Hammock Backpacking: The best way to camp that you’ve never heard of

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.

11 Comments

  • E B says:

    Wow! That sounds great!

  • Amanda says:

    Sounds great. Any tips for hiking with a three year old? He’s too heavy for the Deuter now so we’re trying to work out how to go from here.

    • bringthekids says:

      The biggest key is patience. When kids are just learning to hike on their own it can be a difficult transition to really slow down to their speed. Suddenly, your hikes become much more about the journey than the destination (since you won’t always reach the destination). Make it fun too. We always play lots of games to keep the kids engaged in hiking so that helps too (I-Spy, 20 questions, tell stories/jokes, races, throw rocks, etc). Also, always be prepared with bribes – something small that you don’t mind giving out a lot of if you need to ( I love M&M’s).

  • Kim says:

    Wow!!! This is just making me so jealous! I am longing to drag my family out on an adventure like this. I need to start some serious planning!

  • [...] case you missed it here, we’re all about hammock backpacking.  It’s easy, quick, and cuts down on a ton of [...]

  • Corey says:

    Do you have any recommendations for mosquito infested places? I love the idea of backpacking hammocks but I tend to get eaten alive even when others claim they haven’t even seen a mosquito.

    Also, how young is too young to go backpacking? I have a 5 week old and a 20 month old. I’m itching to get out and enjoy the mountains though. I’m thinking of renting pack goats (http://highuintapackgoats.com/), that way each of us can carry a baby. Am I crazy?

    • bringthekids says:

      I know that ENO makes a hammock that is treated with some chemicals and is supposed to deter bugs. I haven’t tried it but that might be a good option. I HATE mosquitoes, so we tend to avoid buggy places!

      With backpacking, I typically tell people to wait until the baby can sit up, just because it makes things a little simpler. Then you don’t have to worry about having them roll all over the dirt, and constantly finding something to lay them down on.

      That being said, if you’re feeling up for it, just do it! If you haven’t used goats before I’d do a trial run because they can sometimes be a little difficult (well, that’s my experience with Llamas, goats may be a totally different story).

      If you go, please tell us about it – it could be awesome to feature your family here!

      • Corey says:

        Thanks for the tips. We took Alayna on her first campout (@ 6 weeks old). We picked up some Twilights. Those are great. Beila loved them too. We went and got trained on the pack goats too. We may try to take them out later in the summer. They seem much better behaved than llamas and less stubborn. The guy said they will actually lead you down the trail, you don’t have to use a leash. Everything we’ve read corroborates that experience too. On the other hand, based on my experience with llamas in boy scouts I would never bother with them again. I’ll let you know if we end up doing a pack goat trip.

  • Marselo says:

    Hey. I am German and I am planning to visit your cnuotry in a few months. What I want to know is: when backpackers search for a job, are the ones who travel with an organization and who had introductory courses preferred by the employers? Or do just your experience or your abilities count? I am from a little village in the cnuotry and I know a thing or two about sheep Thanks for your answers!

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