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March 10, 2013 Comments (0) Camping & Outdoors, Gear & Equipment, Reviews

Life Is Better In a Hammock

“Life is better in a hammock.” is the motto of Trek Light Gear and I must agree with every word.

My first camping trip was a weekend outing in the winter of 1961.  Since it was one of the most miserable times of my life, I remember it well.  After just a week in the Boy Scouts, I found myself sitting in the woods cold, dirty, and wet.  By the end of that weekend I had a choice to make.  I could either give up on the whole concept of outdoor living, or get stubborn and learn how to be comfortable in the wilderness.

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Fortunately, I’m naturally stubborn and for the past fifty-plus years I have studied the fine art of camping.  It didn’t take long to learn that a combination of both skill AND equipment is required to be truly comfortable.  Learning the proper skill set has proven to be a lifelong pursuit, but mistakenly I always thought that if you bought quality equipment you would be set for a lifetime.  Wrong!  For the past several decades we have been blessed with an avid outdoor industry and what was once “top-of-the-line” is now nothing more than antiques.  Please don’t take me wrong.  The tent and backpack I had in the 60’s is still good equipment, but with the advent of modern materials and designs there is better to be had. 

This point was brought home recently while preparing for an upcoming canoe trip.  I have been planning this trip for a while and the idea of leaving the tent behind and going lighter appealed to me.  I had gone back to using a tarp on occasion, but I have also noticed other campers using a hammock in combination with the tarp.  My experience with the old canvas hammocks of the past never really worked out that well, but these people seemed to be comfortable using their modern versions.  I’m not so old that I won’t give something a second try, and obtaining a new hammock was soon put on my to-do list.

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If I was going to update my equipment it only made sense to take advantage of another modern invention, the internet.  If you want to learn about new outdoor equipment all you have to do is a quick web search.  While looking for information on hammocks, the name Trek Light Gear kept popping up.  Trek Light Gear is based in Boulder, Co. and was founded by Seth Haber.  Seth is a true outdoorsman and it was his own adventures that motivated him to design and produce the perfect hammock.  If you have any questions concerning hammocks (or their use) just scan their website.  There is more to hammocks than you would have ever thought and Trek Light has all of the answers.  To be honest, it was their abundance of information that convinced me to give their product a try.  Anyone that knew that much about a hammock had to know how to make one!  At the same time, if I was going to give this style of camping a try, it only made sense to test their best selling product, the Double Hammock.  Since I knew that the moment I left the tent behind I would be opening myself up to attacks from every insect in the wild, it made good sense to include a good mosquito net at the same time. 

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To discover why this model is called the Double Hammock, just check out the size.  The Double is 6 ½ feet wide and 10 feet long and is big enough to really stretch out and relax.  The hammock started out by surprising me the moment I opened the box from Trek Light Gear.  The hammock came packed in a nylon tote that measured just 6 x 9 x 4 inches.  This nylon bag is attached to the side of the hammock and once the hammock is set up, it acts as a handy storage pocket.  Their Bug Free Hammock Shield (mosquito netting) came in a similar sized tote and each item weighs less than 20 ounces.  The hammock is fashioned from the same nylon used for parachutes which may seem thin, yet it is rated for a 400 pound load.  Another nice feature of the nylon is that it is mildew and rot resistant.  Since I can remember when everything was made of canvas, I can also remember fighting the constant battle against mildew on all of my outdoor equipment.  The nylon is noted for shedding moisture and should it get wet, it dries rather quickly.  I also noted that all of the seams where triple-stitched, and a stout “S” hook is held in place with heavy nylon cord at each end.  To be blunt, I can’t think of any way to improve on this hammocks construction.

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“The Bug Free Hammock Shield” may be an awfully fancy name for mosquito net, but since its construction is of the same quality as the hammocks, I would say they have earned to right to call it anything they want to.  The netting has 525 holes per square inch which it tight enough to keep anything out while still allowing air flow.  The netting is fashioned in the form of a tube which totally encloses the hammock, and access is provided by a double sided zipper.  The tube design assures that a mosquito can’t even bite through the bottom of the hammock.  Nylon cords are attached to reinforced areas of the netting; thus allowing you to suspend the netting away from you during use.  By having the Bug Free Hammock Shield as a separate unit, you have the option of using the hammock with or without the mosquito netting.  In my own humble opinion, if you are going to try a hammock, the netting is a must have option!  However, the third item in the box was the Go Anywhere Rope Kit.  This item may not really be a requirement, but I will say it proved to be a handy addition.

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I am trying to make my canoe trip one of those “once in a lifetime” events, so it is still in the planning stage, and several months away.  Also, since my old Boy Scout days taught me to test EVERY piece of equipment before depending on it, I had the perfect excuse for a few overnight outings with the hammock.  However, before you even think about heading to the woods, read every word on the Trek Light Gear website.  As they explain, how you hang your hammock has a lot to do with how comfortable you will be.  Contrary to what you may think (and what I always thought in the past) you want some slack once you hang the hammock.  This allows you to lie at an angle across the hammock, and it actually provides a flatter surface.  Also, hang it too tight and the edges will wrap around you like a cocoon.  Their website is filled with true words of wisdom, and worthy of your time.  Finding a couple of trees on my property is easy enough, but my first episode with the hammock proved to take several hours.  Hanging it only took minutes, but once erected it took hours before I felt an urge to get back up.  Really, the Go Anywhere Rope Kit is about as simple as it comes, but it is one of those things where you say; “Why didn’t I think of that?”  I would have spent much more time (and used every knot I learned in Scouts) if it wasn’t for the little rope kit.  A combination of the “S” hooks and pre-tied knots in the rope kit allows you to adjust the hammock in just seconds.  I played with several amounts of slack till I found that that “just right” position and settled down for a nap.  From that point on it becomes a personal decision on what position fit you the best.  If you normal sleep on your back it really won’t affect you that much.  However, if you’re like me and sleep on your side or stomach, take the advice of Trek Light Gear and lie at an angle across the hammock.  By rotating your body away from the centerline you flatten out the curve.  Take my word for it; it is easier to do than it is to write about it.  During my first experience, I also learned that the height you hang the hammock can come into play.  It was natural for me to hang it a little high, but I soon found that if the bottom of the curve in the hammock is equal to the height of a normal chair, the hammock make a good place to sit anytime of the day.  At no time did I feel uncomfortable with the strength of the hammock.  It is built strong enough for my size plus two.  At the same time, I remembered the feeling of my old canvas model.  Every time I got in it, I felt I was one move away from flipping over and falling face first into the ground.  Trek Light’s design has eliminated any possibility of flipping as long as you hang the hammock with a little curve.  The extra size of the Double really added to my comfort once I included my winter sleeping bag.  It was until my second trip to the pond before I tried the hammock overnight.  This time I added the netting and a suitable tarp.  The netting required an additional ridge line to be strung, but that only added a few minutes to the setup time.  It actually took me longer to hang the tarp than it did to put up the hammock with the mosquito net.  The ease of setup on this second outing proved my point of testing everything before you depend on it.  The time I spent that first day playing with the amount of slack and height made this second trip totally effortless.  If it wasn’t for a nosey beaver coming by, I would have slept thru the night.  I can comfortably (pun intended) say I have found my sleeping method for my upcoming adventure. 

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If you ever even think about using a hammock for camping (or just a lazy day) spend the time checking out the gear at Trek Light Gear.  I have not seen a better example of quality and the wisdom found on their website can only come from experience. 

Trek Light Gear

800-960-1471

www.treklightgear.com

            

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