My blog principally focuses on gear and what can best be carried as it relates to lightweight backpacking. I assume those who read this blog share a similar interest and they too likely think long and hard about whether the gear they carry is truly necessary, and if so, if there is a lighter, smaller, and just-as-functional version available.
My question is, do you evaluate what you would put in a day pack as thoroughly as what you would put in your pack for a multi-day trip?
For me, the answer is "sort of". I consider all gear regardless, but I definitely don't lose sleep over ounce counting and size limitations. I'm not sure why, but the reality is that 5-7 pounds of total weight on my back isn't going to make too much of a difference for a few hours. With that, I often bring things I normally wouldn't, whether it be a larger stove I want to mess with, a Mora knife for shaving wood to aid with cooking over a fire, a bulkier rain jacket which deals with abrasion a little better in the event that I'm off trail, etc.
One piece of gear I bring 99.9% of the time may surprise some of the readers of my blog. And quite honestly, it might just be the thing I enjoy carrying the most as using it is something I actually look forward to and often shapes my day trips in the sense of where and when to stop.
My secret piece of gear? Well...it's a hammock.
First, and to avoid comments from the hanger crowd, I am not a conventional hammocker. In fact, I've had a love/hate relationship with hammocking for about the last 7 years. Hammocking is arguably more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. This is hard for many to believe as they perceive that being bent up like a banana can't possibly be comfortable. The reality is that one can lay diagonally in a hammock and gain virtual flatness. Current market offerings provide for mosquito netting, tarps, underquilts, and all the frills to be comfortable. Depending on the gear used, these can be quite lightweight and reasonable too.
I've owned probably 10 hammocks in the last 7 years, most of which were either returned or sold, and all were from different manufacturers (mainstream and cottage). I'm not sure where to put the blame, whether it be my height and weight or perhaps personal comfort preferences, but I simply cannot sleep in a hammock. But, I do find them tremendously comfortable, enough so that they make a great chair and place to rest and read a book when I can use one in a situation where I don't mind carrying it, like day packing.
Of all the hammocks I've owned, I've kept two.
One is a custom long "Traveler" hammock made by Warbonnet Outdoors (http://www.warbonnetoutdoors.com/) which is nothing but a simple gathered-end hammock with defined ridgeline, and my favorite part, adjustable webbing that doesn't beat up a tree. With a tarp, I could use this hammock year-round as it is double-layer being that I didn't want it to stretch and also wanted a place for a pad if I needed one to retain warmth. It also helps bugs from biting the underside. It ran me about $80 and weighs 36oz. For those of you who think it is heavy, it is. Keep in mind, it is a far more robust option than what most people need as I am both heavy and tall. If you are of a slighter build, keep in mind you can get a 7.4oz Grand Trunk Nano 7 ($60-$80) which is likely perfectly fine for many users. I should mention the Nano can hold up to 300 pounds which means slight or non-slight, it's a great lightweight option.
After testing options from Jungle Hammock, Hennessey Hammock, Lawson Hammocks, Eagles Nest Outfitters, Warbonnet Outdoors, Jacks R Better, Speer Hammocks, etc., I decided I just don't like mosquito netting integrated into my hammock. So, I don't use any. If I feel things are too buggy, I'll wear a headnet and put up a tarp to prevent visitors from the trees who might drop in.
The other hammock I often carry is a 12oz Grand Trunk Ultralight Single Hammock (http://www.grandtrunkgoods.com/) which runs less than $20. I've outfitted it with the same adjustable webbing from Warbonnet Outdoors as I both like the flexibility of the system and the larger diameter webbing which doesn't beat up the trees as much as something much thinner where weight isn't distributed as well. It's about a big a my palm when stuffed, so it's a nice small and reasonable size to carry.
I honestly can't say how great it has been to hike for a few hours, stop for lunch, and have a seat to use while cooking. Then to have the opportunity to take off my shoes, kick back, and read a book or just rest completely supported and off the ground for a short while is glorious. This simple piece of gear has made a tremendous difference in my overall comfort level. If you're on the fence about it, keep in mind that you don't need to spend a bundle. A simple $20 hammock is not only a good start, but even a long-term option. Check them out.