Nature is a wonderful thing. Camping and backpacking are great ways to enjoy the beauty and wonder of the natural world around us, and I highly recommend both of these activities to everyone. There's something refreshing and downright magical about being out in the middle of nowhere, away from computers, cell phones, traffic and other day-to-day distractions.
However, if you're like me, the joy of communing with nature does not extend to sitting in mud or on a big pointy rock or ant-infested log. A comfortable place to sit is a big plus. Here's a trick I picked up while backpacking that allows for a way to relax in comfort without having to lug around a big heavy folding chair.
Step 1: You Will Need
- A Towel - you did bring a towel, didn't you?*
- A Knife (or other implement that can cut paracord)
- A PineconeTM**
- A relatively horizontal Tree Branch
** You really shouldn't need to pack one, but if you don't have one, please PM me and I'll send you your very own for the low low price of $19.95 (S&H additional). Or, I suppose you could use a stick or a rock, or your car keys or something.
Step 2: Hang Your Cord
After locating a suitable tree branch (relatively horizontal and stout enough to support your weight), unfurl enough paracord to loop over the branch and reach the ground again.
Tie the end of the paracord to a PineconeTM and chuck the pinecone over the tree branch. If you're at all like me, this will take a few tries. I find that cursing helps. YMMV.
Cut the paracord off close to ground-level. You should now have a piece of cord hanging over the tree branch, with both ends of the cord on or near the ground. Remove the PineconeTM from the end of the cord.
Unfurl another length of paracord, tie the PineconeTM on, and repeat the chucking and cursing process until you have two matching lengths of cord hanging over the tree branch. If you can arrange for the loops to be about two feet apart from each other, that's ideal, but as long as they're over the branch, you're ready to move on to the next step - Attaching The Towel.
Step 3: Attaching the Towel
At this point, you should have four loose cord ends hanging in front of you. We'll be tying each loose end to a corner of the towel using a sheet bend knot. If you don't know how to tie a sheet bend, go to the final step for a brief tutorial, then come back here. It's OK, I'll wait for you.
Designate an end of the towel as "top". Designate one paracord as "left" and the other as "right". Take the "left" loose paracord end and sheet bend it to the corner of the towel on the top end on the left side. Repeat with the "right" cord on the right top towel corner. Be sure to tighten the sheet bends carefully.
Hoist the towel up so that the towel is hanging vertically at approximately shoulder-height for the person who will be using the chair. Lift a bottom corner of the towel to approximately waist-height and sheet bend the corner to the loose end of the paracord on the appropriate side. Repeat for the other corner. Tighten both sheet bends carefully. There will be some extra cord hanging off of the bottom end of the towel. Bundle and tie the excess cord so that it doesn't drag the ground.
Step 4: The Magic Loop (optional)
Take the bottom end of the towel, and pass it upward between the cords holding up the top end, letting it fall through to the other side.
This optional step crosses the paracords where they pass under the branch, which causes more surface area to be in contact with the branch when the chair is in use. This can help to reduce unwanted slippage of the cord.
Step 5: Test the Chair, and Make Adjustments
Now you're ready to try out your chair. Enter the chair the way you would get into a hammock and carefully ease your weight into it (even better, get someone else to do it, as RavingChild illustrates below). Check to make sure the height is good and that the sheet bends are holding fast. If the branch bends more than you anticipated, simply untie one end and retie the towel higher until the chair hangs where you want it to.
Step 6: Enjoy Your Comfy Chair
By changing the angle of the hanging towel, you can go from an upright chair to a recliner with just a tug of the lines. You can also even it out and sit sideways if you prefer a wider seat. If you have a really big towel and two appropriately-situated tree branches, you can even make a hammock.
As an added bonus, at night you can untie one end of the towel, use the excess paracord ends to make a bundle, and hoist your food up into a tree to keep the local critters out. It would probably even make a pretty good cradle/bed, for those who camp with small children. It also works as a towel.
The uses are limited only by your imagination! Well, your imagination and the fact that it's a towel and some paracord, so you're probably not going to get it to play Blu-Ray discs, even if you have a really good imagination.
Step 7: Appendix: How to Tie a Sheet Bend
Tying a sheet bend is really easy, and is the best knot for joining two cords of different thicknesses (or a cord and a towel, as the case may be).
To tie the knot, simply take the towel or the thicker of the cords and make a 180-degree bend in it. In knot-tying parlance, this is called a "bight". (Fig. 1)
Take the thinner cord and pass it from the back of the bight, through the hole to the front. (Fig. 2)
Wrap the cord around the bight, going around the short end of the bight line, (Fig. 3) all the way around the back, over the long end of the bight line, and back to the front. (Fig. 4)
Pass the loose end of the thin line under itself where it passes through the middle of the bight (Fig. 5), and pull both lines tight. That's all there is to it.