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Sunday, May 16, 2021

Lounge, camp in style with a hammock

People hanging between the trees at Boulevard Park is a popular activity for many. // Photo by Trevor Dickie
People hanging between the trees at Boulevard Park is a popular activity for many. // Photo by Trevor Dickie

Over the past few years, lightweight, portable hammocks have rapidly grown in popularity. Even if it’s slightly nice enough of a day, Western students are sure to flock around the edges of the Comm Lawn or in front of Old Main in hopes of the perfect spot to lounge.

The designs of most of hammocks are all very similar. They generally use some type of rip-stop nylon, and para-cord or some other rope with carabiners at each end. Their straps are almost always a nylon webbing, and the hammocks are rated between 200-600 pounds.

There isn’t a demographic that would struggle to find a use out of a hammock due to its versatility — they work for seating, lounging around, sleeping, camping, backpacking, watching the sunset — and that’s what drives the popularity. To most, hammocks are a great way to relax in the trees or enjoy the sun, as long as you have two sturdy things to tie to. There a number of practical applications in the outdoor world for these hammocks beyond just relaxation. For camping and backpacking, the use of a hammock is growing because it is a lighter weight option to tents. Many hammock manufacturers make accessories like rain flies or bug nets for their hammocks to facilitate hammock-camping.

If you only need space for one person, hammocks work well as it saves a large amount of space at a campsite — not to mention much quicker set-ups and takedowns, as well as enhanced comfort compared to a tent. A tent is lightweight and compact when split between a couple people, but on its own it can take up most of one pack, making it more complicated to pack everything if you’re traveling alone. A hammock sleeps one, and is much more compact than a tent, making it ideal for a single backpacker. I recently went camping with some friends where I slept in a hammock and slept more comfortably than I usually do in a tent. Not everyone sleeps comfortably in a hammock, especially if you you don’t sleep on your back, but I know many do find it comfortable.

Rain in the forecast hinders hammock efficiency, but the solution is a rain fly designed to protect you from the elements. Still, a tent is a safer bet and if you expect any worse weather than a little rain, a tent is recommended. You should still make sure you are camping below the tree line, or the elevation where trees no longer will grow. If you have interest in trekking up into the alpine, a tent may better suit you.

Plenty of different stores and online outlets sell various brands of hammocks. Amazon has a huge variety, from the cheaper off-brand hammocks to the specialized backpacking hammock setups. Eagle’s Nest Outfitters, or ENO for short, is seemingly the most popular option. They boast a strong range of accessories and plenty of different hammock designs and all with wide ranging color choices. Hennessy Hammocks are generally for package deals, designed with camping or backpacking in mind. Kammok is another popular brand whose products are more expensive, but are covered by a lifetime warranty.

Hennessy Hammock (black), Kammok’s Roo (Grey & Blue), Eagle’s Nest Outfitters’ Doublenest Hammock (Purple). // Photo by Trevor Dickie
Hennessy Hammock (black), Kammok’s Roo (Grey & Blue), Eagle’s Nest Outfitters’ Doublenest Hammock (Purple). // Photo by Trevor Dickie

Straps are sold by many of the hammock companies, and they speed up the setup process significantly. You can buy para-cord or webbing to make your own, or you can buy a premade set. They have holes that are designed for the hammocks carabiners to clip into, then wrap-around trees eliminating any knot-tying processes. They generally cost about $20 per pre-made pair. Trees around Western Washington can grow to be pretty wide, potentially stopping the straps from being able to wrap all the way around the trunk. Combining two sets of straps, one pair used to go around each tree, can fix that problem. Two straps can also be used to extend the length of the straps from the tree and strap up between two more distant trees.

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