Hikers and backpackers are constantly looking for ways to travel lighter and faster on their excursions into the backwoods. Whether its an overnight stay along a local trail or a weeks-long thru-hike of one of the grand epics such as the Appalachian Trail, we’re always looking to shed pounds while remaining as comfortable as possible. Author Derek Hansen has found the key to doing just that and he shares the secret with us in his book The Ultimate Hang: An Illustrated Guide to Hammock Camping.
Derek asserts that we can drastically cut down on our pack weight by ditching a tent in favor of a lightweight and comfortable hammock, particularly in warmer weather. He notes that sleeping in a hammock allows backpackers to stay off the hard ground, which provides a better night sleep, and that they perform the same no matter if the terrain is smooth and flat or rocky and uneven. Hammocks can be equipped with rain flies to keep out the inclement weather and insect netting to prevent the creepy crawlies from making their way inside as well. They even adhere to the “leave no trace” concept, having zero impact on the campsite.
Converting to hammock camping may seem like a simple affair, and for the most part it is, but Hansen has plenty of great advice for first-timers and experienced backpackers alike. He starts with the very basics, such as what gear you’ll need for your hammock and then he demonstrates the ease of setting it up using some simple, yet highly effective, illustrations. Derek shares important information on selecting the proper campsite, lightning safety, avoiding wild animals and much more. He even tells us how to stay warm when the cooler weather sets in and how to best keep the rain out when we are inevitably caught out in a storm.
The Ultimate Hang may be a mere 130 pages in length but is chock-full of useful information for anyone who is interested in giving up their tent in favor of a hammock. The book is a fast and easy read, and features plenty of charming illustrations that compliment the text very well. By the time you finish reading this guide you’ll be more than prepared to spend your first night in the woods sleeping between two trees and suspended several feet off the ground.
Of course, there are times when sleeping in a tent does have some advantages over a hammock. For instance, tents are naturally warmer and can be shared by multiple people as well. They also are less problematic above the tree line when hammocks require the use of other suspension types to be of any use. But under the right conditions, it is clear that a good hammock is an excellent way to travel and sleep while on a backpacking trip.
I have to admit I learned a lot from reading this book, which was not only informative but fun as well. Derek makes a great case for using a hammock on just about any camping trip and I’ve already started looking for a nice, comfortable option to take with me to the woods. I like the concept of traveling a bit lighter and sleeping more comfortably. Both of those options would make life on the trail so much better.
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