First Nights in a Hammock
The plan for Rylea and I was always to try and make our Hennessy Hammocks work for the trip. Our thinking was that riverbanks (where we'll be camping primarily) tend to be heavily treed and with uneven ground, so it might be easier to turn the trees into an advantage and disregard the ground entirely.
However, there are a few downsides to hammock camping in general that we have to address before we can be confident that they're the right choice for us.
1. Cold weather and staying warm.
2. What if there are no trees?
3. Gear storage.
Cold weather and staying warm
Staying warm when hammock camping requires some extra consideration than does traditional tent camping because of the airflow beneath you and the insulation of your sleeping bag is compressed due to body weight and is therefore next to useless. Hennessy sells bubble pads as a way to combat the problem, but also suggests using a truck-sized windshield sun shield as an inexpensive option. I picked one of those up at Canadian Tire for $20 and it worked great!
The first night I tried sleeping in my hammock was on our Experimental Lakes canoe trip and I put my new fancy pad inside an ancient synthetic sleeping bag so that is wouldn't slip around and my down zero-degree rated bag inside that. Of course, the temperature at night dipped far enough below freezing that our clothes (hanging on lines drying after our cold water training) were frozen rigid in the morning. I can't say I was warm and cozy, but I was pretty evenly cold and think it had more to do with my sleeping bag not being rated for the temperature than the hammock.
More recently, at the annual On the Way to the Lake artisans fair, I slept in my hammock again and was warm and cozy all night, the temperature being a much more comfortable +6 or so. Overall, I'm not all that concerned about hammock-specific cold, since I plan on buying a new sleeping bag anyway (down isn't recommended on watery trips).
Of course, the thing about using a hammock is that you need to consider what happens if there aren't any trees around, or if the trees aren't suitable. Many people have found ways to set up their hammocks on the ground using a variety of materials (tent poles, trekking poles, canoe paddles...) so the plan is to test out a few of them this summer. Another option is to bring a separate shelter, which can also act as a backup. Right now the top contender for me is a bug tent, using trekking poles to keep it up and a tarp as a fly. I'll try both and figure out what works the best.
I haven't given all that much consideration to gear storage as of yet. Of course, the thing about using a hammock is that there isn't really anywhere to put much of anything to keep it out of the weather and reach of critters. A gear sling is a viable option, but we'll have to see how it would work with our bottom-exit hammocks.
All in all, I still think a hammock will be the best option for me, despite its drawbacks. I'll keep posting updates as I experiment and explore how on earth this strange new world of hammock camping works.
Warm and cozy after a night in my hammock!