Hammock Test in Big Basin

My friends Kat and Hai-Yue are the cutest. They have been wanting to go camping for a while, and after several weeks of conflicting schedules, we finally made it! Unfortunately, it had to be a short trip, but still totally fun!

I was originally planning on cycling to the campsite, but lack of time made that impractical. Instead, my focus was to just have a good time and to try out the camping hammock that Ed and Lauren had given me for my birthday.

Lauren told me that she had gotten in contact with this guy who helped start the non-profit Bike the US for MS. She asked him what was one piece of equipment that he found invaluable, and he told her his hammock. So she and Ed got me a hammock! The idea is that with this hammock, I could leave the tent at home.

Well, I’m a bit a skeptical. I’ve dealt with hammocks a lot in the past. And I have to say that falling out of hammocks is a thing.

You may see relaxation here. I see ropes cutting into flesh and getting all waffley.

You may see relaxation here. I see ropes cutting into flesh and getting all waffley.

True, not all hammocks flip you out. And they don’t all have to be made out of rope that cuts into your skin, leaving those horrible waffle prints. When I was traveling around Baja in 2002 with my friends and a backpack full of CDs, a sarong, and an extra pair of shorts – hey, I wasn’t anticipating ending up in Baja for a couple weeks, I thought I was going on a weekend road trip to San Diego – we experienced many a delightful hammock not made out of rope, but rather a fine knit weave. They were so great, I purchased my own, which was extremely fortunate because we ended up at an eco-resort called EcoMundo in Mulegé. There we each got a sort of straw hut / igloo shelter on the beach where you can hang a hammock. I removed the inferior hammock supplied there and hung up my own. It was a perfect way to sleep, though I had to keep chasing my friends out of it each time I wanted to lie down. Then I got smart and started using time in my hammock as currency when we negotiated food rations. We didn’t plan this trip thoroughly and ended up kind of hungry for a lot of it. EcoMundo has a little restaurant, but the owner and sole employee at the time left for a week once our cab dropped us off and we checked in. And there’s not really anything else around for miles. You’ve never seen such a serious game of Spoons as when we played to win a slice of bread. When I got home my sister hung it up in her backyard. I’m not sure where it is now.

Ecomundo. This is not my picture, I found it on some other person's travel blog. Click to visit! I don't think there are hammocks in this hut, but this is where we hung ours up.

EcoMundo. This is not my picture, I found it on some other person’s travel blog. Click to visit! I don’t think there are hammocks in this hut, but this is where we hung ours up.

So it’s not that I don’t think that hammocks are comfortable. The right hammock is a dream to sleep in. But what about weather conditions? What about finding a place to hang it up? What about having a private place to hang out when you want to shut out the world and maybe change your undies? I’ve been on camping trips before where the person with a hammock was extremely smug about not having to deal with setting up and breaking down a tent, but if it was raining, he would have been begging for some tent space. Could a hammock really entirely replace a tent? I’d love to be convinced that it could. It’d be so much less to carry!

So I’ve been reading up on people’s opinions of camping hammocks. This one guy makes  a pretty compelling case to ditch the tent in favor of a hammock. By just carrying a tarp and a couple stakes, I could protect my hammock from the rain, and if need be, a guy at REI and I think that if I can’t find a place to hang my hammock, I could make a really crummy tent. But in the meantime, it needs to be broken in, so I took it with me to Big Basin with Kat and Hai-Yue.

I found it hilarious that my goal was to camp as simply as possible to replicate the conditions that I will find myself when I’m on my bike. Kat and Hai-Yue, apparently, treat their camping adventures like Burning Man. They brought the huge canvas tent that you can stand up and walk around in, a cooler full of beer and Bloody Mary fixings, enough marinated chicken to feed an army, folding chairs, and just about everything else you can imagine for glamping. I have to give them credit that they managed to carve out a section in their car so that I could at least have a seat.

Kat keeping a close eye on the fire. Note the giant tent used for Burning Man in the background.

Kat keeping a close eye on the fire and camper’s stew. Note the giant tent used for Burning Man in the background.

Once we arrived at the campsite we got to work making it seem like we never left home. I helped set up the tent with Kat, hung up my hammock, and then found myself with nothing much to do but drink a Bloody Mary while watching Hai-Yue cook chicken and Kat make camper’s stew. I’m glad I went with them, because if it was up to me, dinner would have consisted of peanuts and bourbon. Instead, we stuffed ourselves silly, then kicked back with the bourbon while roasting marshmallows and assembling s’mores.

Hai-Yue was thoroughly content. Pi day was on its way!

Hai-Yue was thoroughly content. Pi day was on its way!

The night was perfect, so the hammock was perfect, too. Ed and Lauren got me the ENO JungleNest, complete with mosquito netting, so no bugs came to bite my eyelids, which was nice. I’m always dismayed when I wake up to swollen eyelids that won’t open. Unfortunately, the night was perfect, so answer still unclear as to how my tarp fix would work against rain and/or wind.


No, I didn’t hang my hammock directly across a footpath. Well… not a very highly trafficked one!

The next morning we discovered that there was one essential item that was missing: a pot! We didn’t have a way to heat water. I kept trying to point out that the campground had a little store selling coffee and hot chocolate, so we could just go there, and possibly even get hot water if one insisted on actually making our own coffee, but I was camping with engineers. Kat and Hai-Yue had to come up with a solution to heat water. We had a couple failed attempts. Kat tried making an actual pot out of aluminum foil, but that didn’t work when something accidentally got dropped onto it and knocked all the water out. Eventually we figured out that we could just fill our empty beer and V8 cans with water and lower them into the fire with the marshmallow roasting sticks.

And we have hot water!

And we have hot water!

Sometimes the solution really is just that simple.

We wanted to go out for a hike, but my legs were completely destroyed from the CrossFit Open 15.3 workout that I did the day before.


Complete as many rounds and reps as possible in 14 minutes of:
7 muscle-ups
50 wall-ball shots
100 double-unders

Men use 20-lb. ball to 10 feet, Women use 14-lb. ball to 9 feet

Since I’m yet to do my first muscle up, I had to do the scaled option, which was 14 minutes of 50 wallballs (10 pounds to the 9 foot line) and 200 single-unders. It’s kind of an infuriating workout, because there’s nothing to do but just go as hard as you can for 14 minutes. The workout itself felt fairly easy, you just had to push yourself to keep moving, and there’s just a certain speed at which you can jump rope and throw wallballs. So I managed to complete 800 reps and felt okay about it, but then the leg cramps started in the afternoon. By the morning, I was so crippled I could barely walk. CrossFit strikes again.

So we ended up just packing it up and going home. Later I sent out a tweet:

Amy Giver on Twitter #HappyHammocking in Big Basin. @ENOHammocks should I really ditch my tent when I go xcountry on my b (1)

Should I trust them? I’m still hesitant, but at the moment, I’m tempted to leave my tent at home!


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