DoNorth

Hangin’ Under the Stars

Hammock camping on the Adirondack Coast.

(DoNorth/Erin Gaare)

Tie a nylon cocoon between two trunks, bust out of the tent, climb into a hammock and sleep beneath a canopy of stars.

Hammock camping is gaining popularity in the North American backpacking and camping community. This minimalistic form of camping offers travelers a chance to gaze at the night sky without a tent canopy blocking the view.

Anyone with a desire to unwind in the open can take up hammocking. Still, there are several factors to consider before venturing into the wilderness.

Why Hammock Camp?

Hammocking offers certain advantages that conventional tents may not. Lightweight hammocks give campers more space to pack additional equipment and food. Ranging in weight from a few ounces to a couple of pounds, some hammocks can be condensed to the size of a water bottle.

Hanging above the ground prevents rocks and roots from poking into the camper’s back. A hammock can overcome any rocky, uneven or sloped terrain that may render a tent impractical or lead to an unsettled sleep.

Setting up a hammock isn’t tremendously difficult. It can be as easy—if not easier—than setting up a tent. The most challenging and lengthy part of the process is finding the perfect hanging distance. The ideal space between trees is 10 to 15 feet apart. If the trees are too far away, tension is created and the nylon material tightens. A tight hammock causes each side to narrow and limit a camper’s movement inside, which can feel cramped and uncomfortable for some. Since most hammocks are designed to wrap around trees, campers don’t need to be knotmasters to stay properly secured throughout the night.

Gear:

Choosing the ideal hammock depends on the buyer’s comfort level, budget and camping environment.

For backpackers on a budget, The Skeeter Beeter Pro, known for its sleek design and mosquito-proof netting, ranges from $70 to $100 on Amazon or Outland USA. Its two-way zipper allows campers to smoothly enter the hammock. This model also features a starter rope kit for first-time hammockers and multiple tie outs, which keeps the hammock stable, provides enough tension to prevent the material from sagging and creates additional space inside.

In case of rain, a tarp can be purchased separately. The Skeeter Beeter Pro weighs only 1.5 pounds and supports up to 400 pounds.

For long-distance hikers and multi-day adventurers, CleverHiker, an online store that provides expert advice on backpacking methods and useful traveling gear, recommends the Hennessy Hammock Hyperlite. The easy-to-carry hammock comes with a rain tarp, mesh bug net and a convenient interior pocket. Weighing just under 2 pounds, the Hyperlite holds up to 200 pounds. Its asymmetrical shape improves comfort and allows campers to lie flatter on their backs, reducing strain on the neck and back. This model also comes with several insulation pads for chilly summer nights and frigid winters in any environment. The hammock is sold between $200 and $300.

Jacks ‘R’ Better’s Bear Mountain Bridge achieves a truly flat lay while accommodating individuals up to 6 feet 3 inches tall and 250 pounds. Complete with an optional bug net and two gear pockets on each side, the hammock weighs 26 ounces and can be purchased online for just under $200.

In the dead of summer, temperatures on the Adirondack Coast can plummet to 30 degrees Fahrenheit at night. An inflatable or foam sleeping pad makes for a warm and comfortable rest and costs as little as $20. Some campers opt for hammocks with a double layer specifically for inserting a sleeping pad. Others turn to underquilts, which are designed to block cold air rising from the ground, as a replacement for a sleeping pad.

Where to go on the Adirondack Coast:

Ausable Point Campground and Day Use Area

Ausable Point offers 123 tent and trailer sites, a sand beach and boat launch. The campground opens for the season on May 19 and closes October 9. Ausable Point is an ideal spot for boating, fishing, swimming and windsurfing.

Ausable Point Campground and Day Use Area

3346 Lakeshore Drive

Peru, NY 12972

518-561-7080

 

Valcour Island

Valcour Island is the largest of six islands on the Lake Champlain Island Complex, which spans 1,162 acres across the Adirondack Forest Preserve. Twenty-nine primitive tent sites sit along the shoreline of the 2-mile-long island. The Department of Environmental Conservation requires island visitors to obtain a free permit from the island caretaker. Sites fill up on a first-come, first-serve basis and are marked with a yellow “Camp Here” sign. The island has one usable dock located at Seton House on its southwestern shore. Bluff Point Lighthouse is located on the western shore. Known for its historical past, Valcour Bay was the site of a Revolutionary War naval battle: the Battle of Valcour Island. The island features multiple hiking trails, picnic areas and beaches for avid campers to explore.

Valcour Island (1 mile water crossing east of Peru boat launch)

3930 U.S. 9

Plattsburgh, NY 12901

518-897-1200

 

Chazy Highlands

For a primitive experience in the Lake Champlain region, consider hammock camping in the Chazy Highlands. Campers must set up at least 150 feet from trails, roads or water to abide by Department of Environmental Conservation laws. Only backcountry camping is permitted and there are no sites designated in the more than 5,000 acres of wilderness. Camping for more than three nights, or in a group of ten or more, requires special permission. An ideal spot for hikers, Lyon Mountain, a slightly challenging, 7-mile hike to a scenic firetower, is about 30 minutes from Plattsburgh.

Chazy Island State Forest

Lyon Mountain, NY 12952

518-897-1200

 

Safety & Concerns

Making the choice to sleep suspended over the ground and strapped between two trees force campers to give up some typical nightly comforts such as air mattresses or electricity.

Weather can make or break any camping trip. When there’s rain in the forecast, a tarp or built-in cover should be strung over the hammock to avoid waking up in a waterbed.

Campers must deal with bugs and animals of various sizes, from hovering mosquitoes to the pesky gray squirrel. In the Champlain Valley, black bears are fairly uncommon, but the risk is still there. Proper safety measures can minimize the risk of unwanted contact in bear country. All food should be stored in bear-safe containers, sturdy vehicles or hung 10 to 15 feet up in a tree and four feet away from vertical support. Bear spray and a whistle should also be carried.

Hammock camping is an opportunity to experience the Adirondacks in unparalleled ways. It’s more affordable, comfortable and an engaging way to experience nature. Whatever the reason, the chance to sleep beneath the stars in one of America’s most scenic wilderness parks is a rewarding and enjoyable experience.

Issue 11: Summer/Fall 2018

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