Last night as I set up in the dark & rain (Light mist till 15 min after going to bed, then it poured!) & cold (upper 30s I think) wind from the WSW at about 10 – 12 mph. I started to get rather proud of myself for my set up skills. Then I noticed I was grabbing my tent stakes from my right hip pocket without thinking about it. “D**n!” said I. Why you ask, I’ll tell you: I almost NEVER wear pants when hiking. The one trip I wear shorts or pants is the Mt Rogers Hang, ALL the other trips, regardless of how short, I wear a kilt. Kilts do not have R hip pockets
That got me to thinking, yes I know “Scary!”
Anyway, when you practice, you should do it the same way as you would on the trail! I already pack each time as if on the trail, so the only thing that would slow me down is the pocket thing. I know that under ideal conditions me being slowed down a few seconds reaching into a pocket that isn’t there would mean very little. But even last night, that would have been 2 seconds longer under a pretty cold rain, & I have set up at 32.5 degrees with it raining hard! Yea, that was COLD! I have had Hypothermia twice, you get very very confused when that cold, having to look for tent stakes would have been an impossible mission: From experience I know that my mind gets set on one thing & I do not have the ability to change it, even with the stake bag in my hand (How I do it when in a kilt) as I had practiced this way at home, I would have tried to find them in my R hip pocket.
So my notes on practicing setting up camp, or at least how I do it:
Set up the same way every time!
Pack your gear the same way each time!
Unpack in the same order each time!
Set up over & over again when practicing, until you can do it with your eyes closed!
Set up with your eyes closed!
Set up with a “Friend” (On a ladder?) trying to get you wet with a hose OR set up in the rain!
When practicing, wear your hiking clothing so conditions are as close to same as possible!
Practice setting up the tarp first, then set up / hang your hammock! Yes, it is different! This would be a good time for the friend on the ladder with a garden hose.
If you can, practice at several different sites to add variety!
On the trail, during ideal conditions I set up as if practicing. I consciously set up as I do at home just to set the muscle memory even more. Under less than ideal conditions I consciously set up as I do at home because it goes faster & I can get under shelter quicker & drier.
As I said above, I have had hypothermia so I do know what I speak of: The 1st time I got to a AT shelter & had the mental ability to stop & get warm, had it not been my planned destination for the day,,,,,,,,, The 2nd time I had friends set up my tent, I may have been able to, but I’m not sure, I am really not sure, I think not! BUT, I had not practiced as often or as thoroughly as I have my hammock. I hope to never find out, but from experience the previous 2 times, I know that things I can do JUST from muscle memory, are still relatively easy, it’s the stuff I have to think about that is very hard to do.
So, get out there & practice, it MAY save your life. It WILL make setting up camp much easier.