Friday, December 16, 2011

An Overnighter on the Palmetto Trail, 12/16/11

Back in December of 2011 I was invited on one last camping trip of the year. Even though I really wanted to test out some new DIY gear, I knew I wouldn't be able to make it with the company Christmas party/Annual Employee Appreciation Dinner the same day as the trip. Lucky for me, the friend who invited me said he would be more than happy to test out my gear for me.

The following trip report was done by 'Muskrat' from Hammock Forums

Last year, same time frame, I got a small group of friends together to spend a night out on the Palmetto Trail in Pomaria SC. Temps for that particular weekend were below freezing which was an experience more than anticipated for one of the guys in our group. He spent the night sleeping next to the bonfire, that he kept going all night long (with the wood that was cut and stacked by the USFS from recent blowdowns), in an effort to find some trace of warmth until the long awaited arrival of the sun made itself present. Yes, he had a hammock but had always used a CCF pad and liked to hang fairly high off the ground. What did he learn from this event? Its amazing how fast down UQs and down Exped mats can be in your possession after a hot shower!

Fast forward to this year... we had just about the same crew out with us this time with exception of one from last year not joining us and one new hammocker on board. Yes, our bonfire extraordinaire did make this outing with us as he was ready for anything Mother Nature wanted to throw at him. “Bring it on!” he declared. However, Mr. Murphy (Murphy’s Law) was more present than Mother Nature was as we had temps in the mid-50’s for this outing.

Rick, Kelly, and I parked at the Pomaria Trailhead around 1:00 that afternoon and made the 1.2 mile hike to the designated campsite. This trail is a former railroad bed so its very wide in comparison to most trails I have hiked but the most notable aspect is the granite rock that you can feel as you walk. In about 30 minutes, we made our arrival to the camping area and began the search for trees in which to hang our hammocks from. Rick and Kelly were both using their WBBB 1.0 and 1.7 respectively and I was using my older Hammock Bliss double as my WBBB dbl 1.7 was on loan to Dave who would be showing up later in the afternoon. Rick was anxious to try out his new WB Winter Yetti and his new WB Mamba top quilt... understandably so seeing that he thinks “fires are a good thing”. Kelly and I got to try out (2) DIY 3-season, ¾ length underquilts that were made by a friend of mine who was looking for a review on them. Dave was borrowing my 3-season Yetti. After hammocks were set, Kelly and I got to looking at our borrowed UQs and after making a few adjustments to get a good fit on our hammocks, we were hopeful that we were in for some good zzzzz’s. Around 5:00 pm, Dave made his way into camp toting about 50 lbs. After witnessing last year’s event, Dave decided he was not going to be the next to sleep by the fire so he came prepared for every situation. After our minor jesting, Dave got his hammock for the evening in place and was ready for battle.

That evening, we each prepared our own dinners, Kelly with a very nice ribeye, Rick with a salmon-pasta dish, Dave with a Mountain House dinner (can’t remember which one), and me with 4 chipotle rubbed pork sirloins... which I offered 1 to Dave since Kelly was stuffed from his ribeye and Rick opts not to eat meat. After dinner and a few adult beverages consumed, we had a great fire-side chat then head off for some hammock time slumber.

As typical, the need to visit the dehydrated trees occurred twice that night. However, this was good as it gave me the chance to really check out this DIY UQ that I was using with my Hammock Gear 20* down topquilt. It never slipped or shifted out of place, no cold spots that I was aware of, and actually it had really good coverage. Since it was a synthetic UQ, I did notice that it did not warm up quite as fast as my Yetti but it didn’t take it long to get there either. Kelly mentioned that morning that he never got cold and it seemed to do fine for him. However, this was his first time using an UQ so his expectations were to just stay warm and not wake up cold. Kelly combined this UQ with a synthetic 30* sleeping bag he borrowed and gave the UQ a thumbs up and was now seriously considering buying one. Even though we had what I would consider mild temps, I was warm enough that I think I would have been fine down to 32* with this UQ, but would need additional padding under my lower legs. Dave claimed he slept really well in the Blackbird, much better than he did in the Hennesey Expedition he borrowed from me last year. And for Rick? No campfire sleeping this time. He was more than warm this time and is still looking forward to another outing with colder temps. However, he did thank the forest service for once again supplying firewood for our use. . . just in case.

That morning, we did the breakfast routine, broke down camp, and made the 30 minute walk back to our vehicles, and said our good-byes. Overall it was a great a chance for all of us to get out and test some new gear and have a “dad evening” with some good friends. Looking forward to the next one. . .

- Muskrat