Since hearing that one Scout Group on the south coast ran a hammock camp, it has been on our agenda to try it with our Explorer Unit. I was personally convinced by them one March
Since hearing that one Scout Group on the south coast ran a hammock camp, it has been on our agenda to try it with our Explorer Unit. I was personally convinced by them one March morning quite a few years ago. I was on a leader training weekend – getting the Greenfield Nights Away permit. It was cold. Very cold. So cold, that the tent was rigid with ice in the morning. I spoke with other leaders, empathising with some that had slept in hammocks. I expressed my concern that they must have been more cold. No, they replied. Having been among the trees and off the ground they were, they said, quite warm.
- Venue: countryside near you
- Hammocks vary in price, see below
- We budgeted £5 per head for food and drink
Our Explorer Unit is blessed with reasonably active members that are up for challenges and, located in Hampshire, we are also blessed with plenty of countryside to explore. As a result of fundraising and a gift from a benefactor, we invested in a small quantity of hammocks. Our first outing was to be a small and very straight forward camp to test our ability and kit to see if it could become a regular addition to our activity plan.
For our inaugural Hammock Camp, we were ruthless in choosing our group kit. On a ‘normal’ camp we would take a shelter, tents, a table, a bench, a gas cooker and plenty of spares, and so on. For this camp, we wanted to go as light as possible.
We ended up taking the bare minimum. Except an Italian Coffee maker (we’re Scout Leaders, not Neanderthals).
Kt we took included: two fire pits, lighters, two kettles, 3 frying pans (one for the veggies, 2 for meat use), 2 large billies, spatulas, serving spoons, 2 large jerry cans of water, fire bucket, shovels, saw and axes, first aid kit and plenty of rope. Food was kept in cool boxes.
|Firepits are a great resource. We have found that some places are hesitant to allow ground fires, even if you dig a pit. Many firepits are foldable and reasonably easy to transport. We use two of these.|
As for personal kit, we encouraged the Explorers to take a minimum amount. It is possible that some went home in the same clothes they arrived in and slept in. That is standard though. Isn’t it?!!
Each Explorer was issued with a hammock and was asked to bring a roll mat, sleeping bag and personal effects. At this time, we had not yet invested in the correct tarps – tarps that would provide adequate cover for a well strung hammock. Instead we had available tarps that had been donated by a local military establishment that have been used to make bivvy shelters. They are just a bit too short to provide full cover. The weather had been reliably good; only leaders hung tarps – with one using a personally owned DD Hammocks kit.
We recommend as a starter and for more committed units:
One of the benefits of Hammock Camps is that you can travel light. As above, we didn’t need to take too much kit. As a result of this, you can expand on the locations open to you for camping. On a normal camp we would visit a place with a shower block, toilet, open space and maybe a tree covered area for woodland activities. For this Hammock camp we were able to take advantage of woodland owned by a local Private School. It helps that members of the group attend the school, but regardless of this, the school was happy to support local scouting when we asked. Their extensive grounds included a lot of woodland that was generally unused. We found a small clearing that would provide a safe place for our firepits and that became our home for 24 hours.
We chose the camp based on a few key things:
- Accessibility. We were able to get a four by four vehicle near enough in order to transport equipment, and would be easy enough access in the event of a situation requiring help.
- Inaccessibility. It was off main footpaths that meant that we would not disturb any body, nor they us.
- Wildlife. It couldn’t be helped, but the area was at risk of ticks. It was also flourishing with other fauna and flora.
- Practicality. Knowing that we needed to hang out 10 hammocks, we needed enough trees that were well positioned to allow this. It also needed to have working space to allow us to sit, cook and eat together.
- Provisions. We chose not to take fuel for the fire so needed to ensure that we could harvest wood. We also needed a place to dispose of our waste.
Once you have the kit and the necessary permit, a Hammock Camp is a really good and easy to run activity. There is something about enabling Scouts to exist in a pretty raw environment that they really embrace. When you take away a tent, power and water sources, they step up well and you see them change as they commit to the fire, or to the cooking, or to making their hammock work as effectively as possible. They happily dig the latrine and work to preserve water.
Testament to their enjoyment is that since our inaugural hammock camp, the Explorers have opted to use hammocks multiple times since then, even on an international camp.
Key Information for Planning
POR Reference: Guidelines for Nights Away activities
Advice: Check for yourself the location in advance. Consider: water in / water out (what is your source of water? Where does ‘previously consumed’ water go?!), can you get help in an emergency (phone signal, vehicle access)?
If you have a review of an activity, venue or a product that would benefit other scout leaders, please get in touch via the contribute page or leave a message in the comments.