Talk to me about shelters...

2:04 p.m. on April 13, 2011 (EDT)
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Hammocks, tarp tents, one person tents, two person tents, backpacking tents, three sided built shelters...ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh! My head is spinning.

I want to do a solo, multi day section of the AT. I am going to get some miles, and experience under me first, but that is my goal...solo some of the AT. Logistically, the part that I always get stuck on is the shelter. There are so many different types, styles, and just...different ways to shelter yourself I wanted to come here for some info on them.

For multi-day hiking what is your shelter of choice? Why that shelter? What are the pros? What are the cons?

2:24 p.m. on April 13, 2011 (EDT)
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To add to your woes, most parts of the AT have lean-tos and other shelters in place.

4:02 p.m. on April 13, 2011 (EDT)
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Your question is rather hard to answer as it's like asking, What kind of vehicle should I get as I just got my licence.   My 2 cents.  Keep it simple.  First of all your shelter primarly  needs to serve a couple of impotrant functions.  Most importantly it needs to keep you sheltered and dry in all the conditions you will throw at it.  Second it needs to be able to be erected in as many different situations as possible, dirt,sand,rock,snow,coral, etc.  I'm always amazed that people will go into the wilderness and only value there life at 69.99 with a walmart special.  Even in the middle of summer weather can turn nasty in the high country and flaten a cheap tent in a matter of  minutes.  My very first tent was an TNF Oval Intention that I bought in 1977/78 and I still use to this day. Never failed me once and nothing ever went wrong except at age 30 the zipper went bad and was replace via the warranty.   At the time I think I payed $195 and at the time that was alot for a tent.  That works out to $5.75 a year (34 years).  In the end thats a cheap tent.  You want a structure that will handle any weather in as many conditons as possible.  Personally I like free standing domes.  They can be set up fast with out taking the time of staking them down (and be staked after the storm passes) and have the strongest strength relitive to  weight ratio.  Start with the tent that will meet most of your needs most of the time.  You very well might end up with a number of different tents for diffeerent situations.  One very important thing is just because a tent is listed as a 4 SEASON  tent does not mean its good for all 4 seasons.  Many single wall tents are only good in the (4th season)cold (due to venting issues) and due poorly in the rain due to exposed zippers.  Some tents are very specific in there set up esp. in an emergency.  Sucks to have a hammock and not have trees around that will support it.   I'd recomend a smaller dome style, freestanding, double wall tent.  But do not discount a large bivey, light, easy to set up.   And by all means try and get it used.  You can very often find tents that have only been used (no tax) just a few times for 30-70% of of retail, and if you get it local, say craigslist no shipping.  All that saved money can buy the rest of your cool gear.  One of the things I like personally is the comfort of being able to have all my gear in my tent.  I usually regard a 2 person tent as a 1 perosn tent w/gear, a 3 person tent as 2 person and gear and so on.  As for brands, once you pick your style of tent there is a wide varitey of quality manufactures, personely I think you can't go wrong with a Mountian Hardewar or Marmot, but there are many many fine manufacturers out there.  Do your research and read all the rievews you can find.  Do not forget the value of vintage tents.  Some of the older tents are just as good or better than the tents made today.  Better quality materials and construction, oh yea and made in good old USA if that's important to you.

4:02 p.m. on April 13, 2011 (EDT)
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I have 3 tents that I will take out solo. I find that I get closed in by the smallest bevy style tents. I like to be able to sit and dress inside. If I'm going on a short trip I take one of my two 2 person tents. One is green the other one is orange. The orange one I use on the beach, green in the forest. Both weigh around 4.5 lbs. But going out on a longer trail I take TNF Canyonlands. It saves around a pound, and is a solo tent with plenty of head room. Vesuble room is important to me also. The Canyonlands has a small one, but with a tarp clip and string I can raise it up and pull it out farther, getting my packpack under it.

It is very important to feel comfortable with your tent. If the tent doesnt fit your needs you will be uncomfortable on your trip.

8:43 p.m. on April 13, 2011 (EDT)
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To add to your woes, most parts of the AT have lean-tos and other shelters in place.

 

You're killin me Bill :/ haha ;)

2:31 p.m. on April 14, 2011 (EDT)
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To add to your woes, most parts of the AT have lean-tos and other shelters in place.

 

You're killin me Bill :/ haha ;)

Unfortunately he's right. The police state on the East coast is expanding in all directions and doing a great job of taking the camp out of camping. Many places you are ONLY allowed to sleep in the shelters, no campsite. You are also not allowed to have a campfire in most places, backpacking stoves only. I've even seen lean-to/shelters where you have to make reservations before hand!

The worst part about having to use the shelters is too many people don't follow bear protocols at all and cook & eat in them. Then you show up the next night with the whole place smelling like food & Yogi comes for a visit...

7:02 p.m. on April 14, 2011 (EDT)
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Probably the easiest, lightest  and cheapest way to get into overnights on the AT is to use a tarp (lots of places on the web that show you how to hang one to stay dry), or a tarp tent.  The tarp-tent being the next level up from just a square piece of waterproof material with grommets.    

It takes a little practice in the back yard to set it up the way you might find most usable on the trail. 

If you consider that people were staying in shelters like this for eons before the concept of a back packing tent came along, then you might figure you will survive a few nights on the AT.  I spent most of my wayward teen years in a poncho - pitched as a 'pup-tent' at night. 

You need a ground cloth under you (as well as a sleeping pad).  And you have to be careful of water blowing or sneaking in to your sleeping area.

If that is a concern then your next line of defense is a floor built into a tarp.  Now we are talking closer to a tent.

If for summer use only and you don't mind bugs like mosquitoes then you don't need 4 sides and a floor that can be sealed up - a real tent.   But there is still DEET to let you sleep at night.  Messy and a bit smelly but better than itching.

If you need something that gives you some living space, a 10' square blue tarp tied out to trees or stakes over a picnic table at a campground and a pole that holds it up sticking up from the table makes what many consider the only way to go.  You can make it the luxury model by putting a re-enforced grommet in the center that you can stick a trek pole tip (other other similar) up through without spreading a rip.  Minimum water comes down the pole - which could be set in a cook pot to catch the drips.

7:23 a.m. on April 15, 2011 (EDT)
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To add to your woes, most parts of the AT have lean-tos and other shelters in place.

 

Unfortunately he's right. The police state on the East coast is expanding in all directions and doing a great job of taking the camp out of camping. Many places you are ONLY allowed to sleep in the shelters, no campsite. You are also not allowed to have a campfire in most places, backpacking stoves only. I've even seen lean-to/shelters where you have to make reservations before hand!

The worst part about having to use the shelters is too many people don't follow bear protocols at all and cook & eat in them. Then you show up the next night with the whole place smelling like food & Yogi comes for a visit...

Kyle:

I am pretty sure Bill didn’t mean his comments to be taken in this context.

I used to think this way about “the regulations.”  There were few regulations on backcountry use in California, back in the 1960s, when I first started camping as a Boy Scout.  Over the succeeding decades no campfire regulations, then quota policies starting spreading, usually starting with the more popular venues.  At first I was aghast; I love a camp fire.  But I became a convert to these policies when I observed the effect the no camp fire policy had on several of my regular destinations.  For example, San Jacinto, a mountain above Palm Springs, California, has a camp site named Little Round Valley.  I remember that collecting firewood required some wondering around in the surrounding forest, before a sufficient stock of wood was collected.  Ten years after the no fire policy was in effect, a repeat visit to this site revealed ample volumes of down wood everywhere.  The change was profound, this site went from looking over visited to looking almost pristine.  The point being we have far more impact on the ecology than we imagine.

Given that lesson, who are we to scoff at these policies, as if they somehow impinge on our rights?  If you still feel that way, then consider a popular notion among Native American societies is we don’t own the land; it is the future generations (your son, grand children…) who actually own it, and we are obligated as trusties serving on their behalf to conserve and preserve the lands, so the vistas they gaze upon are as equally beautiful and healthy as when our ancestors walked the land.  Even where fires and tent camping are permitted, consider using existing sites and pits, and burning Indian (small) fires instead of cowboy (large) fires.

As for the poor shelter etiquette of others: at least this behavior is no longer happening all over the forest, making it all one big garbage pit.

Ed

10:44 a.m. on April 15, 2011 (EDT)
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For me, it depends on the time of year and the type of trip.  I am a huge fan of the hammock and really do prefer it for most of my spring-fall trips.  It is lightweight and can practically be set up anywhere.  I currently live in northern VA and spend several weeks a year on parts of the AT and finding trees is certainly not a problem. 

I also have a small Kelty Crestone 1 tent for colder weather or when the mood strikes me.  Not a palace by anymeans, but it provides solid shelter and a great place to sleep.

In all, it comes down to your particular style and what you want from your experience.  After getting out of the military, I have no desire to just drop my pack and sleep on the open ground anymore.  If I can escape the bugs and other creatures of the night, I will.  You might say I have become the anti-ultra lighter.  Comfort is now key, not so much weight any more.

7:20 p.m. on April 15, 2011 (EDT)
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If you can carry it and are not an absolute extreme minimalist.  I suggest a tent with capacity 1.5 x people along with at least one door and vestibule (two if you can stand the weight), free standing, as much mesh as you can get and a fly over, maybe a footprint (weight dependent)

9:52 p.m. on April 15, 2011 (EDT)
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I would go absolute minimum for your situation. I would simply carry a bivy with me in case I needed a shelter, but otherwise would try to use natural structures or shelters and lean to's provided along the trail.

 

A bivy might weight 1 pound or less, and many have options to do both waterproof and bug proof.

11:11 a.m. on April 16, 2011 (EDT)
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latitude- A good option is just what ICLIMB has proposed..But I have seen that added with a tarp over top..I tried it this past winter getting ready for my thruhike. Presently on the AT their is Hubba Bubba's, Tarptents, tarps you name it.I would also like to tell you that the Shelters from Jarrad gaps- Neels Gap are CLOSED do to Bear activity..That would be woods hole shelter, Blood Mountain and the Camp sites on Blood mountain. There is no camping at all in this section. It is going up and down the AT right now from hiker to hiker.

When are you planning on leaveing? If I am done with TENNESEE in the Next couple of Weeks you can have my maps..Let me know..

9:33 p.m. on April 17, 2011 (EDT)
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denis, that would be awesome! I do not know when I am going. I need to assess my vacation from work, and then plan out my trip. If you hooked me up with maps I would owe you BIIIIG time.

10:49 p.m. on April 17, 2011 (EDT)
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A bivy huh? Covered by a tarp?

I could probably rig something held up by my trekking poles, a little rope, and some tent stakes.

10:57 p.m. on April 17, 2011 (EDT)
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For me, it depends on the time of year and the type of trip.  I am a huge fan of the hammock and really do prefer it for most of my spring-fall trips.  It is lightweight and can practically be set up anywhere.  I currently live in northern VA and spend several weeks a year on parts of the AT and finding trees is certainly not a problem. 

I also have a small Kelty Crestone 1 tent for colder weather or when the mood strikes me.  Not a palace by anymeans, but it provides solid shelter and a great place to sleep.

In all, it comes down to your particular style and what you want from your experience.  After getting out of the military, I have no desire to just drop my pack and sleep on the open ground anymore.  If I can escape the bugs and other creatures of the night, I will.  You might say I have become the anti-ultra lighter.  Comfort is now key, not so much weight any more.

 

I completely understand what you're saying. Ultra light is not really my main concern. Staying dry, not freezing my buttski off, and being able to carrying it in my bag are my 3 biggest concerns. I was eyeing up a kelty grand mesa 2, or a slightly smaller 1 person tent, but I thought I would shop around the "experts" (you guys) for other opinions

10:59 p.m. on April 17, 2011 (EDT)
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Probably the easiest, lightest  and cheapest way to get into overnights on the AT is to use a tarp (lots of places on the web that show you how to hang one to stay dry), or a tarp tent.  The tarp-tent being the next level up from just a square piece of waterproof material with grommets.    

It takes a little practice in the back yard to set it up the way you might find most usable on the trail. 

If you consider that people were staying in shelters like this for eons before the concept of a back packing tent came along, then you might figure you will survive a few nights on the AT.  I spent most of my wayward teen years in a poncho - pitched as a 'pup-tent' at night. 

You need a ground cloth under you (as well as a sleeping pad).  And you have to be careful of water blowing or sneaking in to your sleeping area.

If that is a concern then your next line of defense is a floor built into a tarp.  Now we are talking closer to a tent.

If for summer use only and you don't mind bugs like mosquitoes then you don't need 4 sides and a floor that can be sealed up - a real tent.   But there is still DEET to let you sleep at night.  Messy and a bit smelly but better than itching.

If you need something that gives you some living space, a 10' square blue tarp tied out to trees or stakes over a picnic table at a campground and a pole that holds it up sticking up from the table makes what many consider the only way to go.  You can make it the luxury model by putting a re-enforced grommet in the center that you can stick a trek pole tip (other other similar) up through without spreading a rip.  Minimum water comes down the pole - which could be set in a cook pot to catch the drips.

 

I could definitely see carrying 2 tarps; one to be my floor, and one to be my roof. I dont mind roughing it a little, however, I have little to no interest in just sleeping on the ground. I need a little bit of creature comforts

9:00 a.m. on April 18, 2011 (EDT)
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Latitude-out of curiousity what is your projected price range?

The Big Agnes Lynx Pass 1 has pretty good specs. For $143-$180 ya get a roomy solo that is free standing, sub 4lbs, has a vestibule, DAC framework, and a free footprint. It is basically the same dimensions as the Copper Spur UL1(which I own) just a little heavier. Nice size for a solo IMO.

Oh you can also fast pitch it(fly/footprint) if ya want to go even lighter.

6:12 p.m. on April 18, 2011 (EDT)
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I personally switch between a solo tent, tarp & bivy, or hammock.

They all have pros & cons of course, but since it hasn't been discussed in detail yet.....

If your going to be on the trail Spring, Summer, or Fall, don't fail to consider a hammock. They can be pitched anywhere you have two trees, they are comfortable, and the better ones weigh less than 2 lbs. total weight with a tarp.

For cold weather use you have to invest in a down, or synthetic quilt you hang snugly below the hammock because sleeping in a hammock exposes you to wind chill below the hammock where your sleeping bag insulation is compressed by your body weight. (You can also get a top quilt instead of using a sleeping bag, which most users do.)

They are very comfortable, and the better ones allow you to lay flat, not curled like a banana.

Again though, unless you have some experience & the right add ons, I wouldn't hit the trail in one during the winter.

Two great hammock makers are Hennessy & Warbonnet.

Here is a good look from YouTube at the Warbonnet  Blackbird. I just ordered one yesterday to replace my older Hennessey, I'll use the Hennessey as a loaner. Hennessy makes a fine hammock, I just wanted a War Bonnet also.

This guy is a bit of a cut up (funny guy), but he knows his stuff.

http://warbonnetoutdoors.com/blackbirds.php

http://hennessyhammock.com/

10:39 a.m. on April 19, 2011 (EDT)
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Latitude-out of curiousity what is your projected price range?

I was hoping to stay around 100-125

9:04 p.m. on April 19, 2011 (EDT)
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Golite Shangri-La 1. Pitches with trekking poles, is bomb-proof, true 4 season, and can be pitched stand alone or with optional bathtub floor or bug-proof nest. Weighs less than 2 pounds with floor, fly, stakes, stuff sack, and is true 4 season. rolls into a 10"x5.5"x3.5" loaf. 23 square feet, with a 7 sq ft vestibule if you use the floor. Can be found new on sale or used but new condition in your price range.

 

Another option is the 1.5 person Mystique tent from Alps Mountaineering. High quality for the price, lots of room (25 sq ft + 13 ft vestibule), 4 lb 3 oz total w/ stuff sacks and carrries at 18"x5". On sale you can find it for $75-$80 BNWT. I have the Zephyr 2 from the same company and it is fantastic in terms of value and quality.

 

Enjoy the AT. Hope to get there someday. After I do the PCT

9:20 a.m. on April 20, 2011 (EDT)
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Got to agree with Xterro. If you want an excellent, low cost solution, go with a new or used Golite Shangri-la 1.

The key to hiking on the AT is to bring the lightest shelter you can find and to sleep in the shelters whenever possible. For example, I just got back from a two week, 173 mile section hike. I slept in shelters every night and didn't use my 9.6 oz tarp once.

Enjoy your hike.

12:48 p.m. on April 21, 2011 (EDT)
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latitude- A good option is just what ICLIMB has proposed..But I have seen that added with a tarp over top..I tried it this past winter getting ready for my thruhike. Presently on the AT their is Hubba Bubba's, Tarptents, tarps you name it.I would also like to tell you that the Shelters from Jarrad gaps- Neels Gap are CLOSED do to Bear activity..That would be woods hole shelter, Blood Mountain and the Camp sites on Blood mountain. There is no camping at all in this section. It is going up and down the AT right now from hiker to hiker.

When are you planning on leaveing? If I am done with TENNESEE in the Next couple of Weeks you can have my maps..Let me know..

 

How do you find out the information of closings? That would be really important because springer to blood was one of the sections I was thinking about doing.

10:33 p.m. on April 22, 2011 (EDT)
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Hey Lat- Sorry I am actually on the AT doing my thruhike..But every or many section hiker or AT thruhiker posts to www.Whiteblaze.net this is the appalachian trail website. This site also is a resource for many of the other long trails such as PCT, CNT. You will find the most up to date info on any closures of sections. When I said it was closed to camping meaning shelters and camp sites. You can still hike it.They also have put a Ridge Runner in that section to keep people from  camping and they are part of the Appalachian trail Conservacy...As for whiteblaze.If the AT is something you want to do. I suggest once you have decided on your gear you post your gear list here on TS and let the member critique it.WB is not forgiving in gear lists posts. I have seen them be very, negative towards the individual as in asking why they want to hike the AT! I actually posted towards 2 individuals that were negative towards a hiker who posted their gear list...I had to remind them that the OP was asking for help..Thats why I posted my gear list here and researched for more info...Remember HIke your Own Hike!! Thats means pace etc..

So would you also need the Maps to Georgia? I also have 2010 Hikers Companion for the AT would you need that as well? Just send a PM to me with your Email. I am a man of my word ask Iclimb Mike Marrow and I do not share personal Emails...I think personally your doing the right thing asking the questions you are on shelters, packs and Food. Biggest thing Footwear! And I agree with alot of the post's about tarptents and also don't leave out hammocks..I have alot of AT friends that are Hammock hangers..

 

1:05 a.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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denis,

for me comfort is the biggest thing. I am only going to be doing sections hikes, and my only goal is to finish within the time I have off of work, plus travel ;)

My biggest thing is sleeping comfortably. If I dont get some good sleep, I will be worthless on the trail, not to mention a giant crab, which will make my hiking partner want to quit and turn around ;) haha.

I was thinking of getting a 1.5 man tent, such as the Kelty Grand Mesa 2, or The North Face Flint 2; something that will give me the comforts I need to sleep, as well as be light weight enough to carry, and also allow me to bring along a partner.

1:20 a.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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latitude- Their are alot of people doing lsection hikes like your planning. My friend Johnny B Good and Hikerhead are in your boat..Double wall tent like your describeing is a great option, You can use it 3 season..I use a MH double wall for winter. Tarptent is only for long trails.I plan on taking the PCT next year even if it's only sectioning..Under my sleeping bag which is a Kelty Cosmic weighs 2 pds and condens's well and was really a good price and rated at 20 degree's..I use a NeoAir.But Alot of people use that with a blue pad from walmart also with it..If you do get a tent like your proposeing you could split the weight with your hiking partner..Your looking at good options...

8:16 a.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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You sound like me. I like 2 person tents. Most the time I will only backpack 10 miles a day so the extra weight doesnt matter that much. The rest of the time I just explore.

11:22 a.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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You sound like me. I like 2 person tents. Most the time I will only backpack 10 miles a day so the extra weight doesnt matter that much. The rest of the time I just explore.

 

Haha, two peas in a pod, right here. I rarely do more than 10 miles, because I do not want to ware myself out on the first day; also, I like to do a little exploring. Some people look at me funny when I mention I don't do a lot of miles every day, but the way I see if, if I am not enjoying myself whats the point of being here ;)

4:42 p.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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make that 3 peas in a pod! I know I recommended a Shangri-La 1, but I have a Shangri-La 2 myself. I'm not small, and I really enjoy the extra space. I've actually gotten both of my kids in there with me (7 and 11) and the backpack fit in the vestibule. A full carry weight (with the heavier inner nest) of 3 pounds, and still a 4 season shelter.

Have fun on the AT

6:46 p.m. on April 25, 2011 (EDT)
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I was on a trail, 37 miles, one time. I got around 7-8 miles in and stayed there. It was so beautifull and peaceful I stayed 3 days and walked out the same way I went in. If the spot is right thats all that matters. On weekends I have many areas I go to that are 2-3 mile hikes. Works for my peace of mind. :)

1:39 a.m. on April 29, 2011 (EDT)
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So, to all of these people who were telling me to get a hammock, I was tossing it around in my head, and I had a few oustanding questions.

1) What do you do to keep the bugs off of you?

2) What do you do if there are no trees within distance?

3) What do you do to stay dry?

5:39 p.m. on April 29, 2011 (EDT)
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So, to all of these people who were telling me to get a hammock, I was tossing it around in my head, and I had a few oustanding questions.

1) What do you do to keep the bugs off of you?

2) What do you do if there are no trees within distance?

3) What do you do to stay dry?

 I apologize for not explaining better Latitude.

1) Hammocks that are made for camping have built in bug nets that function much like the inner bug mesh of a tent. There is a zipper to allow you access and once inside you just zip it up like a tent.

2) Hammocks can be used on the ground if you have to, you use trekking poles or sticks along with the guy lines to support the bug net and tarp. You do need a ground sheet for this, plastic sheeting works well. However sleeping on the ground is certainly not a hammocks strong point, they work best in forested areas. I personally have never had any problems finding two suitable trees in the areas I camp in. Though it is something to consider.

3) Hammocks for camping use a tarp to shed rain. Some are made onto the hammock, while others are separate so that you can use lighter tarps during summer, and bigger tarps during winter for more protection from wind and cold. The tarps can also be pitched fairly flat out in good weather, or more like an A frame for extra protection.

You  lay flat in a hammock by laying on an angle allowing you to sleep on your side if you wish.



imagesHAMMOCK.jpg



Also watch the video I posted up above for a much better explanation of how they work.

1:17 p.m. on April 30, 2011 (EDT)
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No need to apologize, I am full of questions. I watched that video that you posted. That guy was a goof :) yet very informative about the shelter. It is actually the video that got me more interested in the shelter, so I should thank you for that.

I am going to research hammocks a some more for my trip. I hear that they are the way to go on that trail. While I still want to get a 1.5 person lightweight tent for when I have a companion, a hammock sounds pretty awesome for soloing.

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