Johnny Vargas loves hanging around with his friends, literally. He’s a self-described “hammocker” of great dedication. No matter if for a few mid-hours a suburban backyard or camping several nights in a gorgeous Kansas state park, he loves spending his time resting off the ground, between two trees.
Vargas’ interest in hammocks began on a tiring, long-distance bike ride . At a break, another cyclist pulled a softball-sized bundle from his backpack. In less than two minutes he was comfortably suspended in the air.
The next week Vargas ordered a $25 hammock on line. It was love at first sight.
“That was all she wrote,” he said of his first few minutes aloft. “From then until now I’ve been hooked.”
Vargas, a 23-year-old from Overland Park, has met hundreds of other hammockers online, and at special hammocking events.
Here are some his observations –
- Most hammockers have one along at all times so they can make an instant recliner. Several with chronic back pain have told Vargas a hammock is more comfortable than about anything else.
- “You kind of experiment until you find what’s most comfortable for you,” he said. “We’re all different.”
- Portability is a huge plus, said Vargas. Many hammocks roll small enough to hardly take up any room in a backpack or even a fanny pack. Some have a hammock in a small bag behind their bike seat at all times.
- Hammocks are inexpensive enough most hammockers have several. Low-end hammocks can sell for as little as $10. Vargas said $40 will start getting buyers into substantially nicer models. Many great ones are $100-$200, which is quite a bit cheaper than tent and/or sleeping bag of similar quality.
- Hammocks keep people up off the ground and away from potential disease-carry ticks and chiggers. Vargas likes to hit the straps that connect the hammock to trees with some insect repellent to be sure.
- Special thermal or foam pads made for hammocks can help hold body heat overnight, especially if it’s cold out. There are also several kinds of mosquito netting that can be put over a hammock to help keep out flying insects. Commercial rain covers, or regular hardware store tarps, can be stretched above a hammock to keep things dry. Vargas said even with a pad, mosquito netting and tarp, such assorted hammock camping gear easily fits into a small day pack or compartment of a larger pack.
- Hammocks are perfect for camping along some federal Kansas trails, like the Perry Lake Trail and Elk River Trail, two of Kansas’ longest. Perry State Park has three special hammock stations, each of which holds up to four hammocks in the Mulberry Cove primitive camping area. State park camping is only allowed in designated campsites and primitive areas.
The growing popularity of hammocking has led to organized groups, connecting with others online or paying to go on trips specially organized and planned for their kind.
Vargas’ Kansas Hammock Adventures helps with such trips, and will set-up campsites, complete with hammocks and gear, upon request. He can be reached at 303-818-2790. You can also check out the hammock hangouts via Instagram by following @hammockkansas