Great writeup, Dale! Made me hanker for hammocks again after quite a number of years giving up on them. I used to make quite a few hammocks back when Ed Speer's book, Hammock Camping first came out and Risk was still active on his MYOG hammock website, and I tried out a lot of different ideas back then. I could never really find the comfort zone in hammocking and so abandoned the idea. However, I've always been intrigued by the concept, especially, as you said, the ability to camp anywhere, even on steep, rocky terrain. Here in Japan a properly designed hammock would help me find camping spots that are often impossible to camp in in the very steep, very tree-covered, rocky terrain here, where ground campsites are often very small and hard to come by.
I've been a member of the Hammock Forums since it first started, but haven't been active in a long time... since before people like Te-Wa and The Professor joined and became popular. When I stopped by last year to learn about the newer and latest ideas for making hammocks, like whoopee slings, ultralight bridge hammocks, and Amsteel lines, I was so overwhelmed by the sheer amount of information that had accumulated during my absence that I snuck away with my tail between my legs. I haven't a clue how to get started now, or where to sit down and get a very strong base in making my own hammock now.
I've had an idea for a long time that I would really like to work out. I've been designing it on paper for quite a few years now and even bought some of the materials. Since I do most of my walking above tree line here in Japan, I need a shelter system that can be taken to the ground, but many opportunities exist for stringing a hammock between two points, and with a hammock I'd be able to camp in those difficult areas that often frustrate walkers here, plus, with the torrential rains here, a hammock would get me off the flooded grounds when I can. I'm thinking of making a hammock that is also a bivy, since basically they are the same thing, except one of them is just strung up. The problem is, most of the material that is used for hammocks is not very water resistant, and so the hammock wouldn't function so well as a bivy under a ground pitched tarp. I'm thinking to make the hammock/bivy out of lightweight kite Tyvek or two layers of Momentum, and reinforcing the material for when hanging, by sandwiching long strips of 1.4 nylon along the sides and one along the bottom, unstitched so as not to create a seam ridge. By creating two overlapping top flaps to the hammock I can effectively close the hammock when using it as a bivy and protect my quilt underneath. With this setup I can camp just about anywhere, hung up or on the ground and just use my Jacks R Us Rocky Mountain Sniveller as a serape and underquilt, and carry a narrower top quilt to augment the Sniveller.
I have no idea whether anyone else has done this, though I've looked everywhere. I'm also completely confused about whoopie slings and all those attachment thingamajiggies. I want to go light, and I'm not sure what people at HF are using these days for their hammocks. All seems so confusing.
Would the hammockers here have any suggestions (including whose threads I should look at on HF?)