Last weekend my wife and I hiked the Standing Indian loop in NC—i.e., Standing Indian Campground to Deep Gap via Kimsey Creek Trail, to Rock Gap, back to Standing Indian CG on the FS road. Two days plus two fractions, and three nights hanging. This was a great hike in a stunningly beautiful section of the AT, and was also our first experience (except for tests close to home) with our hammocking gear. Two of our nights had thundershowers with heavy blowing rain, so it was a good test. Sorry, no pix with this report, we didn’t pack the camera.
Our gear included:
Two HH Explorer UL’s with ZQ’s Mod 2 and descending rings
OES 12x10 tarp in SpinnUL for double-hanging
Me: 2/3 UQ by mikeinfhaz + CCF sit pad and JRB No-Sniv overquilt
Wife: JRB Nest UQ and Marmot sleeping bag
We drove to Standing Indian CG Thursday afternoon, and hiked up Kimsey Creek Trail, stopping just before dark to stealth camp short of Deep Gap. Kimsey Creek was running high. In general creeks are full in this area and there was no shortage of water anywhere along our route. We set up a double-hang, set the tarp with sides high for ventilation/view, and turned in for the night. We hung the head ends too close together (about 20”), and it was full dark by the time we realized it was too close, so we left it that way and were elbowing each other during the night, but otherwise slept well.
We stopped at Carter Gap Shelter mid-afternoon Friday and set up camp. This time, we found head trees that were about 5 feet apart, so I used a spare piece of Aircore Plus to pull the heads in to about 30 inches apart. That evening, heavy thundershowers started about dark, and after the wind shifted, spatter was wetting the bottom of my hammock and UQ. I pulled the underquilt up on top of the hammock, and we got up, put on our rain gear, and adjusted the tarp to extend it about a foot further on my (now windward) side of our hang. This solved the problem, and we slept great the rest of the night in heavy rain, waking up with dry underquilts and hammocks. We had fog, occasional light rainshowers, and dripping from the trees in the morning, but it was a snap to take down and stow all our gear, dry, under the tarp, then put the wet tarp in the outside web pocket of my pack.
We camped the next night at a beautiful, large hilltop campsite between Glassmine Gap and Rock Gap (might have been Runaway Knob, but not sure, there are other possible locations on the map in that area), with a fine view of the mountains to the East and nobody else around. We set up the hammocks and were taking a break before dinner, when we heard what sounded like a Boy Scout troop coming up the trail. It was a Boy Scout troop, and they marched in and set up camp with us. Watching them was a great evening’s entertainment until about an hour before dark, when thunderstorms heavier than Friday night’s blew in and everyone turned in.
Our Saturday hang had a different orientation: This time, when the wind came up, the heads of our hammocks were pointed directly into the wind. I decided to leave them that way. The tarp was tied low at the head, resting against the hammock ropes, and had the corners pulled in at the head to partially close the opening, but not enough to keep out all of the blown rain, so we put pack covers on our packs, hung them from carabiners at the head ends of our hammocks, and clipped the belts around the ridgelines. This helped shield the hammock ends from the rain. The pack covers were beaded with rain, but the hammocks and underquilts stayed dry.
We may have been lucky this turned out well. I assume that the best way to set up would be side to the wind, with the tarp on the windward side pulled in tight and low to the ground. By the time the scouts were set up all around us, however, we didn’t have as many choices for changing our slightly complex double-hang quickly.
When the rain stopped, raccoons came into the campsite and scratched around for food. They stayed away from our hammocks—probably thought the scouts were better prospects. We also listened to barred owls calling.
We hiked back to the car Sunday morning feeling good about the trip. I was happy with our equipment. My underquilt/overquilt combination was toasty warm and comfortable (temps near 40 degrees Sat. night) for very little weight in the pack, and I slept better with the CCF sit pad under my legs than I would have without it. I would have been frustrated trying to adjust the UQ many times if I had not had the ZQ zipper mods installed—they are great! We couldn’t have a better tarp than the one Brian built for us, especially for the weight.
We will keep working on how to set up correctly. We need to use a blackbishop bag to save time. We also need to learn how to set up the tarp quickly. This seems harder with a double-hang, because I use two separate ridgeline ties on the wider head end (Brian installed extra tieouts for this) and one on the foot end, so it takes some work to get the tension right with the complex shape that this creates. The tarp is cat-cut as well. I seem to spend a lot of time walking around the tarp changing the tension on the lines to remove sags in the top and slack in the sides. I’m sure I will get better at this in time, but if anyone has any ideas how to do this quickly, send ‘em my way.
I can pack less gear next trip than I took this time. I have the descending rings clove-hitched into the standard Hennessy ropes, and we used the standard Hennessy tree straps. I am content with that setup. I packed extra-long straps from Strapworks in case we had trouble finding trees the right distance apart, but that was never a problem, so I will not take those next time. I also packed a small bag with extra lengths of Aircore Plus and of braided mason line in case I needed to rig something differently than planned. I used a line from this bag once. It’s light, so I probably will bring it again.
We wouldn’t have figured any of this out without the help of this forum, so thanks a lot to all of you. Have fun hiking and hammocking.