Your first group hang...

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Flynguy521
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Your first group hang...

#1

Post by Flynguy521 » Mon Jul 03, 2017 2:51 pm

Most of us have been to group hang. I would say for most of us it has been an exceptionally positive experience. However, there are a lot of new members or people lurking who are new to hammocking, backpacking, or just camping in general. This is geared towards those people. While this post applies to everyone, if you are on this site reading this it is because you are interested in hammocks and their applications in a camping environment. We were all them at one point, but for some of us it may have been so far back that we have forgotten that first boy scout camping trip, church trip, or even slumber party. It can be a very nerve-wracking experience and for some people can be downright terrifying. More on my own personal experience with anxiety and my first hang in a moment.

The first thing to know is the hammock community is made up people just like you. We were all new at one point and had no idea how to set things up and have a good nights sleep in a hammock. Yes, there are tons of videos on YouTube showing you how to set up your hammock, rig your tarp, and adjust your insulation, but those are WATCHING, not doing. Like I tell my students who I am teaching to fly, you can read a book or watch a video a hundred times, but until you are in the air running through the checklists and performing the maneuvers, you won't really KNOW how to fly the airplane.

A group hang gives newcomers to hammocking the ability to have people there that can readily assist you with anything you are having trouble with. It also gives you the ability to see soooo many different solutions to the different issues that arise from camping in hammocks. One point I would like to stress is that there is no one way to do anything with camping, but there are lots of little tricks that make it an incredible way to experience the outdoors. That is why there are so many gear options, opinions, and methods to choose from. It is crucial that you remember to HANG YOUR OWN HANG! I have not met one single person who was not eager to show me or talk about their gear or set up and how it worked for them. I have not met anyone in person who was condescending or rude and told me I was doing it wrong, however on certain forums there have been people who have given me that feedback. That is why the group events are so great because they are made up of real people like you and me and not internet trolls who have not spent a night in a hammock, but have watched all the videos and read all the books and have the PhD in Hammockical Engineering!

However, there is more to a group hang than just sleeping in a hammock. Besides hammock gear you get to see everything related to the outdoors, trail cooking, backpacks, clothing, water filtration, knives, survival gear, lighting, the list goes on. And you get to see it FIRST HAND, without putting out the coin, only to find it doesn't work for you or meet all your needs. For gear junkies this is huge, but not everyone is a gear junkie. Some people are on limited budgets and just want to get out and enjoy the outdoors as frugally as possible. Some people are car campers, so weight will never be an issue and there is no reason to ever have cuben fiber gear. I have bought, and been generously gifted, many pieces of gear that I would not have other wise due to attending a group hang. There is always someone who just upgraded their kit and has gear that they no longer use.

Attending group hangs has given me so much more than I mention above, but I very nearly missed out on all of it. That is right, I backed out of several hangs before attending my first one. I was new to hammocking. I had been out once by myself and packed up in the middle of the night due to inadequate shelter and insulation. I was on the other forum and a little timid because I did not know very much. I saw people posting about trips I would love to go on, but my experience was limited. I had been car camping as a kid, and had gone on several day hikes (which I was dangerously under prepared for i.e. water in the desert of west Texas). I had never backpacked and I was on a tight budget. Seeing others post about their fancy gear, I didn't feel like I could even enjoy a trip out by myself let alone with a group. Part of my issue is since I was a kid I have had anxiety issues meeting new people, and thinking people thought less of me because I grew up with little. It may seem like a silly thing and I have tried to tell myself to not be so stupid, but I know others have similar issues and mental hangups, if not worse, that make socializing difficult. Especially when it is with a group of complete strangers.

Part of that issue is that you feel like an outside coming into a group where everyone already knows each other, so you tend to think you will be ostracized. Since I had backed out of previously scheduled hangs, I think my wife thought I would not go through with this one. She was not encouraging and thought I was crazy for thinking about going out and camping with a bunch of strangers in the woods. I finally dealt with my mental hangups and anxiety with my own positive reinforcement, "Nut up or Shut Up!"

The next group hang that was planned near me was put together by Scuba. The first Frozen Butt Hang at McKinney Falls State Park. Scuba offered to share his site with me and encouraged me to attend. The Huey's posted as well making me feel welcome. I was finally committed. Problem was, Tyler to Austin is about a 4 hour drive, and that provided plenty of time to think and for my anxiety to build. I had to fight it the whole way and nearly turned around a time or two. I had no idea who the people I were who I was about to meet and spend the weekend with. Finally I arrived in Austin and pulled up to Scuba's site at McKinney Falls. I remember feeling incredibly awkward as I approached the group who were all gathered around the Huey's fire pit.

Introductions were made and I got to put faces to screen names and learn real names. Scuba and The Huey's and kids were the first people I met that weekend as we got there a day early. I had about 25 years of practice introducing myself as Andy up to that point, but everyone there heard some variation of Aaron, Alex, or Adam. I was too shy to correct anyone so I just went along with it answering to everything I was called. It wasn't until halfway through Saturday when one of the Huey's kids, Chris if I remember correctly, corrected Cheryl. He asked why the heck she was calling me Adam, prompting her to feel terrible, but providing a comical story for all of us for years to come.

So here is how this group of strangers I had spent so long worrying about meeting treated me during my first group hang. As soon as I walked up Scuba offered me one of his chairs (as I had forgotten mine) to have a seat by the fire. Scuba had offered to share his site with me and helped me pick out some trees to hang between. He and Baby Huey offered help to set up and pointed out tips to help as I timidly set up. I was worried about being called out on my crappy gear. I had bought a Dutch hammock just for this trip because I was embarrassed to show up with my ENO, and couldn't afford a Dream Hammock. Between my Kelty tarp and my DIY PLUQ, I just knew I was gonna be made to feel embarrassed about my gear. At no point did that ever happen. In fact, Baby Huey led me over to his site to show me his setup and encouraged me to try his Dream Hammock so I could see what a custom hammock felt like. After that first night when it dropped to 19 degrees and my PLUQ proved insuffecient, HikeHunter lent me his diy down underquilt to use for the remainder of the weekend.

Throughout that day I fell out of my first hammock, thanks to Baby Huey! You see he had this awesome new fangled hammock chair he wanted to show us and he lulled me into thinking it was safe by setting it up and sitting in it. Then he offered that precarious throne to me. As I eased into it it felt surprisingly comfortable. I decided to raise my feet up and enjoy the full experience. Little did I know the loop had slipped over the knot. As soon as my feet came up, the taught fabric underneath me bum became billowy and I plummeted as if falling through a trap door. Luckily I was saved from my fall by the ground. I came very close to pioneering a new medical procedure know as the pine cone enema.

Around the fire tall tales were told, gear was discussed, and past trips were reminisced about. Eventually as the evening wore on Mrs. Baby Huey started prepping dinner for her bunch. The group migrated to the Huey's site. I had grabbed a bunch of the freezed dried meals we know and love(stomach) for the weekend. I prepped mine as I joined the group. By the time their dinner was ready I had finished mine. We all sat around the picnic table as they piled their plates high with the sausage and grub Mrs. Baby Huey had prepared. Having already had my meal I was just enjoying the company and conversation, but Mrs. Baby Huey was having none of it. At first I was offered, then eventually forced to have second dinner with the Huey's. Over the course of that first day I had unwittingly been adopted/inducted into the fraternity known as the Huey Clan. All the mountain house meals I brought stayed in my car the rest of the weekend as I always had a place at the Huey's table.

After an evening of more stories and discussion that campfires magically turn into wonderful memories, it was time to crawl into the hammock. As I already mentioned it would get down to 19 degrees and hammocks are known for causing a midnight bladder purge. In the early predawn hours I crawled out of what little warmth I had to water the weeds. During my attempt to crawl back into my cocoon of warmth I somehow managed to get the entire hammock under me and as I sat down to ease back into the hammock I performed a Olympic worthy back flip.

Once again the trusty Terra firma stopped my falling to oblivion with a loud whack that resounded through the woods. The following morning I got my wake-up call in the form of Mrs. Baby Huey calling to me to say they had coffee in Scuba's RV and to come get some. After crawling out of the hammock I joined the Usual Suspects as we huddled in the RV drinking coffee and hot cocoa from the Keurig while watching The Usual Suspects on Direct TV, you know, really roughing it.

Leading up to that weekend I worried a lot. That weekend I saw a lot, I learned a lot, but most importantly of all, I made a bunch of new friends that have become family who have seen me through career changes, a divorce, and just life in general. I think back to the anxiety and worry I had about attending my first hang and I can say without hesitation that my life was improved for the better by putting those fears aside and stepping out of my comfort zone. I hope this encourages those of you who we have yet to meet to become active on the forum and to join us for a group hang. Whether you are new to hammocks, backpacking, or camping in general, YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO OFFER!

Get out there and make new friends. Experience life in the trees!


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Calait
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Re: Your first group hang...

#2

Post by Calait » Tue Jul 04, 2017 5:19 pm

What a great post thanks for posting. My wife wants her trailer, therefore at the November hang, I hope to sleep at least one night in my hammock with the crew which shows up. I will need a site to hang, what food do I need to bring? :D
Any day in the outdoors is better than a day at work.

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UncleMJM
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Re: Your first group hang...

#3

Post by UncleMJM » Tue Jul 04, 2017 9:09 pm

Well written amigo! Glad you made that 4 hour trip and chose to hang outside of your comfort zone! Wouldn't be the same now without you.

Re: food for November... My bride and I feed everyone Saturday breakfast Tacos and everyone participates in the Saturday night pot luck. There's a rumor that Babelfish and I will be doing a Friday breakfast as well... we'll save the rest of the conversation for the planning thread coming a little later this month. :)

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sarge
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Re: Your first group hang...

#4

Post by sarge » Wed Jul 05, 2017 10:12 pm

First group hang was one I invited folks to at Brazos Bend SP equestrian camp area. Was suprised that folks came out. Still have some good freindships from that one.
You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me. ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn
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UncleMJM
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Re: Your first group hang...

#5

Post by UncleMJM » Thu Jul 06, 2017 9:51 pm

sarge wrote:First group hang was one I invited folks to at Brazos Bend SP equestrian camp area. Was suprised that folks came out. Still have some good freindships from that one.
That was a fun time. For those who don't know the area, it's a park with tons of alligators. They are cool to see but nothing to worry about. They usually stay underwater as much as possible so they can avoid the skeeters. :lol: :lol: :lol:

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gmcpcs
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Re: Your first group hang...

#6

Post by gmcpcs » Fri Jul 14, 2017 9:16 am

Thanks for posting!

I can empathize with your concern showing up to meet people you've met online to camp out in the woods in an unfamiliar place! I got you beat on driving time though, people think I'm ridiculous to drive 8+ hours to get to East Texas where there are trees, and nice people to spend long weekend shooting the breeze and eating good food!

IDK what you mean about all that weird DIY stuff, have you seen my redneck engineered rigs?

Take it easy flyinguy521,
GMCPCS
Texas will again lift it's head and stand among the nations. It ought to do so, for no country upon the globe can compare with it in natural advantages.
Sam Houston
"...But as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD."
Joshua 24:15b

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