Ultralight Hammocks: Your New Summer Camping Accessory

hammock campingCamping 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]

Gadling Gear Review: Ozone Ultralight Roller Bag

Ospery Ozone Superlight Roller BagI look for three things in a roller bag. The bag should be easy to handle, easy to pack and be as light as possible. Osprey has tacked the weight issue head on with their new Ozone line of roller bags, and they score on handling and packability, too.

The bag comes in three sizes: an 18-inch (backpack size), a 22-inch (maximum carry-on size), and a 28-inch (you’ll have to check this one, fliers). I tested the 18-inch bag for four days of late summer travel.

The bag holds it shape well enough when you’re packing it and it held almost everything I needed. I could not get a second pair of shoes in without sacrificing something else. I’m not a heavy traveler and most of the items I packed were for summer weather, so if you decide to go with this bag as your carry-on travel bag, get the 22-inch version. The interior is lined with mesh pockets so there are good places to stow your odds and ends, your cables and gadgets – that kind of thing. There are two exterior pockets on the front for stuff you need access to, like your bag of three-ounce liquids, for example. And there’s an external pocket on the back of the bag that was the perfect size to hold my netbook. Compression straps cinch everything down when you’ve closed the bag, so it’s a very neat little piece of luggage. That’s a nice feature in a soft-sided bag.

A single telescoping handle runs down the center of the back of the bag, but it’s easy to pack around. And the bag handles very nicely, the hardware is smooth and everything works well. Part of the ease of handling is, I’m sure, in the barebones weight – it’s much easier to wheel around a bag that’s half the weight of your typical denier fabric roll-aboard.Because the fabric is so light, you’ll want to pack really smart when it comes to your crunchables. This isn’t an issue with the bag so much as it is with what you’ll be doing with it, but be aware that if the baggage guys are hurling out of the hold on to a cart, there could be collateral damage. This is not a bag for protecting your belongings; you’re going to want hard-sided luggage for that.

I liked traveling with this bag a lot. I really appreciated how light it was and how easy it was to move around. The grips are in the right place, it’s easy to pack, and it’s well designed. There’s one feature the bag doesn’t have that I’d like: a shoulder strap or stowaway backpack straps. Let’s face it; sometimes you have to carry your bag. You can’t always wheel it and weaklings like me can’t carry a grip for very long.

The Ozone comes in two colors, a bright green and a gray. The 22-inch (that carry-on size) lists for $199.