Writing in a Winter Hammock

So, a while back, I bought my mother a camping hammock as a gift. The hope was that I’d be able to talk her into a night or two in the great outdoors, if she wasn’t going to have to lie on the ground to sleep. It didn’t take–she hated it–and as a result, I now own a hammock. (It’s the thought that counts, right?)

There’s nothing particularly special or expensive about my hammock, but it is a camping hammock. It’s intended to spend an entire night in, which means it has enough fabric to form sides around you, a bug net to keep off the bloodsuckers, and a rainfly to keep off the rain/snow/sleet, and whatever else. Something like this:

It hangs from trees. (Or, in my case, from the remnants of an old gas station sign that happens to be in my back yard.) It is not a standalone piece of lawn furniture, and it is not permanently attached to the poor trees. (The tree straps prevent damage to the trees.)

I think I paid about forty bucks for it. It’s not super lightweight, so it’s probably not what you’d want for backpacking, but fine for the back yard or car camping. The rain fly could stand to be bigger. Let’s just say that the price of hammocks goes up from here.

I started out in the heat of summer, with just the hammock, and the fly for shade.

I like being outdoors. I like reading in my hammock. I like the sound of birds, and the scurrying bunnies and squirrels, and the fleeting possibility that I might even see a deer.  And those things are still there when the weather gets colder.

So, when it stopped being warm, I just took more gear to the hammock.

To be fair, I already had gear. I’m switching a lot of the stuff from my tent to my hammock and back again. From where I’m standing, I’m hesitant to spend a lot of money on hammock-specific gear. What I have works, and I’m reasonably unlikely to do a lot of long-distance hiking with a hammock.

I won’t get into the brand-name details because this is where I did spend a lot of money, and you wouldn’t have to. I have an inflatable sleeping pad, which keeps the cold from getting me from the bottom. This would also work in a tent or on the ground. The R-Value (a measurement of how well something insulates) is about a 4. (You can get a quilt to insulate the underside of your hammock, but… back to that money thing.) And a sleeping bag inside the hammock. (I decide which one(s) based on the temperature outdoors, and yes… I’ll stack them.)

My new “thing”–which I haven’t tried out yet, but which I have heard happiness about–is a radiant heat reflector/insulating pad. It’s a bit wider than the sleeping pad, so the sides will wind up folding up around me more. (You do not need that.)

I dress accordingly. Winter coat. Long underwear. Socks and socks and socks.

People have been asking about how I do this… and to a lesser extent why I do it. And recent events–the winter emergency in Texas, and an incident here in Nebraska where a woman froze to death after her car stopped moving–have made me stop and think about explaining how I keep warm. It’s a sobering thought to think that I was having happy hammocking weather while someone else was freezing to death.

I’m far from being an expert, but this works for me. (And a similar list goes into the car, just in case.)

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