Time to swing into the weekend.
And it’s just in time for HangCon 2023 — the largest hammock gathering in the country.
It’s just like other conventions, though for hammock enthusiasts. And it doesn’t meet in a convention center or a hotel event room.
This gathering will be outdoors, in wooded campgrounds, with hundreds of people from all over the country attending, to just hang out.
“We’ve actually had several people who attend HangCon come up to us and they’ve thanked us for the event,” said Paul Collins, one of HangCon’s organizers. “Since it’s free, several people use HangCon as a family vacation or a getaway or camping trip. Maybe they don’t have the funds to take the whole family to Disney, so they use it to come down from whatever state and hang with us the whole weekend.
“And each year it just grows and grows. We’re expecting just over 400 people and, of those people, 33 states will be represented (in attendance).”
HangCon started back in 2011 when it was just a small gathering of like-minded outdoor enthusiasts called Florida Hang. It was the idea of a couple, who only went by their trail names, “Timberrr and Gumbo.”
It officially changed to HangCon in 2016, but it also moved locations because attendance kept growing. Originally it was at Doe Lake Campground in the Ocala National Forest.
Collins, or “Skunkape,” took over running HangCon in 2019, along with A.J. Glenn, or aka, “Phoenix.”
“A.J. and I, we plan HangCon for the whole year,” said Collins, who also runs the event’s website and social media. “And back when it was smaller, sure, it was easier. We’ve always said that as long as we can make it free to attend, we’ll always do HangCon.”
Collins says it takes upward of $15,000 to put on HangCon, but that comes from raffle ticket sales and donations. Vendors will donate $10,000 worth of gear to raffle off.
The past few years, HangCon has grown in popularity because Collins started a podcast for hammock camping called The Hammock Hangers Podcast. He said he noticed increased listenership and an uptick in attendance.
“We have people that come every year, but because of the podcast, we have a lot of first-timers,” Collins said. “We have a group of car campers that come, a group of motorcycle campers that come — we have all types of campers coming and a lot of them are not even hammock campers.
“They’ll come because they’re hammock-curious.”
Some traditional tent campers want to try hammock camping — sleeping in a hammock that can be insulated and feature a bug net — to see if they like it.
“Because it’s a lot of money to invest (into hammock camping) and not knowing if you’re going to like it or it becomes your new hobby,” Collins added.
That’s why HangCon also will feature several demonstrations and vendor setups to both educate and display all that goes into hammock camping. The vendors will be nationally known hammock camping specialists. Experts also will be there to discuss a variety of topics, such as the different types of hammocks, as well as hanging techniques.
HangCon also provides breakfast and dinner for attendees through the weekend, while Hammock Hangers Flea Market and Trading Post will be open for people to buy and trade gear, and more.
There also are plenty of outdoor activities planned, such as a guided kayak trip down the Chassahowitzka River, guided hikes and even whiskey-tasting.
The idea is to make it a fun weekend for hammock campers, with memories they can hang onto.
“As soon as HangCon is done on Monday, A.J. and I will talk about next year’s event, maybe what we’ll do differently, but also plan on there being even more people next year,” Collins said. “And with more (people) added every day before we get to (Jan. 12), we plan and expect that. We expect the numbers to go up, but we also expect to have a great time — for everyone. From experienced hangers to those hammock-curious, everyone can come out and hang with people who love hammocks just as much as they do.”
When: Jan. 12 to Jan. 16
Where: Florida Sand Music Ranch (formerly Sertoma Youth Ranch), 85 Myers Road, Brooksville
Details: HangCon began in 2011, as a small gathering called Florida Hang. The event has grown yearly and is the largest hammock gathering in the country. Attendees, from hammock to camping to outdoor enthusiasts are expected from all over the country for a four-day weekend of activities, vendors, food, hammock demonstrations and fun. It is absolutely free to attend HangCon, with food also provided, but donations are welcome. If you plan to attend, organizers ask that you register online to help them have a head count for the food.
To donate or register, visit HangCon.com.
Nearby places for an awesome hang*
Hal Scott Preserve, Orlando: A 9,515-acre nature preserve located along the banks of the Econlockhatchee River.
Alexander Springs, Altoona: Spring water pool for canoeing, kayaking and swimming surrounded by forest, camping and picnic areas.
Manatee Springs State Park, Chiefland: A sparkling spring run and boardwalk beneath a cypress forest with 8.5 miles of nature trails and a safe connection to the 32-mile Nature Coast State Trail.
Ginnie Springs, High Springs: A privately owned park located on the south side of the Santa Fe River, with access to several springs and caverns with a sand and limestone bottom.
Withlacoochee State Forest, Brooksville: Forest of 157,479 acres providing critical wildlife habitat, plus trails, caves, campgrounds, and kayaking and canoeing.
*Always check to be sure a park or campground allows hammocks.
Published January 11, 2023