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BILL HOWARD COLUMN: Looking for a unique hiking experience?
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BILL HOWARD COLUMN: Looking for a unique hiking experience?

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Let’s talk about camping for a bit. June is a great month to go camping. The nights still drop cool enough to bear sleep, and the days are not overly unbearable.

We have so many places to camp that we should be known for our camping opportunities. We can camp along the seashore near Cape Lookout, or we can camp in the deep Linville Gorge in the mountains. We can camp along lakes or rivers, or we can camp in the shadow of Pilot Mountain.

Camping can mean several different types of sheltered environments, and I think I will discuss a few of these over the next few weeks. For this week, let’s start out with hiking and camping.

We have two major hiking trails that traverse through our state. The Appalachian Trail is known worldwide to hikers and is the top of the totem pole. Weaving from Georgia to Maine, many hike the trail in sections, and there are dedicated clans that do what is called a thru-hike. A thru-hike consists of starting at one end and ending on the other, and often takes as long as six months to complete.

Our second large trail is the Mountains to Sea trail, that covers the mountains to the sea, just as it is named. There are a couple of different ways to experience the MTS trail, as you can do a full hike across the state or you can hike, bike, and paddle as well.

Because of the difficulty in such hikes, weight and space become issues. You look for the lightest and smallest package for your shelter. One solution is something that people do not usually think of. That solution is the hammock tent.

As the word states, the hammock tent is exactly what it sounds like. It is a hammock that is covered and has a bug net to keep away the critters while allowing airflow. If it rains, you don’t have to worry about wet ground. They are very comfortable for sleep as well.

They can also be used as a hanging seat. The rain covers usually are separate and can be used as shade shelters during the hike. And by use of tree straps, they can be put up or taken down in less than a minute or two. Even in the dark, they are easy to set up. Try that with a tent that has 15 different poles to slide together and you will see why it works.

One of the downsides to the hammock tent is the lack of space inside. Only a few things are taken inside, such as your cell phone and/or journal, and a light in most cases. You will have to have a different spot for your backpack or bag. If it is raining, that can be an issue although there are ways around it.

Also, in case of cold, you typically use a sleeping bag style cover on the outside of the hammock to stay warm. Using it on the inside reduces the insulating properties. If a pad is used inside the hammock, it is also difficult to keep it in place without it sliding around.

Personally, I love hammock camping. My two main reasons are the comfort and the ease of setup and takedown.

If you have never used or heard of a hammock tent, search YouTube and check out some of the videos as well as some of the hacks for better use. The price range is affordable depending on the extras, but generally fall in line with a nice 3-season tent.

Then, get out there, do some hiking and camping and enjoy.

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