camping · cycling · fitness · inclusiveness

49 Nights in a Hammock: 17 Lessons (Guest post, #bikepacking)

Sorry to leave you all hanging for so long! When I wasn’t hanging in my hammock, I was catching up on school and much needed rest! As fun as adventuring is, it’s also tiring. I’ll be taking a break from blogging for a while to dig into exciting research projects, focus on my course work, and start drafting ideas for a book. My posts will be sporadic until I have a lighter course load in the spring. In the meantime, you can follow me on Twitter @JoyBringingHope.

Image Description: In the top right corner of the photo is a background with grey and white clouds with a tiny bit of blue peaking through, below it but still in the background are brightly coloured trees in red, orange, and yellow. In the foreground, surrounded by first tall grass and then a neatly manicured clearing of grass, is another group of trees that are yellow-green and in the centre of those is a forest green hammock covered by a rain fly.
  1. Give yourself time to adjust to a hammock and ask for comfort tips. Initially I found my comfort was inconsistent, so Hennessy suggested positioning my head at the (slightly) lower end of the hammock. It worked! Now beds annoy me. 😂 A quick pre-purchase web search revealed that many North Americans are surprised that they prefer the comfort of a hammock over the comfort of a mattress. (Don’t tell Sleep Country or hammocks will start costing thousands of dollars!)
  2. Pillows are unnecessary (and uncomfortable) while on your back, but useful when sleeping on your side – a sweatshirt works too. 
  3. Practice setting up before you actually need it — or at least leave plenty of time to set up before dark.
  4. Falling asleep staring up at the stars is epic… I will never tire of that.
  5. Be prepared for sudden rain even if it isn’t in the forecast.
  6. As the nights start cooling down dew makes the rain fly necessary even when rain isn’t forecast.
  7. Waking up to chirping birds or chittering squirrels can be fun… and rain flies provide poop protection!

Image Description: the background fills the left half of the photo with green grass, it is lush towards the top of the photo, but sparse and interspersed with dirt towards the bottom. The right half of the photo shows a close up of part of a tree trunk in the foreground. In the centre of the photo peaking around the tree and looking directly at the camera is a brown squirrel with a cluster of seeds from a cedar tree in it’s mouth.

  1. Apple trees smell nice, but you’d better have a strong rain fly! 😆Hennessy’s held up well. 🙃
  2. Position your hammock so that the zippered side of the bug net opens towards the easiest exit… which conveniently also allows easy sunrise photos from your cozy sleeping bag.
  3. If you’re hammocking between posts be aware of joints where your rope can get jammed. Always use tree straps since they are easier to get out of a jam or replace if necessary.

Transcript: “I definitely just used my bicycle as a stool so I could get up here [onto the top of a pavilion beam] because my hammock rope was wedged into there [between the joints] and it required hacking with a tent peg in order to get it free. So this was an adventure for the morning. Problem solving while hammock camping.”
Image description: A caucasian woman with rosy cheeks wearing glasses, a red rain coat, black gloves, and a blue helmet over a thin grey hat. I am perched atop a wooden beam at the edge of a pavilion, holding my hammock rope and a tent peg in one hand while videotaping myself with the other.
  1. Water bottles in plastic bags are great for keeping the fly taught by weighing it down. 
  2. Watch the forecast and find covered shelter if it’s likely to be rainy *and* windy. Pavilions, bridges, and Kingdom Hall overhangs are prime possibilities. School entrances could work in a pinch, but would definitely be a privileged mea culpa option which likely has a relatively high risk of police being called. Huge thanks to my friend Eric Todd for brainstorming with me when buckets of rain were expected and the only pavilion in Espanola was unavailable!
Image Description: In the background is a grey sky, with a forest of trees. In the mid-ground is highway 6 leading out of Espanola. In the foreground is the distinct architectural design of a Kingdom Hall: a red brick building with a wide and long overhang that is big enough to fit a large SUV underneath, the ground beneath is red cobblestone. Underneath the overhang is a blue winter shovel, beside a yellow bin (presumably holding sand), beside my bicycle which is covered in a camoflage bike parka. Beside all that, just in front of the main doors to the building the edge of a blue tarp can be seen on the ground blowing slightly in the wind. On top of this is my hammock with bug net (to protect against the few remaining mosquitoes), then inside that is my sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and an emergency blanket.
  1. Better yet, buy a big rain fly. The one mine came with was perfect most nights… but nowhere near sufficient during windy storms. 
  2. If lightning is expected look for a shelter with electricity (eg. fancy picnic pavilions and Kingdom Halls). At the very least avoid tying to the tallest trees… maybe also avoid close proximity to large bodies of water. Stay off the ground though… it’s a conduit. Shoes don’t have enough rubber for lightning protection. (Don’t ask me why. I read this somewhere online while freaking out at my nightmare stealth site.)
  3. Bring a sleeping mat for insulation; it’s also useful if you need to wait out a storm on the ground of a pavilion or simply can’t find suitable trees.
  4. Bring a balaclava to keep your nose and ears warm.
  5. Bring a spare dry bag to store your dirty shoes beside your hammock. 

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