Hammock Tips on a 50-Miler

This summer I joined my son on a few days of his 50-miler trek up and over the San Francisco Peaks in Northern Arizona. Since I wasn’t able to join him for the whole trek, I was a little lazy in my packing and threw together a kit so I could get up the mountain as fast as I could, when I could. Because of my haste, I had to do a little improvising on the trail. Here are the things I did:

hammock-50-miler-2016-4

V-up bunking is fun (and provides better tarp coverage with asym tarps)

When I want to pack light, I usually scrimp on my tarp, especially if weather will be mild. When I caught up with my son, we were able to bunk close enough in a V formation, which enabled us to overlap our tarps for better coverage.

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Backpacks make great leg pads (especially when you forget yours)

Using 3/4-length under quilts is a great way to save pack weight, but it leaves some parts of your body uncovered (usually your head and lower legs). I usually bring a small sit pad—a short piece of closed-cell foam pad—that is used to create the structure of the backpack, but this time I realized I brought a different pack that doesn’t have a removable frame. Thankfully, most backpacks have padding integrated into the frame. Emptying the pack of its contents, I brought it into my hammock and used it as a pad for my legs. This worked great for keeping my lower legs warm.

hammock-50-miler-2016-5Using a loop-on-loop toggle

In addition to forgetting my leg pad, I brought the wrong suspension system for my hammock. This meant that I had two rope loops that needed to connect to each other.  I’m handy with knots, but unfortunately Dyneema cordage doesn’t knot well and is so slippery that many foundation knots don’t hold. Connecting two loops can be a little tricky, but thankfully I used a toggle to connect them together (ABOK#1921). In this case, I used a stout branch.

Thinking creatively and honing certain skills certainly came in handy on this trek. Planning ahead and being prepared would have solved some of the issues I faced, but these techniques could also be intentional. Have you ever had to improvise in the field? Let me know in the comments.

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5 Responses

  1. Kevin says:

    I’ve been using the Becket hitch (based on your blog post about it) the last several times I’ve hung a home-made hammock that uses Amsteel for both the continuous loop and suspension from the webbing around the trees. I double (or triple) it (aka double sheet bend) when I had concerns about slippage. I haven’t found myself on the ground in the morning yet.

  2. Josh says:

    So, the real tip here is to not forget your stuff. 😉

  3. Neruda says:

    Derek, great report. I can vouch for the engenuity that one can employ after they’ve practiced a lot. For me that has always meant a lot of pitching and fussing with hammocks and tarps. My failures have taught me a lot. I’ve had a few occasions to improvise solutions like the ones you’ve described and it’s always satasfying figuring them out.

  4. Jake Case says:

    Sounds like an awesome trip! I’d love to see what the route looked like and the camping locations used, especially for your son’s 50 mile route!

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