By Jessica Griffin
As people of the Pacific Northwest, there are a few things we stereotypically love: the mountains, the trees and a good cup of coffee. Now that spring is here, it’s easy to see our 'tree hugger' tendencies coming forth as a multitude of students across campus find trees to—literally—hang out in now that the sun is shining. Hammocking is becoming ever-popular, so PULSE is here to drop some knowledge on everything you need to know before you take to the trees.
Not Just a PNW Thing
Though it may seem like more of an 'upper-left U.S.A.' pastime, Junior Graphic Design Major Joe Petrick has taken his hammock across the globe. “I first started hammocking about five years ago and I first noticed them at music festivals I was going to,” says Petrick. “I would see groups of people hanging out in trees, of course, and it just looked like a fun way to meet people and make friends.”
At the time, however, Petrick was the only one in his friend group who was getting into the activity so most of his knowledge came from Google or the people he saw doing it. “I just kind of Googled ‘hammocks’ and I saw a particular brand that I had seen some other friends with and they had all had nothing but good things to say about that, so I just went with what they had,” he says.
Around Washington, some of Petrick’s favorite places are the forests around Mt. Baker and some areas around Blewett Pass, but he has had some pretty unique hammocking experiences outside of our Evergreen state. “I think my most unique was last summer. I set up my hammock on the back of a boat that I fish on during the summer [in Alaska],” says Petrick. “When we were on anchor it was really great. … You have the breeze off the water, but I left it up and I tried to go hammock when we were underway and that proved to be very difficult and it was like I was on a mad swing set or something.”
It was about a year a go, however, that Petrick swapped in the chill of hammocking on a boat in Alaska for the warm beaches of Thailand. With all the palm trees and different beach environments, he thought his hammock would be an essential item to bring.
Along with the physical environment, Petrick mentions it was the social environment that made his experience, “You meet a lot of like-minded people … who are interested in the same kind of lifestyle, which is ‘relax.’”
Whether it’s on a beach, a boat or in the mountains, he says the best part about hammocking for him is being able to get away on his own and have time for peace, relaxation and meditation. For him, the draw to hammocking has two parts, the first being that it gives people a chance to escape from the hectic parts of life. “You can cocoon up in the hammock and have your own little safe space.”
The second draw that he mentions is the community surrounding this outdoor activity. “It’s always fun to throw up your hammock by someone else who is doing the same thing and I think there’s somewhat of a community around it,” he says.
On Campus Community
It’s no secret that hammocking on campus has become a popular spring pastime, with people setting up on trees in front of Barto, by the library and between Bouillon and Black Hall.
On a sunny afternoon, it’s pretty impossible to pass by a patch of trees on campus and not find a group of hammocks set up. One group of friends has started getting together regularly to set up their hammocks and invite new people to join. Courtney Clay, a senior graphic design major, and Myrinda Wolitarsky, a senior public health major, both explain that their group decided to go hammocking on campus on Earth Day and they’ve been doing it ever since.
The most unique part of their experience is that they have started setting up their hammocks on the trees by Brooks Library and found they could have pizza delivered right to their trees. “We found out we could order pizza because we were hungry and no one can say no to pizza," Clay explains, "So, I called Dominos and explained where the spot was and asked if they could deliver to us and the guy basically said, ‘I know exactly where that is, I’ll send my delivery guy over there as soon as your order is ready!’ I didn’t even have to give a real address.”
Be Sure To Save The Trees
We all know that the place on campus to go for anything outdoor recreation-related is Outdoor Pursuits and Rentals (OPR).
However, most students are noticing that OPR actually doesn’t rent out hammocks or any hammocking equipment. “We get a lot of people who come in here asking for hammocks, but unfortunately we don’t do that for liability reasons,” says an OPR employee. Along with this, one of the other major reasons they don’t get involved with hammocking is because there is actually a right and wrong way to set up a hammock on trees, and doing it the wrong way can actually cause significant damage to the tree itself.
Essentially, tightening the straps around the bark of the tree without using a blanket or felt piece to go between the straps and the tree can strip the bark, which, over time, can be fatal to the tree. “Really that’s what it’s about—protecting the bark—because once the bark goes the tree has potential to die,” an OPR employee explains. “So, you have to be a bit careful on where you actually hang it up too so you don’t damage the tree in how you do it.”
By choosing trees with thicker trunks and using a folded blanket or thick felt piece as a buffer between the bark and the straps, it helps prevent any snapping of the limbs or sliding of the straps that strip the bark. An OPR employee mentions that the lack of awareness around this fact can cause a lot of damage, specifically on campus. “If everyone is going to the same trees over and over, because they’re really good hammocking trees, over time that tree’s going to die.”
If you’re new to the hammocking, they do suggest investing in the brand names like ENO since they are so durable and will last you a really long time. They also suggest double-nest hammocks as well, which are big enough to fit two people.
If you’re really into hammocking, things like sleeping pads for sleeping in your hammock overnight are really helpful as well. Petrick suggests opting for longer straps for a few reasons. “It works for bigger trees and also if you have two small trees that are further apart, it gives you a little more line to work with,” he says, adding that if you’re a real pro, accessories like a bug net or a rain fly also come in very handy when camping with your hammock.
Whether you’ve been hammocking for years or you’re ordering your first hammock this week, it’s easy to see that not only is hammocking a way to get out and get away for some peaceful solitude in all sorts of different environments, but it’s a way to meet people and have fun with friends! Just remember—hammock safely