Some context, I'm an older, larger, grump guy :).   I'm relatively new to backpacking and feel like my learning has been like drinking from a fire hose.  I just had my first hammock camping experience this weekend and thought I'd share, in case anyone else is doing the research that I was doing months ago and may benefit from my adventure.  I'm relatively familiar with tent camping but mostly car camping with a tent.  I've done a few backpacking trips now with a tent and feel pretty comfortable with the essentials (food, shelter, water, navigation, etc.) but this was my first time with a hammock.  This will be kindof a stream of thought post (so forgive me) and it can't be said enough that a) I'm new to this and b) don't trust anything that I say unless you've verified it for yourself.  Disclaimers out of the way, here we go.

About the trip.

My trip was to the Gahuti Trail in Fort Mountain, GA.  It's an 8+/- mile trail around the mountain that's got some good terrain and beautiful views and bears (I saw a sow with 3 cubs, VERY cool).  I decided to camp in back country site #2, about 3 miles in from the east side of the trail and then just continue through the following day.  Heavy rain was in the forecast, so I didn't want to be too far out in case I really screwed up going out with a tarp.

Key takeaways

  • Where the heck do I put my stuff?  So, this one was the first thing to really stand out.  When I got to the campsite, I hung my pack on a tree, strung up my food bag, set up my tarp, setup my hammock and then sat on my hammock to enjoy what would be my livingroom for the evening.  I then started to take out my sleeping bag and pillow (don't judge 🙂 ) so that I could get to my clothes bag to get out of my sweaty hiking clothes and into my comfy camp clothes as soon as I had gotten camp squared away (firewood).  I quickly realized that, unlike a tent, a hammock only has one place to put stuff and that's where my butt was sitting on it. 
  • Speaking of the bottom, cold butt syndrome is a thing.  I have a double hammock but I didn't get an underquilt.  Most of what I read said that, as long as you were in 70F ish weather, you should be good.  The weather was originally forecasting a low of 71 but it actually dropped to 64F.  Anything directly on the hammock got chilly.  Not cold, but definitely chilly enough to notice. 
  • How the heck do I get comfortable?  Everyone says that hammock camping is the way to go from a comfort perspective.  I'll be the first to admit that I don't *like* sleeping on the ground in my tent, even with my 4" thick Big Agnes sleeping pad, so most anything is a step up, but it the hammock wasn't immediately better than the ground.  I wiggled around a bit and finally found 'the spot', but I think that there must be an art to finding 'the spot'. 
  • So, camp is already setup, now what?  I didn't time it but, from the time I walked into the campground area until the time I was admiring my handiwork seemed *very* short, much shorter than with a tent.  I have nothing to base that on but it really seemed faster. 
  • So, camp is already taken down, that was fast.  Same with taking camp down.  I did miss having the bottom of my tent to use as leverage to cram everything back into my pack 'just so', but everything seemed to button up really quick. 
  • Rain is LOUD.  I love the sound of rain, especially heavy rain, on the rainfly of my tent.  Literally lulls me to sleep.  The rain on my tarp though (I have a 12' x 12' REI camping tarp) literally woke me up.  When it woke me up, I actually recorded the sound with my phone to replay for my wife and kids, knowing that they wouldn't believe (or appreciate) just how loud it was.  It was loud 🙂

 

All in all, I really enjoyed it.  I'm going to have to spring for an underquilt (my next trip is looking like a waterfall in the mountains in September, so likely colder than 64F that evening) and figure out how to find that comfy spot sooner but I'll definitely be taking the hammock. 

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