There are a few items that I would not even consider leaving home without; a hammock is right at the top of that list!
The flimsy net or thin material types that are often seen on images of perfect beaches hung between two palm trees do not really make the grade here. A well constructed hammock with solid fixings, a fixed or detachable mosquito net and a reliable waterproof canopy are the ingredients of a quality sleeping system. Some hammock choosing advice is available in 10 Essential Travel Items
A good hammock is possibly the most versatile accommodation there is, especially if coupled with a canopy for keeping the rain off. In the jungle it is probably the only really practical option available. It will keep you off the ground and away from the creepy crawlies and if placed high enough away even from the larger animals too.
Highly portable and yet comfortable enough for several days or even weeks, a well ‘pitched’ hammock is excellent luxury accommodation whatever the location. It is not even necessary to look for a clear area of ground as you will not be sleeping on it.
My hammock has provided me with a comfortable sleeping option many times and on at least a few occasions saved me from either an uncomfortable night or journey.
Returning from Corsica a couple of years ago the airport at Bastia was closed late in the evening and a number of passengers including me were asked to leave the terminal. Whilst my travelling companions attempted to find themselves a comfortable spot on the grass outside, I received several envious glances as I strung my hammock between two suitable trees. I even slept in the next morning!
A flight to the Falklands is quite a long haul at the best of time but when the aircraft is a RAF Hercules (C-130) it is a particularly uncomfortable journey that seems to take even longer than the actual thirty plus hours. The aircraft does not have any seats in the normal sense, just some netting that you strap yourself into. It can get pretty unpleasant; therefore it was extremely pleasing when the ‘cabin crew’ permitted me to hang my hammock. I enjoyed a much more comfortable flight sleeping most of the way.
The art of hammocking
Although it is not absolutely necessary to have some clear ground beneath your hammock it is recommended especially if staying for more than just one night. It will prevent the risk of injury when moving around and also make your stay more comfortable.
In fact most aspects of good camp craft are applicable; water close by, good drainage, latrine and waste kept well away from the campsite and a good fire at night.
Hanging your hammock properly is of paramount importance and a good habit is setting up the canopy first. This will provide shelter if it is already raining or starts to rain, enabling the sleeping system (which includes bag) and other equipment to be kept dry.
The guy lines for the canopy should be already fitted, paracord is ideal for this and a tautline hitch is useful for attaching to anchor points such as a tree. This allows adjustment of the guy lines but locks in place under tension. Ensure the anchor points are placed low down so that the canopy is sloping to prevent any build up of rain water and remember to keep pushing it upwards regularly for the same reason.
A good tip is to have sufficient ‘spare’ cord left over to make a clothes line, especially in the jungle as getting out of the wet clothing that was worn all day is an absolute highlight. Shame it has to be put back on again the next day!
Hang your boots up too; keep them off the ground so that it is more difficult for those creepy crawlies to climb inside. Though still ensure that you check them before putting them on in the morning.
Be careful to ensure that you have enough overhead cover, having the canopy drip on your head all night is not fun!
Actually climbing into a hammock without falling out and looking a complete idiot is an easily learned skill. Initially climb into the hammock and sit astride it, then carefully lower back into it, until you are laid comfortable but with your legs hanging over the sides, then simply bring each leg in until you are fully cocooned.
Take care of your hammock, wash it down when returning from a trip, use warm water without any detergent and it will last you a lifetime.
Even in the modern era of restricted airline weight allowances it is worth considering taking a hammock. They are lightweight and portable, if you are aware that you are staying in a five star hotel for two weeks it is probably an unnecessary luxury. Those on extended trips with a little less certainty or greater flexibility in their accommodation requirements it will be a great investment.
There is always the possibility you might find that perfect beach though, two ideally placed palm trees and a large pitcher of ready mixed mojitos. It would be a shame not to have suitable equipment to enjoy the setting sun!
P.S. I hope you can see these pictures were taken in the rain, for the purposes of the post the hammock was set up in pouring rain, the sacrifices I make for you! It was a littler dark and colder however so excuse my shaky hands.