Last year the Discovery Channel opened up their annual Shark Week with “Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives” a two-hour “docufiction” about a giant prehistoric shark that was found living in the waters off of South Africa. Like many of the 4.8 million viewers, I was duped into thinking the show was real. After all, the Discovery Channel hosts Shark Week, not Syfy.
When my son takes interest in a topic he holds on tight until he squeezes every last bit of knowledge out of it. In his younger years he was all about trains then fire trucks then outer space. Of late he’s been fascinated by ships above and beneath the water.
The catalyst for his latest favorite topic was Disney’s 2001 film, Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Thanks to the wizardry of Netflix bebeJosito has seen the move a bazillion times. Yes, yes. There’s that whole “Kids shouldn’t watch so much TV” thing.
But bebeJosito doesn’t just watch the movie. He studies it. He learns everything he can about the characters, the ships, and the storyline. Often at times he would lean over and pause the movie to ask about submarines, the Leviathan, ships, and Atlantis. These questions would lead to discussions and mini-research projects that would last an afternoon or an entire week.
So when it came to choosing a theme and gifts for his birthday party it was an easy decision. He wanted everything and anything that had to do with Atlantis: The Lost Empire.
I’ve been tent backpacking for several years and it wasn’t until a recent trip to Tsali Rec Area that I began to consider the alternatives. A list which includes: on the ground, on the ground with a tarp, or above ground in a hammock.
I’ve slept on the ground in a sleeping bag. It was fine, but the conditions were ideal (i.e. moderate temps, no bugs, and we were on a bald with little wind). However, I had not crossed off tarp or hammock from my backpacking bucket list.
At Tsali, I noticed a lot of people choosing hammocks over tents. Curious, I asked one camper to let me give their hammock a try. It seemed comfortable enough that I thought I could use a hammock on a future backpacking trip. To the Googles!
Turns out, hammocks aren’t all that expensive. Prices ranged from $40 on up to $200 depending on material. I also found that most backpackers recommended using a bug net, rain fly, and sleeping pad along with a bag, quilt, blanket, or bivy. So let me back up. The hammock is between $40 and $200 while the accessories to keep bugs out, rain off, and heat in will collectively run you an additional $400-$600.
I also took a close look at the weight difference between a tent and a hammock. My REI Quarter Dome T1 tent with footprint, poles, stakes, and rainfly weighs 3 pounds 10 ounces. The ENO DoubleNest Hammock (19 oz), bug net (16 oz), rain fly (22 oz), straps (11 oz), and stakes (2.8 oz) weigh in at 4 pounds 4 ounces. Six ounces isn’t a lot, and in the winter months I’d be 16 ounces lighter since I wouldn’t need a bug net. Plus, factoring in how a hammock packs compared to how a tent packs, I was sold on giving the hammock a chance.
With my REI 20% coupon in hand, I purchased an ENO DoubleNest and the above accessories. I then gave it a whirl at a family car camping trip. Set up was a breeze and sleeping was, in my opinion, better than in a tent. I took the hammock with me on a couple day trips with my son and he loved it as much as I did. The real test, however, would come in an upcoming backpacking trip to Panthertown Valley in the southern Appalachian Mountains.