Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Hammocks and the Italian hitch

Hammocks are the marmite of the camping world; but love them or hate them they are my preferred sleeping option on a solo night.

Being up off the ground helps you stay dry in the event of rain and even though I normally sleep on my front I have found I can still find a comfortable position to spend the night.

My first night was not the most comfortable, but over the past few months I've perfected my set up (learning to sleep at a diagonal helped a lot) and have found hammocks to be comfortable and snug way to spend a night in the wild. My only observation is that during the winter months they are not as warm as a bivi bag.

I was fortunate enough to have the chance to borrow a DD travel hammock before I bought mine and ended up buying the same one for my own use.

There were two main reasons for this 1) Price – The DD is currently £49 which I think is very reasonable 2) versatility – the water proof base means you can use it as a bivi if needed (at the wilderness gathering last year not everyone could get a spot in the trees so we saw people using them on the ground).

Together with a DD 3x3 tarp it’s both dry and warm and the mosquito net makes for a pleasant enclosed environment if you need it.

I’ve added a few extras to make pitching easier, a hammock sleeve and some tree huggers. The sleeve makes setting up and packing up much simpler as you just pull the sleeve over the hammock and its neatly contained.
Tree huggers with karabiners and the Italian Hitch make pitching a breeze.

Getting your hammock adjusted is one of the keys to a decent nights sleep and after trying several methods I settled on one that works well for me. The last thing you want is to get all nice and cosy then realise you’re not pitched right and then end up trying to undo knots in the cold and dark; so simple adjustment is key.

I've tried a few methods of pitching the hammock, using just the supplied lines worked ok, but there was limited adjustment and meant retying the whole setup if it wasn’t level. Whoopee slings worked OK but were too hard to adjust with gloves on and needed too many karabiners which added weight. I experimented with various prusik knots but found they slipped and you ended up on the ground during the night. Friends have used hammock rings with success but again that’s more weight to carry and quite expensive at £14 for four and I wanted a simple system I could adjust easily and wouldn't slip.

I fell back on my climbing background and decided to try a knot called the Italian hitch. It’s a belaying knot so adjustment wasn't an issues, but slippage might have been. Here’s a little pic of how to do the knot:

Just add a simple overhand knot at the end to stop it slipping and you’re good to go.

Here’s my setup:

Tree hugger around the tree at a level height, karabiners on the end. Use the supplied hammock lines to make an Italian hitch (lines doubled up) and adjust to the desired height. Add an overhand knot to stop it moving and that’s it.

Since starting out on the hammock journey, I've added two scout hammocks for the kids to use and a camping hammock for the wife, and so far no slippage on the knot. Even with the kids swinging around in them they have stayed put. 

After a bit of practice getting setup takes a few minutes and that normally keeps the kids entertained for long enough to get the fire going and the kettle on.

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