(This is written for a wider audience)
Successful First Hang in my Byers Mosquito Hammock with 11x10 JRB Tarp:
My two companions and I canoed and kayaked into the Boundary Waters Canoe Area in northern Minnesota August 5 to August 10, 2012. I was determined to sleep exclusively in my first hammock on this trip, and I was equipped with hours and hours of information gleaned from Hammockforums.net and BWCA.com, among other sources.
I purchased at REI one of the less expensive hammocks (about $40) with a bug net built in. The Byers hammock bug net zips on the side and is kept above the hammock with a cord tied to the same trees as the hammock suspension. The hammock suspension was of my own making, following advice from web sites. I made ďtree strapsĒ from inexpensive 1 inch tie down straps sold at the hardware store for about $5. They attached to end loops on the hammock using toggles and a marlin spike hitch knot. (I love saying that.)
The hammock, tarp and suspension are about the weight and size of a small tent, but there are no poles to deal with, so packing is easier.
We set up our first camp on a windy island site in Back Bay with a beautiful western exposure. Trees were a little closer together than I like, maybe 12 feet apart, and a small diameter tree stood immediately next to the tree I needed to tie to, which could interfere with hanging the tarp. This was a problem I encountered at each site, i.e., finding two trees away from others.
The wind proved a significant challenge. The hammock went up ok, but the wind kept blowing it like a sail. I put some camp things in it to calm it down. The tarp was worse. The problem became the guy lines, which tangled like crazy. I had left them tied to the corners, and although I wrap them, they came undone and tangled with each other. It was very difficult to untangle with high wind, but I decided speed wasnít important and I just took my time. As soon as I staked the ends down, things were fine. A little tweaking of the guy lines, adjustment of drip lines in the event of rain, and everything was in its place. Lessons learned: wrap the guy lines better. Find a less windy location.
The first night was a success! After adjusting my sleeping bag, which was clumsy, and my pad, which was in an Eno Hotspot, I was snug as a bug. The Hotspot worked just fine. No uncomfortable folds, good coverage of my shoulders and hips, and warm enough down to about 40 on our coldest night. I used a blue WM ccf pad with it. The tarp blocked the wind, allowing me to remove my contact lenses. My practice nights in the hammock at home prepared me for the experience so I knew what to expect. Best sleep ever while camping.
I think I could have set my tarp higher to allow me to stand up straighter when working underneath it. I set it about my height but with guy lines tight, I had to bend down and then my back and head rubbed against the tarp when I moved around. This was uncomfortable and caused me a wet shirt and back one morning when dew formed under the tarp. The tarp was large enough to cover low to the ground, but I was cautious and wanted the top close to the ends of the hammock.
The second and third nights at a new site on Basswood Lake were just as good, though with all the portaging and kayaking, I was a little sore, which even a hammock canít cure. There were more trees to choose from, though none my preferred distance apart, so I just adapted to a little less distance.
I also arranged my things in the hammock a little better so I wouldnít need to shuffle around so much once I laid down. The biggest challenge getting settled in the hammock is that the pillow would slide down and Iíd lie on it. (For a pillow, I used rolled up clothes or my fleece jacket, a good choice.) Getting things out from under you is not easy in the hammock. Maybe if the pillow is tied to the head of the hammock it would work better. I also just slept in my clothes most nights, as I was too tired to change in the hammock and a little concerned about skeeters outside the hammock.
As for bugs in general, they never became a problem. Fortunately this was not a bad time for them, and they were scarce when I went to bed. At most I heard some buzzing a couple of times outside the net. I also was careful to keep my feet and arms in my sleeping bag or on the pad to prevent bites through the hammock. I had sprayed plenty of permethrin on the hammock, but I wasnít taking chances. Although I also brought along a poncho I rigged for an underlayer, I never used it.
So far so good, but I still had not used the hammock in the rain. I had confidence in my second hand JRB (JacksRBetter) and my knowledge picked up from Hammockforums.net about keeping dry, but I was due for a test.
My tarp was made of silicone impregnated nylon fabric (sil-nylon), which is very light and packs down to the size of a softball. Itís also more expensive ($80+) than urethane coated tarps (tent-like material, $40+) and of course, the standard blue poly tarp.
The first night at my third site provided the test. Anticipating an overnight rain, I checked the seam on the tarp. The silicon sealer had come up off the material where the center loop attached to the ridge line, so I quickly squeezed on some Sil-Net Sealer I brought along. I adjusted and re-adjusted the guy lines, even adding lines to the center loops along the edges using extra 1/8 poly cord I brought along.
I also re-checked the ends of the hammock suspension to make sure they were covered by the tarp. Under the tarp I tied drip lines to the hammock suspension to catch any water running down before it could get to the hammock. My tarp ridge line was rigged above the tarp, so I didnít worry about drips from the ridge line.
Again this site had limited trees, so my tarp was too long to set up along its 11 foot ridge. I turned it so the 10 foot ridge was on top instead. I had never set up this way before, and I was concerned it wouldnít be long enough to cover the ends of my hammock. I hung my hammock with a greater dip in it than usual, but it fit under the tarp. The tarp was still too long for the trees, but I just adapted by wrapping it a little way around the trees. This throws off the lay of the tarp some and leaves little room for the hammock suspension. I set everything too low the first night and slept with my bottom resting against a log under the hammock. Not too bad as it turned out, but hardly ideal. For the next night I raised the hammock and tarp lines on the trees, which solved the problem.
As for rain, it came down hard for about an hour. It is plenty noisy under the tarp, and when it rains in the Boundary Waters, it can be pretty scary, hammock or tent. It helped that during lulls I could hear my more experienced companions snoring away in their tent. I didnít feel a drop of rain and kept dry all night. Another success! Even my friends were impressed.
One thing I did learn is to be careful what you bring into the hammock. Rule 1: no stakes in the hammock. Because I often tied my guy lines to trees, I left extra stakes in my pocket, which I forgot to remove when I jumped in the hammock. My hammock and I survived, but I donít recommend it.
My fifth (and last) night was uneventful and comfortable (for camping at least). The hammock is quite cozy. Turning on my side was not easy, but itís do-able and not needed as often as when I sleep in a bed. Some stresses are a little different because of the curvature of the hammock, but lying on a diagonal (ďBrazilianĒ) makes for a pretty flat surface most of the time. Shoulders can seem a little compressed, and knees prefer a flat surface, but when I think of how my hips dug into the ground in a tent, I donít ever want to deal with that again.
I occasionally thought about whether I would ever want to use a tent again, and I think that if I needed (or wanted) more room, that would be a reason. There are hammocks that are bigger than mine, but itís never going to be good for getting dressed and other activities better suited for a tent.
(Especially for the hammockforums folks: for the guy lines, I liked using figure nines. The plastic connectors allowed easy tightening and securing of the lines. I preferred them to the prussic knot approach I also used, because the knot didnít slip easily enough when I want to tighten the lines. I did use prussics to attach the fig nines to the guy lines though, making it easy to adjust them along the line. I adjusted them with no pressure on them, so they slid easily. For my tarp ridgeline, I attached one end with a carabiner and the other with a tautline hitch. I used prussic knots and biners to attach the tarp. There was no room between the trees for a V, so I didnít worry about lines rubbing, and it never was an issue. At home I had tried a bishop bag for the tarp, but couldnít keep the ridgeline tight while setting up, so abandoned it. It might have worked better in the big wind the first day, but Iím happy setting up the line first then attaching the tarp directly from the bag. Thanks to all at Hammockforums.net!)