Three summers ago I spent my first night camping out in the woods in a hammock. Since then, sleeping in a hammock has taken preference over sleeping in a tent while camping for me. One aspect of hammock camping that I have never tried but have always been interested in trying has been winter hammocking and the night of January 7th was a great opportunity to try it out.
I left Denver late in the afternoon and planned on camping out then fishing the next day. I had a camping spot in mind that I had camped at a number of times last summer and fortunately it was located close to the river that I planned to fish the next morning. I pulled into the site around 11:30pm and to my surprise there was jeep already there parked in another campsite across from the site I planned to camp at. It was not a problem that someone was already there but seeing someone camping there on a Monday night in January was not something I had expected. In all reality though they were probably more surprised to see me; some yahoo driving into the campsite close to midnight in the middle of the winter and setting up a hammock to sleep in.
As you can see in the picture above, I was pretty lazy with the spot I choose to set up my hammock. Tonight however wasn’t about finding a cool, scenic spot to hang some nylon between two trees. No, tonight was about seeing if I make it through a winter night in my hammock with the warm gear that I currently had. I layered up the hammock like this: Eno DoubleNest Hammock, Therm-a-Rest Z Lite foam pad, Therm-a-Rest Basecamp inflatable pad, 30° Grand Trunk Hammock Sleeping Bag, and 2 Double Black Diamond Down Throw blankets. (This setup was by no means something I could ever pack into somewhere.)
One part of the grand plan was to rig up one of the down throw blankets as an under quilt by using the Eno Bug Net (the string hanging above the hammock) to hold it close to the bottom of the hammock. Unfortunately this didn’t end up working out so well. First off I couldn’t figure out a good way to elevate the bug net string high enough above my car so that the net would hug closely to the hammock and secondly the blanket had no intentions of sitting nice and even in the bug net anyways. Without wanting to spend too much time trying to figure out an under-quilt I went ahead and ditched the idea of an under-quilt and used the blanket for more insulation on top.
Overall the night turned out to be a success. I wasn’t completely warm the whole time but I made it the full night in the hammock and got some quality sleep. My feet were definitely the biggest issue of the night. While the rest of my body was for the most part comfortable and warm, my feet did not stay warm and they kept waking me up. I ended up having to tuck them in under my body to warm up my toes. When you do this in a hammock there is a tendency for everything in the hammock to slide into the middle of the bag and bunch up and things get messy. I ended up sleeping most of the night in the middle of the hammock in a ball basically.
Thoughts for next time:
I think that the main issue of the night was that I didn’t set up the hammock all that well and over time the hammock slouched and my feet elevated too high and didn’t receive good circulation.
As I write this post I am packing up to spend another night in the hammock. I really should have put some actual research in on how other people hammock in the winter but I enjoy trying to figure out how to do some things on my own with trial and error before admitting defeat. I will definitely be doing some research after this next night if it doesn’t go to well.
I plan to set things up a little differently this time. First off I plan to find two mature trees to hang my hammock between so that the hammock can remain taught over the course of the night. This will keep my feet below or at least level with my head keeping more circulation going to them. Secondly I plan on using the sleeping bag as more of an under-quilt. In researching the sleeping bag that I have I realized that it is actually built with slits in the top and bottom of it that allow the hammock to slide inside of the sleeping bag making the bottom side of the bag more of an under-quilt. I could see this being a good thing or a bad thing though and this may have been a factor in my feet getting cold last time due to heat being lost through the slit in the bottom of the bag.
However tomorrow night goes, I will report back on how winter hammocking trial 2 plays out.