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Chair vs. hammock.

One of the great things about a canoe trip down a river is I can take along a full size lawn chair with armrests.  Not only is it comfortable, but it's easy for me to get in and out of.

I wish I could take a lawn chair on backpacks, but I can't  There are backpacking chairs as light as a pound, but they are low to the ground and don't have arms.  If you are young, have good knees and short legs, they probably work great.  Not so much if you are 65, have less than perfect knees and buy pants with a 34-36 inch inseam.

Sitting on a log just doesn't cut it.  Neither does retiring to my tent, while there is still daylight, because my back needs a rest.  There probably isn't a perfect solution, but I'm going to give hammocks another try.  About a thousand years ago, when I first started backpacking, I used to take a cheap net hammock on overnight trips.  I remember it being pretty comfy, but there must have been a reason I stopped taking it along.  Can't really remember.  In any event, the new ones are most likely better and easier to set up.

So, I've ordered a hammock and straps and, even, a mosquito net made for it.  I'm not sure how much of that I'll be willing to carry.  Don't really need straps.  Dacron rope and a trucker's hitch should work fine.  Supposedly the straps are easier on trees.  I might try sleeping in it, if it looks like there is little chance of rain.

If and when I use it, I'll give an update.

2015-summer-trips-176.jpgJUNE 2015 I think, 8 miles from nearest pavement.

Now you’re on the right track! Easy on the weight , Easy on the mind and Easy to get out of , just walk backwards and you‘re standing up!

and ya can raise or lower it to your desired height. I recommend the double. Why should all those souls sitting at home watching tv have all the comforts? And my tv is bigger and has better color ( it’s called creation, nature at its finest! Just haven’t figured out a cup holder yet. Awh well, can’t have everything I guess, just have to settle for the comfort.

I used to carry one of those low-rider chairs, but my hyper tendency to move about camp made getting up and down too much effort.  Furthermore both low-rider chair and hammock place you in a reclined position, whereas I like to lean into my conversations with fellow campers.  Lastly folks tend not to bunch their hammocks together, making that arrangement far from idea for evening socializing.  I now own a Bearicade bear canister which is as light as the lightest low-rider chair.  I Velcroed a 1/1/2" thick blue foam pad to one end for comfort.  It is just a smidge lower than the ideal stool height and easy to get and and down from.  Alas there is no back rest, but as I said, I like to lean into conversations.

In any case if you do go with a hammock, be a good camper and use tree friendly lash systems.


A hammock approach to backpacking has allowed my wife to join me again on some trips...unfortunately I've tried four and they haven't worked for my back problems. Plus the open treeless campsites I like to use. I make do with a 10 oz trail chair. Back is much worse than my knees in general so don't mind being near the ground. A cannister works well if you have to carry it Ed I pad mine and it makes a fine stool. 

@ Ed & Phil 

just don’t Use them for the stool :)

I remember those net hammocks! I now have a nylon one I sling sporadically, for in-camp comfort. I still sleep on the ground because my back still sucks.

The other day I sat in one of the new Leki chairs for the first time. More back support vs the Helinox one, and hip support. Sits a little higher, too.

Generally, I make a chair in camp with the couple of Klymit pads I bring. My partially-emptied pack with the Cush pad draped over it, and the Pillow X under my butt, makes a nice lounger. A well-placed log or tree goes a long way.

John.  I think I recall BigRed packing a stool stool canister on a trip...I have avoided the extreme pack-in pack-out regulatory areas that don't allow you a minimal below ground impact.  Maybe one day.   Not sure I'd re-use it for food storage later though...

I spent a healthy chunk of time Sunday hiking in a nearby national park - super hot here, park ranger told me they had a few heat exhaustion hikers along the trails. i brought a hammock and straps and a Yeti cooler with ice water. After going hard for a few hours, I took a 45 minute break in the hammock in a shady area, top of a cliff with a good breeze. (the ranger also said i'm not supposed to use hammocks in that park - a regulation i found said you cannot "attach" "objects" to trees without a permit. oops. One of my other favorite local spots doesn't have similar restrictions).  

wider straps are definitely easier on tree bark than rope or cord.  if you're using it as your primary sleep option, you'll want a tarp and a way to hang it overhead. double hammocks make sleeping bags or quilts both a pretty viable option. if you're overnighting, bug netting isn't a bad idea.

the hammock doesn't hurt my back at all. it sometimes puts my surgically-repaired knee in a slightly hyper-extended position, so i tend to curl up and side-sleep. they are slightly more difficult for me to get in and out, as opposed to a chair, but much more portable than any chair i have found.  also, there is something to be said for how relaxing it is to swing in the breeze for a while. 

For there one type of strap better than others for reducing tree damage on all trees or does it depend on the type? Similarly, do you pick trees that have more resiliency such as a beech or maybe poplar, and avoid sycamore, birch, pine, and others with "flakier" bark? I've passed a lot of regularly used hammock sites and seen tree damage and was wondering whether it was the choice or the straps. 

@Phil: I think about this as well. Damage is done to the cambium of the tree, so bark type certainly matters. If I had to guess, I'd think trees with "platy" bark--Hickories, namely--would handle hammock straps better. I use sleeves, but my gut tells me that any tree that sees more than one hammocker a year is being permanently affected, just as the roots of trees in/around campsites suffer damage from compression.

I agree - and am in no way suggesting that hammocks do more damage than ground disturbance like tent camping.  Just wondering if folks chose trees that are better suited to hammocks as I choose surfaces that are likely to be less impacted by my tarptent.  There are some lovely looking mossy sites that would make a great bed but no way I'm impacting those slow growers...

September 27, 2020
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