Here is my first trip report which is also a gear report of my hammock, tarp, top quilt and under quilt (see diy section). Here is a scorecard for the gear:
hammock and bishops bag = pass
tarp and snake skins = pass
tarp setting up skills = fail
top quilt = pass
under quilt = fail
fuel stove = pass
cosy packs for cook kit = pass
beer can cup = pass
pillow = pass
Falkniven F1 = pass
Wetterlings axe = pass
Rio Grande backpack = borderline fail
packitgourmet.com Texas State Fair Chili = pass!
imusa 12cm pot = pass
thermarest seat pad = pass
Princeton Tec EOSR Headlamp with Cree XML led mod = pass
Minus33 Merino Wool base layer (midweight) = pass
Canon S100 = fail!
So Saturday morning my fiancee and I headed to the reserve where she was supposed to drop me off at the entrance and leave me pretty much for the next 24hrs there. However, since the weather was so nice, she decided to join me for an hour of my hike and we started together. Since this was a new place for both of us, I was carrying 25lbs on my back and I was about to have a questionable night, I decided to basically follow trails for the entire hike and not be a hero walking through the bush.
The park was beautiful. Fall colors had started and there were plenty of fallen leaves on the ground. It was also sunny and cool.
I’ve never been a mushroom person, but If someone can tell me what this is, I’ll try to remember it for next time:
As you will see later on the google earth screenshot, the beginning of the hike was fairly flat. Later I realized it was also a popular part of the park, because the trails were so wide, two cars can probably pass there. They were also really well maintained.
Fortunately for me there were so many trails in the area that it was easy to come up with fancy routes. Of course I still needed a map.
I saw plenty of weird growing things, but here is one that I noticed from really far away. This white mushroom was so ‘off-place’ on the tree that from far away it looked like someone went there and just put a big piece of styrofoam. ID?
My first nice view was about 35mins into the hike. It was the Cross River Reservoir, and it looked great with all the fall colors.
Of course it was a great spot to get some sunlight
Next I was headed to check out a cave. I figured I must be close when I started seing huge boulders like this:
Sure enough, it wasn’t too far. Nothing really special. Just a nice 20 or so feet deep shelter
I continued going south, finding even more unknown to me mushrooms like this one:
About an hour and a half later, I made it to another nice vista place, and this is where the first gear FAIL happened. I managed to take this horrible photo with my canon S100 when it decided to give me a Lens Error message (apparently Canon owned up and is replacing these for free because they had a bad batch).
Unfortunately the rest of the hike was without photos until I made it to the camp ground. However, here is a good place to share what the trek looked like and the highlighted area on it, which was about 30 minutes after my camera died. Take a look at the elevation. This section caught me by surprise. I had been walking for 3 hours with the huge pack on my back going up and down the hill, and I needed a rest, but I figured I’d get to the camp site because I had some friends waiting for me (to put the ribs on the fire, but that’s another report ).
At one point, in that last section of the climb, it was literally a 4 limb climb. I guess the note ‘Highes point in the park’ on the map should have triggered some thought process in my head…
Anyway, I made it to camp pretty tired and hungry. I didn’t stop for lunch anywhere and, of course, I forgot my salami and cheese bag in the fridge in the morning. So when I arrived at the camp, I setup my diy soda can stove with some HEET fuel and boiled myself some water. This is where I should give big thanks to the guys at http://www.packitgourmet.com/ for sending me my dehydrated food asap so that I had it on Friday. I put a pack of their texas state fair chili in the Imusa cup and put it all inside my DIY reflectix cosy (pretty straight forward stuff, plenty of guides on youtube on that). 5 mins later I had a really tasty, late lunch.
Next, I setup camp. I borrowed a camera to take a few quick photos of my setup, but didn’t take as many as I wanted (damn canon!). Here is what the final setup looked like. I only used the side pullout at my head end so it looks a little goofy from this angle:
One side of the tarp was left open during the day:
For hammock suspension I use whoopie slings with tree straps, using a marlin spike hitch
For the tarp suspension, I used a continuous ridge line on which there were two short pieces of rope on Prusik knots which then hooked to the d-rings on the ends. This allowed me to move the tarp easily on the ridge line.
So we had some fun (and brats and ribs). Everyone was waiting for my axe to show up to start chopping dead wood . When we ran out of firewood we headed to bed.
Initially I jumped inside my top quilt in just a top polyester shirt and socks (no long underwear). Since my underquilt is 3/4 lenght, I used a piece of reflectix under my heels, as well as a half-inflated thermarest sitting pad for insulation. It was all fine, until the wind kicked in. That’s when all kinds of things started to go wrong. My tarp wasn’t tied as taut as I thought so one side of it (the one I had left open during the day) basically became like a flapping wing. The bottom tie outs were no longer holding that side in place, because the entire tarp had shifted from the strong wind and was basically touching the ground where the stakes were. I didn’t really care much for it because the wind was coming from the other direction so I didn’t get out of my worm top quilt to adjust it.
The slightly noisy tarp didn’t bother me as much, but my underquilt started to give in at some point and I started having cold spots on my but and back. This is where I put my minus33 wool baselayer pants and decided to give that a go. It almost worked, but for some reason my back kept getting colder and colder. I put the thermarest seat pad under my but and put on another layer on top of my polyester shirt. That helped a bit, but then it started raining, and I woke up again a little chilled. At that point I just grabbed my extra pants, hoodie and hat and put them all on. I tried for a bit to remove the pad under me and see of the underquilt would be enough, but it wasn’t. I spent a few moments tried to adjust it, thinking there is some wind entering under my hammock but above the quilt, but that still didn’t work, so in the end I just took out my second thermarest seating pad ( I was kind of expecting something like this might happen so I made sure I had a backup insulation under me) and put it under my back. At that point I slept like a baby.
One thing that kept me from having a really good sleep, though, was the constant breeze on my face. I’m definitely not used to that, because my tent is pretty good and keeping the wind out.
This was the view from my hammock when I woke up and remembered that I have a camera on my phone!:
And this is the view of someone who just spent his first night on a hammock with bad under insulation and 11-12 m/s gusty wind and rain:
At least in the morning I realized that my tarp had kept me, my backpack and my axe dry. My top quilt worked like a charm too, though at some point I tried sleeping on my side like a baby, and I realized I didn’t have enough width to tuck myself on both sides to try and make up for the cold insultex underquilt.
As I was taking down my stuff, I noticed that the waist strap on my rio backpack had broken somehow. It was still holding, but the buckle had snapped and it was ready to give up. The back also lacks pockets, which I usually use a lot to organize my stuff a little better. I might consider investing in a better pack, or maybe modding this one by adding some more side pockets and maybe a mesh pocket on the back.
All in all, It was a nice trip. Today, the morning was a bit gloomy and windy, but by 11 the sun came out so we did another mile and a half hike before we left the park and made our way home.
So there you have it. That’s my first hammock night. I guess, as with everything it takes a few tries to get used to a new ‘bed’, so that’s probably what needs to happen with my hammock as well.
I think I might spend some more $ for another pillow from ebay and make myself a real underquilt with down, or get a nice Exped/Thermarest insulated pad for under me and call it done.