Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Day Packing - My Secret Piece of Gear

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.

11 comments:

Alan R said...

That’s an awesome piece of kit!

Anonymous said...

I like my traveler 1.1 DL but I was wondering if you tried the Hennessy Deep Jungle XL. My larger friends seem to prefer this model or the Safari and I think the DJ is huge at 5'11". I've been reading your blog for over a year and never knew you were a hammock fan :-)
R3l@x on hammockforums.net

Iván said...

Hi. What do you think about nano 7??? Why not choose this model?.

Thank for your coment.

Jolly Green Giant said...

@ Ivan - I wrote this post a couple months ago and decided to release it last week. Since then I've acquired the Nano 7. I love the weight - it's insane. But otherwise it is considerably smaller for me. It is 5" shorter and less wide than most conventional hammocks already which means several feet smaller than my Traveler. Being 6'5" and very broad, every inch matters. I've decided I like it as a seat and singularly for lightweight lounging, but I couldn't get overly comfortably in it because there just isn't room. My feet hang over and the fabric runs along my shoulder just low enough that I could realistically fall out if not paying attention. For smaller folks, it's a wonderful option though. Honestly, I'm still trying to decide whether to keep it.

Jolly Green Giant said...

@ R3l@x - I had the Safari for awhile, but not the Deep Jungle XL. It came out after I decided I wasn't in the Hennessy camp. Whether it was wiggling in through the bottom or the heavier weight, I just decided to look elsewhere (I know things have changed with the new side opening and other options though). I honestly did my due diligence trying just about every larger model by most manufacturers discussed on Hammock Forums and elsewhere. I love the idea, but just can't sleep in them, and by the time I find one to carry my big behind, it isn't really as lightweight as I'd like. The Traveler is my favorite thus far as I don't think anyone can beat Warbonnet's adjustable suspension (for heavier folks or otherwise I'd use the whoopie sling like everyone else). But yes, I like hammocks. They are hard not to like. I find people most polarized against them haven't tried them. Such is life.

Assistant said...

I never think as much or am as organized for day trips as I am for longer ones.

You really caught me by surprise though-a hammock was not what I thought you would say.

Great ideas though, I will have to check those out.

So do you suggest the Nano 7 over the others now?

Liz-CoolProducts

Jolly Green Giant said...

@Assistant - The Nano 7 would probably be the best decision for an averaged sized person. For me, it's not as comfortable as the others simply because of my size and the fact that it is smaller in every dimension. The material is strong though, moreso than the parachute materials like on off-the-shelf hammocks, so it offers less stretch which is nice. For any of these though, I'd swap out the suspension for that sold by Warbonnet.

Stick said...

I just came across someone selling the GT UL hammock with suspension for $30 shipped, so I took him up on it. Hopefully it will be here by the end of the week...

I don't think that I will like the suspension system that comes with it, however, I hate to buy anything else right now...all the different suspension systems seem to be quite confusing by just reading a little about them... I will definitely have to dive deeper into them to figure out what I want to use...

Jolly Green Giant said...

@ Stick - The Grand Truck isn't the be-all-end-all of hammocks so I hope you aren't expecting too much. It's really no different than the less expensive versions offered by most mainstream vendors who use parachute material. I got mine for $20 which was very reasonable. But you're right, the suspension is the wildcard. For all the hammocks I've used, I always swapped out the suspension for a unique option I get from one vendor which I like a lot but he doesn't really do private sales. It's low weight considering, wide webbing for the benefit of the tree, and adjusts in seconds unlike many others out there. Since you're lighter, you could probably get by with some pretty cool Whoopie Slings (http://whoopieslings.com/) which I'd be jealous of. Otherwise my big butt needs pretty solid webbing. The suspension that comes with the GD is nothing more than a knotted low-stretch piece of cordage. It's good fun though. Good luck.

SweetPea said...

:)

Jolly Green Giant said...

@SweetPea - You're funny. Hope to see you at Grayson's if I can get my knee to the point where it will function. See ya.