It’s hard to believe it’s only April and I’m in north east Pennsylvania. I guess it can all be blamed on El Niño, with the warm weather and relatively easy winter. Whatever the case, I’ve been taking advantage of it hiking, camping and kayaking. This past weekend I decided to head to one of my favorite car-camping spots… Promised Land State Park, located in the Pennsylvania town of the same name. I very much needed to test some new gear, and it’s always best to do that in a place you are familiar with.
As with any kind of activity, you always go through an evolution of sorts with your gear. For me, I grew up camping on my families 70 acre property by a little pond, then when I was old enough to drive I started car-camping (driving to a campground and renting a site). I used Coleman or Avid Outdoors tents and big Coleman propane stoves and a lot of other heavy, heavy gear. Then I got into kayaking, and I had to lighten things up quite a bit, not to mention pay more attention to the size of everything. So I went with an Eureka Apex XT backpacking tent, blended fuel canister stove and other lighter gear.
Now this year, I want to start doing multi-day hiking trips. Once again I had to rethink my approach on gear. I won’t be able to simply walk a few feet to the car for spare or “just in case” items. I’ll need to carry everything I need with me, so space and weight got cut down again… and what better way to test my new set-up than camping at Promised Land?
Tents are relatively heavy and bulky, the ground is hard and it’s not always easy to find level ground out in the wild. So, I decided to switch to a hammock. All you need are 2 good, sturdy trees. I spent a considerable amount of time over the winter researching hammock camping and what I found out is this… there are a ton of options! After a little thought and some great deal finding I wound up with 3 options for hanging around. First I got a small Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO) travel hammock, just to see if I’d like it, plus I can keep that in my day pack for a nice place to relax and enjoy the scenery.
After realizing that I like hammocks I was able to find an Exped Scout Hammock Combi for about $145 off retail, it was a no brainer although it took about a month for it to ship. It’s a great rig and comes with everything you need: hammock, bug net, rain fly and suspension. Although it’s a great set-up it wasn’t quite what I was looking for, mainly I wanted something with a separate bug net. So I next pieced together my new main rig: ENO DoubleNest, ENO Guardian Bug Net, Atlas Straps, ENO Ember2 under quilt and ENO PloFlyXL rain fly. This set-up allows for any or all components to be used and makes packing them all away super easy, since they all break down separately. Eagles Nest Outfitters web site.
Long gone is my old clunky “barely portable” camp kitchen I used to lug around. This is one of the areas I spent the most time reworking, and tried several different options. I settled on piecing together my own. I’m using an aluminum pot/pan made by Outop that’s big enough to fit 1 100g canister of blended fuel and a small Sahara Sailor camp stove, as well as a Lite My Fire Spork, a few packets of coffee/sugar/creamer mix and a few packs of oatmeal… that’s enough for 2-3 days of breakfast alone. Since I’ll be eating mostly dehydrated meals while hiking this kit will work great, I’ll mostly just be boiling water. Speaking of which, I use a Sawyer Mini for my water filtration. Anything in this list without a link can be found on Amazon.
Carrying it All
All the gear is great, but does you no good if you don’t have a pack. For my multi day trips between 3-5 days, I’ll be using my Teton Sports Summit2800. It’s a 45 liter, internal frame pack that can hold most hydration pack bladders up to 100 ounces. I find that I can hold the entire hammock set-up minus the under quilt in the lower compartment. The quilt easily straps to the bottom. I can fit a change or two of clothes, my mess kit and food for 3-5 days in the top section. Water filtration, flashlight, fire striker, bug spray and other odds and ends easily fit in the numerous pockets around the bag. It also has an included, attached rain cover. I can fit my Teton Sports Journey 40° sleeping bag under the top lid, anything bigger than that and I’ll either need to attach it to the bottom of the pack or just use a bigger pack all together.
With all that being said, I was a bit nervous to take this new gear out untested. Hence the reason for this particular trip. Forecasts had the low temperatures in the mid 30’s, but they wound up dropping into the upper 20’s instead. I had brought my old tent set up, that I knew would hold up in temps in the 20’s, as a bail out. I didn’t need the tent but at the last minute I did swap my sleeping bag from the 40° to my Teton Sports Celsius XXL 0° bag. That kept me nice and toasty for both nights. When I wasn’t sleeping all snug in my hammock, I was out hiking and kayaking around the park. Be sure to check out the video above to get a better look at the gear, and enjoy the photos below of some of Promised Land.