Chill, Gorilla…

One of the things I have been needing to replace for my camping experience was my Hennessy Hex Fly. It’s a big tarp thing that goes over my hammock, shaped like a squashed hexagon. I have two:

One of them is asymmetrical – which means the ends are cut a little shorter on opposite sides/ends. It works great with the hammock, which is also asymmetrical, but it doesn’t work so well with the Grizz Beak.

My older hex tarp (also a Hennessy model) is a larger, heavier hexagon that is the same on the ends. It gives more room and works better with the Grizz Beaks. It’s also starting to leak. There are spots here and there about the size of dinner plates where the water will definitely come through. They are near the edges, but it seemed like a good time to replace it.

Online, I saw the Chill Gorilla tarp mentioned by a few people.

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Not only did it come with a little bag and tent stakes, but it has a cool gorilla logo on it, and it costs about half what the Hennessy tarp costs.

Here is my Amazon Review of it:

 

Light, easily packable, waterproof. Not so great for cooling gorillas, despite the name. Gorillas don’t like being in small enclosed spaces covered up, even if you tell them to chill. They shred the fabric with ease and then maul you. Best to use on section or thru-hikers that only smell as bad as a gorilla.

A more full review:
I have been hammock camping for four years now, in weather from snowing to 80 degrees. My first rain fly was the Hennessy Hammock stock Asymmetric tarp. It’s a tiny POS, throw it out or pay for the upgrade. For an Honest Comparison:

I hung up my Chill Gorilla, and put my Hennessy Asymmetric Silnylon tarp on top of it. Although they have the same ridge line length, the chill gorilla is about 3″ taller on each side (measured from the ridgeline vertically towards the ground). The Chill Gorilla is also symmetrical, unlike the hennessy tarp. One end on each side was close to a foot wider than the hennessy tarp. This would account for the extra few ounces of weight.

I have a hennessy poly tarp as well, it was my older tarp and started losing water resistance in spots. My old Hennessy poly tarp is about the same size and weight of the Chill Gorilla, but the Gorilla tarp is easily half the price. I use Grizz Beaks on my tarp ends. They work MUCH better with symmetrical tarps than asym tarps.

Now for the down side:
One of the things I like about Hennessy tarps is they have little pockets on each corner for the tie-out ropes. Each time I take out my chill gorilla, the lines are a tangled mess. When you’re wanting to get your tarp up in the rain, it’s nice to have a tight, neat package. I’m thinking of making little line bags that tie on the corners.
The Chill Gorilla also packs almost TWICE as large as the Hennessy SilNylon tarp. I think its a combination of thicker fabric and the slightly longer ends, but it completely fills one of the orange dry sacks from walmart (the three pack from outdoor products), whereas the hennessy takes up about half the bag.
This DOES need to air out when you first get it. It has a strong chemical smell, almost fishy, but hang it in the carport for a day or two and the smell goes away. Get a larger stuff sack: like every hammock, tarp, and tent ever produced, once you get it out of the sack, it’s never going back in.

I hung it up outside today, and installed a Grizz Beak on each end, to test it out.

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I immediately came to a few conclusions:

I need to lengthen the tie lines for my Grizz Beaks (the brown doors on either end. By doing so, I can tie the doors on opposite ends of the hammock to a single tent stake in the middle. Right now I’m using way too many tent stakes.

I need to seriously redo the tie lines on the tarp itself. I had used reflective 550 cord (which came with it) and metal clips on the ends. This tarp in its sack weighs just over 2 pounds! With the grizz beaks and the sack for everything, it weighs in at a hefty 2.5 pounds. I cut off the heavy paracord and the metal clips and saved 2 ounces. I have some strong, light line on the way from Amazon, and hope to redo the whole suspension on the thing and make it very light. I’m going to forego the metal clips on the ends and just tie the beast off. Eventually I want some plastic flip locks but I don’t have time to get those right now… Maybe I’ll harvest them from my other tarp until spring.

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Cold Weather Camping Time

At our last expedition on the Foothills Trail, I tried my best to make Trail Pancakes. The results were… bad. Pretty terrible, actually. I wound up with the pancake version of scrambled eggs. If you’ve never had scrambled pancakes, then don’t. Most of my problem was a brain fart:

Never follow the instructions on pancakes. The box said use X amount of mix and X amount of water. So I measured the mix and took it with me, and dumped in the measured amount of water, and had runny pancake soup. The resultant mess cooked like crepes, which made a mess and I wound up just drinking the raw mix. Can you say NASTY?

So, I tried the pancake experiment at home. Put mix in bowl, add water a little at a time, stir, and add more if necessary. Finally… I got it done, and cooked over my stove in my little egg pan.

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I cant cook a pancake that nice on my griddle at home. The perspective is a bit off, but yes, the pan is 4″ wide. I need some syrup now.

Cold weather camping offers some interesting choices for food in general. You would never wake up in August, already hot and sweating, and think “Hey lets cook pancakes!” But in the cold weather, its nice to have something warm while you delay getting up. The refrigerating quality of the air also lets you take along some fun stuff.

BabyBel Cheese keeps for days in the woods in the winter. It’s tasty, fresh, and has calories or something. Who knows, it’s CHEESE in the WOODS. You can’t beat that.

Meat! Freeze a piece of steak or fish, stick it in your pack (wrapped well) and by the time you hit camp, you have a defrosted piece of fresh meat to cook. I typically go ahead and sear the outside of my meat, to lessen the cook time and go ahead and dry up some of the meat juices, so the meat isn’t such a bloody mess in the packaging. If you don’t have a fire that first night, you’re stuck carrying rotting meat juices with you.

Bacon Bits: The precooked bacon bits will keep a few days in cold weather. Stir some up in your pan after you make your pancakes.

Eggs: I’m not a big egg eater, but you CAN take eggs with you if the temperature is cold enough. Add it to your bacon and pancakes and you’ve got a full force breakfast in the woods. I’ve seen it done…

Meanwhile, I’ve been testing a few things for an upcoming trip. I have a NEW set of Grizzbeak doors for my tarp. I’m looking forward to having two ends enclosed for cold weather. My Taco Wrap has yet to be tested in the woods, so I’m looking forward to enjoying a night in it. I put it up yesterday to the chargin of the neighbor’s dogs, and after laying in it a while I’m convinced there’s enough ventilation that it shouldn’t cause an issue with condensation.