Staying Dry: Rain, Suspension Lines, and a Simple Solution.
The last time I wet the bed was probably fifty years ago, although creeping old age, a prostate the size of a goat’s head, and the specter of adult incontinence don’t exactly bode well for the future. Nonetheless, I must say that I’ve quite enjoyed the intervening half-century of a dry night’s sleep, thank you very much.
Staying dry in a hammock poses its own set of challenges, particularly from water running down the suspension lines. Lots of clever folks have concocted various schemes to combat this: Drip Rings, Drip Wicks, knots, exotic synthetic ropes, voodoo, tampons, anti-gravity spray, righteous living, divine intervention, etc. One of the reasons I started reading the Hammock Forums was to discover out what smarter people than me had learned.
I’ve tried all sorts of stuff, with varying degrees of success. One of the things I like about camping with a hammock is the simplicity, and ironically I probably over-thought the solutions (a situation many of you may be able to identify with). So, taking a step back, I tried looking for something really easy, and really simple. And when I found it, it was so obvious I had to give myself a dope slap upside the head.
So what is this magical device? The simple “S” hook.
Proletarian, distinctly non-cool and un-hip steel “S” hook is like the AK47: ugly, simple, and something that just plain works. Rigged as shown above, the open gap allows water to run off the hook’s tip rather than run down to the hammock itself. No wicks, no special knots, no trick materials. They’re easy to integrate into a variety of pre-existing rigging schemes. You can toss a pair in the bottom of your stuff sack and forget about them until you face a rainy night, or you can make them a permanent part of your hanging technique. If you find yourself on the road and discover you’ve lost or forgotten yours, you can scarf up a pair at any roadside hardware store. If your buddy is camping with you and is going to get soaked, it won’t cost you much to be a hero. Best of all (at least for someone like me), they’re cheap: the hooks shown here, even though they’re the deluxe stainless steel versions, were just a buck eighty-nine at the local Home Despot. You can beat the price down even more if you opt for galvanized or zinc-coated. If you’re truly heartless, you’ll steal a set from some unfortunate child’s playground swingset and burn for eternity. My advice? Pop for the stainless—your immortal soul is worth it.
And of course, there’s nothing stopping you from using them along with wicks, rings, prayer, and so on, but for me the hook alone does it.
To illustrate how they stop the water, here’s another series of photos: In them I’ve rigged a suspension line at about 30 degrees and hooked up a garden hose to the upstream line. This let me provide a pretty serious soaking, much worse than a typical rainstorm. For the lines, I used the woven straps that come with the Claytor Jungle hammock. I really like Tom Claytor’s hammocks, but those straps are about the worst case scenario for wicking and transporting water, so if the hooks work with these, they’ll work with just about anything.
“Downstream” from the hook you can see a couple of sheets of toilet paper safety-pinned to the line. These were to keep me really honest; if the line here had even the least moisture, that paper would reveal it instantly. I turned on the water and after watching the whole deal for a couple of minutes (short attention span) I left the water running and went inside for a beer. Half an hour later the paper was still dry and the water was still pouring off the hook. Naturally I rewarded myself with another beer. In the photos you can see how wet the “upstream” line is and how dry the “downstream” line is.
It’s easy to integrate the hook into your suspension system. All you have to do is remember two things: First, orient the hook as shown so the water runs off the hook’s tip. Second, the hook needs to be protected by your tarp, “downstream” (closer to your hammock) from the last place the suspension line is directly exposed to water.
Some hammocks (Trek Light, Travel Hammocks) come with these S hooks as original equipment. At first I thought the manufacturers were just cheaping out; now I realize they’re probably a lot smarter than me (which ain’t sayin’ much, but I’m happy someone is).
Because I just can’t leave well-enough alone, I did modify the hooks a bit when I permanently installed them on my hammocks by bashing one end more closed so they resist slipping off unintentionally.
If you’re anal enough to go to the trouble of closing off one end of the hook, it pays to use a big hammer (like a four- to six-pound sledge) and hit the hook hard once or twice rather than using a lighter hammer and hitting it a gazillion times. And you WILL be giving it a good whack—these suckers are tough. Make sure you use a pliers to hold the hook. The longest pliers you have. Because if that hammer misses or glances off, you’re gonna be using some words that I can’t post on this forum, but which have a lot of harsh, short “K” sounds in them. If you have a hydraulic press life may be a lot less dramatic.
Some Specifics: The hooks I used happen to be Lehigh (brand), model number 7153. There’s nothing magic about them, but they are readily available. The package says they’re 0.360-inch diameter, but that ain’t even close: my dial caliper mikes them out at 0.258-inch (just call me Anal Man). Still, that’s thicker than what Trek Light uses (0.236-inch) so even those Forum members in the Clydesdale class should be plenty safe hanging from them.
Hope that’s of interest, and that it hasn’t repeated what some else has already shared better.
Here’s to hanging dry!