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  1. #1
    Senior Member WalksInDark's Avatar
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    Question Being Proactive Regarding Hammock Camping Rules

    Why Ask For Forgiveness, When You Can Get Permission?

    I have the opportunity to “educate” a national park Superintendent on how hammock camping should be handled within normal “tent camping” spaces or sites. Rather than have to argue with park officials after they have developed a “We don’t want any hammock hangers here” attitude, I am grateful for the opportunity to be proactive and give the Superintendent a list of reason why hammocks should be allowed in the regular (not primitive) tent camping areas, and what are responsible rules that hammock hangers should have to follow.

    Before I go to a lot of trouble to develop a “Information Fact Sheet With Frequently Asked Questions,” I need to ask: is there such a fact sheet, or “Hammock Hanging Best Practices” pamphlet already available; and if so, where can I get it.

    In terms of content for an “Information Fact Sheet With Frequently Asked Questions,” I think we need to make recommendations for hammock camping rules/regulations that are both reasonable and scientifically defensible. The items that I thought ought to be included follow:

    Hammock camping be restricted to regular tent camping areas (i.e. no RV or pull through spots) where appropriately sized and located live** trees can be found.

    Requirement that live trees to be used for hammock camping cannot be modified or altered (no cutting off inconveniently located branches, limbs, etc.).

    Minimum Live Tree Diameter (is a “by species” or “climate specific” requirement necessary)?

    Maximum number of hammocks attached to the same live tree? (The more specificity we provide, the less time park rangers have to spend negotiating with some knucklehead who wants to festoon a tree with as many hammock straps/tree huggers as they can.)

    Minimum Hammock strap/tree hugger width?

    Prohibition of attaching a camping hammock to a tree without the use of some sort of weight distributing strap (for example, I have seen folks wrap their whoopee slings/cordage around a tree without using any sort of weight distributing strap)?

    Prohibition of intentional damage to tree and/or tree bark.

    {** I specify “live trees” because, almost without exception, dead trees are not suitable or appropriate for supporting camping hammocks}

    (Is there anyone here who has or could measure the amount of force applied to tree bark when hammock straps/tree huggers of various widths and lengths are used and a hanger weight of 200 pounds is applied? ASIDE: According to the National Center for Health Statistics, the average weight for an adult male in the United States is: 189.8 pounds. I then allocated an additional approximate 10 pounds to cover the weight of the hammock, fly, bedding, etc.)

    (Is there anyone here who knows of any scientific data available to document the amount of damage ---or lack thereof--- done to various tree barks when they have been subjected to torsion pressure or abrasion, such as would be experienced by the tree if a hammock strap/tree hugger attached to a normal weight occupied camping hammock were applied to it?)

    For trees used routinely as hammock hanger posts, are their any recommendations regarding the use of shielding material on the tree bark? In some high usage areas where hammocks are routinely used within a designated camping area, I have seen trees which have had: half dowels, spacers, or metal shielding applied directly to the tree bark. (Is there anyone here who knows if these precautions are necessary and/or beneficial to the tree?)

    How to affix top of fly to tree. (Given that so many campgrounds prohibit the tying of lines to trees ---say for clothes lines or to use to hang lanterns to trees, I suspect that we ought to specify that all top fly lines be attached to the hammock straps/tree huggers).

    How to affix rest of fly. Use stakes driven in ground or attach to rocks. (Given that so many campgrounds prohibit the tying of lines to trees, there is no sense suggesting that any lines get hooked to any trees.)

    Lastly, I think that we ought to highlight the facts that:

    Hammock campers are a rapidly growing segment of the outdoor adventurers’ population.
    Hammock camping is attractive to both young and old campers; many of whom have not or will not use other sorts of camping equipment.
    Hammock campers require the least sort of environmental “improvements” in order to actually camp, thereby maximizing scarce park resources.

    (Is there anyone here who could identify federal, state, or local campgrounds where hammock camping is allowed in regular campground…and where, despite intense/repeated usage, hammocks have caused no and/or limited damage to the trees used as hammock support posts?)

    If there is anything I have left out, or you feel should be included, please make your thoughts or comments known.
    Last edited by WalksInDark; 12-16-2011 at 16:23. Reason: typo

  2. #2
    Senior Member Jcavenagh's Avatar
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    Well, you might start with the Ultimate Hang by Derek Hanson. That is likely to be a good starting point and will likely lead to other resources.

  3. #3
    DivaB's Avatar
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    What a great opportunity to help Park Rangers understand. Your doing us proud

  4. #4
    Senior Member WalksInDark's Avatar
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    Nobody else has any useful info?

  5. #5
    all secure in sector 7 Shug's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by WalksInDark View Post
    Nobody else has any useful info?
    Well.....I go on backpacking trails where Rangers don't roam. But I apply all the LNT Principles and am pretty covert.
    Shug
    Whooooo Buddy)))) All Good in the Backwood Hood.

    Shug's YouTube Videos

  6. #6
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    With the exception of Florida state parks (national forests are okay with it) I think most public parks allow it if your responsible and answer questions in a sensible and polite manner.

    Derek's site has a calculator for the force a hammock will put on the tree for the weight of the hanger and such. As far as damaging the bark that depends very heavily on the type of tree, soft skinned trees will take alot less.

    Minimum size of the tree will also very heavily based on the hardness of the wood itself, some are very flexible and will just bend putting you on the ground while a smaller tree of a different type is suitable.

    As for multiple hammocks at once I suspect it would have minimal impact. I know some couples use a tarp that is made to cover two hammocks using three trees with one being shared (Smokehouse's honeymoon/sister suite)

    On the not in RV/pull-through campsites, at least in TX alot of parks close down to where its just the RV and tent camping both sites left. You are better off just using the sites that can't have tents can't have hammocks. The no suitable trees problem will fix itself (hanger going back to the office to switch sites). Only other way to do that would be for the rangers and a hanger to go through together and identify sites that "aren't hangable" and even that is questionable as different setups make different things hangable that aren't to others.

    Minimum strap size would also depend on the tree, some of the hard wood trees you can safely use just amsteel for short durations as long as you set it so that it won't shift or move as you load/unload it (I don't personally but it is doable).

    As far as attaching a tarp to the tree straps, doing so directly can be done but unless its a setup made for it the tarp is extremely high. Which would either force a much larger tarp or make protection from wind/rain significantly less. Using a single attachment point requires the tarp to be attached part way down the lines (see hennessey, I think clark, and some diy setups including mine for different methods).

    Edit(s): added more as I couldn't remember your whole list of questions.
    Last edited by tbctx; 12-18-2011 at 10:54.

  7. #7
    tncamper's Avatar
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    I have to go to a "sister" operation tomorrow and there is a state park I frequent there. If I get a chance at lunch, I'll run over and see if they have any resources for you. I'm not even sure TN has any restrictions on Hammocks since I am extremely new at this and haven't done anything outside of my yard yet.

    Also, I manage a printshop and if your looking at putting something in print let me know. I'll be happy to hook you up with some brochures if you need it.

  8. #8
    DivaB's Avatar
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    I feel you've done a great job with your outline. I just think the stress of showing how proper hammock hanging does not destroy the trees and such is key with most Park Rangers just not understanding. Oh yea, and that it is a shelter. Some don't consider it a "tent" or proper shelter, so they don't allow it in their parks. We are protected, we are just as safe as a tent camper...if not safer (we won't wash away) and it is a proper "shelter" to camp in.

  9. #9
    Senior Member WalksInDark's Avatar
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    Morning Shug:

    I too spend most of my time hanging "out in the wild." The problem I have been running into is there are a number of more social backpacking and hiking clubs I belong to who choose to make their base camps "car camp-able" (I think I just made up a new word, COOL!) and therefore stay in federal, state, and local campgrounds.

    Having moved from the rural mountainous S.W. VA area into the much-more-rule-intensive Washington D.C. metro area, on the last two trips I wanted to attend, park rules and/or park rangers specifically banned hammock camping.

    It has been my experience (small catamaran sailing, snow boarding, other up and coming outdoor activities) that whenever a new outdoor activity in undertaken the public powers-that-be frequently take the approach that the “status quo” ---in our case that would mean camping in a tent--- is good enough and either refuse to accommodate the new activity or outright ban the new activity. In order to justify (whenever it might become required) the powers-that-be inaction and/or prohibition of the new activity several techniques are most frequently employed: “Out of sight, out of mind,” AKA nobody ever asked me for (fill in the blank); “when this was tried (fill in the blank location), someone got sued and/or injured;” “I need to send this request to headquarters for approval;” “any fool can see…..” You know the kind of bureaucratic excuses I am talking about!

    What all of the above defenses have in common is the theme that either the lack of readily available information or the requirement for personal initiative on the part of the powers-that-be might constitute appropriate grounds for denying permission for something/almost anything new to be done.

    My thought process is as follows: [B]we should go out of our way to educate public and private officials as to why they ought to encourage or at least allow hammock camping in camping areas where it is feasible[/B]. The alternate, as I see it, is for hammock camping areas to take as long to get approved as it took snowboarders to get allowed on (formerly restricted) ski slopes…+20 years in some cases.

    [B]As experienced hammock hangers[/B], do we want to take the initiative and be PROACTIVE about getting hammock camping designated as an approved activity, or do we just want to *itch and moan when we get told "NO", by folks-in-authority who just don't know any better....or, even worse be shut down by folks-in-authority who just seem to enjoy saying "No"?

  10. #10
    Senior Member WalksInDark's Avatar
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    Morning TBCTX & TNCAMPER:

    TBCTX: Thanks! You provided just the sort of info I was looking for. I will check out Derek's site.

    TNCAMPER, once I can pull together some rules/guidance we can all live with, I will get back to you RE any printing needs. Thanks In Advance For Your Kind Offer.

    NOW WE ARE GETTING SOMEWHERE!

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