Anyone who has run the same program for years and refuses to buy new gear should not be trusted. Anyone who does not at least occasionally fall to the seductive nature of new gear should be shunned. How dare they ignore the sirens calling from Ruger, Vortex or Sitka via Amazon.com or Cabela’s?
In typical outdoor fashion, rather than champion the frugal nature of successful people I choose to shake my head at those who don’t believe there is a product that could enhance the experience. New stuff is often good stuff. My new hammock is good stuff. Did I need it? Nope. Did I want it? Sorta. That’s enough.
My buddy Dan bought one a few years ago and uses it as his shelter when he traps wolves during winter. Dan is obviously insane, but I did seek advice about brand and the benefits of it being integrated into my outdoor life.
“Game changer,” he said.
I pulled the trigger. My trial runs were in the cedars by my place. I read books during the afternoon, gently swinging back and forth, fighting the temptation to nap.
I threatened to take it on a hunting trip in August, but didn’t. I have many theories, some legit, others totally irrational, none meticulous tested. I think that’s the way of many outdoor writers who hunt and fish. People who get too caught up in numbers or being called experts end up being pompous and unreadable thanks to a lack of creativity and an unwillingness to ever be wrong.
Anyway, one of my untested theories was that bears are used to the shape of tents so they tend to stay away from campers using them. Unless of course they have become dependent on people for food in which case their tolerance increases — see Yosemite National Park. So, while city bears know about people and mountain bears know about tents, who knows how they would react to a hammock. How would I not look like a swinging burrito? Right? You remember how the bed covers protected you from the boogie man when you were a kid? Tents do the same thing for some adults. My theory was hammock camping was dramatically more dangerous since hammocks are not filed away in the memory of bears as a “human thing” nor are they made of the magical material that provides (the illusion of) safety. I was hesitant, but at some point, you have to go up, right?
So, over the weekend on a deer hunt, I saved a ton of space in my pack by bringing my hammock rather than my tent.
I strung it up between a cedar and a hemlock, covered my boots with a dry bag in case of morning dew and waited for sleep. It was a little strange being suspended and not having the safe finality of zipping the day closed, but it was comfortable and I slept as well as I ever have on a hunt.
My theory of more and new gear was proven yet again. To the outdoorsman or woman who believes there is nothing more he or she could possible need, I say to you, “You aren’t looking hard enough.”
This in no way means that gear leads to increased happiness, but at least you can hide from your problems with new interesting gear — especially if it comes in camouflage.
• Jeff Lund is a writer and teacher based in Ketchikan. “I Went To The Woods,” a reference to Henry David Thoreau, appears in Outdoors twice a month.