Algonquin Provincial Park, May 2011, First Time Hammock Camping
In early May of 2011 my brother and I, along with our friend, embarked on a 4-day canoe trip to Algonquin Provincial Park. This was my first time hammock camping.
I should point out that the weather was perfect. Dry weather is never guaranteed in spring, but unlike almost every other trip we have made into this park, this trip did not start out with us paddling out into the rain. The sun was shining and there was hardly a hint of cloud in the sky.
This trip was physically demanding, it included several Kilometers of portaging, and many more Kilometers of paddling.
Our friend had an especially hard time on the first portage (over two KM) , later on we discovered why: Along with his regular gear and food he was also carrying 5 one litre tetra packs of wine in his pack. The wine was his own little surprise and though he was secretly cursing it on that portage, we all agreed was worth the weight in the end.
My hammock was one I made myself before the trip following instuctions from Hammock Forums. While my companions looked for spots on the ground for their tents, I looked for two nicely spaced trees to string up my hammock. With only a tarp overhead and no bug net, I was looking forward to sleeping with nothing between me and the night air.
My setup was my DIY gathered end hammock made from ripstop nylon, a Thermarest as my underpad, a cut-down Evazote pad for my shoulders (and useful something to sit on around the fire), a -20*C (yeah right...) Eureka mummy synthetic sleeping bag, and a thin polar fleece sleeping bag liner that I used as a kind of wrap-all around my hammock and over its ridgeline, just to see what it would do.
My tarp was a MEC Silnylon Guides Tarp, in nice orange.
My first sleep in the hammock was fairly good. I never woke up cold, but I did find my legs a little sore. I tried to get as diagonal as I could, but with a Thermarest as underpad, and a mummy bag as top insulation, getting diagonal was not easy for me. I might try placing my life jacket under my knees some time in my hammock, seems like this would help.
We woke the next morning to a mirror flat lake.
We had a fantastic paddle under the sun to our next site. I had a chance to relax in my hammock that afternoon on our second site. Usually camping for me means ulta light - no chair, sitting on a log is the best you're going to get - well not anymore, not with a hammock. I could actually spend hours laying or sitting in it under the sun (or shade), reading a novel, taking a nap... afterall, camping trips with the guy's are vacations too, why not relax?
Later that evening my friend with the wine brought the next supprise out of his pack. He produced a large pork tenderloin and a few potatoes. We all ate a good meal, cooked slow over the fire.
That second night was spent on a site with few acceptable trees for seting up my hammock. Don't get me wrong, there were an endless supply of trees, just none near the tents the others were in. I ended up having to setup deeper into the woods than I would have liked as my brother and friend found nice flat grassy spots for their tents. I guess good tent sites are not necesecarilly good hammock sites and vica versa. Regardless, my second night was a pretty good sleep.
I woke the next morning and ate my breakfast from the hammock. I could have spent the whole day in it, but we had to get moving.
Our third site ended up being the nicest site of the trip, large open areas with a thick bed of conifer needles on the ground everywhere. Also lots of straight and nicely spaced trees for my hammock. I had many places to chose to hang from. The site was on a point and was covered almost exclusivly with Douglas Fir trees. The douglas firs are very straight and some fallen dead wood made a great frame for my DIY buck saw.
Overcast skys came and stayed with us untill after dark but we never had to deal with any real rain, just a few drizzles. We all took well deserved naps that afternoon.
None of us stayed up late any of the nights on this trip. I was last to turn in that night and I sat by the fire by myself for a bit before going to my hammock to read some Carl Sagan before sleep.
The next morning we caught a Hay fish (at least that's what we think it was!), right off the shore, they were biting so well we were pulling them out of the water as soon as we cast out.
Meanwhile I had noticed that the lake was pefectly flat and the sky was reflecting its clouds perfectly. It was a photo-op I was not going to let pass. Here is my brother fishing.
On the third day we spotted a pair of moose. Took these photo's from the canoe.
Here is a video of the moose encounter: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4SNYkWKN-o
Our last night all 3 of us setup on a flat ledge very close to the lake. We were all within a few feet of the water. Which made for a great view of the sunset, but also made for the coldest night of sleeping yet. I am unsure of how cold it got that night but there was a layer of frost on the canoe the following morning. At 3:00 am that last night I woke up cold and decided to spend the rest of the night in my brothers 3-man tent. I did not want to risk getting any colder before the sun came up.
I made 3 hammock camping mistakes that last night as far as I can tell:
1. I went to bed hungry. I had eaten all of my food for the trip except for a small amount I was saving for breakfast as this was to be our last night. I declined the offer my companions had made for some of their food.
2. I setup my hammock way too close to the lake. Literally a few feet from the shore.
3. I did not setup my tarp at all (I had used it all 3 previous nights) as I wanted to sleep with a view of the stars. Apparently the tarp really helps keep you warm in the hammock.
So that takes us to the end of the trip report. I should point out that I have since done a second camping trip with my hammock, this time in October, and I did not suffer from the cold again. In fact on my second trip I found I was over-insulated at night. I will do a second trip log for that trip as well soon.