Why stay in a tent, when you can hang? Hammock Camping in the Maroon Bells in a Hennessy Hammock.
Why A Hammock?
There are several different arguments that I’ve heard about why people say hammocks are better than tents. Some of them include:
- Hammocks weight less – Okay I don’t quite agree. Especially when you start looking at bivy sacks, or tarp tents. A hammock may be lighter than just a tent, but you’ll need to bring some more insulation to stay warm. Weight is just a trade-off. Hammocks can be light, but so can staying on the ground.
- Hammocks Are Low Impact – This can be true. Instead of requiring a level section of ground that will get packed down even more, a hammock just needs two trees. If the hammock it tied properly, with straps to protect the tree, there is very little impact on the wilderness by a hammock camper. Leave no trace is much easier if you don’t sleep on the ground.
- Hammocks Are More Comfortable – This can be true. It depends on two things: how you sleep and if you stay warm. If you are stomach sleeper; hammocks are not an option. But for the rest of us, they offer an incredible nights sleep with more possible sleeping positions than any bed could offer. But staying warm can be a challenge.
- Hammocks Don’t Have Night Visitors – I’ve heard of people waking up to possums, skunks, snakes, countless insects, and other night-time creepers in their tents. With a hammock that just doesn’t happen. By sleeping up off the ground you get to avoid those visitors and instead, just enjoy a good night’s sleep.
- Hammocks Are Just Cool – Yup. Sure some tents are different and look cool. But overall when you’ve seen one tent, you’ve seen enough. They just aren’t that cool. But be honest, hammocks are just cool. Maybe it’s just me, but every time I see a hammock I sense my brain longing to relax just a little. That’s cool.
So pick your reasons, there are trade-offs and hammock camping isn’t for everyone. For me it offered a simple way to have a peaceful place to sleep without stressing about rocks, roots, slopes, or creepy things at night.
Why A Hennessy Hammock?
There are lots of options for camping hammocks, but one stood out in my mind. I have wanted a camping hammock for years. Sometimes our past blinds ourselves from other options and that was definitely the case with purchasing my camping hammock. Call it nostalgia, or whatever.
I had longed for a Hennessy Hammock for years; this trek to the Maroon Bells was finally my excuse to get one. And I jumped at the chance.
The Hennessy Hammock is a unique camping hammock that includes a bug-net and rain fly like many of its competitors, but it was unique. It was unique in how you got into the hammock. (While they now offer versions that are more traditional, as well.)
The Hennessy Hammock is entered, and exited, from the bottom. Yup, from the bottom.
The bottom of the footbed of the hammock has a slit. To get in you just open the slit, step in, turn around, sit down, and pull your feet up and in. The slit snaps closed with your own weight. To get out just reverse the process, pull the slit apart, set your feet down, step down, then step out of the hammock.
Once you do it a few times it is almost second nature. The beauty of it is there is no messing with zippers. I’ve fought zippers when being attacked by swarms of mosquitos in Minnesota. It is a terrible feeling, not only are the mosquitos biting you as you battle with the zipper, every second you know more are entering the tent where they can sit and bite you all night long.
Not so with the Hennessy Hammock.
Okay, I know. I live in Colorado now and we just don’t have mosquitos. Old thinking dies hard. I enjoyed the novelty and the peace of mind. No bugs were getting at me while I slept.
Avoiding Frozen Butt
The one problem with camping in a hammock is staying warm. Insulation is only effective when it isn’t compressed. Take a super warm sleeping bag and compress it and the cold just seeps right through. Well if you just grab that sleeping bag, toss it into a hammock and think it will keep you nice and warm – you’re wrong and will end up with a frozen butt.
Any insulation that is under you gets compressed and becomes ineffective. I’ll not go into the numerous creative ways people have worked to keep their backside from freezing, but let’s just say it is worthwhile spending some time before you go heading over to Hammock Forums to pick your method of staying warm.
I took an extra sleeping bag with me and draped it up underneath the hammock. This kept the wind away and trapped my heat in. It worked pretty good. I could have used a warmer sleeping bag inside the hammock, or brought a pad for more insulation underneath.
Live and learn.
Advice For First Time Hammock Campers
You’ll see more about hammock camping. Not only did I enjoy it, but I was able to sell the idea to my wife. So now I’ve been able to get her out on a backpacking hammock camping adventure.
If it sounds interesting, here’s my advice for first time hammock campers.
- Try it out – Started asking to see if you can find a camping hammock to try out. That could be just a few minutes laying in one, or borrowing one for a test overnight. See if you can check out multiple vendors. There are lots of options, see which one fits you and meets your needs.
- Stay Warm – Plan ahead. Spend time talking to others, reading what others have tried, and get resourceful. Sleep should be restful and it isn’t if you are cold. Plan on how you’ll stay warm. I still wish I had more warmth during our trek.
- Sleep At Home – Don’t venture out on a trip without first sleeping in your hammock at home. Find some place where you can try it. More importantly, try it someplace where you can just climb out and go inside if it isn’t working. Try it. Make adjustments. Try it again. Keep working at the setup, until you find out how to sleep in it. For my Hennessy that meant finding a way to rig it up on my deck. When I got a hammock for my wife and I we spent the night in a friend’s yard with enough trees.
Are you A Hanger?
After sleeping in a hammock for our trek through the Maroon Bells I think it would be very difficult to convince me to sleep on the ground again. All I need are some trees.
No more worrying about lumps, bumps, or visitors at night. No more worrying about setting up or taking down during rain. No more worries, just chilling in the hammock.
So have you tried camping in a hammock? Are you a hanger?