When I was first invited to Saddle Life my initial reaction was “Yes! Do it!!” but as I’ve learned over the years, I can be a bit of a worrier. So first, I had a few questions I wanted to know before committing anything like this. I obviously didn’t have the bug back then.
“How much will it cost, how long will it take and where are you planning on sleeping?”
The firs two questions are relatively simple ones and, in my mind, essential in answering whether or not I was able to go or not. While I would like to change this, even just a little in a positive direction, money is so often a leading factor in decision making and, as is also fairly standard, being restricted by annual leave from employment it is important to plan the length of time taken away from work.
Where are you planning on sleeping?
But the big question for me really was “where are you planning on sleeping?” And why was that?
I had previously seen a few pictures scattered here and there from my friends where they had been camping in the woods sleeping in hammocks. A typical hammock setup would be a camping hammock suspended between two trees and a square of tarp (tarpaulin, or thin sheet as I preferred to view it as) as a fly sheet for cover. This is essentially it, with a few camping essentials; sleeping bag, cooker, that sort of thing.
Now, between you and me, I saw these images and if I am totally honest, I couldn’t imagine
anything worse. I know that for many people camping is their idea of hell. But for me, this wasn’t it. I very much enjoy camping. I love the outdoors, the freedom and low-cost option of traveling and even the comfort of being in a tent as long as you have the right equipment, but the hammock looked like the evil twin of camping comfort and I really didn’t want to do this.
So what were their answers to my big important questions..?
“£168-travel, plus whatever spends. We suggested ten days. The two most highly valued items we say you carry on these trips is a hammock and a tarp. To answer your third question… trees.”
Just as I expected, the dreaded answer.. “hammock camping!” So what was I to do? I figured I was coming in on their adventure so I suppose I would have to follow their rules. It was suggested that we head down to their favorite local spot for hammock camping and give it a try. We headed down there about 4 months before we were to set off to The Netherlands so I could give it a go. I figured I would cycle there to meet them and make the first night a little more true to form for the actual trip.
In the woods
So here I am, I find myself in the woods with my friends setting up a hammock for the first time. They are being very patient with me and helping me out all the way as I fumble with cords and clips and guy ropes. Naturally, I choose two trees that sit along a short but fairly steep hill on the ground which makes it difficult to line up the two ends so that the two anchor points for the hammock are on a straight horizontal to each other, but eventually the hammock is up and I’m swinging in the trees.
A little more prepared than myself, my friends had brought more camping equipment, least not, food. I, on the other hand, had brought with me one can of Old Speckled Hen!
So how did I find it? Well, after all of the worrying and, quite frankly, judging of the entire concept of camping in a hammock, I was sold!
Granted, at around 6 am it did get a little chilly, nothing uncomfortable but enough to wake you up, but also nothing you couldn’t put down to it being my first time and being heavily under-equipped for the situation. There are many tips and tricks and bits of equipment I will eventually learn over time for keeping warm but the overall experience was fantastic. The quality of sleep and comfort levels were shocking and I was more than happy to do this for fun, let alone for the upcoming trip to The Netherlands
I wish I could say that some things have changed. Despite having more experience and some better equipment, I still seem to prioritise beer over food and need a lot of help getting my hang right or just struggle when I’m on my own. I never was the boy scout.
Needless to say, Deacon let me borrow the hammock and tarp to practice setting up and eventually I bought it from him second hand and am still using them today almost 3 years on. So with my new hammock setup and a sense of adventure, I was all set to conquer The Netherlands in a few months time!
Saddle Life x