Updated: Dec 7, 2020
Back in early 2019, when Fern the Camper’s YouTube channel was really baby (I mean, even more baby than it is now), I came across a channel that made me just stop. Here was this guy, retired from work, but determined to spend every possible moment immersed and exploring the wilds and off grid areas of the Big Horn National Forest area in Wyoming.
Not only was he showing us some great off grid camping tips, but he was giving his audience first hand step by step instructions of how to set up for hammock camping, what worked, what didn’t and the nitty gritty of realities of outdoor living on a budget.
This channel is Hike Camp and the awesome adventurer is Max. He’d learned most of his outdoor skills from his father and also by trial and error. I can’t tell you how much I’ve learned from Max… setting up a drone, working out sound on YouTube, how to make sure your rainfly covers enough of your hammock so you don’t get soaked by the morning dew… but I can tell you it’s a lot.
I asked Max if he’d be up for an interview on the Fern the Camper website, and to my delight, he said yes!
FTC: How long have you been camping?
HC: “I started camping when I was quite young and living with my family in Ohio. I really got serious about it when my career took me to Wyoming in 1980 and I started hiking and camping in the Big Horns. The hook was set so to speak.”
FTC: When did you start experimenting with hammock camping?
HC: “I gave hammock camping a shot the spring and summer of 2019 into spring of 2020. At first I loved it, very comfortable! I soon found out I needed a larger rain fly and bought a larger tarp. Ahh fixed right! Well, then I found I got cold even with a good sleeping bag... so I bought an under quilt… now I was warm... OK, perfect! Everything worked... But then I thought all the gear for a hammock was bulkier and heavier than that of my tent… So hammock camping was not what I needed right now..
I need to get lighter with less bulk not more. Now this is not to say that it is not great system, it is great, just not what I needed right now.”
FTC: What’s the roughest campsite you've ever been?
HC: “Well I try not to use established camp sites and I would rather back country camp more than even dispersed car camping. As for my roughest camp, that had to be my first solo camp when I was around 13 or so… .
“My tent was an old military canvas pup tent. The tent had to be WWII or Korean war vintage, no floor, no bug screen. Well, first the mosquitoes had a feast and it rained hard most of the night and I was soaked to the bone before morning... The first of many camping mistakes since then!”
FTC: What’s your favorite brand of camping gear and why?
HC: “I do not really have a favorite brand of gear. I basically buy the best proven gear I can afford, which I do admit is mostly budget gear. Now budget gear for the most part is not lightweight and that is why my gear is heavy and why I gave up the hammock. Having a tight budget is no reason not to get into camping at low cost. If you do your research and take the time to test it, seal your tent and take care of it the only drawback is weight and bulk… .”
FTC: What was your very first camping experience like and how old were you?
HC: “I had been camping for many years through my childhood with my family but I would say my first time alone was my wet and buggy night at around 13 years old.
“My very first time in a tent had to be around 6 years old with my brother and sister… our parents were only about 20 feet away in a cabin! I don't think we slept at all! It was a great and exciting experience and much has been learned over the years but I am still learning and undoubtedly will continue to learn until I can no longer do it… .”
FTC: What’s the spookiest thing you've seen or experienced when solo camping?
HC: “Oh that is an easy one... That would be waking up in the morning and looking out of my tent to see a bull moose standing about 20 feet away just looking at me. It was pretty intense because a bull moose can be quite aggressive. I just talked to him softly and after about 5 minutes he slowly walked away... Glad he was alone and not with a cow during the rut! (mating season)”
FTC: What was the most inspiring moment you've had in the outdoors?
HC: "I would have to say that would be my first morning wakeup alone in a National Forest in Wyoming... Oh man it felt wonderful!”
FTC: If you could camp anywhere in the world, one last time, where would it be and why?
HC: "Right now I would have to say a wild camp in the Lake District in the UK. It would also be the first time as well as the last over there if I could ever pull it off. I have seen the videos of some of my UK YouTube friends hiking and camping in the lake district and it is just gorgeous.”
FTC: What’s next in your adventure?
HC: “I still have the dream and desire to do a summit of the 13 thousand foot Cloud Peak mountain in the Big Horn National, but I do not feel I have the gear, stamina or the legs for it now... I should have done it 15 or 20 years ago. The desire is still there but the ability is not... All I can say if you have a goal don't procrastinate until all you can do is look up and wonder!”
Great advice, Max! There is no time like now if we have the means to do so. If you’d like to follow Max on his adventures, you can find him on YouTube HERE. Thanks for reading, now get out there and have some adventures (just… be sure to bring your face mask for now).
All photos credit to Hike Camp
All writing Copyrighted to Fern the Camper