By Auntie Shelley
When we first started camping with toddlers, naptime was a bit chaotic. Our naptime ritual went something like this: I would head to the tent for a “rest” with the little people. The plan was for us to cuddle up, read a book, and then the little people were supposed to fall asleep and I would have some free time to paddle, read, drink coffee, etc. In reality we would climb into the tent and the little people would immediately push all of the sleeping bags and gear into one big pile. They would then proceed to launch themselves head first into the middle of the pile. This would go on for at least half an hour. Eventually, after much effort on my part to get them to settle down and sleep, I would pass out from exhaustion while they continued to roughhouse. Yes, that was naptime. It was fun for the little people, but not so fun for me.
Then a few years ago on a last minute trip to Adventure Guide, I picked up a hammock. Oh how the hammock changed things. Luke was 2 on that first trip with the hammock. When he started to look tired I asked him if he wanted to swing in the hammock with Mommy. He hopped right in, snuggled up and within 5 minutes was out cold. I think I fell asleep about a minute later. A new ritual was born.
I have found that my little ones will nap longer in the hammock compared to the tent and often when they wake up they are content to hang out there and watch the trees swaying above them. I usually put a pad or blanket down underneath them for warmth. Typically they like edges of the hammock folded up over them so that they are in a little cocoon. If we’re out during bug season I will drape a mosquito net overtop. I have also found that on the rare occasion when I don’t fall asleep in there with them, it’s pretty easy to sneak out without waking them up.
Now, I will admit that when I bought the hammock I wasn’t really thinking about naptime. I had visions of myself relaxing in it, enjoying a picturesque view of the water while my children canoed and explored the campsite. In reality, I only got to use the hammock when I was putting Luke down for a nap in it. The rest of the time it was full of children squirming, giggling, swinging, snuggling, reading, chatting, etc. There were six or seven children on that trip and I think at least one of them was in the hammock the entire time. At one point I did try to take back my hammock from the children, but I was out numbered. They knew it and so did I.
Since that trip the hammock has become one of our “must have” pieces of gear when camping with little ones.
This year we ended up bringing two with us, which was a good thing since Grace staked her claim on the older one the moment it came out of its sack. She’s rather small, but she is the fifth child and knows how to hold her own. We all agreed it would be best not to mess with her.
Our latest addition is the ENO DoubleNest. I picked this one because of its size. Inevitably three or four kids want to be in there at once and the DoubleNest can easily accommodate them all. It comes with two carabiners and an attached compression sack and packs down to the size of a softball.
We have lots of webbing kicking around from climbing, so we use that to attach them to the trees, but the Atlas Straps would be worth picking up if you don’t have webbing already.
We have been interested in trying out hammock camping for a while now. On our recent fall trip, Cousin Chloe tried it out for the first time. I will let her tell you all about that experience. For now let’s just say that I think hammocks will be showing up on some Christmas lists this year.