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Reviews > Books > Field Guides > The Ultimate Hang > Test Report by alex legg

The Ultimate Hang an Illustrated Guide to Hammock Camping
Test Series by Alex Legg
Initial Report December 1st, 2012    
Long Term Report April, 10th 2012



Tester Information:

Name:  Alex Legg
Age:  30
Gender:  Male
Height:  6'4" (1.9 m)
Weight:  195 lbs (88 kg)
Email address:  alexlegg2 AT yahoo DOT com
City, State, Country:  Tucson, Arizona, US

I grew up backpacking in the Rockies.  I hike ranges near Tucson, Arizona during winter, Colorado during summer.  I carry a light pack, mostly water.  I make shelter with a tarp whenever possible to reduce my pack weight from my two person tent.   I enjoy day hikes, but I am known to spend as many as 5 days out.  Temperatures range from to extreme winter to 100 F (38 C) , and elevations from 2000 ft (600 m) to 14,000 ft (4,300 m).  I bag a peak almost every weekend, and walk my dogs daily through deep sand and overgrown mesquite trees in our local washes.

Product Information and Specifications:

Publisher:  Hansen Outdoors Publishing
Year Published:  November 2011
Edition:  First edition
URL:  http://theultimatehang.com/
Listed Dimensions:  6" x 9" (15 cm x 23 cm)
Actual Dimensions:  6" x 9" (15 cm x 23 cm)
ISBN:  9781466263680
Pages:  130
Binding:  US Trade Paper
MSRP:  US $14.95

Picture from http://theultimatehang.com/
Product Description:

The Ultimate Hang An Illustrated Guide to Hammock Camping by Derek Hansen is an instructional book teaching many aspects of hammock camping.  Through detailed illustrations and thorough text the author seeks to describe the very many possibilities of camping and backpacking with the use of a hammock as a sleeping system.   Topics covered in the book include history of hammocks, site selections, Leave No Trace techniques, suspension and anchor points, and detailed explanations for how to stay warm and dry in whatever weather conditions the four seasons may throw at me.  The inside cover of the book is signed by the author which I think is a pretty cool addition.  The author sent a brief letter with the book thanking testers for their reviews and offering web addresses and an email address to help with any questions.  He also included a business card with the web address to a forum for hammock campers.  I am thankful to know of this site now, as it seems to have a wealth of information and people to learn from.

Initial Impressions:

My first thought when I opened the package and looked at this book was "Wow, I like the illustration on the cover."  There is just something cool to me about the look of a hammock hanging in the woods.  As I flipped through the pages, I saw many quirky, comical illustrations of campers taking advantage of the comfort of a hammock, as well as some experiencing mishap either by flipping over or freezing.  I found myself stopping to examine the more detailed illustrations of hanging tools, accessories, and options.  This is a cool book!  I don't know anything about hammock camping other than that I think it looks like the way to go.  After only browsing through the pictures of this book, I already feel like I have learned so much.  It's not a very long book, but it seems to cover most every possible situation associated with hammock camping, definitely more than I had ever considered.  

Summary:

I need to finish this IR so I can go read this book!  I'm excited to learn some basics before I look into purchasing a hammock sleeping system.  I would not want to spend too much money or end up with a hammock that didn't suit my needs.  I will read through this book and most likely start fanatically searching the web for hammocks.  Living in Southern Arizona my pack is always weighed down by water, so the concept of a lightweight sleeping system is ideal.  I will report back on how informative and useful I have found this book to be.  


Long Term Report:
April 10th, 2012

For an inexperienced hammock camper like myself, this book can initially seem as overwhelming as learning a new language, however, once I read through it I felt extremely well versed.  It is like an encyclopedia of hammock camping, a true wealth of information.  The author goes into such great detail that I feel I could follow his steps and be hanging comfortably in little time with minimal difficulty.  He also includes many humorous yet informative drawings that help to explain many of the techniques he talks about throughout the book.  I have included some of the drawings in this report.  I feel that the pictures in this book are as much, if not more, informative as the written text.

My initial skepticism regarding hammock camping:

Prior to reading this book, I had assumed that hammocks could only be used in limited areas.  I thought that if I had no trees to hang from, then I was out of luck.  It seems that many other people think the same thing because as I sit around the fire, I hear lots of sarcastic jokes when I bring up the idea of hammock camping in Southern Arizona.  I mean really, what if there are no trees?  I can't make the thing float!  The author described to me how a hammock can be hung on trekking poles or large sticks as well as how one can be used as a bivy when there is no other option. 

I also thought that hammocks could only be used in warm weather.  How the heck am I going to stay warm when it's freezing outside?  I don't want to freeze my backside off all night!  Again, the author curbed my skepticism when he explained in detail how a sleeping pad and an under quilt could be used as insulation below my body to keep my back warm.  I wonder how much a Mylar blanket would help?  I also now know of multiple ways to set up a tarp on a ridgeline to help keep me warm, dry and out of the wind.   I still need to use a sleeping bag and I do think that it is in fact possible to camp in a hammock during winter without freezing to death. 

My final skepticism came with the swarms of mosquitoes that have a special love for the taste of my blood.  I had just never considered a hammock having bug netting of any sort (I had very little knowledge on this subject prior to reading the book).  It kind of made me think, well why not just bring a tent if I need to be sealed in?  I like that this book brought to my attention the fact that bug netting did exist on hammocks, and that it was effective.  Some hammocks are sold with bug netting attached, and some can have it added on when necessary.

My initial excitements regarding hammock camping:

Right away I liked the idea of being above all the rattlesnakes that are active in the desert while I am asleep.  I guess I also like the idea of being above all the other critters that crawl in the night, but really I only felt concerned about the rattlesnakes.  Hanging in a hammock would give me a lot of peace of mind while dreaming the night away.                                                                                                

I was also excited about weight and size.  I figured that a hammock must be considerably lighter than most tents.  I also figured that a hammock would pack down to a much smaller size than a tent.  It seems that I was right about this one as most hammocks are pretty lightweight on their own and fit into small stuff sacks when compared to a tent.  When I started looking into the weight and size of a hammock sleeping system in the winter, I was not quite as impressed.  It seems like there is a lot of gear to buy for the winter.  Under quilts, special sleeping pads, more straps and cordage than I can keep track of when the book is not close by.  I can foresee this becoming an expensive hobby, and my backpacking hobby has already proven to be more expensive than I ever anticipated.  Buying a hammock capable of handling the cold, as well as an under quilt and a pad that would work well with a hammock has me questioning whether I even want to embark on hammock camping in the winter.  Luckily we don't have winter weather in Southern Arizona, just heat, followed by summer, followed by heat again.

Finally, I was excited at the concept of not looking for a flat spot all the time.  The first time I ever saw a hammock in the back country, a man was perched between two trees on the edge of a cliff, looking downward at a gorgeous view in the Rocky Mountains.  What a great idea!  I often look for the camping spots with the best views to wake up to, but many times there is no way to set up a tent nearby, so I find another spot.  A hammock could really make my morning when I open my eyes to a beautiful view.


Knowledge I have taken from this book:

This book has taught me a lot and it still has much more to give me.  It really breaks it down for beginners like myself.  I feel I can avoid many novice mistakes by simply following the tried and tested methods displayed in the book.  I even think that someone who had prior knowledge of hammock camping could take away a lot of good information and tips from this book.  This is why I know that I will keep the book around for a long time.  The author is obviously an expert on this subject.  If I were to write an informational book on my professional trade, I could see it having detail to an excessive and almost overwhelming amount, much like the Ultimate Hang an Illustrated Guide to Hammock camping does. 

I have only begun my journey into the world of hammock camping.  I bought an inexpensive and lightweight hammock at my local outdoors store just to get the hang of things.  I have played with it at home and taken it on a few day hikes so far.  I want to ease into this because there really are a lot of possibilities and I don't want to get in over my head and end up with an empty wallet.  I keep the book nearby for advice in every aspect from where and how high to hang, to what sort of accessories to use, to how to rig a tarp for wind and rain protection. 

Summary:

I am impressed by the amount of options a hammock camper has.  From super ultralight to slightly heavier with warmth and comfort, this book explains it all.  I never would have had any idea where to start had I not read this book.  The wealth of information accompanied by the humorous drawings is a great fit.  I like how the drawings show in detail many of the gear options such as snakeskins, under quilts, webbing straps, suspension ropes and carabiners as well as how to use them.  I feel that I am well on my way to becoming a successful hammock camper just as soon as I can purchase all the cool stuff that this book has encouraged me to want!

Things I like:

1.  Great comical pictures
2.  More detail than I could have acquired on my own if I spent years trying                                    

Things I didn't like:

1.  It's a bit overwhelming at first due to the volume of information



I would like to thank the author Derek Hansen and BackpackGearTest.org for giving me the chance to test this product!






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