To look for the Perseids meteor shower, I decided to try out my “cheap” stuff for a hang last night out in my yard nook.
I wanted to make the point to any n00bs to the hammock hanging adventure who might find this post that a full setup doesn’t have to break the bank. I also wanted to be sure that what I might be loaning out to “elevate someone’s perspective” wasn’t a complete POS.
This whole setup comes in at under $100US.
- generic ENO/GT clone- branded “White Mountain” $20
- Rolling Fox diamond tarp- 11’x 9′ on the diagonals- $32 [w/ suspension/tieout paracord and steel stakes][Strangely enough, the stakes were not pointed at all.. just flat cut… and HEAVY]
- TQ and UQ Diy-ed from two CDTs- $40 the pair
- straps from Harbor Freight- $4
- [toss in the illuminated yard stake/trek pole- $5 at the Fell-Off-A-Truck Stop and we go to $101]
I’m not going to count the upgrade mods to suspension, stakes etc. since that was from stuff that I was already out of pocket for any way, and wouldn’t be any big whup to the basic experience if it hadn’t been already done.
As far as the hammock goes, just about all of these ENO/GT [EaglesNestOutfitters/GrandTrunk] clones will be basically identical. They nearly all come from the same factories in China, and are of the same, non-ripstop parachute fabric. I would suggest that you not get the “double” hammocks unless you are a really big person. My experience is that the extra width [beyond 58″] just means you have a lot of loose cloth flapping in your face. I personally don’t see any point in paying the brand-name prices for this kind of hammock. Amazon shows prices today ranging from $ 54 95–$ 130 33 on ENO Single Nests. That difference buys you most of the rest of the kit described in this post.
Sleeping last night in this White Mountain hammock: I will have to admit that I was hyper aware of the seams from the clone’s 3-piece construction [40″ center strip w/9″ side piecings]. They were more annoying than anything, and were worst up along my shoulder, but certainly weren’t a deal breaker. Once I was down for the count, I slept fine. They made me assume that the clone was narrower than the 58″ full-width fabrics that are standard on the netless hammocks from our “cottage” vendors, but when I measured it this morning for this post it came in at the full 58″. This particular hammock goes 9’8″ fabric end-to-end. This is also shorter than the offerings from the cottage vendors, most of which are available from 10′-12′.
These differences in size and construction, together with the less stretchy, ripstop fabric options the cottage vendors offer, are the prime reason so many folks move on from the hammocks available in the big-box stores.
As a $20 hammock, and for a day-hanger/napper and starting place for hammocking, it is just fine. If it had come in at ENO$$, I’d certainly recommend spending that same $$ on a netless from the Hammock Forum vendors. [My first hammock was a Grand Trunk Double. I spent a few nights in it, got a little education over on hammockforums.net, and sent it back for a refund. That $70 went toward the cost of my AMOK Draumr and I never looked back.]
The 12′ poly straps from Harbor Freight are meant to be cam-cinched with a come-along ratchet for use on pickups and SUV racks. A quick hacksaw job to remove the ratchets and you have decent enough pair of straps. They are not daisy-chain looped, so you do have to learn to tie a larks-head hitch and use a toggle, but they can just be passed through their own end loops at the tree end. Cheap and easy!
The Rolling Fox diamond shaped tarp is new to me in the last few days. I wanted something mostly as a dew cover for fair weather hanging, and to use as a sunshade. The diamond cut appealed to me since it would mean I could rig it narrow-wise as well for a deeper shade when in a camp chair during the day. I do have some concern because the ridgeline [in the 11′ orientation] is seamed, and does not appear to have been seam-sealed. I like the tarp well enough that I will take that chance and seal it if I have to. [Besides, this vendor does offer a “lifetime, 100% money-back guarantee!”. I was in touch with him about the ridge, and he gave me his assurance on it.]
This one is what I had on hand and fit the cost limits. There are many other tarps on Amazon and elsewhere that come in at the same relative price point. If you want a square one, or cat-cut sides, go that way. This whole post is just to point out what you CAN get in the hundred dollar range. They are all going to be in a heavier [maybe 50%-70%] fabric, but they will be PU-waterproofed, and will certainly keep you dry. Up your purchase by a few bucks and you can step up to a 10’x 13′ hex-cut from YuEdge. [I thought about that one myself, just to have an extra rain tarp for bad days]. Go another few dollars and you can get a fully catenary cut 12′ x 12′ tarp from Mountainsmith. Most of them will not be made from a ripstop fabric, though some are and some aren’t.
With these low cost, entry-level tarps the one thing to shy away from is selecting one just because they “include” stakes, tie-out lines, and carabiners. These “bonuses” are all going to be cheaper, heavier, and far, far crummier than you are going to want in the long run. [For example, nothing that was included with the Fox tarp really made the grade]. Plus, these items are so easy to upgrade or source yourself that they are simply a waste of your money. The same thing applies to the hammock suspensions. They are the first thing you are probably going to want to change out. Once you have tried getting the knots out of a swollen rope suspension, you will know what we are talking about. Doing these items on your own isn’t going to add much to your budget, but will give a lot more satisfaction.
I am not going into detail* about turning the Costco Down Throws into top and under-quilts. All I will tell you is that the CDTs are much better value than any others I have seen. Nicer material, higher volume/ better quality down, excellent construction, incredible loft for the cost… and possibly most import to a conversion, a full 60″x 70″ size. I don’t care if the brand is Eddie Bauer, BedBath&Beyond or any other reputable one… Accept No Substitutes! You will not get as good a finished project for your $$, time, and efforts. [and the good news is that they are already back in stock at many Costcos for the 2017-18 season]
If you want to save money, you can skip investing in a TQ altogether for a long while. Any sleeping bag will get you through. However, wriggling into and out of a regular or mummy bag once you are in your hammock is a real PITA. Instead, just open the zip to the foot and use it as an open quilt on top. You can even cut off the zipper and do a drawstring footbox with some ribbon loops easily enough.
If you can’t afford to go for a UQ, you can get a really reasonable rest on a closed-cell foam pad. Wally’s has one for $14. That said, after your hammock and tarp, I think most experienced hammockers would tell you to go for a UQ. The pads, even high cost insulated ones like ThermaRest, are notoriously hard to stay on top of in a hammock. None of the cheapo hammocks have double layer fabric pockets that help hold a pad in place, so , if you can, go for a UQ.
* Instuctables on CDT conversions are all over the web.
So, yada-yada complete… what was my “cheap night out” like. I’d have to say it was better than OK. Certainly better than I remember from my ground-dweller days. No rocks, lumps and sticks poking me in the back. No crawling around on damp ground. No crinkly ground sheet. I won’t have any problem loaning this whole setup out for somebody wanting to “elevate their perspective”. If I didn’t have my experience so far, I would probably give it a real thumbs up. Will I keep using my higher quality gear? …Duh!
Now, the hanging was “OK”, but the Perseids had peaked Friday and Saturday nights, so I only saw a couple of tracers. However, it was wickud clear, and the Milky Way was spectacular.
Basically, I was in a hammock…Out under the stars… what’s not to like?