Hangin’ around

Miamisburg’s annual Frozen Butt Hang

By Josher Lumpkin

Photo: Frozen Butt Hang participants set up hammocks and tents above the forest floor

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word “hammock,” the image that is immediately invoked into my mind’s eye is one of peaceful relaxation. I can practically hear the birds chirping, as a gentle breeze causes me to sway back and forth, in a moment of sunny summer bliss.

The folks behind the 5th Annual Frozen Butt Hang in Germantown MetroPark apparently have an altogether different idea in mind for the purpose of hammocks. These brave men and women have planned an outdoor adventure that involves spending the night outdoors in their trusty textile slings.

The Frozen Butt Hang, which will take place on Saturday, January 24, is put on each year by Great Miami Outfitters, a store in Miamisburg that specializes in necessities for camping, hiking and other bucolic enterprises. I spoke briefly with Andrew Schlegel, an employee at the store about why on earth anyone would want to sleep in a hammock outside on a night when average temperatures are in the 20s.

“This is the fifth annual [event], and people really look forward to it now,” Schlegel said, “whether it’s to challenge themselves with their hammock setup in colder weather, or just to shake off the holiday craziness and to come out and have some fun, or just people who enjoy being outside.”

And people must really enjoy the Frozen Butt Hang. This year, there were only 35 open spots for the Hang, and all 35 were filled more than a month before the event.

So what all does the Frozen Butt Hang entail? Get it… enTAIL?

Schlegel explained, “Basically it’s just a fun, potluck-style campout, so it’s a non-backpacking, drive-in setup where we’re just making food, hanging out and talking about hammocks, outdoor gear or whatever else.” Campers are encouraged to bring food and ingredients to cook and share with their cohorts for dinner, as well as breakfast the following morning.

“[For] anybody who wants to go hike,” Schlegel went on, “we’re doing it at Germantown MetroPark, and they’ve got some great hiking trails out there, so it’s kind of a come and go, have some fun kind of event.”

I can definitely see the appeal of spending some time out in nature, with people who also appreciate being outdoors. Myself, I love to hike and camp and be underneath a big blue sky – in April through September, that is. So I was still trying to wrap my brain around why anyone would ever want to do something like this. Am I just a thin-skinned wimp? Did spending my formative years in California set my baseline thermostat at a comfortable 78 degrees?

Some campers prefer hammocks to the traditional tent setup because they are less invasive to the environment where you are sleeping. Setting up a tent and sleeping on the ground damages the forest floor and disrupts flora. Most modern camping hammocks leave barely any evidence that anyone was even there. The bark on the trees to which the sling is fastened stay intact and undisturbed.

Hammocks are also nice for sleeping outside because they are lower-impact than sleeping on the hard ground. Think about how your back and shoulders feel after a night of tent camping. Now imagine you were nestled in a comfy, warm cocoon all night. It’s a big difference!

And the idea of a Frozen Butt Hang isn’t entirely unique to Ohio, either. Some gentlemen from HammockForums.net organize a January weekend hang in Finland, Minnesota, where temperatures regularly plummet to the below-zero range, with winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour.

Here in Ohio, if we have a January anywhere similar to last year’s, hangers are going to be in for some super cold temperatures.

“The fun part about it, over the last five years with doing a hammock hang in Ohio,” Schlegel said, “was last year for example we had temperatures at 11 [degrees fahrenheit], and we had six inches of snow, which was fantastic. So it did get extremely cold and it was really fun.”

Schlegel also reminded me that, at the time of our interview in late December, it wasn’t cold at all, the temperature a mild 60 degrees. “We’ve had previous years where it’s been 40, so it just varies,” he told me.

You would think spending the night outside in the middle of winter would require some pretty serious gear, right? Not necessarily.

Schlegel explained, “It’s a drive-in event, so we really don’t have to go too much into survival gear because if it gets bad enough, people can walk to their vehicle and warm themselves up, which is a good thing.”

Silly Me.

The Fifth Annual Frozen Butt Hang will be held at Germantown MetroPark 7101 Conservancy Road in Germantown, on Saturday, Jan. 24, 2015. This event is full and no longer accepting new participants. For more information about the event, or Great Miami Outfitters, located at 25 East Linden Avenue in Miamisburg, please visit GreatMiamiOutfitters.com.

Reach DCP freelance writer Josher Lumpkin at JosherLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Josher Lumpkin is a nursing student and aspiring historian who enjoys writing about music and geekdom of all kinds. He is especially fond of punk rock, tabletop gaming, sci-fi/fantasy and camping with his wife, Jenner, and their dogs, Katie and Sophie. Reach him at JosherLumpkin@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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