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Spending a night in a hammock in every season

For few years, I had been sleeping many nights in my hammock in the woods of Finland. “Wait, you said sleeping in a hammock?” you might ask at this point.

Yes, in a hammock!

People know tents, but what comes for a good option for solo travelers and hikers, hammocks are slowly becoming an option.

People know what hammocks are, since many might have had some sort of hammock in their garden or backyard. But how many have been thinking to use it in the woods?

Few years ago i started looking for a tent for myself. I had been doing small day hikes in the local forests,  and I wanted to spend a night there too. While I was looking for reviews about certain tents, I found an article, A tent or a hammock?

This really got me interested about hammocks, and I wanted to find more information. I found sites like The Ultimate Hang and Hammock Forums. Also a well-known hammock guy Shug, has a great Youtube channel for information and how-to’s.

Basically a hammock is easy to set up: all you need is two trees. Depending on the length of your hammock, you have to find trees that are 4–5 meters apart.

At the Repovesi National Park in Southern Finland

I love hammocks because they are so versatile. It’s also great being able to see the weather outside. When I wake up, I just open the zipper and sit like I would sit in my bed. I can reach out and turn on the stove, and a bit later I can enjoy coffee in my bed.

It’s not hard to find two trees where I can set my hammock – it’s even easier than finding a good spot for a tent. No spiders, ants or other insects or snakes bother me while I sleep.

A bit later I bought my first hammock, Ticket To The Moon double. I have used it quite many times already. After getting some more experience I have bought a few other models as well, like DD Hammocks Frontline, Warbonnet XLC and Amok Draumr.

Hammock

Amok, DD Frontline, Ticket To The Moon and Warbonnet

There are many hammock manufacturers like Warbonnet, Amok, Ticket To The Moon, ENO, DD Hammocks etc. However, very few of them are sold here in Finland.

A simple hammock is a single big fabric, which are tied from the ends. These are called gathered end hammocks. Some manufacturers use parachute fabric such as silk, and some use different kinds of nylon. Fabric also gives the strength to the hammock, and there are certain user weight limits.

Most hammocks are one or two layer modes. A double layer allows you to put an insulation pad between the layers. Double layers might have the weight limit up to 300 kg.

Amok and Exped have models that require airpads to build a frame. Without the pad, the hammock is quite useless. In these hammocks you lay sideways, which has benefits such as a very comfortable lay. Amok has designed this model to be more adjustable, so you can also comfortably sit on it by pulling the adjustment straps.

Comfort lay

In the standard hammocks, you have to lay in the same diagonal direction (e.g., head on the left, feet on the right or vice versa). This way you will have the best possible lay in the hammock. It also helps to avoid possible knee or calf pressure that could make you uncomfortable. The foot end has to be a bit higher than the head end, so you won’t feel any sliding.

It is possible to sleep on your side, but stomach sleepers will have problems.

If the hammock is too tight, you feel shoulders squeezed. If it’s too loose, it has a calf ridge in the middle of the foot end, which causes pain to the feets. The longer the hammock is, the more comfortable you get. The hammock should be at least 1 meter longer that the user.

When the hammock is in banana shape and the suspensions are in a 30 degree angle down from the tree attachment points, that’s when you get the most comfortable sleeping position.

Suspension

Suspension is one the most important parts of the hammock. This will hold you between the trees. The best thing is to use so-called tree huggers, which are usually 2,5 cm wide straps. These straps are important, because they will also protect the tree bark. Some use a thick cords such as paracord, but they leave very bad pressure markings to the bark. The tree might be badly damaged from those ropes.

If the suspension is pulled too tight, it might break. This is because the forces are very high, bigger than in the 30 degree setup. A 30 degree angle has only the same weight as the user. Straight line might have 10 times of user weight.

There is many ways to hang a hammock. Some use hooks, carabiners, buckles, whoopie slings (dyneema cord) or just plain wide rope. Buckles and whoopie suspension are also adjustable, so it will be much easier to set.

Tarps

Hex, square, Hex modification from square tarp and hex with doors

Tarpaulins are usually known as tarps. A tarp will cover you from the sun, rain and wind. Most of them are made of nylon, some lightweight solutions are made of cuben fiber fabric.

Usual tarps are 3 meters by 3 meters, but also larger ones like 4 m x 4m are available. There are also so-called hex shape tarps, and some of them have doors. This allows you to cover yourself from the wind or rain much better. You can also set the regular square tarp as a hex with doors by using the loops sewed to the sides.

Insulation

To be able to sleep warm and comfortably, you need to have good insultation around you. To cover your back, a sleeping bag simply isn’t enough, since it will compress under you and loose its insulation.

One way is to use pads, such as foam or air pads. Both are good options, and depending on the weather and the pads R-value, it will insulate your back. Down sides are that air pads can not inflate fully, because the shape will affect to the lay. Other one is that it might slide under you, when you are turning or moving.

Underquilts are a great option, since they don’t affect to the lay. A quilt is around you, under the hammock, and will cover your back and also your sides. An underquilt has its own suspension, that usually is shock cord. They are attached to the hammock ends. An underquilt has to be set tidily under the hammock, so that it will seal well. Even small air gaps let the warm air escape, and you will have a cold back or cold feet.

Topquilts are basically sleeping bags without a zipper and a hood, and they are used the same way as a blanket. This allows you to move more freely and getting up is much easier. I use sleeping bags too, but they are sometimes very annoying to use, because you have to get in and wiggle like a worm to get in it well. I am a restless sleeper so I use sleeping bags in colder seasons.

Are hammock systems light? Yes and no.

There are many ultralight options like DD Hammocks superlight series. They need very little space and their total weights are less than a kilo. They have limitations too, for example the maximum user weight is a 100 kg.

Choosing light material will save weight, but it will also increase the price.

These are just the basics for the hammock. To find out more, I recommend these websites: Ultimate Hang, Shug’s youtube and Hammock Forums.

Warbonnet with super fly tarp. Both in porch mode.

Today I am mostly using the Warbonnet Blackbird XLC. It is quite a long hammock, 335 cm, and it offers many great features. Such as removable bugnet, designed footbox for better lay and comfort, and a great view outside. Really long straps with buckles are great, they protect the bark in the trees. Buckle suspension is easy to use and it holds well. Bugnet is removable, which changes it to a Traveler hammock. With the bugnet, you also have a storage shelf, which is very useful. I usually put my eyeglasses and my phone there. The total weight is 1,1 kg, and it has double layers with 180 kg weight limit. I have slept well many nights in the Warbonnet.

Warbonnet hammock and tarp review can be read in Finnish from HERE.

Super Fly’s

The tarp is a Warbonnet Super Fly, which has 2000 mm water barrier. It is 335 cm long and 305 cm wide.  Both ends have doors, which can be closed to get more cover from the wind and rain. This tarp is designed to be used in the winter as well. It has pull outs on both sides to make more space inside. This tarp is very light, weighing around 500 grams. With the stakes and cords the total weight is 700 grams. This tarp is well made using good materials, but the pull outs need to be sealed with silicon etc, so that any water won’t drip inside.

Cumulus Selva 600 underquilt

To cover my back from the cold temperatures of the Finnish winter, I bought new down underquilt, the Cumulus Selva 600. Its Pertex fabrics are a great protect from moisture. The outer fabric is also water-resistant. The hydrophobic down is also said to be less sensitive to moisture, although not everyone agrees. The loft is amazing and this is truly a quality work. This is size L, which means that it’s 235 cm long. The size M is available too, with 215 cm lenght, and in my opinion it’s better for regular hammocks. The size L works well with Warbonnet, because it is 45 cm longer than Ticket to the moon.

A draft collar helps to seal the air leaks from the ends.

Selva 600 is comfortable to use in -14°C. The limit is -22°C. I slept warm and cozy in -10°C.

Cumulus is well known for their down clothes and sleeping bags. You can read the full review from my site HERE.

As a top insulation, I use my Haglöfs Cornus +2 bag, mostly from late spring to later fall. In the summer I just use it as a blanket. In winter time I have my Savotta Military bag, which has comfort around -15°C.

A -10°C night behind, snug as a bug, warm and toasty

I have slept over a hundred nights in my hammock. To me it is a cozy bed, where I can read, sleep and even eat! Because I love to be near water, I have found great places where I can wake up and see the lake. We have our own Finnish hammock group where I have met great people who share the same interests. We have had a few meetings with lots people.

To me, hammocks are the perfect solution for sleeping in the woods. With a hammock I am able to choose my place better that with a tent. Surely, using a hammock requires more attention so that I won’t hurt myself. It’s more complex in some cases and needs more things to know, like knots for example. A backpack needs to be under the hammock or tied down to a tree.

It took some time to find myself a good hammock, and I have been enjoying the Finnish nature in many ways, all seasons, all weather, with friends, or alone.

 

The peaceful coast of Emäsalo: Varlaxudden, Porvoo

Do you long to cast your gaze out to the open sea? Then you should head to Varlaxudden, which is part of Porvoo’s archipelago and located just off the southern tip of Emäsalo. Emäsalo is a large island of around 34 square kilometres, slightly southwest of Porvoo, accessible via bridge. The Varlaxudden recreational area is 12 hectares, but I suspect that most visitors don’t stray far from the shoreline.

I started my daytrip by car, heading south down the Emäsalo Road from Porvoo almost all the way to the pilot station, where you can’t go without permission. Varlaxudden’s carpark was right by the road. Not far along path, there was a neat outhouse on the rocks and some firewood.

Several daytrippers were dotted around the coastal rocks enjoying the calm weather whilst sitting, standing, laying on beach towels or wading in shallow water. Smoke rose from the depth of the sheltered campfire site as well as from the hot coals of an open campfire place nearby. A gentleman assuming the role of sausage guard went to turn the hotdogs and at the same time seemed to be making sure that I didn’t mistakenly think that they were up for grabs. Oh why didn’t I take my own sausages with me!

A lovely view of the Gulf of Finland’s outer archipelago was visible from most of  Varlaxudden beach. A few sailboats glided lazily forward in the distance and I wondered if the taller vertical post on the horizon was a lighthouse. I should have thought to take binoculars with me.

I bounded along the beach to the left and wondered if I could manage a visit to a sweet-looking rocky headland called Fågelboet with dry feet. The promontory must have been  a former island, as the land has risen around Emäsalo approximately 5 metres in the last couple of thousand years. I decided to move from the edge of coastal waters to the forest side and see if I could find a path leading to Fågelboet.

Having found the forest path leading in the right direction, I then came across a mini camp by the trail.  It seems that Varlaxudden had attracted some overnight visitors as well as daytrippers and they had found the perfect spot for their three tents in the shade of pine trees. I stepped around the tent ropes and back onto the path.

It occurred to me that the campers might be paddlers, but no kayaks could be seen on the coastal rocks. It would be nice to do a kayaking trip here from around Hakasalo for example, to save carrying a kayak from the parking place to the beach along the forest path.  Alternatively, a little further north of Varlaxudden, from Edesviken to Vaarlahti, kayaks can effortlessly be launched into the water straight from the carpark and that trip could then be combined with a tour of Hakasalo and Varlaxudden by sea.

Varlaxudden belongs to areas managed by the association of Uusimaa recreation area (website only in Finnish and Swedish), for which you can use free mobile applications (Recreational Canoeing Map and Map) to explore them.

There didn’t appear to be any signs for Fågelboet along the coast, but after a short while on the forest trail I noticed that I was actually on a marked path. I stopped for a moment to observe a tiptoeing chaffinch, who seemed oblivious to my presence.

The route, which was marked by painted red dots, soon led me to a logged area and a warning sign which said ‘Private’. Thankfully, I had already reached the headland, so it didn’t matter, and I turned and headed towards the beach. I suspect that the owners of the summer cottage on the neighbouring headland probably didn’t want any random passers-by wandering onto their land.

The path from the beach to the Fågelboet’s rocky headland, which I feared might have been wet, was very short and my feet remained dry in trainers. Part of the path is marked with painted red dots on the trees and private areas are marked with warning signs.

The long slender violet wands of the speedwell flower swayed in the light wind and I stopped to observe a buzzing bee, looking for nectar. Life is full of small joys.

And what fine rocks!  It was definitely worth making the short journey here from the beach. I sat down contented, enjoying the view of the sea and its islands. Sitting on rocks is the perfect way to take in marine life with its birds and boats or no boats at all. The only camera you need is your brain. I decided that this would be a good place to eat my sandwich.

In the middle of Fågelboet is an area sheltered by pine trees. There are signs to remind us that making campfires is forbidden. Careless handling of fire can easily destroy all of the vegetation here, on this dry rock. You can make campfires at the designated campfire spots on the beach without risk of causing damage.

After my scenic snack break, I did another small tour of Fågelboet and finally came across some birds! From behind the protected cove flashed bright white and then a couple of sturdy orange beaks at the end of long necks appeared. A swan family with their large brood were swimming peacefully, the fluffy cygnets close to their parents. The mother as well as the father pushed their smooth long necks under water. Food-time.

I returned back to the coastal path and wondered if the path marked with red painted dots would have led inland. For a little while, I followed the other path back in the direction that I had came from, but then emerged via a blueberry clump back on to the original path that I had followed to Fågelboet. I was in no rush back to the car park, as the other side was still unexplored.

So I returned to the Varlaxudden campfire pit and turned my eyes to the right, the direction of the pilot station. The spectacular rocks drew me towards them like a magnet and I squeezed between two big boulders onto a narrow path that led towards the smooth rocks of Skvättan. If the way had been accessible via sandy beach, it would have been fun to wade to the rocks, but instead there were lots of slippery stones and I wouldn’t have managed the journey without slipping and falling into the water.

The path belonging to the recreational area’s western side began to fade away as it led me over smooth rocks, their soft forms created by the sea’s waves. Walking on these rocks you don’t even need a path. Again, you can think about all the things that were brought forth by the land rising. Over the course of thousands of years sea water has churned many metres above its current height and honed these particular rocks until they were unusually smooth.

These smooth rocks don’t belong to the official Varlaxudden recreational area, but to the state. No matter how much I would have liked to, you can’t go around Emäsalo’s southern tip by foot, as a fence gets in the way. The island’s southernmost point is part of the state’s pilot station and the protected area of the navy begins from there meaning that any other activity is limited. There are 18 of these protected areas altogether in the Gulf of Finland and the Archipelago Sea, which belong to the Finnish State.

With one final glance, it was then time to return to Porvoo. The beautiful seascape, gentle wind, sunshine and space to breathe let my thoughts soar. Varlaxudden is excellent for families taking a day trip or having a picnic, but is also perfect for visitors who just want to stop and be. You don’t have to clock up kilometres here. The area is also a good place to venture off the path to pick berries or mushrooms for example, as you’re never far from either the coast or the road, which means that finding your way back is easy.

Location and Directions:

Varlaxudden recreation area is about 25 kilometers from the centre of Porvoo on the most direct route. The Emäsalo Road, from Emäsalo’s northern tip to Varlaxudden’s car park (Address: Emäsalontie 1420), is about 15 kilometers long. The road is in good condition but it is narrow, so cyclists and motorists must take care to notice and leave room for each other. One can usually park their car with ease at Varlaxudden’s car park, except for on the busiest summer days.

You could also cycle to Varlaxudden or get the bus. The bus stop is on Emäsalo Road (Emäsalontie) just before the pilot station, but the bus service (Porvoo to Emäsalo) is available only from Monday to Friday, and even then is limited. If cycling or driving, you can stop for coffee and snacks at the friendly village shop in Bengstby, Emäsalontie 715, which is about halfway.

Map ETRS-TM35FIN -coordinates N 6675112  E 424294

The author stayed at Ida-Maria Bed & Breakfast, courtesy of Porvoo’s travel office VisitPorvoo.fi

Translated by Becky Hastings.

Spend a night outside – Riuttaskorpi recreational forest

Autumn had arrived to Finland with it’s colorful touch. It was time to get together and spend a night outside.

Suomen Latu Ry (a Finnish outdoor association) has decided a date for Finns to spend a night outside. The 17th of September is the day that thousands of Finns will be heading to the forests every year for an overnighter, or they will camp on their own backyard etc.

So I asked if someone from our Finnish hammock group wished to get together and go hanging somewhere. Soon we had decided our destination: the Riuttaskorpi recreational forest.

Haukijärvi

Haukijärvi

Riuttaskorpi is a 16 sq km area in the north side of Ylöjärvi, near Kuru. It locates between 2 big national parks, Seitseminen and Helvetinjärvi.

This area hasn’t had much of population during it’s history. Mostly it is known for log floating and some of it’s white waters have been used for mills.

Some of Finland’s long trails go through this area, like Pirkan Taival for example. There is a lean-to and a few fireplaces, and also a sightseeing tower, which is closed now because of it’s poor rotten condition. One rented sauna can be found by the lake Haukijärvi,  and next to the sauna there’s a kitchen building which is open for everybody.

Parts of Riuttaskorpi log trails are also in poor condition, I hope the rotten logs will be replaced soon. There is a total of 15 km of trails to walk.

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The day started from my home, where 3 of us met at 10 am. Unfortunately, one had to cancel, because his child got really sick and they had had to go to the hospital in the middle of the night.

It took about an hour to drive to the Myllykoski parking lot, where there were two more hammock hikers waiting for us.

Our first destination was only 500 meters away. It was the Suutarilankoski lean-to with it’s white waters.

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Remains of an old mill

Suutarilankoski is a beautiful place. One can still see some remains of the old mills from the 1920’s, or possibly even earlier. There wasn’t as much of water running as usual, I think, since this small river is sometimes also used for canoeing and kayaking.

There was a small trail on the right bank, where we could access easier to the small flowing river. I jumped from rock to rock in the middle of the purling waters. Yellow leaves gave extra colors to the beautiful green moss around. I enjoyed the sound of purling water by closing my eyes.

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It was a bit of a disappointment that we couldn’t use the sightseeing tower because of it’s poor condition. Parts of the stairs had been removed so that people wouldn’t go up and possibly get hurt.

But there was quite a nice view from the rocks to the lake as well, even if we couldn’t go up in the tower.

We also got a few deer keds on our way… I hate those. Hard to kill because they have such a strong armor, and they are really small insects. Crawling under the shirt and in the hair… nasty little… well, you know. They appear usually in the August and their season lasts around the end of September.

Haukikalliot

Haukikalliot

It didn’t take long before we arrived to Haukikalliot (the Pike Rocks) and had a conversation whether this could be our place for the night or not.

We had some snacks and soon we decided to check out the last place by the lake Haukijärvi (Pike lake). If it wasn’t a good place for us, we would come back here. We had lot’s of time, since it was only 12.30 pm.

Table was collapsed due it's poor condition

A table had collapsed due to it’s poor condition

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Most of the logs in the trail were in bad shape as I mentioned earlier. Also the table up on the hill had collapsed because the wood was too soft and rotten. But the trails were mostly in good condition, luckily.

Kitchen building

Kitchen building

Mancave, 3 x knock

Man cave, 3 x knock

Salinkalliot has an kitchen building with a fireplace and two big tables. It is a really nice cottage, but I forgot to take photos inside!

There was only a sauna down on the shore and no camping possibilities for all of us, so we decided to head back to Haukikalliot.

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We set our hammocks and made a fire. We also made enough firewood for the whole night and for the next morning too.

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Me and Jani decided to not use the tarps, since it was obvious that it wouldn’t be raining at all. The weather forecast told us that the night would be clear, but the temperature would be around 0 celcius (32F).

There wasn't any grid available so this worked out well too...

There wasn’t any grid available so this worked out well too…

We had a great evening! We chatted and made something to eat. Also some other people joined us and since they didn’t have much of experience with hammocks, we showed them some of our own solutions with our hammocks and tarps. Hammock camping is a relatively new thing here in Finland.

The gear we had was this: 1 DD Frontline, 2 Ticket To The Moon’s, 1 Amazonas and 2 Warbonnet Blackbird XLC’s. Mostly DD Underquilts, since we don’t have other options here available…

A friend of mine has a Warbonnet Wooki down underquilt, which he ordered for over a month ago. It cost around 85$ more in Finland because of the taxes and duty. Wish to get mine someday too.

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Around 8 pm the sun was starting to set.  The weather was really calm, no wind at all. The lake reflected the sky and it’s clouds perfectly. It was also very quiet, only sometimes I could hear some distant traffic noises from the roads far away.

I was really waiting for the night to fall, since I wanted to take some long exposure shots.

Colors changed to dark blue and purple

Colors changed to dark blue and purple

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It started to get more cold slowly, but fire kept us warm

It slowly started to get colder, but the fire kept us warm.

Big moon raised in yellow but got really bright fast. Fog started to appear soon.

Big moon raised behind the trees in yellow but got really bright really fast. Fog started to appear soon.

We finns don’t talk much, even in the campfire. Some small chat but enjoyed the warm feeling of fire and relaxing quiet moments

We Finns don’t talk much, even by the campfire. Just a bit of smalltalk, but mostly we just enjoyed the warm feeling of the fire and relaxing quiet moments.

Finally some stars started to show up and only a glimpse of daylight was left in the West. I took my tripod and camera from my backpack and started to shoot.

I really love the night time when the sky is clear with all of it’s billions of stars. This was the time I had been waiting for.

Big dipper was easy to see

I played with my new headlamp and long exposures

I played with my new headlamp and long exposures

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Big dipper in the middle. A plane passed us from the left (Moscow-Seattle flight)

Warmth of fire and night sky makes a perfect match

Warmth of the fire and a clear night sky make a perfect match

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We went to sleep soon. I didn’t sleep well because I mostly just looked at the stars and listened to the sounds of the night.

Above me there were Polaris, Capella and Pollux. I could see the bright Vega on the left side. I was hoping to see a shooting star. Eventually I fell asleep.

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We had quite a cold night after all. The temperature went down to -4C (25F) so we had some ice on our hammocks and underquilt protectors (2QZQ).

One of us had only had a spaceblanket under him. He got a so called cold butt syndrome.

I used a Haglöfs +2C bag, but I also had a fleece blanket that I had wrapped around myself for the night. I felt warm and toasty all night round.

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Got up after 7 am and wow… The fog gave a really nice light around us with the sunrise!

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Morning coffee with Bialetti and Kupilka

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We left quite early, around 10 am. There was some sort of a hunting season going on, since we heard dogs barking and some shots being fired.

The car windows were a bit frozen so we let them be on idle to warm up. Meanwhile we talked about some ideas for our next meeting. Maybe we could book a sauna?

We will be having a big hammock meeting on the 2nd of October in the Nuuksio National Park, so that will be our next trip.

Over all, a splendid trip again! Enjoy your time in the woods on all of the seasons.

For more information about the Riuttaskorpi recreational forest, click here.

To see all my photos from this trip, click here.

Haukikalliot (pike rocks) area on a map.