One of our favorite things we get to do with GoWild is to find really innovative, cool and young companies and help them tell their story. From the first time we chatted with Alex Gash, we knew this was a story worth telling.
Alex founded Sheltowee Hammock Company. They're based in Kentucky but ship hammocks to all over the country. These are high-end and handcrafted right in Central Kentucky. They note every detail, down to each stitch. They're so confident in their product, they stand by their gear pretty much no matter what—their warranty is incredible.
What sets Sheltowee products apart are the integrations and accessories. With insulation and bug nets built in, Alex's products are patented and stand out against some of the biggest names in chilling out and camping out today.
We recently chatted with Alex about his products, and the outdoors in general. It's a really fun conversation. We hope you enjoy. Be sure to check out the giveaway in the GoWild app.
GoWild: Tell us more about your outdoors story. Where did your love of the wilderness begin?
Alex: My love for the outdoors started in 7th grade at a summer camp outside of Irvine, KY, Where The Bluegrass Kisses The Mountains. It was there that I first met some lifelong friends and awesome counselors who I looked up to. We spent all of our free time, running and climbing all over those 500 beautiful acres.
From that summer on, I was hooked, not only to that camp but to the outdoors.
The Red River Gorge isn’t far from Irvine, KY and as soon as I turned 16 and could drive myself there, I was off backpacking in all seasons.
GoWild: How did this lead to starting the Sheltowee Hammock Company?
Alex: Those experiences out backpacking/exploring the Red River Gorge and hills of eastern Kentucky instilled in me a desire to live simply, enjoy and protect nature. I was happy to be doing my sleeping on the ground while out there camping. It wasn’t until my mother gifted me a hammock for my high school graduation that I caught the hammock bug. I chose to sleep in it rather than my tent and loved the idea of sleeping suspended in the air between two trees.
But there was a steep learning curve to comfortably sleep in a hammock in the backcountry. I was cold, got wet, eaten by bugs, and struggled to get a consistent hang, but I wasn’t discouraged; those bad nights were still better than being confined in a tent on the ground.
So I stuck with it. I learned several tips and tricks to get a better, more consistent hang. I researched how others were hammock camping and what gear they were using.
I moved to a ski town in Colorado after college and it was there that I decided to build an insulated hammock. I guess I was sick of getting cold and using a ground sleeping pad as bottom insulation in my hammock. I borrowed a sewing machine and taught myself how to use it. I bought some fabric and I harvested down from thrift store comforters and made my first prototypes of what is now the Shell Hammock.
GoWild: For those that don’t know, tell us about the name Sheltowee.
Alex: Sheltowee is a Shawnee word that means ‘Big Turtle’. It was the name given to Daniel Boone when he was captured by a Shawnee tribe a few years after settling and establishing Fort Boonesborough in Kentucky. Boone escaped captivity and successfully held off a siege against the fort. But I didn’t know any of that when I first came across the word Sheltowee.
I remember camping and hiking on a trail in the Red River Gorge called the Sheltowee Trace Trail when I was in high school and how beautiful that spot was we found on the river. Turns out, that trail runs over 300 miles North to South throughout the Daniel Boone National Forest in Kentucky and Tennessee. It is known as Kentucky’s long trail and passes through some absolutely beautiful forest and natural areas; some totally unique to Kentucky.
GoWild: For anyone who is interested in hammock camping, where should they start? Do you have to be an expert camper/hiker?
Alex: Absolutely not! I set out to design and manufacture a very user-friendly hammock camping system that integrated the most important aspects of a proper hammock camping set-up; the most important (and often most overlooked) being bottom insulation.
Even more, we DEMO our hammocks so you can try out hammocking camping for yourself, in your neck of the woods!
There are also hammock camping events throughout the US that you can find out about on HammockForums.net. These ‘Group Hangs’ are a great way to check out multiple set-ups; people will be more than happy to show off their rigs. Vendors also attend several hangs a year (Sheltowee included) and always bring their latest products.
GoWild: And if they are new to camping/hiking? Any beginner’s advice?
Alex: There are several great resources online for those who like to do their research and there are even introductory backpacking courses you can sign up for. You can also reach out to local hiking groups in your area to get some experience day hiking. Again, the Group Hangs are great for learning the ropes so to speak.
Whichever way you go, you’ll want to be familiar with whatever sleep system you choose to use. Hammocks usually have a higher learning curve compared to sleeping on the ground, but for a very high percentage of people, the extra effort is well worth it. There are countless testimonials from people of all backgrounds who attribute hammock camping it reinvigorating their experience outdoors.
GoWild: Lastly, a little more about you. Where is your favorite place to set up your hammock? What’s your favorite season? Tell us why.
Alex: I live in Central Kentucky and tend to stick within a couple of hours drive of my home base. Fortunately, that includes some great hiking and camping spots, mostly East of the Daniel Boone National Forest.
When the leaves fall off the trees and the nights are long and cold are my favorite times to get out. I love how you are able to see so much more without the leaf cover. But mostly I love waking up warm and cozy in my hammock, leaning over start my water boiling. There are few things as satisfying as a warm breakfast from a warm hammock on a cold morning.
Enter to Win
We're giving away one of Alex's finest hammocks. The Boone Hammock, featuring Sheltowee's trademark insulation, built right into the base of the hammock. The Boone has a baffled quilt layer, filled with high loft Downtek™ Water Resistant Down. For a chance to win, download the GoWild app and find the Giveaways Trail. Locate the post about this hammock and comment. Done!
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