Up at the Lobsters and Lighthouses Hammock Hang…

48 hours and the only photo I took was just this one shot of my feetz…

I’m always up around 5:30 AM or 6 AM. Nobody else around. This was after I had just enough time to drag my camp chair back down to the fire ring, make a cup of coffee, and toss a few logs on the coals from the night before.

This is Maine. This is “The way life supposed to be”.

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“Flash Loops”

Made this proof-of-concept up yesterday morning out of scrap line lying around on the coffee table.

Amsteel “dogbone” with GlowWire spliced into it to create daisy-chain loops for hanging gear.

Under tension, the hollow-core, braided amsteel lengthens and that constricts the line around the buried portions of the GlowWire like Chinese handcuffs. If the loops do pull thru and become unnecessarily longer, they can simply be tugged back open since they just lie against the amsteel.

Good for small gear on carabiners, hanging your shoes, or just stuff passed thru the loops.

These could be made right into the lower portions of a Whoopie Sling hammock suspension. With patience, they could probably be done in the smaller 1.75mm dyneema lines like Lash-It, and used on a fixed ridgeline between the ends of a hammock as well.

[… if it’s not clear, the running ends of the loop line are passed around the amsteel and then buried back inside toward the loops]

“Elevate Your Perspective”~ a Full Sub-$100 Hammock Setup

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?

Buying a Hammock

You want to try out hammocking, but don’t know where to start? There are a lot of “convenient” solutions out here… you can get one at Wally’s or on the net ASAP!

This post is gonna tell you that not all of them are gonna make you happy with the expense and the experience…. So>>

 

Thanks to Bill Puckett over on FB for starting a thread that was badly needed:

“I see a somewhat regular requests by new members along the lines of ” I don’t want to spend much money to try this hammock thing so what should I buy that’s cheap?”. Here is my 2 cents worth of wisdom. If you buy the better products and find that you don’t like hanging for some reason, you can ALWAYS sell your gently used gear for a slight discount to the original price. The good stuff when new rarely goes on sale so a bargain for nearly new gear with good reputation is almost always a workable proposition. The net cost (eyeball estimate) of a round trip (buy, try, sell) is probably less than the cost of cheap/poorly made/poorly designed that you buy then trash.

My advice? Buy the good stuff and learn to use it well. Do your homework before buying (watch Shug’s videos on YouTube and read “The Ultimate Hang”). I think you’ll have better outcomes and will ultimately save yourself both hassle and money.”

The second piece from the same thread is from Devon T. Cloud:

“I think a lot f you are missing the point of Bill’s post. Yes, you’re going to spend a lot of money on your UQ, TP, and accessories regardless. You are however still going to buy that stuff if you are REALLY going to give hammock camping a try. If you don’t purchase that stuff (or at least borrow it from a friend to actually try it) you are not really trying hammock camping. Using a pad and a sleeping bag renders hammock camping on par with tent camping and if you don’t purchase gear that holds your pad in place, maybe even less comfortable.

What Bill is more saying is don’t buy that Ebay or amazon special or other short, cheap hammock – purchase from a reputable brand. Yes you can spend 300 bucks if you want (I did and it was worth every penny), but you don’t have to. Dream Hammock makes a cheap hammock that has an integrated big net for around $125.00. Netless version is around 50 bucks. I believe Dutch has similar options at similar prices, and these are hammocks made out of the correct material instead of that stretchy parachute material that you will most likely never get a flat lay out of. 

In other words, if you are going to try hammock camping, commit to it enough to actually give it a chance instead of shooting your experience in the foot by purchasing an inferior product to save 40 bucks. That extra 40 bucks will make a difference in comfort that is so great it could be the difference between becoming a hammock camper and not becoming one. The extra 40 bucks is well spent one way or the other… after spending it you will truly know whether hammock camping is really for you or not.”

In response to Devon’s words, Thomas Ressler added:

“Very well put. Buy your second hammock first and if you don’t like it, it is easy to sell. Also many cottage vendors will give you a free look at it and you can return it for a full refund. That is our policy at Dutchware. Lastly not only is the value of our cottage vendors there but we have experience and aren’t a hammock made by someone who doesn’t eat work and sleep in a hammock.”

Mr. Ressler is also known to the community as “Dutch”…  suffice it to say he is one of the “gurus” of modern hammocking. His suggestion that you “Buy your second hammock first” is the single best expression of the whole thread.

 

I know that hammocking is gaining in popularity almost daily. I understand that the kids just call it “ENOing” after the ubiquitous Eagles Nest Outfitters hammocks that are out there everywhere from Amazon to REI. ENO clones are all over the net at prices going up from $15… the problems with these are that they are not going to give you that great experience you are hoping for. Some are as little as 8′ long. Most have mighty thin fabric. Most have really clumsy suspensions that are a PITA to get up safely… and ate heavy as well. Yes, many are offered as “double hammocks”. Friends… NEITHER OF YOU CAN GET A GOOD NIGHT SLEEP IN A DOUBLE HAMMOCK [and I don’t even want to get into the horizontal-bop-in-a-hammock thing here… you can try it, betting you won’t like it.] Plus, you won’t believe how much all that “double” fabric droops and flaps in yer face!

Best advice beyond that of the Dutchman, is get yourself over to the HammockForums.net site, go to the forums, read a whole lot of the posts there asking for advice and then scroll down to the vendor links and take a look at the choices. Or find the section on group hangs around the country and go to one… people will usually be glad to explain their choices and let you try out their gear.

Your money will be much better spent, and, most importantly, your experience will be exponentially better, too!

What’s A Hang?

A lot of eating, and we sleep in hammocks.

For this one at Harold Parker SP in Mass, we had three stoves, two grills, a gas smoker, ten pounds of mixed sausages, three racks of ribs, short-ribs, pulled pork, steaks, hot dogs and burgers, “cooler” corn, corn chowder, five salads, potato pie [with bacon], bacon apple pie, dutch oven pizzas, dutch oven “dump” cake, 35 year-old aquavit, three dogs, twenty-five people [ranging in age from 20-74]… and a whole buncha fun!

[Oh, yeah… we gave two newcomers the chance to try out nearly every hammock made, together with other gear, so they can make considered choices when they get ready to spend some money]

At the next hang, we eat lobster!

[Both “n00bs” are already planning on being there, too!]