Martin W. Bender
Last week I was able to take the kids to the mountains for a few days and we decided to go camping with my sister and her family. North Georgia has a ton of great places to camp, hike, and explore so we made the most of the opportunity. I love camping but haven’t been deliberate in going since I’ve started having kids, but now that they are a little older it’s time to get back into it.
One thing I wanted to try on this trip was using a hammock instead of a tent. Hammock camping is becoming the norm for backpackers and the like which makes sense, a hammock and rain fly are a lot lighter than any tent. So I stopped off at the Bargain Barn (it’s like a Bass Pro but without all the fuss) and picked up an Eno Single Nest, some tree straps, and a tarp for cover.
We camped at Doll Mountain. It’s a great place to camp with a bunch of sites, access to Carter’s Lake, and even a bathroom with running water. I know it isn’t very hardcore but cut me some slack, one of my kids was not into the camping idea at all.
Setting up the hammock was remarkably easy. A strap around a tree followed by a carabiner, repeat the process, and the hammock is ready for sleeping. I also ran some 550 cord over the hammock to support my tarp. The tarp took longer than the hammock, but it all took less than ten minutes, not too shabby for the first time trying it out. It wouldn’t be long before I was snoozing away in the ultralight campsite.
At least that’s what I thought.
Turns out, I’m very much a stomach sleeper. I had a really difficult time falling asleep in the hammock because I couldn’t turn over onto my back. I was perfectly comfortable but just couldn’t seem to drift off into dreamland. Of course, there were extenuating circumstances as well. Leia had been out of town for a while by this point and I hadn’t been sleeping that great. Due to the heat, I had been drinking a lot of water (if you get my meaning). And I was in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar sights and sounds. All that might have added to the trouble I had falling asleep.
The second day we spent in the water swimming, making rafts, and the ever popular ice cream run. By the time the kids had gone down for the night and the fire was burning low I was sure I’d knock out almost immediately. This time I was sure to do a few things: first, I put my flip flops in the hammock pocket. This meant I would be able to find them quickly without getting up. Second, I used a sheet to keep myself a little warmer (even though it was wicked hot during the day I got pretty chilled as the night wore on). Third, I turned to sleep almost totally on my side. These little changes made a huge difference in my ability to sleep in the hammock. The second night I was out like a light.
So, will I do hammock camping again? Absolutely. There’s a minimal learning curve to get things just right, but now that the first trip is out of the way I think it’ll get much easier. Some things that I’ll do a little differently are using a ratchet strap to hang my tarp, bringing a flat pillow, and maybe setting up some sort of mosquito netting. All in all, I really enjoyed the experience and think Leia will be willing to try it herself. Wouldn’t that be nice?