Oros Apparel claims to have developed the thinnest, warmest clothing on Earth. How? by using the same material NASA insulates their space shuttles and suits with. Aerogel was developed by NASA for this exact purpose, and in fact boasts the lowest thermal conductivity of any substance known to man. In other words, it’s literally the best insulating material every created or discovered. However, the first composites while extremely lightweight were also very brittle. That is, until the advent of polymer-enhanced Aerogels came around. What was once extremely fragile is now extremely strong.
Now, engineers at Oros have developed and patented a flexible, breathable, hydrophobic, four-way stretch fabric Aerogel for use in civilian clothing. What once required heavy, bulky synthetic or down can now be accomplished with three millimeters of Aerogel fabric.
It will be interesting to see how these jackets stand up to real world abuse. Also, if Oros decides to branch out towards outdoor gear like underblankets and sleeping bags. For now, check them out for yourself. The video below shows an Oros developer being blasted by liquid nitrogen at -321 degrees Fahrenheit.
For most people, the first image that comes to mind on the subject of camping is a tent. Yet recently the advent of the portable hammock has begun to change everything. Simple parachute hammocks that pack down to the size of a grapefruit have created an entirely new niche to the outdoor industry. Camping in a hammock has a great many advantages, mostly comfort and a great nights sleep.
In fact once you escape the cold, hard, wet ground for the pleasure of floating in the air… it’s hard to go back. However hammock camping it has its fair share of disadvantages too. Read on to find out.
Advantages of Camping in a Hammock
Weight savings, pack size, quick deployment, and comfort are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to hammock camping. But to start, let’s elaborate on these main points. Hammocks have been slept in for thousands of years. Ancient Mayans used them almost exclusively for a good night’s rest, and for good reason. Zero pressure points are applied to your body when laying in a hammock which decreases tension and soreness. Their gentle sway and comfortable embrace is subconsciously reminiscent of the womb or cradle; and many find themselves being lulled to sleep after a few short minutes.
While many believe hammocks may cause back problems, the opposite is in fact true. The slight “banana” shape and zero pressure lay of a hammock encourage tense back muscles to relax along with the rest of your body. For this reason typical soreness resulting from a traditional nights sleep simply evaporates after resting in a hammock.
On the trail, one is no longer victim to sharp rocks and wet or uneven terrain. Instead of searching for a clear spot on the cold hard ground, hammock campers are free to rest wherever there are trees. This solves many problems while traveling through rough or steep terrain, and it’s damn hard to find a spot without trees in most campgrounds.
Sleeping enclosed in a tent does have its benefits. But trapped condensation and lack of air flow can cause problems almost every night. Hot, humid, and stuffy tents can easily become unbearable; especially when moisture in the air suddenly becomes a puddle at your feet. In a hammock however, moisture is free to evaporate while a gentle breeze constantly provides positive airflow. Having the option to gaze up at the stars or protect yourself with a tarp without sacrificing ventilation leaves you free to experience pristine conditions in almost any situation.
Speaking of protecting yourself with a tarp, it’s often drier than sleeping in a tent when done correctly. The aforementioned ventilation qualities prevent moisture from pooling around your body while protecting yourself just as much from the rain. It’s the modularity of hammock camping that’s truly powerful. There are an endless number of accessories you can combine to prepare yourself for almost any environment. This allows you to configure your kit both beforehand and on-the-go to adjust for whatever conditions present themselves.
Because hammocks are so lightweight in comparison to tents and accessories can be swapped like layers of clothing, a hammock setup is often smaller and lighter than other options. Sometimes cheaper too. Plus, set-up and tear-down can be accomplished in just a minute or two once practiced. There are no poles or stakes to fumble around with. While hammock set-up methods may vary, I encourage you to check out the post on Quick Deployment Tarp Systems for your kit. Configuring a system like this can save huge chunks of time and effort in the backcountry.
One area the simple tent shines is privacy. In a tent, one can feel free to change clothes, enjoy the company of their significant other, or simply relax in privacy. However many tarps offer the ability to set up in multiple configurations. Extra tie-outs, even zippers on some tarps can completely transform your set-up in to a full on hammock tent. This combines the privacy and security of a tent with the comfort and versatility of a hammock. The best of both worlds some might say. Yet, setting up a hammock tent can be more difficult and time consuming than other options.
Furthermore, because you’re comfortably floating above the ground; leave-no-trace camping is easier to practice. There’s no need to clear the ground or crush vegetation on the forest floor. It also allows you to stand within your shelter instead of awkwardly crawling on the ground. The ability to comfortably sit, stand, and sleep is a benefit hard to understand until you’ve experienced it.
Disadvantages of Hammock Camping
While it is hard to find the drawbacks of camping in a hammock, they do exist. In fact, many of its advantages can also be disadvantages especially when poor planning or technique comes in to play. It’s best to study the many complexities of using a hammock and practice in convenient conditions before ever hitting the trail. Your backyard or local park are excellent places to do this. Even if you’re set on backpacking with a hammock, always practice and become familiar with your kit first. It’s far easier to deal with disaster in your neighborhood than in the middle of the wilderness.
Weight & Cost
Because certain conditions often necessitate additional pieces of kit, the weight and cost of hammock camping can quickly add up. While inclement conditions can easily be dealt with using one piece of kit: a tent… camping in a hammock requires many. Although efficient systems can solve this issue; tarps, cordage, insulation, and other accessories start to diminish the minimalistic appeal of a hammock. Especially when ounces and dollars start to accumulate. However, the cost of these additions is usually only a few ounces. A fair trade off for the many benefits a hammock can provide.
Many a hammock camper is all too familiar with the infamous “cold-butt syndrome”. While sleeping in a hammock saves you from the cold wet ground, it leaves you exposed to heat loss through convection. Cold air can quickly pull much needed heat away from your body without the proper precautions. To make matters worse, traditional sleeping bags suffer from compression under your body weight in a hammock. Sacrificing insulation just where you need it most. To combat this, one must simply adapt their kit to solve for compression.
Underquilts & Cocoons
An underquilt is basically a sleeping bag for the underside of your hammock. Because it lies on the outside of the hammock itself, it isn’t compressed by the weight of your body. It therefore retains its insulation value and keeps you warm and cozy all night long. Underquilts can be more complicated to set up and use however, and also create the need for some form of insulation above your body.
A simple blanket or top quilt can be used, but some prefer a more all-encompassing solution. While an underquilt protects you from below, a hammock cocoon completely surrounds your body like a sleeping bag. Yet again without suffering from the drawbacks of compression. Cocoons are heavier, but do offer savings in weight and complexity over an under/top quilt combination by eliminating redundant material.
Sleeping mats and pads can be an easy affordable solution to the same problem. However they’re usually not as effective, less comfortable, and prone to shifting out from under your body during the night. Nevertheless, many hammock campers use them anyway. Because you can find them almost anywhere including your local Wal-Mart, they can be hard to look past. Unfortunately both foam and inflatable sleeping pads can detract from the soft, silky, supportive feel of laying in a hammock.
Gnats and insects are generally a non-issue in tents. However hammocks leave their occupants exposed to the biting hordes of seasonal pests on the trail. While chemical treatments can either cut down or eliminate this problem completely, a bug net is the only fool proof solution. This additional piece of kit while not overly heavy can complicate your kit.
When it comes to relaxing with friends or lounging with a significant other, hammocks are great. Unfortunately if you plan on sleeping with a partner you might be disappointed to find out that it just won’t work in a hammock. Physically it can be done, but it certainly won’t be comfortable. The form simply doesn’t lend itself well to sleeping two, no matter how comfortable you are with your partner.
For general relaxation purposes however, the ENO DoubleNest is a great option. Read more about it Here.
Hammock Camping Tips
To be honest, hammock camping has a more difficult learning curve than other methods. The following tips and tricks might help out beginners and experienced users alike.
While some might prefer it, many new practitioners make the mistake of pitching their hammock too tight. A healthy amount of sag is necessary for achieving an optimal lay, and ultimately a good nights rest. Hanging with a little slack helps add stability and comfort to your setup. It also enables the correct conditions for achieving a truly flat bed. Laying diagonally in a hammock helps spread out the material to eliminate the usual banana shape. Setting yourself up about 10-20 degrees off center will ensure you lie almost completely flat. Although many have found a little bit of sag to be more comfortable once you’re used to it.
In order to achieve this, you should seek to rig your suspension straps approximately 30 degrees above the horizontal. To better visualize this, try extending your thumb and forefinger to line up and create a triangle with your strap. This creates a rough 60-30-90 triangle and helps to perfectly line up your straps. Level your triangle and adjust strap height accordingly.
Setting up your tarp or rainfly properly can keep you drier than a tent, but also susceptible in a few areas if you’re not careful. Especially heavy downpours can completely saturate your suspension straps and allow water to run down them and into your hammock. Attaching a small piece of cordage where your strap and hammock connect and allowing it to dangle below your hammock encourages moisture to travel through the drip line instead of your hammock.
Ridge lines not only provide the central support for your rainfly, but also attachment points for gear and accessories. Lights, bug nets, pockets, pouches, and more can be hung from your ridgeline. But also, sufficiently strong cordage can allow you to hang gear underneath your tarp… off the ground and away from the rain. I also like to suspend a small flashlight from mine for reading and other tasks.
From stitching the highest quality most comfortable hammocks in the world from the back of a van, to setting up shop in Asheville, NC; Eagles Nest Outfitters has really set the benchmark when it comes to parachute hammocks. Competitors designs may vary one way or another, but most derive their basic concept from the original ENO. ENO’s beginnings as a music festival lounge accessory created a hammock that could withstand the abuse of inebriated, drug-addled millennials. As such, it’s been adopted by serious campers and casual users worldwide.
Size and Capacity
Most hammocks are designed with a single inhabitant in mind while the DoubleNest makes room for two, or a few loungers at a time. It’s spacious design makes it extremely comfortable even with multiple users… especially when sharing with a significant other. Nevertheless, no hammock is truly ideal for sleeping more than one person. No matter how comfortable you are with the other, it just doesn’t work out very well. Still, when it comes to relaxing with a partner or a few friends… the DoubleNest does it well. A 400 pound maximum capacity and high tenacity parachute material ensures relatively fail-safe performance.
The DoubleNest comes equipped with nautical grade cordage and attached aluminum wiregate carabiners to attach whatever suspension you choose. However, ENO’s Atlas Straps are arguably the most ideal option. Atlas nylon webbing straps are extremely simple to set up and offer no stretch over time, the least damage to your attachment point, and the longest life of any suspension system. Combined with Atlas straps, the DoubleNest is likely the most versatile, easy to set up hammock system available.
Camping & Accessories
Because the DoubleNest folds into it’s attached compression sack down to the size of a grapefruit, it’s a great candidate for camping. It’s also relatively lightweight compared to other products. That being said the hammock itself is only a barebones solution. Without a tarp, bugnet, or insulation, you’ll be limited to near perfect conditions. However there’s an endless variety of extras and accessories compatible with the ENO setup. For insulating my ENO, I use the Snugpak Hammock Cocoon. For protection from the elements, I recommend the Chinook Guide Tarp. These are just my picks though, and I encourage you to seek out what works best for you. Nevertheless, an ENO hammock will give you the best nights rest you’ve ever had on the trail. Those used to sleeping on the cold hard ground will find the difference to be night and day.
While other hammocks may be cheaper, lighter, or come with more features, the DoubleNest is likely the absolute best product for the best price. When it comes to comfort, durability, and versatility, ENO is the champion of value.
Anyone who’s spent the night in a hammock is familiar with “cold butt syndrome”. Insulation in traditional sleeping bags is compressed under your body weight, leaving you susceptible to heat loss from convection during the night. In order to combat this, many use an underblanket to wrap the underside of their hammocks. This insulation does not end up compressed, leaving you warm and comfortable.
A cocoon however combines the roles of both bottom and top insulation. Eliminating the need to carry both. This provides weight savings in removing redundant material. There are a two different forms of insulation: synthetic and down. While traditional down boasts the best weight to insulation ratio; it is susceptible to moisture and compaction. Ultimately, it will decay over time… especially if not cared for properly. Many consider down to be the cream of the crop as far as hammock insulation goes. Unfortunately, it’s very expensive and doesn’t last forever.
In my opinion, the very best entry level solution for “cold butt syndrome” is the Snugpak Hammock Cocoon. It’s made of high quality synthetic material, very durable, extremely versatile, and is priced at less than half of all other options. It might in fact provide the best value of any hammock insulation on the market today. Read more to find out why.
Snugpak Hammock Cocoon Materials & Construction
Snugpak has designed the Hammock Cocoon with high-tech proprietary materials throughout. After all, they produce equipment for military units all over the world. In order to reach this market, Snugpak creates their gear at true mil-spec; best quality at the best price. For the same reason, their stuff has been adopted by an increasing number of civilians too, and for good reason.
Snugpak’s uses Micro Diamond fabric for the Hammock Cocoon‘s outer shell. It’s rugged, lightweight, and water resistant.
Snugpak’s proprietary insulation is known as Travelsoft. It’s made of 100% polyester and intended to be low weight, high loft, highly compressible insulation. I can tell you from experience that this stuff works very well. While it is durable, resistant to moisture and comfortable down to freezing temperatures; it is heavier than traditional down. It also does not compress as well, and will have a greater pack-size than comparable down products. However it is significantly cheaper, and ultimately should last longer. Also, down insulation loses all of its insulation value when wet, Travelsoft does not.
The inner fabric is advertised as “Paratex Antimicrobial Fabric”. Also made of 100% polyester, it shares the same lightweight durability as Micro Diamond. It is designed to inhibit the growth of bacteria and fungus inside your cocoon. After consecutive nights in the wilderness, you’ll be glad your sleeping area doesn’t smell like a hobo’s foot. I’ve even set up my hammock indoors to sleep with this cocoon for weeks on end. It still hasn’t been washed, and it still doesn’t smell.
Snugpak Hammock Cocoon – Final Thoughts
While this product does not fit in the ultralight category, it’s certainly viable for everything else. It compresses down to about the size of a cantaloupe and weighs in at 69 ounces. It’s comfortable down to about 40 degrees, but with the right clothing you can stretch it down to almost 20 degrees. Combine that with a few mods, and it can reach down into the teens.
Because it costs less than half of other options, it’s pretty hard to beat. The only issue I’ve ever had is with the tie-outs. If you put too much pressure on the cocoon the tie-outs are prone to ripping out of the fabric. Be careful not to accidentally sit down on the edge of the cocoon instead of your hammock; that’ll leave you sitting on the ground with broken tie-outs. To remedy this, consider sewing reinforcements for the attachment points, and use shock cord to secure it to your hammock suspension.
Overall, it’s still the best entry level hammock insulation on the market today. If you’re looking to escape cold butt syndrome, I highly encourage you to give it a try.
Questions? Comments? Considerations? Criticisms? Don’t hesitate to let us know in the comments below.
In most situations the solo backpacker has a few options for shelter. Tarp, bivvy, hammock, tent, or some combination of these. While the tarp may be the tried and true ultimate in simplicity, it leaves much to be desired in protection and insulation. The bivvy bag provides more protection, but is often very compact and restrictive. Hammocks provide luxurious comfort and support but sacrifice protection and insulation. A tent provides a fair compromise between all of these options and is the preferred option for many travelers.
Consistent with my value approach to product selection, Snugpak produces some of the most affordable quality gear on the market. For this reason their products are used by the US, European, and Australian militaries. This comes as no surprise, as “mil-sec” products are the definition of high quality, low price. As you would expect, Snugpak stuff is pretty bomb-proof. Anything both issued and willingly chosen by soldiers in the field has got to have some value to it.
Most tents come in two setup styles: freestanding and secured. Freestanding tents employ the use of poles that can stand anywhere without being secured to the ground. Secured tents require cordage, poles, and/or stakes to construct. The Snugpak Ionosphere provides the best of both worlds here. Because it’s a two piece construction, it can be setup freestanding or secured. The inner partition is a freestanding bugnet with a bathtub style floor liner. The outer rainfly can be staked to the ground from various locations.
Because the inner and outer sections are separate; the Ionosphere allows for maximum ventilation and breathability without sacrificing insulation or protection. The bathtub liner and rainfly will shield you from the most extreme elements. Yet the mesh interior allows for ventilation and complete insect protection. These characteristics almost completely eliminate interior condensation.
One of the toughest choices when selecting a tent for your pack is its size. One man tents can be uncomfortable and restrictive. While two person tents add extra pack weight. Fortunately, the Ionosphere is a balance between the two. This tent will fit grown men and their gear inside with room to spare. Because it is large for a one man tent, it can fit two people as long as you’re okay with spooning. Most choose to stow their gear at the head of the tent, where up to two packs, boots, and additional items can be stored.
Broken down, the Ionosphere is small enough to fit in the bottom of a pack without hogging too much room. Keep in mind, it is bulkier than your average “ultralight” tent. It’s a fair trade-off considering its durability and double-wall construction. In fact, it may just be the perfect balance. More specialized travelers may choose to opt for a lighter tent for extended missions however.
As stated above, the Ionosphere will keep you perfectly dry through torrential downpours. Thanks to its effective double-wall construction, condensation is kept to an absolute minimum. Advertised as a 3-season tent, it may not be heavy enough for snow. However, it remains rock steady during high winds. True to its military use the Ionosphere is built with impressive quality and durability. This tent should serve will for years and years to come. For the price, it might just be the best solo tent available.
If you plan on having shelter in the bush, you’re going to need tent stakes. For some, this means taking the time to harvest and process sticks for the job. But if you’re like me, it’s just too much time and effort for my taste. Depending on the terrain you’re in, there may be no suitable material available. I prefer to carry a set of reliable stakes and save my self the trouble, or disappointment, of alternate methods.
There’s nothing more frustrating than rigging a magnificent tarp shelter and having one or more pegs rip out of the ground with a gust of wind. Damaging or otherwise destroying a stake on accident can be even more frustrating. In order to maximize retention, durability, and weight savings; I’ve found the best tent stake to be the Vargo Titanium Ascent.
These titanium stakes offer a couple advantages over other materials. For one, weight savings. Titanium stakes offer the highest strength for the lowest pack weight. They’re non corrosive, so they wont rust like steel. They’re durable, so they wont bend like aluminum or break like plastic. As far as the design goes, they’re “V” shaped in order to provide a more solid hold in whatever substrate you’re driving in to. Compared to traditional round pegs, this is a huge advantage.
The Ascent stake also has holes along its length which decrease weight and increase retention. The notch for securing cordage is just about perfect, and each stake comes with a blaze-red paracord loop as a high-visibility attachment point. I’ve lost these stakes before, and almost always recover them by noticing the bright red loop.
In comparison to other titanium stakes, the Ascent is a happy medium between lightweight and durable. There are more heavier, more stout pegs and there are lighter pegs. These do tend to fall towards the lighter end of the spectrum, and that’s okay, because they’re plenty strong. For most users, these are ideal.
Modern engineered outdoor blankets can have a couple advantages depending on how they’re used. lightweight, insulative, packable blankets can be a welcome replacement for bulky sleeping bags in warmer temperatures. Especially if you use an underblanket for your hammock, or ground pad in your tent, a full bag can be overkill. The best outdoor blanket I’ve found to fill this role is the Snugpak Jungle Blanket.
Let it be known that the Jungle Blanket is much, much, lighter than a sleeping bag. It also packs down to about the size of a nalgene bottle, barely consuming any room in your pack. All Snugpak products are pretty bombproof, and this blanket is no exception. It’s durably made from 100% polyester materials. Microdiamond is Snugpak’s proprietary outer material. Because of its water repellent treatment, moisture just beads and rolls off. Microdiamond is also wind-resistant, keeping you warmer in inclement weather. Paratex fabric is used on the inside of the blanket to discourage the growth of bacteria. The antimicrobial coating is pretty effective at preventing odor causing nasties from breeding in your bed. Snugpak’s insulation for the Jungle Blanket is called Travelsoft, low weight, high loft, and highly compressible.
Arguably the best time to go hammock camping is during warm weather. Yet the bane of 3 season camping is often relentless biting insects, which traditional hammocks offer no protection against. In order to pack a backpacking hammock or camping hammock during bug season you’ll need a net. Aftermarket bug nets are often fragile, cumbersome, and frustrating to set up. This is why I chose the ENO JungleNest Hammock for its built in bug net.
ENO Camping Hammocks
ENO is well known and reputable for producing some of the finest hammocks available. They’re often used by festival-goers for their simple and durable design. Produced with nylon ripstop parachute fabric, these backpacking hammocks are both lightweight and abrasion resistant. After nearly three years, I’ve accidentally put one small hole in mine with the pommel crusher of the Helle Utvaer. Other than that, it’s passed all durability tests with flying colors. The no-see-um mosquito mesh is fragile, as any bug net will be. However, it is top of the line and as durable as bug mesh can be.
ENO JungleNest Backpacking Hammock – Features
The ENO JungleNest is about the same size as a singlenest, which is more than enough room to sleep spaciously. When pitched correctly, the lay is fantastic. There are no stitches or seams to itch and bother, as the JungleNest is all one panel. It comes provided with a ridgeline cord pre-tied with two prussik knots for attaching the bug net. The bug net attachment lines are shock cord, and can conveniently be adjusted from inside the net. The shock cord helps eliminate stress on the bug net while the hammock is loaded. However the attachments themselves are sewn into the body of the hammock for additional reinforcement.
Pack size for the JungleNest is slightly larger than other ENO hammocks. Nevertheless, it still fits in the palm of your hand when compressed. Still, it doesn’t weigh much more than comparable hammocks, and offers considerable weight savings over aftermarket bug nets. The net itself performs admirably, but I would advise the use of an underquilt or padding to block insects from biting through the underside. I’ve clocked several weeks of rest in this hammock. Both hanging in my house and in the bush. I can tell you that even without bugs, the net adds structure to the hammock lay and prevents blocks condensation. The one piece structure and lightweight fabric provide a comfortable lay with minimal sag over time.
Most backpackers, campers, and bushcrafters pack tarps for the tremendous utility they provide. They’re available in an endless variety of colors, materials, sizes, configurations, and of course prices. Consistent with my “mil-spec” approach, I favor the Chinook Guide for my bushcraft tarp.
Chinook Tarp – Features
The Chinook is really the ultimate in value for a bushcraft tarp. At this price point, you won’t find another tarp as lightweight, waterproof, or durable. I’ve had mine for a few years now and it has been used with my hammock and as a ground cloth without any rips or tears. Furthermore, it is quite waterproof. Its been pitched for days of torrential downpour high in mountains of Colorado keeping me bone dry underneath. Also the added UV-resistance treatment must work well, because I have yet to notice any fading.
With plenty of tie-outs, it can be pitched in an endless number of configurations. However not all attachment points are loops, instead, about half are metal grommets. Not ideal, but not a deal breaker either. All critical points, like the four corners and the ridgeline tie-outs are loops. These critical points are reinforced wonderfully, and the grommets are punched through double material for additional strength. You can always add and reinforce some loops over the metal grommets if you’d like.
As far as dimensions, weight, and pack size are concerned; the Chinook is a little bulky. It comes in a few sizes, but the most common is 12 x 9.6 feet. At this size you’re large enough to accommodate a few people underneath. Alternatively, I like to create a little tarp tent over my hammock by hanging low to the ground and completely enclosing all four sides. Although it is on the heavy side, but you get very durable material and a large coverage area. It’s a pretty fair compromise if you ask me. Nevertheless, I can compress it down to about the size of a football in a stuff sack.
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