When my 5 year-old son said he wanted to do something fun, I didn’t hesitate: we grabbed Lawson Hammock’s Blue Ridge Creek Camping Hammock and jumped in the truck. There’s a section of Lake Superior shoreline just North of town that’s uncampable in a tent because of the beach ball sized rocks strewn over the ground. It’s also one of my son’s favorite spots on Earth and the hammock was the key to a great family experience.
We do a lot of camping in tents and in hammocks, so we’re well practiced. Even so, the Blue Ridge Camping Hammock went up easier than any other shelter we’ve used. After finding our site, it took 3 casual minutes to unroll it, connect the two-piece spreader bars, hang it from the trees with webbing straps (which we provided), insert the arch
poles, and put on the fly. That’s it! Simpler than a tent, and far less adjustment-sensitive than our other camping hammocks!
The greatest part about hammock camping is being above the ground, especially when the ground is covered with rocks. In this particular spot a hammock is the only option. On the other hand, I’ve packed a hammock and been shocked to find that there were no suitable trees to be found. With other hammocks, that’s a problem. The Blue Ridge, however, can be configured as a ground bivy with the addition of two stakes. The arch poles support the bug net and rain fly, offering comfortable, versatile options in a single shelter.
So far, all of our experiences in the Blue Ridge have been in fair weather. The fly, while easy to set up, is secured on the sides by a few, small velcro tabs. I must admit to being unsure of its effectiveness in heavy winds and driving rain, but don’t have any actual experience to cite. If I have that opportunity in the future, I’ll update this review. My son, who is about 50 pounds, and I sleep in our other hammocks together, so, despite the “one person only!” warning on the Blue Ridge, we both jumped in. The spreader bars keep the sleeping platform in position and at a constant width, making the hammock seem quite spacious compared to fabric-only models. It was very stable and we were both quite comfortable. In fact, my wife and son both think it’s the most comfortable hammock we own.
I, on the other hand, actually prefer our other hammocks for a full night’s sleep. The loose-fabric, no spreader bar designs allow me to sleep diagonally across the sleeping area, creating a flat support and keeping my spine and legs inline. The Blue Ridge was definitely more comfortable than a sleeping pad on the ground, so, despite my preference for a flat sleeping position, it still gets my thumbs up.
The biggest discomfort we encountered were mosquitoes. The bug net worked well and we didn’t have a single mosquito inside the hammock. However, the mosquitoes bit our backs right through the nylon fabric. While the Blue Ridge was much easier to set up thanks to its integrated bug canopy, we missed the “bug bag” netting that completely surrounds our other hammocks, top, sides, and bottom. In the future, an inflatable mattress will be between my back and the fabric, even in the warmest months!
I think of hammocks as an ultra-light camping tool. At 22” by 6” and 4.25 pounds without stakes or straps, the Blue Ridge does not fit that description. It’s a larger package than my 2 person, 3 pole, free standing tent! There’s no way to reduce the length or improve its packability, like I can by removing the poles from my tent’s stuff sack. However, what you gain is versatility that can get you off the ground when possible, while offering a ground-based backup when needed.
The Blue Ridge Camping Hammock is a bit of an oddity. It fills a spot between the ultralight, loose-fabric camping hammocks that are finicky to set up and the small, two-person backpacking tents. Having fallen in love with hammocks, I definitely prefer it to a tent. Initially, I thought it fell behind the ultra-light hammocks that I’m used to, but, after some reflection, I’m not so sure.
The flexibility it offers for both suspended and ground-based shelter is entirely unique. When weight and size are the priority, it loses. But when I’m camping out of my sea kayak or am on a solo weekend trip, I welcome its adaptability. Consider the simple, fool-proof set up and I suspect that I’ll find myself stargazing through its canopy quite
often in the future.
Purchase direct from Lawson Hammock: Lawson Hammock
About Jeremy Vore
Jeremy Vore is a passionate communicator, teacher, and dad who lives on the south shore of Lake Superior. In his spare time, he writes, teaches sea kayaking and builds things with wood. His website is The Art of Paddling.