Saturday, January 31, 2015

Hammocking is for Everyone

A big thanks to David St. Martin for sharing his love of “hammocking” with me last summer after we had kayaked on the Charles River with Waypoint Adventure during a Universal Access Program near Boston.  

Hammocking in winter is surprisingly enjoyable even for
just 15 minutes!
David explained to me that due to his lifelong rheumatoid arthritis, he is unable to camp in tents as he cannot get down to the ground and back up again. He opened his car trunk and showed me a pile of small bundles - his hammock collection. Hammock technology has come a long way since I hung a heavy canvas army jungle hammock in a front yard willow tree as a teen. Now they can be compressed down to a softball-sized bundle that can be easily stowed in a daypack! 

David is part of a well-established new movement of hammockers that I had previously been unaware of - comprised of college students, hikers, outdoor enthusiasts, even urbanites - some of whom camp in hammocking groups.  I’m happy to be a new member of this creative subculture in which hammocks are included on various day adventures, used for overnight accommodations and offer 15 minutes or more of vacation-like respite almost anywhere, anytime. Once in Costa Rica, I passed by a truck driver napping in a hammock underneath his semi alongside the highway. Online an air traffic controller reports taking his 15 minute break on the tarmac outside the tower in - you guessed it - his hammock! There is no end to where you can find temporary respite using this simple item! 

This singlenest hammock fit easily into a fannypack and
set up in a minute. Tree-friendly straps
allow for easy adjustability.

Whether you simply rest in a hammock or sleep in it, there are significant health benefits. The bilateral stimulation of rocking side to side soothes the nervous system. When hung in a natural setting, the benefits of forest bathing are easily recieved. Those who sleep in them swear by numerous improvements including faster and deeper sleep and relief from joint pain. Laying in them diagonally across the center line allows for a level resting position.

I’m finding hammocking to be especially fun on winter day hikes, something I never would have considered before. They set up and take down in a minute and offer a chance to rest up off the ground and rock gently under the trees. After a hammock rest in a beautiful spot, I’m ready to resume the hike much more refreshed than if I had stood or sat while taking a break.

Of the various brands of hammocks David had in his trunk, there were single hammocks, double sized, super light and perhaps more. Most outdoor stores are selling hammocks now. My first purchase was a singlenest hammock by Eagles Nest Outfitters, which I totally love. As soon as I started bringing it on hikes with friends, I immediately wanted a bigger hammock to be able to include more people, so I got a doublenest. Now three or four of us can swing upright while we snack or catch a few Zs lying down. Hammock companies offer various accessories - rain flys, mosquito netting, sleep pads, gear stowing slings and more, as well as tree-friendly strapping systems.

My outdoor explorations include a new element - scoping for great hammock spots. This gives me a different sense of destination, one in which I can bask in the beauty of a particular grove of trees or enjoy forest bathing by flowing water - creating more rest time in nature wherever and whenever I like. The portability of this pastime offers an ongoing sense of mini-vacations in an endless series of micro-destinations. 

Hammocks offer new possibilities for people with disabilities, including those with mobility impairments. Some people may need assistance setting up and taking down, and/or getting in and out. Hennessy hammocks makes a bottom entry hammock that allows for easier entry and exit and works well for many who find the conventional top loading style too difficult. For those in wheelchairs, hammocking might be a new frontier worth checking out. For further info, investigate online - you might be surprised by what you find!

When was the last time you enjoyed lying in a hammock?