Traveling Thursday
August 16, 2018

Over our travels, Ren and I have had our disagreements over the way we travel. or more specifically the way we sleep while traveling.  We both love the outdoors, but Ren also likes her comforts.  I would camp every chance I get, Ren often prefers a hotel room.  When we had the RV, this was not an issue.  We got to camp and have our beds with us at the same time.  When we are ready I expect we will have an RV again, but meanwhile, we needed another option.

We have slept in the back of our SUV a few times.  A full-sized air-mattress will fit snugly in the back, and this works reasonably well in colder weather.  It is not a good solution when it is hot.  A tent with an air mattress on the ground is less and less acceptable as we get older, and we never found a cot setup that we really liked.

We stumbled across the answer by accident.  While we were camp-hosting at Eisenhower State Park, I picked up a cheap hammock.  When we set it up, it turned out to be more comfortable than our beds in the RV.  A little research showed that a lot of people camp in their hammocks.  This thought stayed in the back of our minds. As we were planning the remodel of the RV we even considered replacing the beds with hammocks, but couldn’t figure out how to fit it in.  Hammocks are rather longer than beds.  We had even picked up a few hammocks we found on clearance at the local outdoor shop.

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After we sold the RV, we decided to give the hammocks a try.  On our trip to Palo Duro Canyon, we spent the night at Copper Breaks State Park.  Ren slept in the SUV, while I slept in my hammock, hung from two support poles under the shelter.  It was a beautiful, clear summer night in Texas, with a nice breeze to keep the bugs away, and I slept out under the Milky Way.  I was hooked.

A few weeks later we were headed out to Tennessee and planned to spend the evening at a National Scenic River in Missouri.  When we called ahead to see if there were suitable sites, we were surprised to learn that the Park did not allow hammocks to be hung from trees.  We had the proper straps to keep from damaging the trees, but a lot of people just used ropes, and the Park had just banned all hammocks on trees.  Fortunately, Missouri State Parks had no such policy, and we spent a wonderful evening at Lake Wappapella State Park.   Once again we were fortunate to have good weather, and this time Ren slept in the hammocks as well.  On the way back from Tennessee we spent another evening in the hammocks at Petit Jean State Park in Arkansas.  By now Ren was hooked too.  We now knew that we were hammock campers.  We also knew that we could not depend on always having great weather, and would need to upgrade our gear.

A few weeks later, as we were planning our trip out to western Oklahoma, we found out that a lot of campsites out that way, don’t have suitable trees, or even any trees.  We also learned that we might not be allowed to hang our hammocks from the trees even if we found a suitable site.  While we could not find any official policy banning the practice in Oklahoma State Parks, we did find several reports from people who were told by the park staff to take theirs down.  It was time to look at other options.

We looked at a few stands on Amazon and found that the cheap options were not portable, and the portable options were not cheap.  We had a budget for this trip, and it was not going to stretch to buying portable hammock stands.   So we turned to YouTube.

A quick search on YouTube turned up just the thing:  The Turtledog Hammock Stand.  As near as I can tell this was developed by members of The Hammock Forum and copied widely.  The design is simple, functional, relatively inexpensive, and can be built in an hour or two with minimal tools.

I won’t go into too much detail here, because we filmed making the second one, and it will make more sense to just watch the video.

Here is a breakdown of the parts list and what we paid at the local Home Depot.  Your prices may vary.  This is what we bought to make 2 of them.

  • 12  2X2  pine.  Cut to 6.5 ft.                    3.98 each       $47.76
  • 3  10 foot   1-3/8 inch fence top rail.       9.72 each        $29.16
  • 4  5 inch Gate hinges                             4.47 each        $17.88
  • 4 packs of 4 T-nuts, 5/18 inch                1.18 each        $4.72
  • 90 foot of paracord                                0.10 / ft            $9.00
  • 4  1/4 inch shackles                                2.67 each        $10.68
  • 16  5/16 x 1-1/2 in  bolts                         0.20 each        $3.20
  • 4  Rail end caps.                                     0.98 each        $3.92

Total cost to make 2 sets.   $126.00

We chose to have our rail that the hammocks hang from to be 12 feet long, for our 10 foot hammocks.  Using 10 foot long fence rail we needed three rails to make 2 stands.  Be sure and get the rail that has one tapered end that fits into the next rail.  We cut our rails in half so they would fit into the SUV.  It’s all explained in the video.

We also needed a rain tarp as there was a chance of rain in the forecast.  We did not get the chance to try out the tarps before leaving on our trip, so we would have to figure it out when we set up camp.  We camped for three nights in two different locations, we did not set up the tarps on the third night.  The hammock stands worked just as we hoped they would. They went up quickly and easily.

The tarp system still needs some work.  Normally you string a tarp just a bit higher than the hammock, on a separate rope.  We were needing to hang them from the stands.   When hanging a hammock from the stands, all the horizontal force from the hammock is against the pole, and all the force on the tripods is straight down.  The tarps were trying to pull against the stands and not the pole, so the stands became a little unstable.  We eventually figured out how to adjust them to deal with this, but in the dark after a long drive, is not the best time to be working these things out.   We need slightly smaller tarps so we can stretch them on the pole and not the tripods. Stretching them from the tripods made them a little higher than ideal.  We were lucky in the weather again.  I’m not convinced we would have stayed dry if there had been a storm; however, it did all work.

We love sleeping in the hammocks.  It is very comfortable, really more comfortable than our beds at home.  Tear down is a snap, and setup is not much harder.  We do still need to work on our gear with under blankets, tarps, and bug nets. But all in all I consider this to be a success, and we have ideas on how to improve.

Hang in there.
Scott