by Jeff Trujillo
Do you want to lay on the cold hard ground or lay in a nice comfy hammock? A nice comfy hammock? Cold hard ground? Tell me more they say. Well, why don’t I show you what you’re missing? I hang a few for my Scouts to try, and at first sight of it hanging they stand there scratching their heads. How is this comfortable? Jump in and find out for yourself!
And so it begins, can I try? Can I try it? Come on it’s my turn! Alright hold on, everyone gets a turn.
So why teach these young Scouts about hammocks? Well, if you’ve ever heard of Leave No Trace, you’ll know why. What’s the first thing you do when you go tent camping? Clear a nice big area for the tent while moving all the leaves, sticks and rocks. A couple days later when you pack everything up and put your tent away there is a huge void on the ground where your tent used to be. Everyone else that comes by after you’ve left can see exactly where you pitched your tent. Some of the principles of Leave No Trace are minimizing site alterations and leaving things how you find them. With a hammock, that’s a no brainer.
With hammocks, there’s no clearing the ground or leaving your mark! Only finding two trees that are close enough together to hang. But there’s still some consideration before you hang your hammock. Using flat tree straps instead of rope that will cut into trees. Ease of suspension systems that a young scout can use and put up his own hammock (granted you still might have to help with height on the tree). That’s why these scouts liked the ENO Atlas strap suspension system. Clip each end to the Atlas and if needed just move it to the next opening to tighten. No pulling, tugging or tying knots (even though scouts are known for their knot tying skills).
Of course there’s other considerations like bug netting, because I haven’t met one kid that likes to have bugs crawling on them while sleeping. “Scouts don’t camp unless it’s raining!” So we have to show them how to use rain fly’s to keep dry at night. Trying to keep them warm in a hammock is an even bigger issue (I for one cannot sleep at night with a scout that’s colder than you keeping you awake), so pads or under quilts are a must. You definitely don’t want their knees killing them on the morning of a 10 mile hike because they didn’t lay flat on an angle, so showing them how to lay correctly is wise. And teach them that hammocks are not only for sleeping in, but they can also be used as a nice big comfy chair while in camp.
The main thing about Scouts and hammocks is keeping it fun and simple. Teach them the basics and let them have fun learning as they go.