Backpacking with little kids is the fastest way to make yourself feel like a pack animal. No joke.
If you’ve done it, you know exactly what I’m talking about. One parent carries the baby backpack with every possible thing they can stuff into it + baby, while the other carries, well, everything else. In our case, everything else is 5 sleeping bags, pads, tent, food, clothes, diapers…you name it. Needless to say, we’re eager to find ways to shave down both the weight and the bulk that aren’t going to make us drain the kids college savings accounts.
Enter ENO Hammocks (Eagles Nest Outfitters).
Can you see where this is going? Yes, we just might be totally crazy. You see, I dreamed up this little plan while the snow was still falling (yes, that would be April…the only month it really snowed here). I wanted to try hammock camping with the kids. Actually, I wanted to try hammock backpacking. With three kids (enter the craziness).
We’re no strangers to backpacking as a family. We try to go a couple of times a year, but this would be our first year backpacking as a family of 5. With Mason just turning 6, we decided that he could start carrying his own gear (sleeping bag + clothes) but even at that, we still had an insane amount of gear. (Be sure to check out our post next Monday for our family backpacking favorites including the Bergans Nordkapp Jr Kids pack and the Deuter Aircontact 75 ginormous pack).
After a trial run of hammock camping (and lots of “test” naps in the backyard), we were ready to take the plunge. We took 3 hammocks in all – 2 doubles and a single. Along with that, we took an emergency rain tarp (though I really with I had one of these fancy ones) which came in super handy during the freak 20 minute rain/hail storm.
Our initial impression was that we were amazed how well we were able to fit everything. Not a single thing was strapped to the outside of the pack that is usually laden with tents and pads. It all fit where it was supposed to for once!
None of this would mean anything though if it sucked.
Um, it didn’t. It rocked. The kids where in absolute heaven. As much as they love rolling around a tent, a hammock is about 10 times cooler. They were swinging and playing in them the entire time (even baby Jimmy).
When we busted out the Twilights (think battery operated Christmas lights), they went absolutely nuts. They may seem frivolous, but trust me – they’re the camping accessory that you never knew we needed, but are the coolest things ever – get some (forgive my horrible picture).
They happily got into their sleeping bags and settled down for the night. Well, that is if you call swinging and giggling settling down
The older kids slept perfectly. I think my favorite part of the trip was when Mason woke up in the middle of the night and loudly exclaimed “Dad, wake up. You have GOT to see how many stars there are tonight. Let’s look for pictures in them.” Only in a hammock.
We all woke in the morning happy and smiling. The kids immediately went back to their swinging while Andrew and I lazily lounged in a double. Thank goodness we were in the backcountry because campers right next to us would not have been happy with all the screaming (albeit happy screaming) that was going on!
The only downside of the trip was that Jimmy had a hard time sleeping. He is still getting used to a sleeping bag and thought that he needed to reposition himself about every 10 minutes. Not so fun if you’re me and are sharing a hammock with him. Next time, that kid’s sleeping alone.
Tips for hammock camping with kids:
– Make sure to take a tarp. Any rain you get will quickly ruin your trip if you don’t.
– Dress warm. Since there is air above and below you, you will get much colder than you would on the ground. Dress warmer and bring a warmer sleeping bag if you can.
– Get Twilights.
– Practice sleeping in a hammock at home first.
– Let them play. This is the equivalent to letting your kids sleep on a playground. Let them enjoy it and you will too (tip: hang them close to the ground for those inevitable falls).
Needless to say, we loved it, and there will be many more hammock backpacking trips in our future. Make sure to check back in on Monday for a complete review of the ENO DoubleNest and Reactor hammocks.
Thanks to ENO for providing the hammocks and twilights for this review.