Camping season is almost officially here, and that means it’s a good time to take stock of your gear. Maybe it’s time for an upgrade? If you live in or are planning camping trips in warm, dry climates, allow me to suggest an easy, affordable addition to your arsenal.
Hammock camping is becoming increasingly popular amongst car-campers and backpackers alike. Unless you enjoy camping in volcanic calderas, sand dunes, or similarly treeless places, ultralight hammocks are a great way to conserve weight and space. Best of all, they provide a more outdoorsy experience, yet allow you to remain high and dry, elevated from debris and critters (for those of you who are used to sleeping open-air on the ground). Many versions are enclosed, providing mosquito and rain shelter, although if you tend toward claustrophobia, you may want to stick with a traditional version.
For backpackers/campers like me, who suffer bad backs, a hammock can be either a blessing or a curse. Personally, I go for ultralight gear, and am more comfortable dealing with spinal curvature; it all depends upon your particular affliction and preferences. For my purposes, hammock camping is the ultimate for whitewater trips, because trees are abundant, ground conditions can be less than ideal, and I relish being out in the open.
Ultralight hammocks are generally made from parachute nylon; look for one that’s mildew-resistant, and make sure it comes with a stuff sack so you can test its compression size. Last summer, at a street fair in Boulder, I even saw an ultralight all-in-one daypack and hammock. Check sites like REI or Backcountry.com, and be sure that whatever you buy comes with no-questions-asked return policy should you be less than thrilled.
[Photo credit: Flickr user andrewmalone]