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Hammock and a GoLite Poncho/Tarp
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Scott Robertson
(SRPhotographic) - F
Hammock and a GoLite Poncho/Tarp on 12/27/2006 02:11:30 MST Print View

Alright, allow me to introduce myself! My name is Scott and I am an 18-year-old student living in Gainesville, FL. I have done a lot of camping before but have never truly gone backpacking.
I have decided to start out backpacking ultralight instead of waiting to convert later. I suppose I am in the new generation of backpackers and should adopt the best methods now so I can improve on them later without needing to catch up. I am already a cyclist so I understand the idea of getting your gear as light as possible. I also like the philosophy of UL backpacking. It strips one of his comforts and is a test of character. How much can I go without so as to stay safe but still enjoy the beauty of nature?
I took advantage of the holiday sales on campmor.com and rei.com to buy an internal frame pack (Jansport Helios 2900cc), a sleeping pad (ThermoRest Z-Lite), and some wool socks.
I have ordered an ultralite (10oz.) "the travel hammock" because I have decided to to hammock my trips to save weight and money. I realize that Florida State Parks do not allow hammocks to be tied to trees, but I have seen enough of the Florida countryside in my 18 years that it won't be a problem.
My next purchase towards my base is a tarp to cover the hammock. Trying to save weight and money, I am seriously considering the GoLite Poncho/Tarp. Yes, it is a full 3oz. heavier than the same size Siltarp, but it is dual-purpose and therefore surpasses the siltarp.
My biggest concern is the tarp not covering the hammock enough so that it will be effective in inclement weather. Therefore, I derived a series of equations to determine the amount of tarp overhang in inches in the best and worst case scenarios. I took into account the range in true length of the hammock after sag and the range in the true length of the tarp coverage assuming that the sides of the tarp are at similar angles. Here are my formulaic (but not at all real-world) results.

Worst case:
(paramters)
-hammock ends hang at a 15deg. angle
-tarp sides hang at a 25deg. angle
(results)
-3.48in of minimum overhang on either side where the tarp covers the hammock

Best case:
(parameters)
-hammock ends hang at a 30deg. angle
-tarp sides hang at a 10deg. angle
(results)
-10.47in of minimum overhang where the tarp covers the hammock.

This is all confusing even to me, but in simple terms: I have a minimum 3.5 to 10.5 inches of material between the edge of the tarp and the edge of the hammock. What it boils down to is this: is that enough room to ensure a dry night's sleep in the rain?

I plan to go on a couple of backpacking trips in groups led by the University of Florida's TRiP program so I can get accustomed to the craft. This summer I am going to take a long solo trip (1 or 2 months) so I can see more of the US's wilderness. I am considering either a portion of the AT or a few national parks out west (Grand Canyon and Sequoia). Ideas on the tarp would be very helpful, thank you.

Edited by SRPhotographic on 12/27/2006 02:12:37 MST.

D T
(dealtoyo) - F

Locale: Mt Hood
Re: Hammock and a GoLite Poncho/Tarp on 12/27/2006 03:44:13 MST Print View

Scott, welcome to BPL and welcome to UL backpacking.

The answer to your question is not a simple one. There's more variables to take into consideration.


How far above the hammock is the tarp placed (6 inches, 5 feet)?

Is the rain falling strait down or at an angle (how much wind)?

What configuration is the tarp setup (lean-to, diamond, A-frame, flat)?


The weather conditions, not mathematics, will play a bigger part in deciding coverage. It will also decide the configuration of the tarp setup. As with most things, experience will aid you greatly. Not all systems or methods work for everyone. You will get some great ideas from this web site, but it's up to you to find the one that works for you.

You're on the right track with the idea that a poncho tarp is better than a plain tarp (dual purpose). You will also need to develope a technique to seal out the rain at the hood while setup over your hammock. The simplest method is to pull the draw cord closed on the hood and then twist the hood several times. This will keep most of the water out with the exception of sustained or a extended period of rain which will eventually result in the water wicking through the hood (this will take several hours and lots of rain, but the water will make it's way through).

Hope this small bit of info helps.

G Cowen
(coweng) - F
Re: Hammock and a GoLite Poncho/Tarp on 12/27/2006 09:01:04 MST Print View

I am currently looking at a similar setup so I also await the answers. I have used a blue cheapie tarp as my only shelter for a while, but have just acquired a hammock. I will be experiementing several different setups to see what works best in various conditons.

As a college student, I know you dont have a ton of money to test, but try some of the ultracheap alternatives until you find what works for you. Walmart, as much as I dont like the place, has poncho tarps that are fairly durable for $4.88 and poly tarps for $5-8. Once you find what works, spend the $$$ for quality.

BTW, I am a '00 UF grad. We will make an excursion in Grand Canyon next week while we are out in Arizona for the National Title Game. Go Gators!

Scott Robertson
(SRPhotographic) - F
Clarification. on 12/27/2006 17:34:52 MST Print View

"How far above the hammock is the tarp placed (6 inches, 5 feet)?

Is the rain falling strait down or at an angle (how much wind)?

What configuration is the tarp setup (lean-to, diamond, A-frame, flat)?


The weather conditions, not mathematics, will play a bigger part in deciding coverage."


I understand that mathematics cannot replace real life experience in any fashion. The formulae were merely to determine whether or not such a set-up would be feasible in a perfect world. Our world is not perfect, of course; however, what it does show is a distinct possibility that such a set-up could exist efficiently. I left the variable of tarp to hammock distance out of the equations because it would not effect a perfect-world approximation (straight-down rain, no wind). Such a rig can be adjusted in a few moments to compensate for those other factors. If the weather got bad enough I may just have to use the hammock as a bivy under the tarp and pray for the best. I don't plan to test this rig in extreme situations (snow, imminent thunderstorms) without first gaining experience in ideal conditions.

The main reason I want to reduce my pack weight is not so I can be an ultralighter but because I plan to carry about 9-12lbs. of camera gear as I am a professional photographer. There is no reason not to carry all of the gear that I need to get the shots I want; such a profession requires sacrifices even if it means lugging heavy gear into the field. Doing this without killing myself would require ultra-lightweight gear. It is possible- Ansel Adams carried camping gear and a 60lbs. large-format camera through the Sierras and Yellowstone in the 1920s. A total pack weight of 28lbs. including camera gear is paled in comparison to Adams' accomplishments. If you think the people you see on tv hiking through extreme conditions have it tough, think of the person recording the action with a 15lb camera on his shoulder.

D T
(dealtoyo) - F

Locale: Mt Hood
Re: Hammock and a GoLite Poncho/Tarp on 12/28/2006 01:45:50 MST Print View

Scott, start simple, A-frame setup for your poncho tarp placed just far enough above your hammock so that the tarp doesn't touch you or your sleeping bag. It would be best to try anything new in you back yard, if it fails your only steps away from warmth and safety (and food).


In my last post I forgot to tell you that once the hood is twisted a couple of times, double it over and secure by half hitching the hood draw string around both halves. This will keep the hood from untwisting.


I think you'll find that alot of people get into UL backpacking so that they can take along a swath of other gear for their other hobbies. Photography, fishing, bird watching, climbing, rafting, biking, etc., etc., etc.

Just because you have the other gear with you, it doesn't mean that your not UL backpacking. Who knows, some day you might decide to leave the camera gear behind just so you can get outdoors, even if it's just for one night. Wouldn't that be nice and light (and maybe even fun).

After you find a setup that works for you, put that camera to work and post some pics. I'd like to see what you've come up with. Who knows, maybe you'll figure out a method that no one else has come up with. The pics will also come in handy for other newbies learning to use this combo of poncho tarp and hammock.

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
Re: Hammock and a GoLite Poncho/Tarp on 12/28/2006 07:18:49 MST Print View

Hennessy Expedition A-Sym hammock is my primary hammock.

The Campmor Ultralite Extension Poncho/Tarp has been a very good replacement fly for the hammock due to the design of the hammock. The fly is attached directly to the hammock line and this keeps the fly close to the hammock. The diagonal of the poncho matches the the A-Sym shape.

Duane was right - the distance between the hammock and the fly is a very important variable. The shorter that distance the less coverage needed.

I use a wind shirt (GoLite Ether) as a rain jacket to wear around camp.

Once the poncho was too flat when it rained and the poncho turned into a funnel. Two ways to prevent this problem. One is to pitch the side with the hood with a steep slope. The other is to throw a clove hitch around the hood and elevate it by guying to an overhead branch. It is easier to keep the hood tightly closed if a cord lock is added to the hood drawcord. Two 12.5” TripTease cords are used for the fly guy lines.

BTW the Grand Canyon is NOT a hammock friendly environment.

The Claytor Jungle Hammock is a great base camp or group camping hammock, but for serious hiking the bottom entry of the Hennessy is my go to hammock. Use your current hammock to see if hammock camping fits your style, then upgrade.

I highly recomend the Jacks'R'Better underquilts to stay warm.

Stephen Nelson
(stephenn6289) - F

Locale: Sunshine State
Florida and Go Lite on 01/01/2007 19:49:02 MST Print View

Hey Scott, It is nice to see another human from Central Florida on this site, you definately have the right idea here. I recently purchased a GoLite poncho/tarp and gound it to be a fine product. I have practiced hammock camping in Florida for several years and I thing that the tarp woup provide plenty of coverage if setup close enough above your hammock. Happy backpacking

-Stephen from Ocala