Unless camping out in a bell tent, trailer tent, or yurt, we tend to sacrifice comfort when we go camping. When I’m scrimping on weight, I use a rolled-up sweater inside my sleeping bag pouch as a pillow. So why should you strip back comforts even further and sleep out in a hammock rather than a tent? Aside from the fact that hanging out in a hammock slung between two trees looks insanely cool, there are more benefits to hammocking than you might think.
Why should I choose a hammock over a tent?
For most campers, it boils down to weight. Since there’s less material, they’re often significantly lighter. Bear in mind that for most camping trips you’ll want a bug net and a tarp. Waking up soaked and mosquito-bitten makes for the worst night’s sleep of your life. I can vouch for that.
Hammocks are extremely practical if you’re camping somewhere with rough or uneven ground. I’ve camped on slopes where I’ve spent the whole night rolling south into the side of the tent, or woken up with a hard rock wedged between my shoulder blades, and on those occasions, I really wished that I’d taken a hammock instead.
That’s not to say that hammocks are best for every backcountry adventure. At the risk of stating the obvious, something to hang it from is essential, so don’t rely on a hammock if you’re planning on camping above the treeline.
Should I go for a bridge hammock or a banana hammock?
A banana hammock is your standard, bunched-end hammock. They pack down small and since they’re compact, they are easy to cover with a tarp. Bridge hammocks use spreader bars at either end to make a rectangular-shaped bed. They’re more spacious and generally more comfortable for people who don’t sleep on their back but are significantly heavier and generally much more expensive, too.
Which sort of straps are best?
Most hammocks have either a whoopie sling or daisy chain straps. Whoopie slings are ropes that have an adjustable loop. They’re usually the lightest option, favored by ultralight backpackers and fast packers. Daisy chain straps have a series of loops and the hammock is held in place by attaching a carabiner to the hammock which passes through the loop at the desired length. The added bonus with daisy chain straps is that you can use carabiners to hang light gear from the other loops.
Are there extras that I should buy?
Unless you’re certain that it’s not going to rain, a tarp is invaluable. A bug net is essential, too, there aren’t many places to camp that are completely free of creepy crawlies. Many hammocks have an integrated bug net and tarp.
Sleeping in a hammock is significantly colder than sleeping in a tent as you’re exposed to air on all sides. Even mild summer nights can leave campers feeling frozen without the right gear. Pack an insulating underquilt or sleeping pad, and be aware that you might need a warmer sleeping bag than usual for hammock camping.
Most hammocks don’t have much space for your gear, so remember to have a sturdy, waterproof cover for your backpack.
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Sea to Summit are market leaders in creating strong, lightweight hammocks, and their Pro Hammock Set is no exception. Made from nylon, it weighs a mere 20 ounces with the straps included, and holds up to 400 pounds. When stowed in the compression bag you can literally fit this hammock in your pocket. A bug net and tarp need to be purchased separately.
If you can’t decide whether to take a tent or hammock camping, the Hennessy Hammock Ultralite Backpacker Asym Zip Hammock is for you. It can easily be pitched as a tent using a pair of hiking poles, making it a suitable option for treks above and below the treeline. At just 1.9 pounds with a bug net, straps and tarpaulin included, it’s lighter than almost any tent, and there’s a small, integrated gear pocket for holding personal items. The tarp is fairly small, so it’s not recommended for heavy downpours.
The Lawson Blue Ridge Camping Hammock comes with two arch poles and two spreader bars which keep the material flatter and tighter than with a banana hammock. There’s a bug net and a rainfly, two interior pockets, and even a loop in the ceiling for hanging a camping light or headlamp. It can also be pegged to the ground as a tent. The poles and bars mean that it’s substantially heavier than many hammocks (4.9 pounds), so it’s not the best choice for weight-conscious backpackers.
Once packed, this two-person hammock is roughly the size of a grapefruit and only weighs 19 ounces, but that doesn’t stop it from having the capacity to hold up to 400 pounds. The Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock is bluesign approved and made from ripstop nylon which wicks moisture away from the body. The choice of color selection is extensive.
Ticket to the Moon’s hammocks come in a variety of sizes for every possible adventure, from the mini, designed for kids (or even pets), to the mammoth ‘mammock’, designed for sharing. They’re made from tough, lightweight nylon and the color palette is fully customizable.
The Tentsile Safari Connect 2-Person Tree Tent is more than just a hammock and was built to be used for prolonged periods of time in extreme environments. With a weight capacity of 880 pounds, 10 inside pockets, and two underfloor storage nets, there’s ample room for two backpackers and all their possessions. It’s tough, but it’s also very heavy at 24.7 pounds, so don’t think that this one is going in your backpack.
Decathlon’s outdoor gear is great value for money, and the Quechua Basic 1-Person Hammock is a steal. Made from polyester, it comes with buckles, ropes, and a carry case included, but carabiners, a tarp, and a bug net are extras. It’s more adapted to daytime naps or a camp chair rather than long-term camping and weighs just 1.2 pounds.
The Robens Trace Ultimate Hammock Set is made from lightweight, ripstop nylon and weighs only 1.85 pounds with the detachable tarp included. There’s an integrated mosquito net and the whole bundle is in muted, camouflage colors for a subtle, back-to-nature camping experience.