Backcountry Relaxing

August 10, 2015 Posted by: Permit Writer

Things to consider if you want to gently sway in a hammock in the backcountry.

Is there anything more relaxing than tying your hammock between two trees and crashing out in the backcountry? Maybe a cool beverage in your hand, the song of birds filtering through the trees…just relaxing after a hard day’s work of getting to your backcountry campsite…falling asleep as the day fades into night. In fact, some folks would prefer to sleep in a hammock rather than a tent – no hard ground, less weight…

Here’s somethings to consider before leaving your tent at home. At Glacier National Park we require you to sleep in a designated tent site, which is a delineated “square” of bare ground. Why? In places with high human use (aka every backcountry campground in Glacier National Park), denoting an accepted place of impact can reduce overall unacceptable impact to the area. So creating a small space where we are willing to accept impact is better than widespread, unrestricted impacts over a large area. This allows natural vegetation to flourish on the boundaries of these tent sites and in the campground. 

For folks who favor swinging in a hammock over sleeping on the ground in a tent…well, this can be a problem. Many, maybe even most, of our backcountry tent sites do not have trees at the site boundary that would make having a hammock over the tent site a possibility (adequate trees 10 to 25 feet apart according to the model of your hammock). Many of the trees that might be a suitable distance will likely not be strong enough to support you. Many of our subalpine sites do not have adequate trees – period. If you are unable to set up your hammock over the tent site, you face a real possibility of sleeping on the ground in the designated site. Unfortunately due to probable vegetation damage, we cannot allow hammock users to pick a more suitable area or to hang their hammocks “close” to an established site. This is to reduce physical and visual impacts to the landscape – those same impacts that having designated tent sites was meant to prevent.

And a note about that cool beverage…it had best be water in a container that only water has EVER inhabited…As you know if you’ve checked out our backcountry guide no bear attractants are permitted in your tent site at any time. Scents of bear attractants pool in an area where they have been and remain long after the item is gone. So keep that tasty beverage in the food prep area where the stinky-items-that-might-be-attractive-to-a-bear belong.

If you’ve got to have that hammock, you might consider a hammock stand so you’re not depending on trees. Gear creators also have self-supporting hammocks out on the market that are ultralight and are made to stand without trees. Then you can have your hammock, without the hassle…and you can drink a bottle of cold water – freshly filtered from a nearby stream into a clean bottle. Hey, dehydration is a real concern anyway, right?

See you soon – possibly swaying to the music of Glacier nature.


Last updated: August 10, 2015

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