Why you should try hammock camping


Ensign Lake in the Boundary Waters is ready to accommodate your hammock

Photo by Josh Hild

Trees in Minnesota’s parks and beaches are primed for people basking in brightly colored parachute fabric slings this summer. Dozing off in the afternoon is one thing, but hammocks are also handy for dozing off at night.

“I would say our driving hammock buyers are college students,” says Adam “Chip” Vachon, retail associate at Midwest Mountaineering. “The amount of hammocks on campus or by the Mississippi on a beautiful day is absolutely insane.”

It’s not just college kids, though. Vachon finds himself chatting with clients in their 50s and 60s looking for a way to relieve their back pain from the cold, hard floor.

Vachon’s interest in hammock camping dates back to before recent fashions. In the summer of 2010, the outdoor enthusiast took his first southerly run on the 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail after completing his undergraduate studies. At about 400 miles, he realized his heavy tent was going to be a back breaker. He ordered a Hennessy Hammock, one of the first all-inclusive hammock camping systems, and continued to truck.

Last summer, Vachon returned to the Appalachian Trail with the added goal of completing it in just 70 days. It required a grueling average of 35 miles per day and an ultralight bag weight. Its only concession to human needs? Looking forward to a night’s sleep in his hammock.

The appeal of hammock camping balances the benefits of shaving ounces and improving comfort. On a hypothetical perfect summer’s evening, you might be camping in your hammock with no more gear than you might need to doze off in your backyard. When you lie down slightly diagonally in the hammock, suspended at a 30-degree angle from tree-safe anchors, it removes pressure points and prepares you for ergonomically beneficial sleep. Another tip: Hanging the hammock foot 8-10 inches higher prevents your body from sliding down the middle.

In the wild, Vachon recommends that you tie a tarp over the top of your hammock to protect yourself from the rain. Since we live in the land of mosquitoes, many camping hammock manufacturers, like the ever popular ENO or Vachon’s favorite brand, Kammok, sell custom mosquito net systems for their hammocks. Vachon also says that one of the most common beginner’s mistakes in hammocks is forgetting to pack insulation, such as a comforter hanging under the fabric of your hammock to keep the heat in.

“The wind will pass just if you have nothing there, sweep the heat that escapes from your back and you’ll end up with CBS,” Vachon jokes. “It’s an acronym for Hammock Camper which stands for Cold Butt Syndrome.”

Prepare properly and you will have one of the most comfortable nights of sleep you can find outdoors and you will feel more connected to your surroundings.

“A lot of times you’ll find yourself in a hammock with a little more opportunity for that closer to nature feeling,” says Vachon, “You can see the stars a little easier, and you can see those awe-inspiring views a little bit. better.”


Sally J. Minick

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