In the first Hunger Games move, Katniss Everdeen, the main character, grabs a pack full of equipment at the cornucopia, before running off into the woods. Within that pack, she finds a hank of rope, which she uses to tie herself up in a tree to sleep at night. While I don’t envy her trying to sleep while sitting up, her sleeping in the trees has a lot to be said for it; but what she really needed was a hammock.
Typically, when we talk about bugging out and sleeping in the woods, most of us think of sleeping on the ground. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning on carrying a tent along in your bug out bag, whether you are bringing a sleeping bag or if you’re building some sort of primitive shelter, it’s still sleeping on the ground. While that is the easiest way to do things, it is not necessarily the best; nor is it the safest for you.
The Problems with Sleeping on the Ground
While sleeping on the ground is easy, it is also easy for a wide range of critters that inhabit the woods you are staying in. Many of them will like the idea of you sleeping on the ground, simply because it makes you easier to get to. A wind range of snakes, scorpions and insects would love the opportunity to cuddle up with you at night and let you keep them warm.
I’m not saying that trees are totally safe, but while there are critters that climb trees, few of them are interested in sucking your blood or eating your body. Even predators, like large cats, who can climb trees, rarely hunt in them. They do their hunting on the ground.
Of course, sleeping on the ground makes you much easier for the biggest predator out there, homo sapiens, to reach. In a survival situation, where you’ve had to bug out due to social unrest or a collapse of society, that’s the biggest problem you have to worry about. If the wrong people find you in the woods, they will try to capture or kill you, so that they can steal your supplies. If you’re lucky, that’s all they’ll do, if you’re not lucky…
Being off the ground doesn’t eliminate the possibility of them shooting you up in a tree, but it greatly reduces the possibility of finding you. Few people think to look up in the trees when they are searching. They look for clues along the ground, as well as trying to look through the trees, but rarely do they look up. That’s what Katniss was counting on.
Sleeping on the ground also means that if it rains, you’re going to be sleeping in the water. If you have a tent and pitch it properly, taking the time to dig a drainage trench around it, that won’t be a problem. But few people bother digging a drainage ditch until after the water seeps into the tent, deeming it as just extra work.
Getting Off the Ground and into the Trees
Sleeping in the trees, up off the ground, eliminates these problems. It’s not a perfect solution, but if you can do it, it might work out better for you. The one problem with sleeping in the trees is that you can’t have a campfire up there. So, if you are trying to survive in a situation where you need a campfire for warmth, you’ll have to stay at ground level.
There are many ways of sleeping up in the trees, including how Katniss did it. Personally, I’d try to avoid her method, as it doesn’t seem very comfortable to me. Unless you tied yourself in the tree very securely, chances are that you’d end up falling out. That wouldn’t be much fun.
The hammock is pretty much a perfect solution for staying off the forest floor while sleeping. It is designed for stringing between two trees, without any part of it touching the ground. While hammocks are typically strung close to the ground, to make them easier to get to, they can be strung at any height.
Authentic hammocks are made of a fishnet type construction, allowing air to pass through the hammock. This makes them ideal for sleeping in on those hot summer nights. Many of today’s “camping” hammocks are made of solid nylon fabric, instead of a net, so they are not as cool to sleep in. However, they still perform admirably as a place to sleep in the woods.
One thing you have to know about hammocks is how to sleep in them. There is a misconception here in the United States that one sleeps inline with the hammock. Anyone who has spent a considerable amount of time south of the Rio Grande River knows this to be untrue. The right way to sleep in a hammock is crosswise, putting your body at about a 45 degree angle to the line of the hammock (anywhere from 40 to 60 degrees will work). In this way, the risk of falling out of the hammock is eliminated.
Taking the idea of the hammock one step further, there are a number of companies who are producing tents that are designed to hang between trees, much like a hammock does. These vary from simple units that are nothing more than a hammock with a net cover, to large, complex units, that are designed to hang between three trees.
The advantage of these tents, over a hammock, is that you have more room inside them. That gives you the option of taking your equipment inside with you, where you have it accessible and out of the reach of the forest critters.
Basically, these tents fall into two categories. The original category was designed for people who do technical climbing. This type of suspended tent is designed to hang from a carbineer attached to a cliff face. These are very rugged units, while also being lightweight. The technical demands of making these means that they sell for premium prices.
The second type of suspended tent is simply a tent that has been designed to be suspended. While more expensive than on the ground tents, they are much less expensive than the ones used for technical climbing. This sort of hanging tent can be found large enough to sleep four comfortably, along with brining their packs inside.
The problem with the larger hanging tents is that of weight. You wouldn’t want to carry them on your back. But if you are taking your car or truck on a bug out and don’t have to abandon it, these would be ideal.
There will always be times when a tent on the ground makes more sense than a hanging tent or even a hammock. So, if you decide to go with a hammock, think it through well and perhaps make sure that you have a ground level option available to you as well. That way, you’re ready for anything.
As with many other things associated with survival, redundancy is always a great idea. Having an on the ground tent, as well as a hammock or hanging tent for use when you can, gives you that redundancy. Ultimately, that helps you survive. So, what’s your favorite form of an alternate tent?