HH trip report
Trip report on my 100-mile 8-day trek through the woods of Northern Minnesota on the Border Route and Superior Hiking Trail on May 23-30. This is my first field use of my new hammock following about a half-dozen trials in my backyard.
Shelter: Hennessey UL Explorer, SuperShelter (undercover + underpad), Heatsheet space blanket, snakeskins #4, 72-inch treehuggers. Yes, I used the stock asym rainfly.
Packing strategy: snakeskins were coiled and stored beneath the floating packlid. SS underpad was rolled and stored in a Sea-to-Summit 8L drysack and carried on the sleeping pad straps external to the pack. See attachment picture 1. The spaceblanket was rolled up with the underpad to protect it. The strategy allowed me to carry my entire shelter system external to my pack, which was loaded with 10 days of food.
First night was spent on the shores of Loon Lake - see attached pic #2. I was assuming a dry night, but awoke the next morning to a swimming pool floating against the left side of my face - pitched the tarp a little too horizontal...
The Border Route is ideal hammock hanging territory. No shortage of trees, few campsites (mostly taken by Boundary Waters canoeists). See typical camp setup in pic #3. Note the steeper tarp pitch ;)
After a 5 day thru-hike of the Border Route I continued down Minnesota's Norwegian Riviera on the Superior Hiking trail. First night there encountered my coldest night: 23F according to my thermometer when I crawled out of the sac in the morning. I only carry a 30F bag, so it was a little chilly that night, though I have to say I was warm enough on the bottom from the SS, it was more a problem with my bag and the fact I was too lazy to get out of bed and retrieve my fleece pullover. That was the last night I slept without storing my fleece *inside* my hammock...
2nd night on the SHT was at the idyllic South Carlson campsite - see pic #4. I pitched the tarp very horizontally due to the stiff southerly winds and hope of no rain that evening, and I wanted to enjoy the views of the beaver dam below from the campsite. Perfect.
Night #3 was on the SHT lakewalk section where there is an informal campsite right on the beach - see pic #5. The evening started out beautifully, but clouded up and rained all night with a howling wind. Found that a 1L Platy can be easily tied to the tarp tiepoints to keep tension. Only got down to 40F that night, but due to 20+ mph winds blowing off the lake had the only night where my back was cold.
Bailed out the next morning: 40F, pouring rain, wind howling, and I had already hiked the remaining section of the SHT back to Grand Marais and I had accomplished my goal of a 100+mile no-resupply hike. Stuck my thumb out on Hwy 61 and within minutes was in a nice warm car with two lovely young ladies offering me warm home-baked bread. Sometimes hiking in the cold rain is not the best alternative :)
My takeaways from this trip:
- I love my HH Explorer UL. I am 6' 4", 220 lbs and it fits me perfectly. I appreciated the impenetrable bug netting, and the quick setup/teardown with the snakeskins. Use of the stock rainfly also kept setup/teardown simple with only 2 stakes to tie down.
- The 72-inch straps were essential. There are some big trees in Minnesota, plus it gives you more flexibility with tree distance - you can go further apart when necessary
- The HH SS is a viable option down to the mid-20's with a space blanket. I became adept at rolling up the underpad while it was still in the undercover. The fact that the undercover rolled up into the snakeskins with the rest of the hammock was great. Storing the underpad in a waterproof stuff sack allowed me to fully utilize the sleeping pad straps on my pack to maximize space usage
- I had 3 nights where it rained, including the last night where it was raining practically horizontally and never had a drop of rain inside the hammock with the stock rainfly.
- On several mornings due to cold or rain I prepared and ate breakfast sitting in the HH opening slit. This allowed me to drape my down bag over my shoulders to keep warm and stay out of any rain while comfortably seated. I drink hot chocolate every morning while camping, and on the last morning I was even able to prepare it with my Jetboil inside the hammock held on my lap to keep the wind from blowing out the flame.
- Most nights I used the standard tarp pitch using the prussics. You might be able to see from some of the photos that I do keep ropes tied to both ends of the tarp, and on several nights I did attach one end directly to a tree. I found after a few nights on the trail that I was able to achieve an acceptably taut pitch using just the prussics, and I appreciated the speedy setup/teardown without having to reattach the tarp before rolling up the snakeskins.
- I did pack the tarp separate from the rest of the hammock after a rainy night, but this seemed more hassle than it was worth. Since it is the *outside* of the tarp that is wet, if you carefully roll up the hammock into the skins the hammock itself does not get wet, particularly when protected by the waterproof undercover, and once you set up the hammock at the end of the day everything quickly dries off (as long as it isn't raining again...)
- I can see where some folks have had ridgeline issues. Several times on my first entry into the hammock after setup I found myself tangled in the ridgeline, and if I wasn't careful I could have put the weight of my body on it and potentially broken the line. These problems might be prevented if there was someway to attach the ridgeline to the bugnet so it wouldn't dangle down into the entryway.
I know many of you are DIY enthusiasts and may deride my use of stock HH gear, but I find that all the pieces work very well together as a system when considering all the tradeoffs involved. When you consider ease of setup/teardown, compactness, low weight, cost, warmth, robust rain protection, etc. I find that the stock HH system is a reasonable compromise for me and my usage.
Hope you find this of some use and interest.
Thanks for the great trip report and pictures. Quite a trip! Hey, you won't be derided here for something that works for you. We're the friendly forum! And ya can't argue with success.
I'm a HH person myself. I have a larger JRB tarp and the stock tarp and switch them out depending on the type of trip I'm taking, the weather predictions, and the amount of weight I'm willing to carry or not carry.
Glad things worked out so well for you! It looks like you have a MoutainSmith pack. What type is it?
Yep, great report. I'm glad you're enjoying your HH. That's what it's all about.
Thanks for that excellent report!!!
It is a Mountainsmith Boundary pack that I am testing for backpackgeartest. See:
Originally Posted by HappyCamper
My field report from this trip is in for editing, so the results will be posted in a few days.
Good trip Kurt. Sounds incredible ..... I am a fan and hiker on both of those trails as well.
Where did you start out on the Border Route trail??
How were the blow-downs?
I was on the SHT May 1-3 and it was a cold rain and windy.
That is really impressive to do 100 miles with no re-supply, awesome!
Glad your hammock did the trick. As we both know, one has to be prepared for extreme weather changes up there, especially this time of year.
Hope that we can meet up there sometime ......
I started out at the west end of the BRT at the Magnetic rock trailhead. See picture. Pretty cool hiking through the Ham Lake fire area.
Originally Posted by Shug
The blowdowns were pretty bad on the BRT. There were two crews up there working on them, but as you know the BWCAW is never maintained as cleanly due to the ban on chainsaws.
Yep, it'd be fun to meet up on the trail sometime. I participate in the SHTA Yahoo (hiker) group as I believe you do, so we can coordinate there.
You bet we do, Kurt. Great report, very useful! Certainly, a trip of this length and under those conditions put your system to the test, and it looks like you and it passed with no significant problems. And even with the stock rainfly! Way to go!
Originally Posted by kwpapke
Could you clarify : "awoke the next morning to a swimming pool floating against the left side of my face" as opposed to "I had 3 nights where it rained, including the last night where it was raining practically horizontally and never had a drop of rain inside the hammock with the stock rainfly"?
And if you did get wet one night, the "swimming pool" night, how did the SS pad handle it? Still warm enough? Looks to me like more proof that the SS can indeed get the job done at reasonable temps. Even though wind chill made you a little cold one night at 40*F, I am amazed to see you were A-OK at 23*F with just the one pad and space blanket. ( I see you were smart though, and at least used the space blanket!) I think at 23*F I would have to add a little something like the HH kidney/torso pad and/or Garlington insulator and/or clothing underneath. Or at least I would add them just in case! I can't remember how low I have gone with just the single pad/space blanket. It is either low 30s or high 20s. But whatever it was, I think I felt I couldn't go much lower. Of course, I am acclimated to MS, not MN of the far north!
Sorry if I was confusing on this point. Look at pic #2 in the report and notice that the rain fly was very horizontal. When it rained, the left side of the rain fly sagged and filled with water, literally bumping up against my face. However, the silnylon did its job and NO moisture entered my hammock. The "water bag" felt quite cold against the side of my face. I simply gave it a big push with my hand and most of the water spilled out of the fly. So the SS pad never got wet.
Originally Posted by BillyBob58
The night it got down to 23F there was no wind, and the air was very dry, so it was ideal conditions. I was a little chilly, but nothing my fleece wouldn't have fixed.
Also consider, like you, I use a mummy bag. It makes a *huge* difference when the only exposed skin is your lips and nose ;) Also, though the insulation properties of the down underneath you is compromised by laying on it, I believe it is still non-zero and does help some.
I did use my bag as a quilt on warmer nights. It worked OK, but I still roll over quite a bit at night, and I invariably would awake to a cold exposed butt cheek. Seems more comfy to just zip the bag 1/2 way up.
Thanks for clearing that up. Even though I have one myself and have hung it in torrential rain, I am always sort of amazed at how dry I can keep things by just using the stock tarp and SS. It always LOOKS to me like rain will blow in from the sides at each end, especially if I don't have the extra protection of the SS undercover. But so far it never has on the few times I have put it to the test. My worse case result was about a tablespoon of water lying harmlessly in the bottom of the undercover, following a all night storms with nearby tornadoes, heavy wind/rain and even hail.