After seeing that the weather forecast for this past weekend was for rain all weekend, I decided to head to a state park and test out my diy hammock and tarp.
Originally, I had tentative plans to take my neice for her very first camping trip. We postponed our plans, but since I had most of the gear ready to go, I figured it would be a great opportunity to test things for bad weather. We ended up having historic rainfall amounts in many areas here in GA, along with devastating floods and a number of people lost their lives! Thankfully, I didn't have weather to THAT extent, but there were parts of my trip that were kinda scary.
I headed over to the park on Saturday afternoon. It was raining hard when I arrived. When I went to register at the office, the young girl working the desk asked, "Why would you want to camp alone in the rain?!?!" Sheesh, I guess SHE isn't a gearhead!
I chose a primitive campsite which I have used many times over the years. I have many happy memories of bringing my girls to camp there since they were little. The site is up a very muddy, rooty and rocky hill. It's not a long stretch, but it's the stuff 4 wheel drive is made for, even in good weather. Unfortunately, I don't have 4 wheel drive, and my tires are kinda getting bald, so it was an adventure in itself just getting into the campsite!
It was really pouring when I got up into the site, so I waited a while, hoping it would slow down. It didn't, so out I went.
On my diy tarp, I have linelocs and mini biners for the ridge attachments to the trees. Makes things a lot faster- usually! For whatever reason, I was having a heck of a time getting that tarp set up! I'm embarrassed to admit it, but it took me well over an hour! I think part of the reason was that it was raining SO hard, it was hard to handle things, and even to see. I wanted to set it up to have somewhat of a porch area to sit and cook under. I also wanted to place the one end lower to help the water drain away from the end I would be sitting under, to help prevent splash. I had my guylines configured wrong for having the one side up higher, so I had to undo knots from thin, very wet line, with slippery wet hands. It seemed to take forever!
Eventually, I did manage to get things situated, and the setup ended up working wonderfully! It really did help prevent a lot of splash, since most of the water heading down that end of the tarp was diverted to the other end.
After the tarp setup ordeal, I figured I had earned a cup of coffee and a snack, so I got out my beach chair and kitchen stuff, and had a nice break, while the rain came down in torrents and I wasn't getting any wetter.
Setting up the hammock under the tarp went a lot faster with my cinch buckle suspension and Dutch clips. I had a little trouble centering the hammock, since I couldn't really tell exactly where things were with the tarp already up. Thankfully, with the tarp being 9x11, it didn't really matter all that much if it wasn't 'just so'.
I brought my Nest underquilt, and a diy Climashield top quilt, and a pillow. The biggest concern dealing with those was not letting them fall on the extremely wet ground. Thankfully, all went well with getting those situated.
Not long after dark, things started getting interesting. I was sitting with my little candle lantern aglow, dreaming of future trips and gear projects, and all the while the rain was pouring down. Then, the wind picked up a little. Limbs started falling from trees. Trees started uprooting and falling. It was pitch black, and it was tough with the roaring rain to hear exactly where things were happening!
I had checked (very carefully) for 'widowmakers' before setting up, but some live limbs were even starting to come down! A limb came down on my car, but thankfully, it just broke into a bunch of small pieces and didn't do any damage.
I have to admit, I did consider high-tailing it outta there, but I also realized that I could encounter these conditions when out on the trail, and I really did want to see how the diy gear would hold up, so I opted to stay.
There's a tin-roofed privy at this site. Wouldn't you know it- it's right under an oak tree! Acorns kept falling with a loud "bang!" on the roof all night. Between the noise of the acorns, the roaring rain, and the raw fear I had of those falling trees and limbs, I didn't get much sleep Saturday night!
When I got up Sunday, I decided to stay another night! Call me crazy, but I really did want to give things a good foul-weather test, and the weather was definitely cooperating! I spent a good deal of the day relaxing and reading. It felt wonderful! Later, the rain started slowing down a bit and even though it had been raining the better part of close to a week, I went ahead and gathered up some tinder to test my firemaking skills. I cheated a little though-I had brought a couple of bundles of store-bought firewood with me. I would still have to get the fire going by using the small, wet tinder and kindling I had gathered though. I found some good 'snappy' small stuff in some of the limbs that had fallen during the night. Amazingly, the rain slowed almost to a stop around dusk, and stayed that way for a couple of hours. It wasn't easy, but I did manage to get a nice fire going and enjoyed it greatly, while it lasted. I even broke out the cocoa and cookies!
After that couple of hours was up though, it started pouring again, and didn't let up in any noticeable way. At one point, I was on my cell phone yakking with a friend, and they told me the sound of the rain was almost hurting their ear!
That night, I got up at 3am to empty my bladder. When I went to get back into my hammock, I noticed there was water on my netting down near the foot end. I also noticed that my hammock was wet inside! Water had found it's way through my tarp where I had sewn on a small flashlight loop, and was slowly dripping down into my hammock.
I was very glad I had the Climashield quilt, rather than my NS. I went ahead and got back in the hammock and made the best of it. Thankfully, it was wetting the hammock more on the side where my feet do NOT go. Odd that in spite of all the rain I had already had up to that point, the tarp wasn't leaking until then. In a way, I was glad it happened, so now I know where I need a bit more sealing. I'd rather find out on a car camping trip, than on a backpacking trip!
I am confident that after a dab of sealer, I can definitely trust this tarp for whatever rain would come my way on the trail. There was an incredible amount of rain while I was there!
A couple of observations I'll share...
This diy hammock was made from walmart fabric. It definitely absorbed moisture from the air. It was yukky feeling by the second day. Next hammock will be 1.1 or 1.9 dwr!
My JRB Nest underquilt stayed amazingly dry feeling and fluffy!
While a 9x11 tarp is indeed relatively large, I am extremely glad it is! I not only had plenty of 'living' space, but I think the extra length allowed me to pitch it up a bit higher, allowing more air circulation without sacrificing coverage. The rain didn't mist into the ends far enough to get any part of the hammock wet. Sure this tarp is a bit heavier than some, but after this experience, it confirms that some weight is really worth carrying!
Cinch buckles- couldn't be easier! Another plus was that all the water that accumulated in the straps dripped right off at the buckle area.
Dutch clips- LOVE 'EM!! I checked things out when I was breaking down, and there was no sign of stress on the straps. Again, couldn't be easier!
And finally, I strongly suggest that everyone really test out their gear in the worst possible conditions before heading out into the wilderness. Things may seem fast and easy in your backyard on a nice day, but when some serious weather hits, it's a whole different ball game!
I was only able to take a few photos, and only a couple really came out ok enough to see...