Stuff I’ve Liked ~ Part 2

Now we are into the BIG stuff. I hate spending money, but sometimes you have to to get what you need/want. The AMOK Draumr 3.0 Hammock.  [AND…>>>X<<<]

I never did a real review, so here’s some thoughts from my time with mine so far:

I LOVE this damn thing! …it makes me crazy some of the time, but I do love it. Simply put, there is no hammock that is as comfortable for a side-sleeper like me.

To get a decent idea of what the AMOK is you are better off reading a couple of reviews or watching Shug’s great video:

When I first decided to try hammock camping instead of settling for the cold, cold ground, I spent a couple of nights in a mass market hammock that I purchased off of Amazon. Subsequently, I found Hammock Forums, saw the light, heard the Word and sent that one back for a refund. The AMOK is what I bought instead because it seemed like it would give me everything I needed all at once, without “dickin’ around” trying and buying like a crazed Goldilocks. It took no time at all on the forums to realize that that was an all too likely trap to fall into.

After two years of owning it I still love it. It did indeed keep me from having to try everything under the sun [and, fortunately, I can do just that at the group hangs… folks love to show off their own gear and let you try it out]. However, there are some truths to be told.

The Amok Draumr can be fiddly as all get out:

  • it needs to be dead-level side-to-side or you roll one way or the other
  • it ain’t as easy getting in and out as with sling type hammocks… it takes practice not to look like you are flailing in the grasping jaws of an alien
  • in that same vein… with the tarp snugged down, it’s tough getting into it since it hangs front to back under the slope of the tarp… you end up poking against the tarp
  • the only tarp that works with the Draumr is the one that comes with it… no super-sizing for extra room when the weather comes in harsh… no door kit to close off the ends
  • you still have to pump up the inflatable pad that gives it structure and rigidity… just like tenting
  • no matter the pad you choose, they are a pain to fit into the sleeve, and a pain to find the right inflation point
  • it’s all too easy to sit on the integrated bugnet and possibly damage it while you flail your way in, and the bugnet is far less easy to deploy once you are in the hammock
  • it’s not as simple to set up in the dark or rain as “ordinary” hammocks
  • Personally, I find the recliner mode overrated… you are still leaning a good way back, not sitting up
  • it is difficult to impossible to sit in your AMOK and cook… not that would if I could. I prefer a camp chair, even if it is under the tarp in the rain.
  • you have to explain the AMOK Draumr to a lot of people who are curious… even the name

That sounds like a lot of negatives, still, on the positive side:

  • when you camp a lot, you get used to all the fiddly bits, just like you do to everything about camping
  • I really like being able to look directly out at my view or campsite
  • porch mode with a pole works great for ventilation in warm weather
  • You don’t need an under quilt
  •  the “comfy” far outweighs the “fiddly” …for me at least
  • lots of built-in room for your stuff to be handy… like the water bottle holder
  • there is nothing more comfortable if you side-sleep!
  • you get to meet a lot of nice people who are curious

As time went by, I did add some personal mods to my Draumr:

  • There is a head-end bungee pullout to help keep the bugnet up off you. I added enough length and a lift point sewn to the tarp so that it would raise it even higher
  • The ridge of a Draumr is up and outside the bugnet. You can’t hang things on it… like drying your socks overnight once you take them off, or slipping the bow of your glasses over it before you go to sleep to keep them safe. I made an interior “ridgeline” with a hanging organiser that rolls up into the bugnet pocket for storage, but can be deployed to keep stuff handy like my phone [and the little fan seen above]
  • I put two loops on the head and foot so that the whole thing can be folded up in half to get it out of the way in daytime

For me the AMOK Draumr has been a great hammock. If you read and watched some of the reviews I put at the top of the post, you saw how impressed some very experienced folks were with this new design.

This is not the hammock if you are planning long hikes, or thru-hikes like the PCT and AT. This is not the hammock if you are an out-and-out gram weenie regardless of how long your hikes are. Its weight is indeed more than other hammock rigs, but not by much, and it is really not that much more bulk if you take into consideration the hammock/bugnet/tarp/UQ/straps and suspension/etc that all go into making up a full hammocking setup. Nor is it that much more expensive.

It is a great hammock for site or base camping, bicycling, canoeing/kayaking, pulking in in winter, or horseback camping and the like.

My only reservation in all of this is that the second time I went out with my Draumr one of the tubes in my sleeping pad blew out on a seam, and that night was like sleeping with a very large baguette alongside. Uncomfortable at the very least. That single, aberrant occurrence has made me the tiniest bit hinky about trusting the AMOK Draumr entirely. I feel like there is that “just possible” chance of system failure, and even when car camping as I usually do, that’s a PITA. I doubt whether this is of real concern. I have a whole bunch of night of wonderful sleep since then with no consequences. It’s just me being me.

But I do love to sprawl when I sleep…

  • I’ll go 7.5 out of 10 here

Bonus: I never got this posted, but the Draumr got a slight features update last summer

Jonas has put up a new “instructable” on the Draumr 3. Very little has really changed since I got my V 3.0 in 2015… my ridge is a strap, the new versions have Dyneema line/ the footbox is a bit larger, but I never had problems with it anyway.

When you watch the video, you will notice the Jonas mentions”chair mode”. While they call it “chair”, it is far more like being almost fully laid back in a recliner…  It is handy, and a nice difference from other hammocks, but you don’t feel like you are sitting upright.

*******************************

Despite my claim against Goldilocksing, I have also picked up several standard sling or “banana” hammocks since I got started down the slippery slope of hammock camping. Premier among them is the Chameleon Hammock from Dutchware.

[the problem with hammock photos is that they mostly look like a bunch of saggy fabric… this one is from HF member Us5Camp and comes from the “Chameleons In the Wild” thread there]

Basically, the Dutchware Chameleon is a standard gathered end hammock with an asymmetrical, “reversible” bugnet that can be attached to allow a diagonal lay for either head-left/feet right or head-right/feet-left. But… it has much, much more on offer as well.

Versatile, well made, tons of options to add on later… you can start with just the basic 11′ x 58″ body for only $125, use what else you already have and buy what you need as you want. It also comes in what I believe is 68″ wide for those “big and tall”. All the zippers and attachment points are standard, but there are about 30 choices spread among colors and fabrics.  The only thing to remember is that you will want a tarp as well, but for that you can choose from any of the vendors. Unlike the Draumr, size, shape and construction features are up to you and your budget.

The best introduction to the Chameleon is to see it the way most of us first did… here’s a link to the Kickstarter offering that launched it last winter. Check it out. The video is nearly the first thing you will come to scrolling down.

Here is what I posted about mine when it first came.

Here is Shug’s quick take.

Below is my own Chameleon with the one-off, custom, seasonal top cover that Dutch made me from our mutual friend Justin’s outrageous “Fallen Leaves” patterned fabric. I can use the cover as dew protection when I don’t want to put up a tarp, or to add some warmth and breeze protection when the weather goes nastier. I also have the bugnet that came with mine originally… I’m set for any season! Mine is in Coyote Brown Hexon 1.6 fabric [body].

In the Chameleon Dutchware manages to combine features that were getting traction among the rest of the hammocking community and enough innovations and original refinements to make it unique. What he achieved is what many people consider to be the best hammock currently available… and it’s darn good lookin’!  The Hexon 1.6 fabric used on mine has enough stretch and give to conform to your body, and a wonderful cotton feel that you don’t find in any of the “parachute” cloth hammocks in the general market. It’s like sleeping on sheets at home.

When I saw the Kickstarter, I really wanted to get one. That is a tough thing to say because I am friends with many of the CV guys now. I know how great the gear that each of them offers really is, and it hard to single out any one as “best”. However, I am as much in love with my Chameleon as I am with the AMOK Draumr. It’s too close to call as to which of even those two choices might be the best. I’m glad I am able to have both.

 

And… that there, my friends, is the Dutchman hisself, in one of his own creations. I am very pleased to call Dutch my friend. I met him two Springs ago when he came up from Pennsylvania for the “Burning Men”/”Hammock Home” hang that ATTroll and I collaborated on. Dutch is truly one of the hammocking communities best ambassadors and spokespersons, one of its most inspired innovators, and owns one of the most successful cottage vendor businesses. These vendors, working out of small shops or their own basements, are what make the hammocking community so vibrant, and are the most compelling reason to abandon the big internet vendors who only sell, who mass-produce overseas, and do not themselves use the products. The CV folks use what they make and their knowledge is poured back into their products. The most wonderful thing about Dutch is that, while he has outstriped any real definition of cottage vendor as his business has grown, he started out as one, and will always be a “cottage vendor” in his own heart and those of his customers.

  • Chameleon gets the 99 & 44/100s out of 10
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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”.

“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!]