OK, I've done quite a bit of research about the Smokies and hammocking. As a public service announcement, I'll summarize the rules here:
- If you're staying at any shelter, then you need a reservation.
- If you're staying at a shelter, then you MUST actually sleep in the shelter and not in a tent.
- AT Thru-hikers are exempt from the reservation requirements.
- AT Thru-hikers may pitch a tent if and only if the shelters are full.
- AT Thru-hikers are defined as those who start 50 miles prior to GSMNP and finish at least 50 miles past GSMNP. Thru-hikers must register and I think they are given a permit that lists them as a thru-hiker.
- Some campsites require a reservation. Hammocks are OK at any of the backcountry campsites.
My question for fellow hammockers: do you really need to carry your hammock, your underquilt AND a "normal" sleeping pad? How do you get around the shelter rule and the need for a sleeping pad for shelter use? Yes, I know that someone will say "just avoid all shelters." But for a 7 day trip, that's kinda hard to do.