The days and nights I have spent in the great outdoors have added up to a good chunk of my life by now. If I haven’t done it, I’ve at least heard of it, or so I thought.
I was caught completely off guard recently when a fellow mentioned his “Thanksgiving hang.” All kinds of terrible thoughts raced through my head for an instant until camping enthusiast Chris Reardon of Lexington explained his terminology. He’s talking about hammock camping. When he and others like him go camping, they refer to them as “hangs.”
Chris and hundreds of other enthusiasts across the country say it’s the most comfortable sleep you can ask for in the outdoors, far better than tent camping on the hard ground. And some people (including me) like the notion of being suspended above things like snakes and spiders.
Camping hammocks function the same way as the rope hammocks we’re all familiar with, but they are specially designed for camping. They’re made of tent-like fabric and suspended between two trees. Various designs include the ability to zip oneself up in the hammock, and some even include mosquito netting.
To avoid sleeping like a banana, all you do is tighten the ropes for a flatter position, making it much easier to sleep on your side or stomach if you prefer.
Hammock enthusiasts say their type of camping is more environmentally friendly, as a suspended camper “leaves no trace,” whereas tents always do. And all you need are two trees anywhere. You may be suspended over boulders looking out upon spectacular scenery.
Hammock campers usually insert a sleeping bag into the hammock. Even so, suspended sleeping means cooling airflow to the backside, desirable in the summer but not when temperatures plummet in the colder months. To compensate for this, all sorts of solutions have been implemented, from foam camping pads to quilts placed under the sleeping bag to provide that extra layer of insulation.
Hammock camping is still in its infancy in the U.S., so you won’t find the hammocks or the people who do it around every corner. One good way to learn more is at www.hammockforums.net. More than 6,500 people have joined the site so far, and it’s expected more and more folks will discover the benefits of “hanging around.” Or just search “hammock camping” or “camping hammocks for sale” on your computer and plenty of information will come up.
Personally, I can’t wait to go on a “holiday hanging” this summer. Hmm, I’d better watch how I phrase that.
HAMMOCK CAMPERS often suspend tarps above their hammocks in case of rain.
CONSIDER BUILT-IN mosquito netting for warm-weather camping.
USE A SLEEPING BAG with an adequate temperature rating for the time of year you are camping.