Hang out. Hang tight. Hang in there. How’s it hanging?
These slang expressions may sound like the typical verbiage of a millennial, but for campers who swap their tents for hammocks when bunking in the backcountry, they take on a more literal meaning.
Think of these expressions as a means to boast about that rarest of camping coups: a full night of rest.
Increasingly popular with hikers and backpackers alike, a good hammock can give your tent a run for its money. Aside from the promise of a no impact night for weary shoulders and backs, hammocks liberate campers from the tyranny of the search for level ground.
No vacant campsites along your favorite loop? That's a tent camper's issue.
With a hammock, you need only find two firm trees at least 12 feet apart, allowing for setup in places that would otherwise be off limits — a bluff with a view of a deep valley, a knoll overlooking a picturesque alpine lake, or a grove of ancient cryptomeria trees along a rocky stream.
Perfecting the angle of your hammock — or mastering the art of the “hang,” as it's called in the hammock scene — takes practice but offers surprising rewards.
Unfortunately, for many camping enthusiasts, the ultimate hang out can feel more like a “hang ‘em high,” as many hammock choices offer convoluted instruction manuals coupled with incompetent gear.
These overhanging inadequacies is where the story of Sierra Madre Research begins.
After participating in a medical mission trip to Honduras, Richard Rhett, founder of Sierra Madre and longtime camping enthusiast, confronted what he described as “profound problems.”
“I was super unsatisfied with the products I was using when I went out into the wild,” Rhett says. “That dissatisfaction was really what fostered the innovation to solve that problem.”
“During the extent of our stay in Honduras, I made camp in the trees and slept in a hammock. I loved the idea of its simplicity and functionality, but it was just too small and uncomfortable for me and offered no protection from the elements.”
An enduring myth about hammock camping says it requires fair weather. Not true.
Rhett decided to create gear that would protect campers regardless of bad weather and provide comfortable nights of sleep regardless of location.
“Our gear is designed out of real world use, not around a margin or price point. We have invented what was missing in the segment of the outdoors that we know and love,” Rhett says. “We just wanted to stay comfortable, dry, and keep our gear out of the mud, and not fall into the regularly accepted stigma that you can, and it is normal to ‘get rained out.’”
Rhett also says one of the main reasons for founding Sierra Madre Research was to help fight the clean drinking water crisis that currently affects millions of people worldwide.
“Since I founded Sierra Madre in 2010, our underlying mission was, and still is, to end the clean drinking water crisis that plagues several million people all around the world,” Rhett says. “So, with every product that we sell, a portion of the money goes toward drilling clean water for individuals in one of these regions. Right now, we’re focused in Central America.”
Fast forward to 2013, Rhett decided to fix what he saw as the main problem with camping hammocks by launching the Nubé — a lightweight cocoon that wraps around any existing hammock, creating a bug-proof enclosure that also features a fly tarp to protect users from the elements. Another of its signature features is a gear storage compartment slung under the hammock that keeps backpacks and other items off the ground.
“Three major points make the Nubé system unique and each of those points were created due to current market offerings,” Rhett says. “If you are outside for an extended period of time, you want to be dry, you want your area to be spacious and you want your gear to be protected. The primary functionality of the Nubé is to give the user the protection and the area coverage of a tent but elevated in the air.”
Hanging Out in Hamilton County's INCubator
The company, originally from Vicksburg, Mississippi, relocated to Chattanooga, Tennessee earlier this year to get closer to their target audience.
“With the Appalachian Trail and all of the rock-climbing excursions and whitewater rafting that goes on in and around Chattanooga; it is exactly where we need to be,” Rhett says. “From a business standpoint, it just makes sense.”
After relocating to Chattanooga, Sierra Madre Research set up camp in the INCubator, located inside the Hamilton County Business Development Center (BDC). With 556 business graduates, the INCubator is a hotbed for talented entrepreneurs.
For Sierra Madre Research, hanging around the INCubator has proven to be advantageous, convenient and inspiring.
“The INCubator has so much going for it. There is limitless potential and energy inside these walls,” Rhett says. “What is so attractive to me is the fact that there are so many people trying to do the same thing in one place. We are all trying to start a business and grow it beyond us.”
By providing business owners with shared administrative services, manufacturing and office space, training workshops, a state-of-the-art Technology Conference Center and access to free onsite business counseling, the INCubator’s passion for entrepreneurial growth is undeniable.
“I love how the INCubator actively finds common subjects and issues that individuals experience and brings in someone to address those concerns,” Rhett says. “I think that is absolutely phenomenal.”
The Nubist Colony
In an effort to spread their message from the INCubator and form a local community for hammock camping, Sierra Madre Research organized the Nubist Colony.
Initiated in October 2017, the Nubist Colony is an annual event where likeminded outdoor enthusiasts can meet up in beautiful locations, such as Fall Creek Falls, get hands on experience with the gear and form connections with people in the community.
“This is an open family camping event. We are primarily hammock campers, but welcome any and all types of people,” Rhett says. “It’s a weekend full of Tennessee mountain beauty and Fall Creek Falls, the highest free fall waterfall east of the Mississippi River. There are prizes, food, games, hiking, kayaking, classes and more.”
The camp sites for the event are reserved in advance. No gear? No problem. You can borrow anything you need – they’ll even set it up for you. All you have to do is register and show up with an appetite for adventure.
If participants aren’t letting it all hang out, why call it a Nubist Colony?
“Well, when we first launched our Nubé Hammock Shelter, we had a customer coin the term Nubist/Nubist Colony. I guess you could say it stuck,” Rhett says. “A Nubist is someone who yearns for new adventures, seeing the world and bringing people along with them on the journey.”
King of the hill. High and mighty. These aren’t phrases we typically associate with camping, or at least not the equipment we use to do so. But, the expressions encapsulate the sensation of hanging in the lightweight Nubé 2.0 Hammock Shelter.
During my visit to the headquarters of Sierra Madre Research in the INCubator, I was granted an opportunity to experience the snug and relaxing cocoon that is the Nubé. Having nearly drifted off into dreamland within seconds of succumbing to the Nubé, I can personally attest to the product’s unmatched comfortability and convenient functionality.
Whether you are seeking an adventure in the dense forests of Scandinavia, or simply a weekend excursion to Raccoon Mountain, Sierra Madre Research hammocks are great to hang your problems out to dry while you hang loose.