Hiking in Finland

Climbing, bikepacking, skiing & packrafting in the north

Interview: Stuart Raike of whoopieslings.com

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It has been a while since the last interview, though I am happy to get back into introducing you to the people who make the fine gear which we use on our outdoor adventures. The start makes Stuart Raike from whoopieslings.com, the fine suspension systems which make hammocking so much easier!

Stuart, since when are you backpacking/ hammocking, and how did you start?
It all started when I was about 12 years old. My father used to take me backpacking. We did some long hikes on the Appalachian Trail and in the Tetons of Wyoming. Plus was a member of a very active Boy Scout troop and at least one a month we were hiking, camping or paddling.

How often are you out hammocking nowadays?
I get out at least every 2 week for a hang. Most of the time it is just a single overnight trip. Living in a rural area, it’s easy to spend a night in the hammock even if it’s on my own property.

Are you more of a "weekend hiker" or do you have some long distance trails under your belt?
Weekend hiker pretty well describes me as that is usually all that time will permit. Local hikes allow for a one or two night stay. When the schedule allows, that may stretch out to 3 nights.

Which category would you put yourself in: SUL, UL, Lightweight or Bushcraft? What is your typical baseweight?
I’m going to use a phrase that my hiking buddy, Burning Cedar from hammockforums.net, coined. For the most part, I hike at what we call “comfort weight”. It’s not ultralight but probably more towards lightweight. Having a few extra comfort items sure makes for a great night out. Occasionally I hike at Bushcraft weight when out practicing my mid-term survival skills. Being an exercise fanatic, I don’t get all hung up on weight. I view hiking as part of my exercise routine and having a bit more weight just intensifies that.

Please tell us where the name "whoopieslings.com" came from, and what it stands for.
Whoopie slings were actually developed in the arborist industry. We have taken their idea and adapted it to hammock suspensions. With the Internet what it is, whoopieslings.com was a natural fit.

Whoopieslings.com makes complete hammock and tarp suspension systems. Can you tell us how the idea to start the company emerged and how you see its future?
The company emerged as the demand for new and improved hammock suspension systems arose. Many stock suspensions were simply too heavy, stretched too much, or too involved to set up and adjust. The use of hammocks in the outdoor world is increasing every day. As long as this continues, there should be a good demand for our products.

What makes whoopieslings.com different from other cottages?
Tough question as there are a lot of great cottage industries out there. Our prompt fulfillment of orders, high level of customer satisfaction and ability to do custom work is what I feel sets us apart.

The Whoopie Slings are making a name for themselves in the hammock scene. Are you well know outside of hammocking circles?
Our products have been adapted for use in tent use and wherever cordage is used. Having the ability to do custom work allows us to take a customer’s idea and transform it into useful products.

You recently became a Dealer for CAMP, Nite Ize and SMC products - awesome! What drove this development?
Items from these companies are used in and with our products. Having the ability to buy direct, rather than through a distributor/dealer, allows us to keep prices down and ensure we have sufficient quantities on hand.

Any new UL materials that have you all excited?
The increased use of Cuben Fiber has been great to see. As materials decrease in weight, we try to do the same with our products. A good example of that is the Dutch Edition of our Single Line Tarp Ridge Line which comes in at a scant 19 grams.

How works the R&D at whoopieslings.com, do you have a need yourself that you try to fix, or do some of your clients inspire you for new products and ask you for solutions to their problems?
Friends, customers, and myself all have input in our products. If someone has a better way, we do our best to incorporate it. If there is a product that is desired to fulfill a particular need, we do our best to make it.

Where do your customers come from?
Our customers come from all over the world. There is not a continent on earth that we haven’t shipped to. New customers come through either work of mouth from prior customers or find us through some of the great forums on the Internet such as hammockforums.net, backpackinglight.com and hopefully hikinginfinland.com.

Are you in touch with other cottage manufacturers in the USA, Europe, Japan, and other places?
Many of use compare notes to speak. It’s fun sharing ideas and talking about our interests.

What is your own favorite backpack, sleep system and shelter?
My very favorite backpack is an old Gerry model that has 4 zippered compartments. It has sentimental value from many hikes of past. Currently I carry a Ultralight Adventure Equipment (ULA) Circuit model. I find it has a good balance between weight and volume and fits my needs well. Hammock use varies as I like to use many different brands so I can experience what our customers do. Warbonnet, Clark, and Eagles Nest Outfitters models get used most often. My favorite tarp is a Winter Dream built by Scott Littlefield. Unfortunately, it is no longer manufactured. My 3-season tarps are all by Outdoor Equipment Supplier (OES).

Any other favourite piece of gear which you always carry with you?
I never leave home without my ThermaRest compressible pillow. It’s probably heavier and bulkier than some but it is so comfortable.

When and where was your last hammocking trip?
My last trip was a hike along the bluffs of the nearby Missouri River. It’s a great quick get-a-way with some scenic views and an awesome sunrise.

Are you planning to get out for a trip soon, and enjoy the spring season?
We’ll be hanging with a lot of great hammockforums.net members at the annual Arkansas hang in the Ozarks. I’m really looking forward to seeing everyone again.

Do you think hammocking will become more popular and break into the mass market, or will it continue to be something for a small group of people?
I truly believe the use of hammocks in the outdoors will continue to increase. A natural progression of that will be mass marketing to an ever increasing audience. The cottage industries will still be the point of choice for those who’s love of the outdoors is more than just a hobby but more of a passion.

Let me close by thanking those at hikinginfinland.com for allowing us to do this interview and sharing our story at their site. Resources such as this allow for us to share information, experiences and really helps bring all of us closer together. Thank you!

Got curious about hammocking? Check out hammockforums.net, read The Ultimate Hang and get yourself a hammock with a pair of whoopieslings.com!