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Hammock Camping Tips & Tricks

Hammock

My Boy Scout Unit Commissioner once told me “the best night’s sleep I ever got on a campout was in a hammock”. Naturally this piqued my curiosity so I picked one up for our next campout. Since this was my first time sleeping in a hammock, at least not overnight; I probably didn’t sleep as well as I could have. My only regret is that I didn’t adhere to #5 below. If I had an underquilt or a camp pad, I would have been much warmer and therefore slept better. Besides that, I am hooked.

Hammock Tips
Kids love hammocks too!

Hammocks are super easy to set up and if you get the right straps, you don’t even have to be able to tie any knots. They are also the ultimate in Leave No Trace, when hung properly you leave zero impact on the campsite. I now take my hammock on every campout just in case there’s an opportunity to use it.

 

We have compiled some tips and tricks to make your next hammock campout even more comfortable.

  1. Hang your hammock with a good sag.  Too many people try to string up their hammock tightly between two anchor points. Heck, I even used to. Stringing too tightly between anchors causes a cocoon effect and put pressure on your shoulders and back. Putting a good sag in your hammock lowers the center of gravity making it more stable and harder to fall out of. You want to have your hammock look like a smile. For the techies, a 30 degree angle at each end will be the most comfortable.

2. Lay on the diagonal.  This is actually how hammocks were designed to work. Once you have your “good sag”, laying across the diagonal is very comfortable. If you start to feel some pressure behind your knees laying like this, use a small pillow under them and sleep like a baby!

3. Raise your feet slightly higher. Sometimes your body can slide to the middle of the hammock and be uncomfortable. Raising your feet 8″ – 10″ will keep your torso from sliding into the middle and be more comfortable.

4. Keep the bugs at bay. Some “jungle hammocks” come with a built in bug net. If yours doesn’t, it is an inexpensive addition to help keep the bugs outside where they should be.

5. Use a sleeping pad or under quilt. Sleeping pads aren’t just for sleeping on the ground comfortably. They also keep you warmer by insulating you from the cold ground. Many people think all you need to stay warm in a hammock is a sleeping bag. When you lay on the sleeping bag in your hammock, you compress the filling which is what helps insulate you. Sure, you will be warmer than if you had nothing, but a sleeping pad or under quilt will be much warmer.

Hammock Drip Line

6. Use a drip line. A simple drip line on your suspension system (see above) can help keep you dry. Water can seep down the suspension line and right onto you. Be sure to place this drip line under your tarp for the best effect.  You can make a drip line with a small piece of para cord on the suspension.

7. Fold in the edge for a more comfortable chair.  Sitting in a hammock is like sitting in a big comfy seat. If you don’t wan the circulation cut off at your knees, fold the edge in and sit on the nice flat area.

8. Check local regulations. There are some local areas that do not allow hammock use. This usually has to do with the potential damage to trees (See # 9).

Hammock Webbing

9. Use webbing straps. Webbing straps are designed to evenly distribute the weight when anchored to a tree. Webbing straps won’t cut into a tree the same way rope will. These straps also make hanging your hammock a breeze. No knots to tie, just loop the webbing around a tree and hang!

10. Hang your floor mat. If you use a mat on the ground. Hang it up when not in use like when you’re out hiking or sitting around the campfire. There is less impact to the environment this way.

11. Be an advocate. Campers are great people. We certainly didn’t just magically come into all this camping knowledge, we were taught. Help others. Guide them, be friendly about it and people will usually accept the help. Share this site with them, we are happy to help others too!

12. Use a sleeping bag. When you’re hanging in your hammock and the breeze starts to blow, it can cool you off quickly. What I like to do is have a camp pad or underquilt in the hammock and use the sleeping bag as a comforter. I unzip my bag about 3/4 down and stick my feet inside and cover myself with the rest of the unzipped bag. This will help keep you warmer at night.

Hammock safety

As fun as camping in a hammock is, there are some things to consider to stay safe.

  1. Don’t hang your hammock over 3 feet off the ground to prevent dangerous falls.
  2. Hanging over sharp objects or water is never a good idea.
  3. Don’t stack hammocks (where multiple hammocks are stacked vertically).
  4. Don’t keep food in your hammock, just like a tent.
  5. Inspect your anchor points and look for dead limbs above or anything that can fall on you.

Shop our offering of hammocks here

What other tips & suggestions do you have? Please leave a comment below. Also be sure to subscribe to our newsletter.

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Low Impact Camping

Low Impact Camping

I have a bad knee, so I practice low impact exercise whenever I can. I am a Boy Scout leader, so I do my best to practice low impact camping every time I camp.  Low impact camping has little to do with the impact on your body, but everything to do with the environment. In Boy Scouts, we call this Leave No Trace. Leave No Trace is more of an attitude than a set of rules for camping, hiking, or backpacking.

You might wonder how one group can make a difference, but over time small impacts can add up and cause a great amount of damage to the environment. What we will discuss here are the seven principles of Leave No Trace.

1. Plan ahead and prepare

The Boy Scout motto is Be Prepared. Proper planning and preparation helps Scouts have an enjoyable adventure while minimizing damage to natural and cultural resources. You can follow this motto too! Another way to say this is having the right equipment. Bringing the right equipment can make or break an outing. Knowing the regulations of the area where you plan to visit can help you plan as well. Certain land managers have certain rules and it is important to know them before you head out. Check the weather reports for your destination and pack  food to minimize the amount of trash to pack out.

2. dispose of waste properly

This is quite simply put as “pack it in, pack it out”. Leaving trash has an impact on both the environment and other campers. Nobody likes to see a bunch of trash laying around so pack it out! If there is trash at or near your sit, grab it too! We always carry a few trash bags with us on our hikes and unfortunately, come back with the full.

Wastewater: After straining food particles, properly dispose of dishwater by dispersing at least 200 feet (about 80 to 100 strides for a youth) from springs, streams, and lakes.

Human waste: Cat holes should be dug 6-8 inches deep and 200 feet away from water, trails, and campsites.  Don’t try to burn your toilet paper; this can start forest fires.

3. travel and camp on durable surfaces

Low Impact Camping

Damage to land occurs when visitors trample vegetation or communities of organisms beyond recovery. The resulting barren areas develop into undesirable trails, campsites, and soil erosion. In high use areas, concentrate your activities where vegetation isn’t present. In remote areas, spread out and move your tent daily so as not to create permanent looking campsites. Avoid areas where impacts are just beginning to show. Try to camp or hike on durable surfaces such as rock, gravel, sand, compacted soil, dry grasses, or even snow.

4. leave what you find

Leaving what you find allows others to enjoy the outdoors and have the same sense of discovery as you did when you explored the area. Leave rocks, plants, animals, and archaeological artifacts as you found them. The old “look but don’t touch” comes to mind with artifacts. In some areas it may be illegal to move artifacts.

Trenching near tent. PLEASE DON’T DO THIS

Minimize site alterations. Good campsites are found not made. Avoid building structures or digging trenches.

5. minimize campfire impacts

Low Impact Camping

To some, camping without a campfire is plain wrong. If you MUST have a campfire, pick a campsite where a campfire ring has already been established. This minimizes the impact on the environment by creating another fire ring. Leave No Trace campfires are small. Use deadwood that can be easily broken by hand. Burn your fire down to ash and remove any trash that may be in the fire ring (whether it’s yours or not).

6. respect wildlife

Remember, you are a visitor in their environment. Quick movements and loud noises are stressful to animals. Observe wildlife from afar, give them a wide berth, and don’t leave food out. Human food can harm or even kill wildlife. Keep the wildlife wild.

7. Be considerate to other visitors

Thoughtful campers respect other visitors and the quality of their experience. Travel in small groups and let nature’s sounds prevail.Nobody like to be out camping to relax and unwind and have a huge party going on near them. Select campsites away from other campers to preserve their solitude. Respect private property and leave gates as found.

On our last campout, we decided to camp in a pre-camped in site with a fire ring and plenty of room for our troop. We Hauled our trash out and even brought back quite a bit of trash left by others.

I’m not saying you have to follow 100% of these principles 100% of the time;  but if you are mindful of them, and follow them as best you can, there will be plenty of wilderness for ages to come.

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How to Tie a Clove Hitch

clove hitch

The clove hitch is a simple all-purpose hitch which is easy to tie and untie. As with most hitches, the clove hitch can come loose or undone if you don’t have constant maintained pressure. The clove hitch is an excellent start to any lashing.

The difference between a knot and a hitch is that a knot is used to join two ropes together or a rope to itself. A hitch is used to fix a rope to another object such as a tree limb, pole, or carabiner and uses that object to hold.

how to tie it

clove hitch

First, Wrap the free end of a rope around a post.

Crossover itself and around the post again.

Finally, slip working end under last wrap.

Pull tight

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How to Tie a Sheet Bend

sheet bend

The sheet bend is an essential knot to know. It is used to join 2 ropes together (even if they are different thicknesses). For additional security, a double sheet bend knot is a better option. This knot is an old “sailor’s knot” when they used to tie ropes to sails (sheets). This knot is one of the most important ones to know because having a little bit longer rope is never a bad thing.

how to tie it

sheet bend

Form a loop in the end of one rope.

Pass the free end of the rope to be joined under the opening of the loop, around both parts of the first rope and back under itself.

Pull all four ends to tighten.

double sheet bendTwo wraps around both parts of the first rope make a double sheet bend.

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How to Tie a Bowline Knot

The bowline knot is an ancient and simple knot used to form a fixed loop at the end of a rope. The great thing about the bowline is it is both easy to tie and untie. The bowline knot is also easy to untie after being subjected to a load and having been tightened even more. The bowline is sometimes referred as King of the knots because of its importance.

How to tie a bowline Knot

bowline knor

Lay the rope across your left hand with the free end hanging down. Form a small loop in the line in your hand (over the top of itself). This is the “hole”

Bring the free end up to and pass through the eye from the under side (the rabbit comes out of the hole).

Wrap the line around the standing line and back down through the loop (the rabbit goes around the tree and back down the hole).

Tighten the knot by pulling on free end while holding standing line

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How to tie Taut Line Hitch

The taut line hitch is an adjustable loop-type knot for lines under tension. This knot is perfect for tying guy lines to pegs or any place you need to adjust the tension. A fairly easy knot to tie and a very handy one to know.

 

How to tie the taut line

taut line hitch

Make a turn around a post or other object several feet from the free end.

Coil the free end twice around the standing line working back toward the post.

Make one additional coil around the standing line on the outside of the coils just made.

Tighten the knot and slide it on the standing line to adjust tension.

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Everything I Learned about Camping…

As a kid, I was a Boy Scout (I am now a Scoutmaster). Everyone knows that Boy Scouts like camping. As a Scout, I did a lot of camping, and as a Scoutmaster I seem to do even more. Camping to me is “hitting the reset” button. Whether with my family, or with the troop, being in nature, makes everything better.

Below are some of the things I’ve learned over my camping career (some the hard way).

Camping Lessons:

  • Pitch your tent in your garden or yard beforehand your first outing  to make sure it’s all there and you know how to set it up.
  • On uneven ground, don’t pitch your tent in a valley. That’s the first place water & moisture will pool.
  • Always make a list of the things required, and tick it off as it goes in the pack.
  • If it is windy, be sure to stake down your tent. Even if the tent can’t be picked up by the wind, the corner can flap like crazy.
  • Double check your equipment before heading out. Make sure the gas stove works, you have fuel for it, you have batteries for the flashlight, etc.
  • Pre-prepared meals can save a bunch of time. If you make up your dry pancake ingredients beforehand, you will only have to mix in the wet in the morning.
  • A hotel bar of soap inside an old pantyhose leg hung by the water faucet is a convenient place to keep it. Not only does your soap not get lost, but the pantyhose act as an abrasive to help clean your hands.
  • Take spare tent pegs and invest in good pegs that won’t bend easily.
  • Consider a site with good facilities for first timer camping experiences.
  • 2 words: extra batteries. Nothing worse than being out camping with a dead flashlight.
  • Take extra plastic bags for wet clothes, wet shoes, trash, etc.
  • Remember to bring a can opener. I always keep a military style P38 in my bag and mess kit.
P38 can opener. A must for camping!
P38 can opener

 

  • Being close to the camp toilet, while convenient, isn’t always the best spot. Try to camp up wind.
  • Duct tape. Always take this. I’ve repaired tent fly, splinted broken poles, mended cooking utensils, repaired canoes, the possibilities are endless. In stead of bringing a whole roll, I wrap a fair amount around an old piece of PVC pipe.
  • Enjoy yourself!

What camping tips or lessons do you have? Comment below. Before you do, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.

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Camping Essentials

With the right gear, you can be prepared for anything. Camping essentials lists come in many shapes and forms. You can search the internet and come up with about a thousand different lists. We have compiled a comprehensive checklist for you. For a printable version, click here.
As a scout leader, we teach the new scouts about the ten essentials for camping which are listed below:
The Ten Essentials (BSA)

__Pocketknife20161102_165208
__First aid kit
__Extra clothing (Weather appropriate)
__Rain gear
__Water bottle
__Flashlight/headlamp
__Trail food
__Matches and fire starters
__Sun protection
__Map and compass (& know how to use them)

Below is our comprehensive list for camping. You don’t have to bring everything on this list, but this is meant to get you thinking and make sure you don’t miss something. If you have anything to add, feel free t
o comment below and we can add it to the list. Here is a link to a printable version (list).

Shelter

__Tent
__Ground cloth/tarp
__Extra stakstakeses
__Shade tarp/poles/rope/stakes
__Axe or hammer
__Mat for tent entrance
__Dust pan/brush

Bedding

__Sleeping bag
__Sheets/blankets
__Pillow
__Air mattress/sleeping pad/cot/tarp
__Air pump
__Repair kit for air mattress

__Utility bags for storage

Cooking

__Large water jug & water bucket         20161106_120613_1478464536041_resized
__Coolers/ice
__Thermos
__Stove with fuel/propane/mess kit
__Matches/lighter
__Charcoal/firewood/buddy burner
__Dutch oven/tin can stove/box oven/etc
__Campfire grill/BBQ grill
__Fire starters/newspaper
__Tablecloth/thumb tacks/clips
__Plates & bowls/paper plates & bowls
__Silverware/plastic silverwarecook-set
__Measuring cups / cook set
__Heavy-duty aluminum foil
__Paper towels
__Trash bags
__Dish soap
__Clothes pins
__Cooking oil/spray
__Containers for food storage
__Potholders/oven mittsstove
__Pots and frying pans with lids
__Soap for outside of pots and pans
__Cook utensils-spatula, knife, spoon
__Tongs
__Skewers/grill forks
__Can opener/bottle opener
__Folding table
__Mugs/paper cups
__Mixing bowl
__Cutting board
__Ziplock bags
__Napkins
__Dish pan
__Dish rags/towels
__Scrub pad/brillo
__Seasonings/sugar/condiments
__Potato peeler

Clothes

__Shoes/boots
__Jeans/pants/belt
__Shorts
__T-shirts
__Socks/extra socks
__Hat
__Bandana
__Sweatshirt/jacket
__Underwear
__Sleep clothes
__Rain gear
__Swim suit/towel
__Laundry bag

Personal

__Shower shoes/flip flops
__Towels/washcloth
__Soap in plastic case/shampoo
__Tooth brush/tooth pastesolar-shower
__Deodorant
__Comb/brush
__Razor
__Feminine products
__Toilet paper
__Shower bag or 5 gallon bucket
__Camping shower/shower pump
__Other personal items
__Personal medications – take extra

Miscellaneous

__Sunscreen/chapstick
__Lantern with fuel/mantles
__Extra batteries/bulbs
__Compass/GPS
__Bug repellent/candles
__Whistle
__Water filters/purification/treatmentfirst-aid-kit
__Camera/batteries
__Books/magazines (a Kindle would be better)
__Candles
__Maps/directions
__Misc. tools
__Backpack/fanny pack
__Fishing gear/license/bait
__Radio
__Musical instruments/song books
__Camp chairs
__Sunglasses
__Hammock
__First aid kit
__Tissues
__Saw/axe
__Park map/guidebooks/trail maps
__Lantern pole or hanger
__Collapsible drying rack
__Popcorn
__Marshmallows, Graham crackers, Hershey bars (Smores)
__Flashlight/batteries
__Pocket knife
__Plastic grocery bags
__Binoculars
__Rope/clothes line
__Canteen/water bottle/coffee pot
__Bungee cords/straps
__Cards/games/toys/golf
__Duct tape/electrical tape
__Notepad/pen
__Reservations info./confirmation
__Cell phone/charger & 2-way radios/walkie talkies
__Small shovel
__Safety pins
__Money/ID/credit card/quarters
__Bikes/helmets
__Travel alarm clock
__Work gloves
__Umbrella
__Hand wipes
__Drinks/snacks
__Small sewing kit
__Fire extinguisher
__Hot chocolate/tea bags/coffee
__Scissors
__Watch

Tell someone of your plans – give details of where you are going and when you expect to return, give directions and possible alternative roads that you may take, provide cell phone numbers, vehicle description and license plate numbers, hand-held radio channel and codes that you will use, and provide local authority phone numbers (State Police, Game & Fish Commission, Sheriff Dept, etc.) for the county or area that you will be in.

Basic First Aid Kit

__Personal medications
__Roll bandages
__Adhesive tape
__Antiseptic wipes
__Sterile gauze pads
__Cotton swabs
__Tweezers
__Safety pins
__Scissors
__Bee sting kit
__Sinus medications
__Tissues
__Bug repellent
__Sunscreen
__Notepad/pen
__Sterile compresses
__Splinting materials
__Personal information/contact person
__Feminine products
__Ipecac
__Razor blades
__Plastic bags
__Small bottle of water
__Blanket
__Other personal needs
__Small mirror
__Triangular bandages
__Misc. Band Aides/bandages
__Anti-acids (Tums, Rolaids)
__Antibiotic cream
__Aspirin/Ibuprofen/Tylenol/Naproxin
__Hydrogen Peroxide
__Ace bandages
__Sunburn lotion
__Burn ointment
__Snake bit kit
__Eye drops
__Poison ivy cream/cleansers
__Heat/cold packs
__Small flashlight
__Latex gloves
__Antibacterial soap
__Thermometer
__Coins for emergency phone calls
__Antibiotic soap
__Butterfly bandages
__Twine
__Mole skin for blisters
__Road flares
__First aid manual
__Nail clippers

Know what the weather forecast is for your camping destination. This will help alleviate many issues encountered at camp. If you are expecting bad weather, you can prepare for it or rearrange your trip. If you think of anything I’ve left out, please comment below.

 

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How Much Gear is Too Much?

As an assistant Scoutmaster, I have the opportunity to do a lot of camping. I love being out in the wild with the Scouts; it makes me feel younger and I get quality time with my son. We do a variety of camping, from “dump-outs” to “backpacking” trips. I love both types of camping and always look forward to the next one before the current trip is even over.

Backpack Camping:
Backpacking trips with the scouts are great for the following reasons:

  1. Every scout is responsible for all his gear.
  2. Cooking on a backpack stove is always interesting.
  3. The younger scouts really learn what “roughing it” can mean
  4. There is less impact on the campsite
  5. We can be a little more remote
Coffee is important

Dumpouts:

Dump-outs are great trips with the scouts for a number of reasons.

  1. The food is ALWAYS good.
  2. Plenty of man power to get everything done.
  3. There are almost always enough supplies.
  4. We usually attract more scouts – which is always entertaining!
  5. Did I mention the food?

 

Lots of gear on this trip

When we do our dump-outs, we bring the troop trailer which has everything under the sun in it. We have at least 4 dutch ovens, multiple cooking sets (utensils, pots, bowls, etc), food gets stored there, wash bins, extra TP, rakes, shovels, propane, you name it. Which brings me to the question: How much is too much?

With a dump-out, all the gear (and usually scout gear included) is pulled in a 10′ trailer. We usually have a larger group so loading & unloading isn’t an issue. The scouts usually prepare some really good meals with all the coocking gear as well! Did we use that 20′ canopy in the trailer? You bet! it was a hot weekend and it provided some much needed shade. Some of the leaders were able to bring cots for in their tents, a few EZ-Up canopies were also brought. We were quite comfortable.

BSA regulations won’t allow a scout to carry more than 25% of his body weight in his pack. This can be an issue for some of the smaller guys. It really makes you look at your gear to see what is truly essential.

It comes down to how much gear does it take to be comfortable? Nobody wants to go camping and be miserable (well maybe a few people). My advice is to bring what you think you’ll need. Would you being a cast iron pan on a backpacking trip? Probably not. Are you going to rake your site upon departure? Probably not on a backpacking trip. I also recommend bringing things that can serve multiple needs. Do you need a bowl, pot, & plate on a back pack trip? I suggest eating straight out of the pot if it’s just you. Less to clean too! For a list of camping essentials, click here.

What are your  essentials? What have you taken on  a trip that you wished you hadn’t?