Hammocks were a new and unusual idea for me. I had heard mention of them at various Florida ATC meetings I had attended, but nobody I knew actually owned one. Just prior to leaving for my thru-hike of the AT, I ordered a Hennessy Hammock, sight unseen. I was rather thrilled to find it way exceeded my low expectations.
At the time I was 60 years old and had always used tents or tarps. Prior to going off on my thru-hike, I did a five-night gear shakeout in the White Mountain, NH, wilderness area to see how I would like the hammock. The very first night I had some rather thrilling moments with a large animal but after that it was smooth sailing. I was sold on the hammock.
I did use it for the length of the AT. The thru-hike ended up being a two-part affair, I had to take 300 days off in the middle of the hike for a six-artery heart bypass operation around Pearisburg, VA, but other than that it went very well. I stood on the summit of Katahdin on October 1, 2008 and relished all that had transpired.
Over the length of the trail I carried a very tiny ham radio with me and would lay in my hammock at night and communicate with other hams all over the country using Morse code. I was skeptical that I would be able to lay in the hammock and operate the thing, but it worked rather well, even with the awkward positioning. My ham radio call is K1YPP, and my trail name ended up being “K1,” a contraction of the call letter.
The hammock is still usable all these miles later. It was built well and has served me well. The one problem that hammocks have is that they don't serve two people very well. My wife, Jane, and I are going off to walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain in the near future and we're going to carry a small tent for those nights where the local accommodations are full, or we just want to get away from all the snoring. I suspect this will just convince me that I'll really miss the hammock.
I wrote a book about the AT hike and gave hammocks some pretty good coverage in it, including photos. The book is THREE HUNDRED ZEROES: Lessons of the Heart on the Appalachian Trail. The 300 zeroes has to do with taking three-hundred “zero” days on the hike and the heart subtitle has to do with my heart surgery and a Purple Heart Medal. If interested, you can find the book on Amazon and on Kindle.
I'm thinking my next solo hike might be the John Muir Trail and the hammock would be called back into action there. If Jane really gets hooked on long distance hiking, then maybe she'll have to get her own hammock. I really wouldn't care to do a tent in that terrain.
Thanks for hearing me out, I look forward to meeting you all as time goes on...
Dennis “K1” Blanchard