Cycle Touring Equiptment – The Simple Charms of a Hammock
‘Six hours for a man, seven for a woman, and eight for a fool.’
English proverb on Sleep
Why food? What’s the obsession with food?
These are regular questions after I have mumbled my way through an unconvincing explanation of how I try and make a living. I often reply that other than a genuine love of all things food and foods wider context in the way we live, when riding a bike all day, my only other substantial past-times are eating and sleeping.
Now this blog has the food angles covered, but what of sleep? As an eight-hour-a-night man, perhaps the sleepy cyclist has some legs for a future project, but for a cycle tour to be healthy and happy good sleep is vital at the end of the day.
Often on the road I only decide where to pitch camp an hour before it gets dark, so the locations vary from ditches to bus stops. However if you want that magical nights rest, the gear you sleep in and on is essential for the cycle tourist.
A sleeping bag, cotton sheet, ear plugs and tent have gone with me on cycle tours before, but when cycling in more temperate climbs a new addition has made its way into my panniers. The hammock.
It is no surprise that it is generally accepted that the origins of the hammock began approximately 1000 years ago in Central America by the Mayan Indians. (The very place where I first started packing one when cycling).
Shortly after Columbus pulled into in the New World, with hopes of finding gems, spices and gold he instead found the relaxed locals of the Bahamas, lounging in hammocks for their afternoon siesta. Soon, many European sailors, particularly the British and the French, found the hammocks very useful and practical for sleeping at sea and the rest is history.
I first fell in love with a hammock while crossing lake Nicaragua in 2006 but it wasn’t until I traveled the length of the Amazon that I realized its practical charms. For six weeks while sailing from Ecuador to Brazil I slept in a light weight nylon hammock next to the locals who also crowded on board the cargo boats in more colorful varieties, but when I arrived in Belem and headed south I soon discovered that it soon replaced my tent and roll mat.
Light, easy to hang, quick to dry and incredibly versatile, a hammock is a useful piece of gear for any cyclist tourist. All you need is a couple of trees, lamp posts, beams or whatever else will take your weight and you are set for the night. (I also carry a couple of lengths of nylon rope for versatile hanging.) And it is not only at night that the hammock comes into its own.
Cycling in the middle of the day in the tropics is crazy cycling and being able to quickly string a hammock and take a few hours rest in the shade of a tree is the perfect solution.
Napping and resting insure your tired muscles get the rest they need for essential repairs and for my trip up the Mekong I have updated my original Nylon number for a larger model with a mosquito net. It weights next to nothing, cost £30 and is tough old boots. Coupled up with my poncho for a sunshade or rain shelter it is already serving me well and I am looking forward to rocking to sleep on the banks of the Mekong later in the year.