I've worked directly in the outdoor industry for 6 years and grew up camping in the mountains, by the ocean, and everywhere in between. So it's rare that I get to experience a truly new and unique way of spending time in nature. Recently, we at Outdoor Sports Marketing took our semi-annual backpacking trip and I was able to try something I've never done before- hammock camping. Quite frankly, while I've heard many sing it's praises, I have been hesitant. I'm 6'4", and the thought of awaking in the perfect shape of a U was not super appealing. I'm also a side sleeper, something I wasn't sure I could pull off in a hammock. But, the weather forecast was nearly perfect- highs around 70 during the day, lows in the 40s, with little chance of rain- to try this thing out. Fortunately for me, Therm-a-Rest has created an easy to use, incredibly comfortable hammock sleep system, and I was able to give it a shot.
Our trip consisted of 14 miles over 3 days and 2 nights (well, I did 22mi, but that's a story for some other time) on the Art Loeb trail- an especially technical, challenging, and beautiful trail winding through Pisgah and the Shining Rock Wilderness. The running joke is that Mr. Loeb- a local known to go out for long walks in the area- never liked the thought of going around a mountain. He wanted to go up and over. And so the trail that bears his name goes up and over many mountains. While we at OSM represent some fine ultralight backpacking equipment, one of the purposes of this trip was to try out as much product as possible. On average, the 10 of us wore close to 35 lbs on our backs, packed nicely into the best backpacks that Osprey has to offer. We all wish we could spend more time outdoors, but unfortunately life often gets in the way, and our "trail legs" aren't as strong as we may hope them to be. Needless to say, we were excited to make camp each evening and put our feet up.
For me, that meant enjoying the quickest set up of anyone in our group. The Therm-A-Rest Slacker hammock can be set up just about anywhere. I secured the Slacker to two trust worthy trees using the Slacker Suspenders Hanging Kit, and proceeded to cover it all with the Slacker Hammock Rain Fly- waterproof and taped for complete protection. It was easy to pitch out with a DIY ridge line and four stake out points. I found it allowed just the right amount of ventilation while still protecting me from the wind. We were not expecting any rain, but it was rather windy the first night on the ridge where we made camp. Given the wind and mid-40s temps, I also used the Slacker Hammock Warmer, which makes the most of it's pack-able size with a reflective ThermaCapture surface that redirects radiant heat back when attached to the hammock hang points. To maximize comfort, I put a Therm-A-Rest Prolite Plus in my Slacker, and slept in the Antares HD down sleeping bag.
So, how did it do for, you know, sleeping? I have to admit, I was incredibly impressed and surprised. I made it a point to really tighten the Suspenders to the point where the Slacker wasn't sagging anywhere. The Hammock Warmer was a huge help- I tried sleeping without it the second night and really noticed a difference. The Rain Fly did a great job protecting me from the wind. I always wake up in the night when camping, and this time was no different, but I quickly drifted back to sleep enjoying the slight sway of the hammock. I even rolled over onto my side comfortably- and didn't fall out! Hammock camping doesn't necessarily help reduce pack weight, but it doesn't have to add either. Comfort can ultimately help dictate whether you choose to sleep in a tent or a hammock. It was wonderful to be able to set up and take down the entire hammock system quickly and efficiently. There are weight reduction benefits to sharing a tent and thereby sharing it's weight, but if I'm rolling solo on a trip, I'll certainly consider choosing to sleep in a hammock again.
As for those bonus miles I referenced earlier, let's just say I've been refreshing my map reading skills since our trip.