People on the Trail ~ Kit Elliott - Hammock Camper
Updated: May 2, 2022
I've known Kit for awhile professionally - she is as delightful in business as she is when we talk camping (It tends to come up with my clients) and in so chatting camping, I learned Kit regularly does something I didn't even realize was a thing at the time - she camps, and her hammock is her tent, bed. She's a Hammock Camper. I needed
to know more, and you do too! I asked her to sit down with a few interview questions...
Pictured: Kit (and the nice warm Loretta) celebrating never needing to leave her bed
When in life did you first start camping?
I began camping very early in life. Raised hunting and fishing, I was part of the camp cook crew right away. Making sure my complaining quota was kept to a minimum, I would gladly beat the camp to the truck for $20. And we are talking 6 miles straight up, and switchbacks all the way.
Our preparation time for the fall elk hunting season required many long hikes along the Siouxon Creek Trail is SW Washington. Our pack horses had to be in the same shape as ourselves.
My mom and I would prep the packs and develop prepackaged meals for every day of the two week adventure.
What led you to try Hammock camping?
My husband and I are avid campers. But, when my friend Angela decided to start training for the PCT, I offered to train with her, and reap the benefits of the effort. Well, tent camping in my middle aged body quickly wore out intrigue. I read some articles on Pinterest about hammock camping and thought to give it a try. My back needed an alternate sleeping tactic.
Pictured: Backyard Dry run ~ with hiking poles option when you don't have trees handy
My first experience was an overnight stay along the Lewis river trail below Mt. St. Helens. My birthday, my choice. My husband was required to try this method with me. Let’s just say, it was cold, rained all night, and the waterfall was extremely loud. The only saving grace was Loretta, our 95lb lab/heater.
Pictured: Loretta is a first-rate hammock warmer
What was your first experience like? What did you discover, pros and cons?
My hammock set up was textbook… Low to the ground, 30 degree angled lines, drip lines, rain tarp close for best insulation, foam pad to help insulate me.
My husband’s experience went a different direction. First: Don’t forget to pack your hammock. Big 5 is not going to offer you a good back-up hammock for this kind of adventure. Next, being “right” can get you killed…do not set up your hammock near water, without a rain tarp, and don’t attempt to go rogue like this just because your wife is trying to help you be in a better situation. :) But, if you do decide to maintain your path of stupidity, and you find yourself near hypothermia, just climb into that hollowed out tree and go to sleep.
What led you to continue hammock camping?
I felt so good climbing out of the hammock in the morning. No back pain or stiffness. Plus, you can do all your cooking from the comfort of your hammock and no worries of spilling anything in your tent since you are cooking below your sleeping quarters, on the dirt.
What kind/brand of hammock do you have?
I am a frugal camper. I chose a good hammock that cost me less than $20. My rain fly is a $5 blue tarp. My guy-lines are amazing and I did opt for REI gear. Make sure all your d-rings are structural so you don’t end up collapsing onto a rock and at the chiropractor. You can use that para-cord all day long and it’s like $5. Pre-cut and pre-looped for quick set up is the geek way to go. My air mattress was $20 and is available on Amazon. 27” wide is best. Don’t go for narrow pads. Everything folds up into a smaller area than a tent. Oh, get the hammock bug net too. If you don’t want to travel with a hammock quilt for under-insulation, simply feed your hammock thru your sleeping bag. It seems weird but you’ll be warmer for it.
Do you hammock camp as part of backpacking, or car camping, or something in-between like primitive sites in state parks?
I hammock camp, whether backpacking or car camping. It is the most comfort I’ve experienced sleeping outside.
Where have you hammock camped?
All over Washington state. 'Always easy to find a spot even in over-crowded areas. No trees? No problem~ use your hiking poles.
I recommend a night at the Bend Oregon’s Loge where rooms come equipped with hammocks in the rooms (above the beds.)
Pictured: Literally hanging out at Loge, in Bend, OR
We didn’t make the tide to finish our hike out in the Olympics, 3rd beach to Oil City…we had to set up camp as back from the surf as possible. Luckily, I was able to set up my hammock above the beach and miss the high tide fear altogether.
Do you go solo, or with human or canine friends, or both?
I love to be alone, but do prefer to backpack with someone, and always with our dog. Loretta keeps the critters away and is a perfect trail dog. Also, super warm.
What’s your favorite thing about camping? The whole experience is always very zen to me. Mostly, the camp coffee.
How many seasons do you camp?
I prefer 3-season camping. My backpacking buddy and I dipped our toes into snowshoe backpacking. We chose to use her $700 ultra lite tent that turned out to be wetter on the inside than out, due to condensation. She immediately exchanged it for an all-weather hammock system and never looked back. I did resort to a winter tent for winter camping but mostly because I didn’t want to pack in so much gear to stay warm in a hammock for snow camping.
Pictured: All set up at Snoqualmie Pass
What’s your weirdest experience hammock camping to date? While backpacking from Third Beach to Oil City, we stayed a night at Strawberry Beach. We found a space up on a bluff and tucked in the forest. While we did pack away everything into a bear box and stowed it a few hundred yards away… I chose the keep a small bag of trail mix for a night snack. Bad idea.
Sometime in the night I was awakened by the sound of hooves and sniffing. The moon was full and I could see the silhouette of a four-point buck standing outside my rain fly. Suddenly the buck slid my rain fly to the side with his snout and stuck his head into my big net. Without consideration I took the palm of my hand and pushed the elk snout away from its intrusion. The beast was startled and jumped back about ten feet, snorted, then took off.
Moral: Don’t eat in bed. They can smell food.
What’s your I’d-Turn-Back-Around-For-It-Gear? Now that we know a $10 hammock from Big 5 won’t cut it, it would have to be the hammock.
I have forgotten the tent on a car camping trip. We slept in the car. My husband’s back with never be the same. Should have turned back for the tent.
Do you have any trips planned this year? We moved to Ohio. Very flat here. Our next trip home, we are packing the backpacks and gear. Must have a go at the Appalachian Mountains.
What do you wish everyone knew about hammock camping?
It only takes 4 treats to train your dog to love hammock camping.
Pictured: Loretta votes for sleeping in late ~ who can blame her, in a comfy hammock?!
"Some women want diamonds... others just want a hammock, a campfire, and some peace and quiet." ~ Anonymous