Image 1: Border zone warnings for Finland-Russia border. Good place to hang.
In the sense that I used same underwear all eleven days when on this trip it was a true expedition. But Devold wool underwear is exceptional at resisting bad odor and even after I got back to the civilization I had no imminent need to change my clothing before I had chance to get to the sauna.
Area where this ski trek happened is located at northern Finland which is called Lapland. It is sparsely populated. Main source of income is herding reindeers and tourism. Forestry is also present, but during these days northern wood grows too slow to be really economical solution to make paper pulp. Northern wood could be good for carpentry and buildings because it is dense due of the slow growth. At the old days wood tar production was main income for whole Finland, wood tar was essential to keep wooden ships not to get rotten during long voyages at sea.
Link to the Google Map is HERE
Weather was not optimal. Normally at this time of year (weeks 15-16) during night temperature is -5 C to -15 C degrees and when sun is shining during daytime temperature gets up to +10 C degrees. When this kind of variation happens snow gets as hard as concrete and it is easy to move around with skis or snowshoes. During My trip temperature was lowest at -5 C degrees during two nights. All other nights is was around 0 C degrees, so no hard snow. Even reindeers were walking on snowmobile tracks and avoiding deep soft snow. There was also light rain during early mornings at some nights.
So no real cold temperature testing. Winds were absent also, only at night number 8 wind was blowing between 10-15 meters/second. No storm testing. And no testing how good system is when wet snow comes down horizontally at real snow storm.
But what was tested was condensation and down moistening problems. When in tent in these kind of temperatures everything gets wet after few nights. And wet gear is not warm and when one gets cold during winter at wilderness it is not funny trekking anymore but more like torture.
There was snow about 65 cm when I started the trek. When temperature was almost all the time over 0 C degrees snow condensed to about 45-50 cm. At first I used snowshoes when putting up hammock and camp, because the snow did get over my knee, but after three nights it was easier to just walk in knee deep and bit shallower snow without snowshoes. Big snowshoes are not very agile when taking steps near gear and tarp ropes.
Skis used were skis at Image 1. They are 260 cm long and 7 cm wide. Used for nordic skiing at the back country areas where the are no man made ski routes. They are not good for downhill skiing. Gear was transported with pulk. Pulk makes it easy to take much more stuff than with back bag. It has been said that with back bag one can carry 1/3 of his own weight but with pulk it is easily possible to take gear as much as 1/2 of your own weight. I did not measure My pulks weight, but it was probably only something like 30 kg. I do have light gear, and not much extra gear with Me. Downhill skiing with pulk is very hard, so that was not in My menu in this trip. Snowshoes were Tubs 36 inch long model.
Hammock gear was full standard Warbonnet winter system: Blackbird hammock double layer 1.7, Winter yeti deluxe, Black mamba winter long, Superfly tarp with doors. Pad I used was simple 6 mm closed cell foam pad 245 cm x 50 cm. Material was bought earlier for winter tent trips (sized 245 x 140 cm) and it was standard industrial stuff not real trekking gear. I used pad partly folded to double its thickness. I used it between layers of the Blackbird.
Clothing for nights was boxer shorts, Devold active wool long underwear, socks, wool socks. (These were also my daytime clothes under Gore-tex gear.) When getting in for nights sleep I did put on fleece trousers and jacket over underwear and to My head I did put three layer wool cap made by My wife - we call it "the Bear hat". The Bear hat is so thick it will also work as a pillow. I had too much clothes over me, but I got very soon addicted to the feeling of being toasted. I have never ever been so warm during nights in any trek as in this one
Because I took many images around hammock during different nights I will divide this review chronologically.
Those three nights I did not sleep in Hammock I slept in open wilderness huts. It is a Finnish tradition where there is empty hut at the woods for everyone to use freely as a one night shelter. Basic rule is to use it and leave it in as good or better condition it was when You came in. Older days there was just wood stove for heating, table and big bunk where one could but his pad and sleep side by side with others. Nowadays there are usually additional gas stove for food making and even some kind of mattresses to sleep on. But as there is almost always other users around it is more peaceful to sleep outside (no snoring, people talking, making food or packing their gear). On the other hand huts are place to chance information about routes, there is also hut diary where people write down their next target (if trouble rescue people will use those markings to find You) and of-course it is always nice to chat with fellow hikers/skiers.
[BREAK=First hammock night (Second trek night)]
First hammock night (Second trek night)
First thing I noticed when I did put up my system was it seems to be smaller than in my beforehand made tests. I had not remembered that when one is using full winter clothes and gears also tents feel smaller compared to summer clothes and summer gear.
There was two setup reasons for the cramped feeling. Tarp was set up low for better protection, but I did not dig out the snow underneath it as I did in My home tests. Side lines were adjusted so that they were too short for this kind of setup, I could not stretch out tarp sides. But pull tabs to the rescue! With my skis I did expand the internal space enough to be comfortable under the tarp. An as You see all my gear is protected also. If I had been using tent pulk would have been left outside an usually this means that one forgets some important gear in it and is forced to jump in and out few times to get all important in. But with tarp and hammock all my gear was all the time at hand.
[BREAK=Second hammock night (Third trek night)]
Second hammock night (Third trek night)
Because I had had time during former evening I had walked with My snowshoes to my next camp site (2 km) and had stamped the snow little downwards for it to get harder during night for next day camp set up. I chose hillside because I hoped there would be accessible water at the bottom of the dale (there was not). Other reason was that with tent this would not be nice place to camp, but with hammock it was excellent.
This was the better camp if thinking about space. I was very happy during My trek that I had spent test nights at home with my Blackbird but in same time I realized that I was still quite a new-be in hammock camping and all the time learning new things to do better.
This was the first evening when I dropped down with my Blackbird. Those too big buckles do not work. I was sitting on my hammock and reached to put sideline to the snow peg and when I came back with my full weight I did drop down as webbing slipped through buckle.
During my trip I did drop five times. Not much, but buckle problem made my time much more stressful. When winter camping it is impossible to check alignment of the webbings all those times when getting in hammock. It can be dark, hammock sidelines are in the way and You can not go to the end of the hammock, some clothes are hanging at the hammock end etc. Problem was so sever that it made me think hard every time I got out of the hammock if the reason was good enough. In sense I was "trapped" in my hammock because of the slipping problem.
Here are images how I did try to solve the problem, first one was not very effective, second one was better but not bomb proof either.
I did contact to the Warbonnetguy after this trip and the problem is solved by those 1 inch custom made buckles. But this is the kind of problem that should not be there in the first place. In real use guarding webbing alignment is virtually impossible - at least in winter time - I can not understand how manufacturer could ever had such a idea as I have an understanding that He also uses this product in real life. But as said with new buckles this problem is no more.
[BREAK=Third hammock night (Fourth trek night)]
Third hammock night (Fourth trek Night)
First night I did dig the snow out of the way to get more room. An I must say it was quite spacious. I have never been able first sit in "chair" to put my boots on and then stand up and pull my trousers up in any tent. With this setup it is possible and very nice option to have. It almost felt like I had my own wilderness hut with me. Cooking is possible inside (Sievert winter gas, pure propane), pulk and snow bank can used as a table for water bottles and food.
At this point I must devote one chapter to appraise The Pocket. It has been said that with other hammocks different kind of gear pockets can be hanged around or in the hammock and there is nothing special about Blackbirds pocket. Rubbish I say! The Pocket is overwhelmingly useful. I was using it all the time. When getting gear up for meal I could throw in spoon for example and it was always easy to get it to use when needed. How many times spoon has been in some mysterious hideout behind or under something just when the food is cooking. Water bottle was also thrown there before cooking, and when sitting and eating hot meal in one hand easily taken from pocket with one hand. Magic of The Pocket is that one can but very much different sized stuff in The Pocket and always get it back with one hand without looking at The Pocket. No more lost in action gear and question where did I put it and why it is not here to bee seen as it was here few second ago. The Pocket is one of the lesser gods. We must worship The Pocket! Get on Your knees!
And now back to the regular broadcast. Here are some outside images about the set up of the third hammock night.
And here are images about those snow begs I used (Hilleberg). Sometimes there was enough hard snow to use them as normal begs. But in some situations this kind of "dead man anchor" system was necessary.
[BREAK=Fourth hammock night (Sixth trek night)]
Fourth hammock night (Sixth trek night)
At this point I did put Winter Yeti and Black Mamba out to hang and dry. But there was actually no need for it. Due to too high temperature for winter trip (not cold enough too much moisture in the air and no wind to keep air flowing) there was real risk to get the down wet. But in reality when in morning there was little moisture on outside surface of the Black mamba when I opened the zipper and got my chest out of the top quilt it would dry out due to increased air flow and extra heath released from my body. Under quilt was protected by deluxe vapor barrier and my closed cell foam pad and it stayed completely dry all the time.
If I would have been in tent three or four nights in a row it would have been very wet and so would all my gear. When using tent there is always little snow with You when You get in and add condensation to that then You have lots of moisture inside tent and no real good way to dry the tent (stove can some times be used to ad airflow and drive the humidity out). If there would have been lower temperatures at night air would be dryer (and usually then there is more sunny days when tent dries even in winter) then tent could kept me almost as dry as Blackbird hammock. But in this trek I would have gotten wet during camp nights in tent. Hurray for Hammock without waterproof materials it dries when in use.
[BREAK=Fifht hammock night (Seventh trek night)]
Fifth hammock night (Seventh trek night)
Traditional open hut
View from the door
Table with a view
To demonstrate the hammock for these interested people I dit put it up and slept like a baby through the night.
[BREAK=Sixth hammock night (Eighth trek night)]
More room than ever and supper is waiting at the "table"
Sixth hammock night (Eighth trek night)
At this night it was little windy. I measured it to be between 10-15 meter/second during gusts of wind. Wind came in from foot end of the hammock and the tarp was also fluttering bit franticly. So I made some modifications to My setup.
First I got a good idea to draw the tarp up with skis rather than to the side hence more roomy setup even in wind.
Secondly I did fasten doors pointing to the ground so they would block the wind better.
Doors are very good addition to the Superfly tarp. Now when I have used them in real trek I completely understand those who demand that they should be sewn in. I personally do not think it would be a good idea (I have no good reason for this thinking, it is just a gut feeling) but then again I probably will almost always use them. Get the doors when ordering tarp!
Thirdly I did build a little wall towards the wind direction.
All these modifications gave me a nice quiet and restful night.
[BREAK=Seventh hammock night (Tenth trek night)]
In the search of a good place to hang oneself one can get lucky
Seventh hammock night (Tenth trek night)
After windy night I tried to put the system up in that manner it would put up a real storm. Little lowering tarp, leaving doorways more closed and by burying tarp sleeves under snow. This was just a extra exercise, there was no wind at all during evening or night.
At proces I came to following conclusion about order in which the system is put up. First thing should be the tarp and after that one can go in and shovel the snow away and to under tarp sleeves to support it. I shoveled first the snow away and made always too big snow pit and almost always little bit in a wrong place. As You see in pictures shoveling snow over tarp sleeves does not work properly when there is no supporting snow underneath the tarp sleeve.
At this time I tried to get more room over my head buy hanging the tarp little asymmetrically compared to hammock. Big tree made this possible. This way the top of the tarp ridge was in same position as My head when sitting on the hammock.
[BREAK=Final words and conclusion (at last)]
Final words and conclusion
After I got home I ordered Blackbird + Edge tarp + doors + 3-season Yeti + 3-season Black mamba to be My summer setup (and for loaning buddies). When temperature is over +5 C degrees Warbonnet winter quilts are too hot.
And Brandon will send me 1 inch buckles and extra webbings for free with the order.
What more I can say. I'm a happy camper in My Bear Hat!
Thank You very much Brandon for Your extremely good product!