Suburban Hiking

On Saturday the 27th my older brother and I decided to do a little suburban hiking.  We had been working together near the creek and small section of woods still left in Haddon Heights and we got to talking about it.  He used to play back in the area as a child and was curious to see how it changed.   I was game for doing some hiking so I said lets do it.  I made up a small day pack in a surplus Army assault pack and we meet up around noon on Saturday to set out for the darkest deepest forest in suburbia.   I whipped up at quick Google map of our trail.

Here are some pics from the hike along the south bound side of Rte. 295

this was just above where we crossed the creek

Looks like the local kiddies do or did some bmx riding back here.

rock wall along the creek bed

sink hole along the trail the kids have carved while riding bmx back here

some ducks a log jam and some trash 😦

self portrait

I walked half threw the tunnel but dicided to stop and turn back.

these were cool because they were made in the silt below the water.

this is the Haddon Heights trail lean to

This is the only picture from the north bound side of the trail, as my camera battery died.

north bound side of tunnel. there were some fish down in the water but they spooked as we walked up.

After walking back over the old dump and to the north bound side of the creek tunnel we hiked back to the tennis courts.  From there we entered the Little Timber Creek Nature Trail, if my memory serves me this trail was the Eagle Scout project of a guy I went to high school with.  My brother told me the area was the old boro concrete and tree dump.  We walked the trail and followed the creek behind the swim club and back up along the highway wall.  It was a nice relaxing hike.

The really good news is my brother started asking me about hiking packs and hammocks.  He said he is thinking about coming along with me on my goal of a fall Batona Trail Hike.

I would like to start with a little back story before I begin my review.  On March 12th and 13th I took my girlfriend’s cousin’s husband camping.  He is originally from North Carolina and did a lot of camping in his youth so a night in the Jersey Pine Barrens should be no problem right?  Our spirits were high and we were both looking forward to a break from civilization and I had a bunch of new gear that needed testing.  I always like testing new gear when conditions are favorable that way in case things don’t work out you are not going to suffer to badly.  Well the forecast for Friday into Saturday was rain and high winds, we debated canceling but we both really wanted to spend some time in the woods.  I packed the truck, picked him up, and off we went.

It rained the entire time we drove down to the ranger station to check in and pick up our permit.  I checked the weather one last time before we headed to the campsite, rain with an anticipated accumulation of three to four inches and winds overnight steady at twenty mph with gusts up to thirty to thirty-five mph.  We arrived at the Batona Campground and got ready to set up in the rain.  I am not sure if it is the fact that he is a Methodist minister or it was, Fortes fortuna adiuvat (fortune favors the bold) but as soon as we opened the doors of the truck to set up we got a break in the rain.  We set up camp and I got to test some of my new gear, including my Backwoods Daydreamer Winter Dream V.2 tarp.

Now onto the meat and potatoes of the review.  I was looking for a new hammock tarp, one that was bigger than the stock Hennessy Hammock tarp.  I poured over tarp after tarp, looking at designs, styles, pictures, and reviews.  I wanted a tarp that would be a solid all weather tarp, and during really bad weather totally encapsulate my hammock.  I choose a Backwoods Daydreamer Winter Dream V. 2.

Backwoods Daydreamer is a small cottage business specializing in tarps for camping primarily geared towards hammock campers.  The tarps are lightweight and well built.  The Winter Dream V.2 weighs in at 21 oz. and is made of 1.1 oz silicone impregnated ripstop nylon.  It has an eleven foot ridge line with sides that are thirteen feet at the longest points.  It has a catenary cut design,  with all tie out points  being reinforced.

A design picture taken from Backwoods Daydreamer

I purchased my Backwoods Daydreamer Winter Dream V.2 from a  member of Hammock Forums who had it posted in the for sale section. This tarp appeared in the for sale section of the forum at a great price for a tarp that was seem sealed and only used twice.  So at this point I have picked up this tarp second hand, and Backwoods Daydreamer owner Scott sends me a message regarding the tarp.  He wanted to let me know that if I had and questions about the tarp to let him know.  I have to say this impressed me.  He had seen that I bought one of his tarps,  he didn’t make any money on this sale, and he reached out to me.  I am a small business owner myself, and this kind of customer care is what I try to provide and the kind of care that when I receive it is really appreciated.

Well the weather man go it right that night.  It poured, it rained on us that night like Forest Gump in Vietnam.  The winds were howling driving the rain sideways at times, I could hear the winds reeking havoc on the blue poly tarp we set up to use as shelter for cooking and sitting by the camp fire.

My Winter Dream, was just that.  All my gear stayed dry, and was sheltered from the wind.  This tarp held up to everything that was thrown at it.  I secured two of the flaps/doors in the “closed” position as can be seen in the above picture.   The other set of flaps/doors was secured together by the mitten clips so that I could get in and out easily.  I had some serious concerns setting this tarp up for the first time when I knew the weather was going to be outright hostile and miserable.  Short of getting some hail and snow I don’t know what else could have been thrown at this tarp.  It performed as advertised, and I know that come any weather conditions in the future that my gear and myself will be dry and sheltered from the elements under my Winter Dream V.2

This is not the greatest picture of looking into the tarp, but it is still roomy inside.  I would like to send it back to Scott to have side tie-outs installed.   This is a service that he offers, and it helps to make the tarp roomier inside as well as help brace the sides against strong winds.  Now I do not have them currently and at no point did I find the sides getting buffeted into my hammock from the near forty mph gusts.

I recently talked to Scott and he brought me up to speed on the future of the Winter Dream.  He told me that V.3 will be featuring metal D-rings for the ridge line as these D-rings receive the most stress.  He said that he had one fail and that was one to many.  I really admire the pride and passion he takes towards his products.  He also said he is moving away from the mitten clip closures, to a be a half inch strip of gross grain sewn into the hem along the door edge.  This will reinforce the seem and firm it up so that five Industrial Polyacetal Snaps can be attached.  Scott said that this will be easier for both closing and opening.  He also went on to say that this will only add about thirty grams to the trap so about one ounce to the V.2 weight.  That would bring the V.3 in at 22 oz.

A picture of the Winter Dream V3, from Backwood Daydreamer, photo by turtlelady

I can say two things with confidence after that trip.  First my Backwoods Daydreamer Winter Dream V.2 performed excellently in the kind of conditions it was designed to be exposed to.  Secondly I see another Backwoods Daydreamer tarp in my future.

Well I decided to redo the stock suspension on Hennessy Hammock to make hanging it a little faster and easier.  I researched a lot of types of suspensions rings/webbing, cinch buckles/webbing, whoopie slings and few other variations of those.  I decided I was going to go with a cinch buckle/webbing style suspension.  Now I chose to use a chain link ,which is a continuous loop of Amsteel with a keeper stitch sewn in to lock it, to attach the hammock to either a carabiner or the cinch buckle.  I chose to get my chain links and cinch buckles from AHE (Arrowhead Equipment) because I liked the design of the cinch buckle and that AHE has a 20” chain link. I knew that securing the chain link to the end of the Hennessy Hammock would consume much of the length of the chain link.   My only regret was the week after the buckles arrived, AHE got black cinch buckles in stock.  Oh well I will have to pick them up for the next project.   Now for my webbing I went with a some 1” tubular webbing from REI.

This was also my first sewing project, yep you heard that right.  My first sewing project would be responsible for keeping my ass from crashing to the ground in the middle of the night while I slept.  I decided to sew a box pattern with an “X” in the middle.  I have seen it on similar setups, other webbing project and I figured it would be easy enough for me to do.  Each strap ended up being about 12’6” long.

Now my plan was to attach the hammock to the cinch buckle via a carabiner with the webbing drawn through the sewn loop.  I got some feedback that I should secure the cinch buckle via a girth hitch to the chain link than use the carabiner to attach the loop to the webbing at the tree.  On my last hammock hang I used both techniques one on each end of the hammock.

Stitching pattern

loops and ends

chain link installed

suspension attachment

Suspension mock-up

Well after my first hang with my DIY suspension I have to say I am happy with it.  I learned that I must pick my hanging distance and angles carefully.  I set up between two trees 24′ apart and I ended up with the suspension “stretching” and my butt on the ground.  I think that having the bulk of the webbing  between the cinch buckle and the tree it allowed the webbing to stretch a bit, thus allowing my hammock to sag.  I put keeper knotse in the webbing  behind the cinch buckles and there was no sign that the knots had given way and the webbing slipped through the cinch buckle.  This is what lead me to believe it was that the webbing had stretched.  So Saturday morning I rehung my hammock between to trees 14′ apart.  This resulted in less webbing being used between the buckle and the tree.  Saturday night’s sleep was great no sag in the suspension, the only problem I had was a sock feel off in my sleeping bag and having to get up at 3a.m. to relieve myself in 7*F weather.

All things being said I am really happy with all components of my suspension, I just have to learn to pick a better spot to hang.

My setup for Saturday night of the winter campout.

Thanks to Bster13 from hammockforums for the picture.

I had mounted the scope on my Remington 700 SPS Varment once before but the scope base mounts had come loose so it needed to be redone.  I also had problems with forgetting to tightening the scope rings so the scope slide in the rings. Duh, I had left them loose so that I could set eye relief and level when at the range.  After arriving at the range I forgot to do a final tighten and shaved off some of the scopes coating.  So after that debacle I decided to remount my scope and base with some Blue Loctite.

Here are the two piece bases after remounting and Loctite.  They are Weaver bases, not high end stuff but they work, when I install them properly.

This is the scope a Tasco 10×40 Target/Varmint

You can see the damage the finish sustained on the 1” tube section of the scope.  I got the scope from Optics Planet for around $130.  Everyone at deer camp could not believe how cheap it was for the clarity and magnification it delivered.

Here is a picture of the scope ring, I purchased them at Dick’s Sporting Goods but I can’t remember the brand. The screws for the sides and top of the rings has Loctit applied to them as well.

Using my little “torpedo” level from work.  I leveled the rifle rest first than the rifle than the scope.  It took some time but it was spot on when I checked it versus a level line at the range.

Here is the finished product resting on the bed, before it went back into the gun safe to await the sighting in process.  I went to my sportsman’s club (can’t call it a gun club or gun range because I live in NJ and that gets all the antis panties in a bunch) today since it was the nicest day we have had in a while.  I arrived around 0930 and the place was empty.  It was about 40*F out with a slight easterly wind (5 to 10 mph).  It was a great morning to shot and I had the whole complex to myself.   I used my cheap laser bore sight (brand I can’t remember but still an effective little piece of equipment) to get a zero at 25 yards.  Than I backed my target up to 50 yards and started firing.  I was about 4” high and 4” left after the first group of four, and in about twelve  rounds total I had two shots with touching holes and the “x” was gone.  Since I am new to blogging I forgot that I should be taking pictures of all of this.  When I backed the target up to 100yards I remembered that I brought the camera and should start taking pictures.  Here is the picture of the target with ”cover up dots” when I moved it back the 100 yards.

I had to switch ammo as I ran out of Federal 150 grain so I switched to Federal 168 FMJ.  I had to readjust the scope to account for the different ammo but once I did it was a pretty group that I recorded.

I had one “flier” but I know that was me not the rifle.

Here are some range pictures as well.

Well I had my first hang last night (1/8/10) and in general everything went well.

A little back story, a member of a forum I frequent (Zombie Squad), posted something about the NJ Pine Barrens Hang, so I decided to check out HammockForums who was organizing the event. I have been toying with getting a hammock for some time now, and this was just the straw that broke the camels back. I took some Christmas money and bought a Hennessy Hammock Camo Evador and super shelter.

I decided to test out my rig on Friday night, the weather forecast was calling for a balmy night of 25* and 10 to 20 mph winds. I had originally set up my hammock between the ladder rack of my work van and a clothes pole I thought was adequately installed. This was quickly debunked as I found my self laying on the ground upon entry, as the pole had leaned over under my weight. I found the base of the pole to be inadequately buried. Oh well.

I moved to a tree just on the other side of the fence and changed how the tree huger was secured to my van’s ladder rack. I had some fun times trying to sort out the assembly of my system, and I know that it wasn’t hung entirely correct. I think I will get it all straightened out at the NJ Pine Barrens Hang.

the final hang spot

super shelter setup

my MSS bag

My layers were poly insulated underwear top and bottom, sweat pants, a turtleneck and a wool hat. I used a hunting cushion that traps heat as a billow and a full military modular sleep system. Only the black patrol bag was completely zipped up the other layers were 2/3rds zippered. I was toasty warm with a few cold spots as I settled in, and after some adjusting my position all were eliminated.

I pitched the tarp low and close to try and eliminate a lot of the wind from coming in and it seemed to work, I am still looking to get a top cover from Hennessy Hammocks once they are back in stock.

I experienced a little bit of condensation on the bottom of the pivy sack.

I don’t really think this affected my comfort at all.

I also had some condensation between the milar blanket and the bottom of the hammock. I am toying with the idea of cutting a milar blanket to fit the OCF pad and than taping it to the edges of the pad so that it can’t shift during the night.

I am thinking this may have been caused because of the sandwiching of the hammock between the milar blanket and the pivy sac. Regardless it didn’t affect my comfort in any way.

Comfort Report:

I think I may have even been able to sleep in just the insulated underwear but for a first hang I didn’t want to risk it even though the house was only thirty feet away. I experienced two problems with my general comfort. The first was that I felt my feet were up to high. I don’t think I had the hammock hung properly and that resulted in my feet being elevated. I think that had to do with the less than I deal scenario in which the hammock was hung. I think this will be correctable when I have two trees to hang between. Getting to sleep was the second. The party the neighbors’ kids were throwing while their mom and dad were away kept waking me up every time I was about to nod off. After about 30 minutes my cocoon of warmth over came it and I was out till 6:30 a.m. which is about when I normally wake up. I can say this even with some errors on my part it was the best nights sleep I have EVER had when outdoors!! I am a convert.

Message Statement

This is my Blog there are many like it but this one is mine.  I have enjoyed spending time outdoors since I was young, but as I grew up I found it harder and harder to spend time out doors.  I have decided that 2010 is going to be the year that I get back outside.  My goals are simple: camp, hike, fish, hunt, go to the range, get out to the woods at least once a month.  As I re-explore the outdoors I plan to document all my experiences and challenges.  As I struggle to brush the dust of skills long forgotten and learn new ones it will be there for all to see.