View Full Version : Back to being a tree dweller?

2006-11-14, 19:58
Ok, I've read enough talk, and seen enough pictures of hammocks, that I've started to think seriously about trying it again. I'd likely make my own, and I'm thinking of incorporating my Solo 12 (2lbs,2oz) http://www.thenorthface.com/opencms/opencms/tnf/gear.jsp?site=EU&model=AZC4 just fabricating a support system and using an Asolo Wing (med), for my tarp. I'd likely modify the head and top panels, putting mesh in and creating 2 roll-down flys, because of the condensation inherent in a single-wall tent.
My first and only attemp at building a hammock worked pretty well I thought. I did no research beforehand, and had never even seen one up close. I used a standard sort of mesh camping hammock as a base (the ones with wooden poles). The bicycling tent I had fit perfectly, and so did my therm-a-rest. Guying out the corners was difficult, I had to sit on it and then try to stake out in order to get tension on the lines. One really nice thing was being able to step out and basically roll the whole thing up. Talk about breaking camp quickly!
I only used it for 3 nights, all in good weather, so I can't comment on it's functionality over a long period, or if I'd have been comfortable in it in all conditions. I think I gave it up mostly because of of having to get out to change, and the more difficult access to gear. The other drawback as I saw it was the neccessity of sleeping among trees. There are a lot of nice rocky promontorys where I go, and it's nice to pitch a tent out on one sometimes, under the open sky. However, the ability to sleep off the ground is appealing, and obviously I'd have many more options of where to sleep, not having to worry about ground conditions.
Here's where you guys come in. Let me draw upon the Wisdom of Hammockers, so very prevelant in this site. Enlighten me on the ways of hanging...........................:adore: Critique my hammock. Go on, be brutaly honest, I can take it! What do you look for that isn't there (ignore the silly tarp please)? What have I not thought of? From what I've seen, most hammocks seem to sag a lot, whereas I tried to make mine as flat as possible. Are there 2 schools of thought on this? I was very impressed with the one Turk made, although I'm not sure I understood his description. We both speak Canuckese, but I guess I just don't have enough hammocking experience to follow it easily.

2006-11-14, 22:11

One big problem with hammock hanging and design elements is that it is so highly subjective. So many of our individual pitch variations and mods are done in the name of personal comfort. So we can try hard to describe different things to help you. But more importantly, and more helpful would be to try and describe to others here, a problem you are having with your own comfort and a condition you want to achieve.

And if that doesnt work, you are welcome to borrow any of my hammocks to test run for yourself. I am just up the road and drive near enough to your town several times a week. Have 2 model HH's, Eaglenest, and homemade variant. Perhaps a night out in one of those would help you better decide your own comfort wants and needs.

At any rate I am sure we can get you rigged up at, in, around, or below the 2lb mark.


The ground is no place for a civilized hiker. Welcome back to the hangers.

2006-11-14, 23:09
Very kind of you to offer, Turk, and points well made.......if there's one problem that plagued me with my limited use, it's what I mentioned about having to preload the stabilizing guy lines. I don't care for a lot of side to side movement, so that's important to me. And it seemed I had an extraordinary amount of pulling force on those lines which would make them difficult to peg down. On my test run I was at Stormhaven on the Bruce Trail, close to Cypress Lake. Perhaps you've hiked there? Anyway, there are wooden tent pads there, so I was able to align my stakes crosswise under the slats, but I could tell it would have been difficult to peg them down in anything but perfect ground conditions.
I've developed sciatica between 3 discs in my back, and I also have mild spinal stenosis. Anyone with similar ailments? I wonder if it will be better or worse for my back to sleep cradled. Guess there's no way to find out but to try.

2006-11-15, 02:26
This is just my personal opinion so don't kill me....

My personal view is that if your going to use a tent use one. If you want a hammock have a hammock.
The only reason I can see for the jungle hammocks is if you are camping in an area swarming with biting insects or torrential rains. And you could just use a bug cover and tarp instead.

Also skip having any kind of stretcher that spreads the hammock (wooden poles on the ends) as this will make the hammock less comfortable and back friendly.
The hammock should have some sag and the sides should cradle you like a taco shell. --Foot end should be higher than the head, and you should lie at a slight angle (kitty corner).

I have had back problems too, and using a hammock actually seems to help my back to be better.

Don't worry about swinging, as once you get into the hammock it will stop and only start again if you or someone else starts it. You don't need, or want guy lines.

Here are some sites that you should look at no matter what you decide.

Just Jeff's page


SGT Rock
2006-11-15, 04:45
Moving into a hammock is one of the best decisions I ever made. I have been more comfortable and have had an easier time with finding good campsites ever since.

Be prepared for a slight learning curve with a hammock - an also, not everyone that tries it ends up sticking with it.

2006-11-15, 08:20
For me, hammock camping was a necessity, as I simply could no longer get comfortable enough on the ground to get any (ANY) sleep. Hammocking solved that.

imo, read Ed Speer's Hammock Camping book first. It'll help with the basics and give you an understanding of the issues, but not necessarily all of the answers - that's because hammock camping is highly individual. You gotta try things to see how they work for you.

Just Jeff's website (www.tothewoods.net) is the next stop, as he has compiled loads of other people's knowledge (and his own) into kind of a one-stop shop.

Next, make Risk's Test Hammock (www.imrisk.com/testhammock/testhammock.htm) and play with sag, get used to how far apart the trees should be to get the sag right. One thing is reasonably sure to be the same for you as it is for everyone - beyond a certain point, the more flat you string your hammock, the less comfortable you'll be. You need a surprising amount of sag to make it work. Seems weird but it's true. Experiment. You can think about bug protection while laying in your Test Hammock.

Finally, make sure you insulate the bottom when the nighttime temps are below 70F (or for some warm sleepers, 65F). It gets cool and that is uncomfortable. Just Jeff's site has a lot of info there as well.

Good luck and have fun!


2006-11-15, 10:16
Any of you guys with back problems, and even those who don't, but especially the former, need to be on a good stretching program. When your back is bothering you, if you will find a chair (a chair is about 18in tall, a little less than half a meter). Place a leg on the chair while keeping it straight without locking the knee back. Bend forward from the waist, DO NOT bend your back, keep your back straight, this is so you don't further compress anything in your spinal column. This is how a ballerina will stretch. Bend until you feel a good stretch and some degree of discomfort. For many of you, you won't bend far before this happens 'cause your hamstrings are so tight. Hold it for 15-20 seconds, repeat for the other leg. If you wil do this several times each day for a week, I'll bet your back condition will improve. A lot of people with back problems result from an injury that resulted in a compressed intervertebral disc which has resulted in impingement on a nerve root. A lot of people's problems are just from being out of shape and having bad posture. Start lifting weights but do it smart.

2006-11-15, 11:20
It took me a couple nights of 'training', but now I sleep better in a Hammock than anywhere else. I use a Thermarest prolite 3 mattress under my torso, and 6 sections of z-rest, folded, under my knees to keep the legs slightly bent. In that set-up, I wake up in the same position as I fell asleep. No tossing, no turning, no sore spots, no cold spots (down to high 30's with pads mentioned, and a 40 degree sleeping bag used quilt-style). Best sleep I've had in my life. I sleep in the shelters now and then, or on the ground in the open, but hanging in my Hennessey is my first choice.

2006-11-15, 12:05
Takeaknee, good advice. I am sure I will have problems in my future. I fell 12 feet on one of my construction jobs while I was a contractor, shattered L2, but got to my feet and drove myself to the hospital in spasm. (Stud) (stupid) Hospital staff were going to send me home with some tylenol 3, until one doc said "how far did you fall again...?" "Maybe we should take an Xray...."

After wearing a jewit brace for six months, L2 looks sort of like a mushroom on my Xray. I anticipate disc problems in the future. Just reading your "compressed intervertebral disc" comments makes me cringe! :ahhhhh:

I want my mommy!

2006-11-15, 17:48
All good advice guys....I've found "tothewoods" to be invaluable. The sagging business does seem counter-intuitive, but hey, I'll try it...especially if it eases my back pain. Not that sleeping on the ground aggravates it, I actually sleep better like that than I do at home
The worst of my back problem is the spinal stenosis. That's a narrowing of the canal that carries the spinal cord. apparently it can be treated only by very risky back surgery, and will never get better on its own. Worst case scenario is paralysis. All in all, there's my motivation to become, if not an ultralight hiker, at least someone who carries much less weight than I do now. The first order of business is to get rid of my behemoth of a pack!
That's my winter project. First I'll be snowshoeing for a few days up north in January, but that involves pulling a sled, where weight isn't so much of an issue. Speaking of winter...are there any off-the-shelf hammocks made of quilted material with down insulation?

Just Jeff
2006-11-15, 19:36
...are there any off-the-shelf hammocks made of quilted material with down insulation?

Nope. I've had a few folks ask me to make them one after seeing it on my site, but I didn't feel comfortable making money on a hammock that basically copies Ed Speer's design and uses Risk's insulation ideas. Neither is copyrighted so I'm sure I could get away with it, but it's just not the right thing to do.

Re: pack weight - Reality on PBF has a thread about comfortweight. It's like this - if your pack is light, you hike well but it's harder in camp. If it's heavy, you camp well but hiking is harder. So you strike a balance. But the balance isn't just in the weight, it's in the weight YOU feel comfortable carrying - YOUR comfortweight. For example, I can get my base weight to 8 lbs w/o any real effort - but why? I can't really tell the difference on my back if I'm carrying 15 lbs or 25 lbs...so why not carry extra goodies? Like a hammock, tarp tensioners, fresh fruit, etc. So on my personal packweight journey, I lightened up quite a bit by getting better and multi-functional gear - but it's about comfortweight rather than "lightweight." And for me, a hammock definitely falls into the comfort aspect of that.

2006-11-15, 22:39
I agree entirely Jeff, and that pretty much sums up what has been my philosophy the last 30yrs of hiking. I enjoy pushing myself on the trail. It's one of the reasons I go away. There's a sort of perverse pleasure in the struggle, but when I get to camp I like to live well, enjoying whatever little weighty luxuries I might wish to bring. After 6 hours of up and down, I don't notice a 10lb difference in total pack weight, however I need to operate under the assumption that I'm not going to get any younger or stronger, so my goal is to lose 15lbs off a 3 night/4 day outfitting, my most frequent type of trip. Since all of my basic gear except my pack is very lightweight already, the task is to figure out what extras to leave behind upgrade, or convert to dual-use

2006-11-16, 00:57
For a quick try at winter hammocking you could try zipping your sleeping bag around your hammock (see Just Jeff's site - I'm pretty sure he has some pictures of this).

Or hooking your own quilt on the bottom temporarily with safety pins/clothes pins/etc.

Or you could try a setup I experimented with this summer (didn't use - just tried it to see how it would work).
Take some visqueen and cut or fold it too slightly larger than your hammock.
Tie the plastic to the ropes at front and back so it hangs underneath your hammock.
Hook one side to the edge of the hammock with a couple paper clips/clothes pins/etc.
Fill the space between the plastic and hammock with insulation (blanket, old sleeping bag, bags of leaves, etc.)
Hook the other side up.

I actually didn't put any insulation in when I did this. I just wanted to see how hard or easy it would be to set up. - Just the plastic made a difference in warmth though, as it cut off the airflow across the bottom of the hammock.

2006-11-16, 15:42

I assume you mean Visqueen (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=res&cd=2&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.visqueenbuilding.co.uk%2F&ei=0L5cRaO4BKe2wQK1_LS8Bw&usg=__t5i6P56G9_sR2p9moAzHVHrs3Ek=&sig2=ALX0z7z0H7R31vYunYMNKg) rather than Visqueen (http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&ct=res&cd=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.visqueenonline.com%2F&ei=0L5cRaO4BKe2wQK1_LS8Bw&usg=__Lqr4H6j6WHxDN0KtA_XdBzt3VYo=&sig2=FJAr4eqvwAR00-TssiKAJg)?

2006-11-17, 01:37
Actually VIS is Latin for strength, force, or power. And QUEEN is slang for a flamboyantly homosexual man.
So obviously what I was saying is that you should hang a very strong nancy boy under your hammock.

On the somewhat serious side: now I know where the word visqueen actually came from. It's a brand name. I often wondered why people (and myself) called plastic sheeting that. Thanks

2006-11-17, 07:06
I've never heard it called that up here. We call it plastic sheeting. Shows how out of touch we Canucks are, I guess. And given that insightful definition of the source of that word, shouldn't Glad Hefty Bags be called Glad Hefty *ags?