. If you use softwood trees, use larger ones.
2. Tie one end of the hammock to a tree. Position the hammock so the ring is about 5 feet from the ground. Wrap the rope around the tree a couple of times, and then run it back through the ring and back around the tree again; after going through the ring, the rope should be going the opposite direction around the tree. Then use half hitches to secure the rope. Going back through the ring will make your hammock more stable, because you will have, in effect, two ropes holding the ring to the tree.
3. Tie the other end of the hammock to the other tree. In doing this, leave a little sag in the hammock to increase its stability.
4. Sit in the hammock to test that the trees will support your weight and that the hammock won't scrape the ground. Tighten the hammock if necessary.
5. Tie the long rope about 12-15 inches above the hammock to support the roof. Pull the rope tight when tying it.
6. Place the plastic tarp over the rope and fasten it with three clothespins.
7. If you don't expect wind, you can let the corners of the tarp hang loosely over the hammock. Or, you can tie the corners away from the hammock to give you a larger "bedroom". If you do expect wind, tie the corners of the tarp so they won't flap in the wind and disturb your sleep.
8. Place closed-cell foam pads in the hammock (one if by summer and two or more if by winter). Place your sleeping bag on top of the pads.
Guess what? You're finished! Fast and easy!
Getting in the Hammock
1. Zip open your sleeping bag and drape the top of it over the far edge of the hammock such that it hangs down. Be sure there are no folds in the bag, because once you are inside the bag you will be lying on top of the folds and won't be able to remove them. This is a key step in insuring a comfortable night.
2. As needed, place a couple of hand warmers in the foot of your sleeping bag.
3. If you don't sleep in your clothes, remove your clothes and dress in pajamas or what ever you use when camping. If you use a down filled sleeping bag, you should not sleep in the clothes you wore during the day, because the clothes are damp from body moisture. If you use a bag with synthetic fiber, this moisture is not a problem.
4. Sit in the hammock such that your feet are dangling over the edge of the hammock and the portion of the sleeping bag that drapes over the edge of the hammock is behind you.
5. Remove your boots and stow them at the foot of the hammock. During the winter, I place my boots inside my sleeping bag so they won't be frozen when I use them the next morning. During the summer, I place them inside a plastic bag and leave them on the ground.
6. As needed, place dry, wool stockings on your feet.
7. Swing your legs into the hammock and lie down.
8. Pull the top of your sleeping bag over you and zip it up.
© Copyright Allen Leigh 1999, 2000
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