CHOOSING CUSTOMIZED HAMMOCKS: You can also "Customize" the "Stock" hammock by (Step 1) choosing the hammock body with the length of webbing straps you want. (Step 2) If you want a rainfly to go with your hammock, then choose any rainfly including the stock rainfly or buy just the hammock without the rainfly. (Step 3) You can choose an optional insulation system, designed to fit each model.
Sleeping bags are popular insulation solutions and can be a cheap alternative to underquilts. However, sleeping bags aren't the best solution since the insulation is compressed by the weight of the hanger thus depleting the fullness of the insulation material. It may seem that I'm knocking sleeping bags. It might surprise you to know that I frequently use sleeping bags as my insulation of choice.
The number of camp sites when you use a tent or tarp are limited to the places where you have flat ground, no pooling of water, no runoff flowing through, clear of brush, clear of rocks and roots, and many other little things to make your sleep enjoyable as well as just supporting the structure. Many times you must either crowd into a limited number of spots with others, go to designated sites, create a site (increasing impact), or take a less than perfect site. With a hammock, it's almost all good.
While CCF pads are very light they can be bulky when rolled or folded up. Many hikers and campers use CCF pads on the ground and don't have to worry about punctures commonly associated with inflatable pads or mats. CCF pads are an inexpensive solution and can be multi-purpose. They can also be used in combination with underquilts, sleeping bags, or inflatable pads to increase the level of protection from Mother Nature.
A lot of folks think all you need is a sleeping bag to stay warm in a hammock. After all, you’re off the ground, so you don’t need a pad for comfort. What that pad does help with, however, is warmth. You’ll compress the sleeping bag insulation under your body in a hammock just like you would on the ground, so you’ll feel cold in a hammock without some uncompressed insulation beneath you. To keep the sleeping pad from slipping out from under you, try putting it inside your sleeping bag.
2. The super-duper method (not recommended if you have surpassed your personal prime). If you have a gathered-end hammock, cocoon yourself into it by pulling the material on both sides until you are in a deep sag, and then pinching the material tightly closed with your arms and legs, putting your knees into deep pockets of material. Then, invert yourself by quickly shifting your weight till the hammock and your whole body turn 180 degrees and are facing the ground. WARNING: DO NOT LET GO of the material you are pinching just yet. Peek out of the cocoon and look for any painful objects (e.g. if you are inside, a plastic toy your kids placed underneath you while you slept, and if you are outside, a hard poky root or a rock you did not remove before entering the hammock). At this point, you may release the legs first and avoid a face-plant, or go all-out and do a belly-flop. I recommend only going the belly-flop route on grass or blankets.
You should pay extra attention during winter hammock camping trips because the risk of getting hypothermia from the cold and snow. For ordinary hammocks, you have to prepare many things such as an underquilt, hammock sock, and top quilt for a warm and strong hammock tent. However, the SHEL covers everything just by itself. The SHEL is a hammock tent especially designed to keep you warm in any weather. Insulated with high loft goose down and lined with a heat reflective interior, the SHEL hammock tent keeps you warm, no sleeping bag needed. Designed with comfort in mind, it is breathable yet secure. It is the most comfortable hammock camping experience available. That being said, it never hurts to be over prepared. You may want to bring an extra blanket or sleeping bag to assure that you are ready for the harshest of conditions.
Hammock camping is a form of camping in which a camper sleeps in a suspended hammock rather than a conventional tent on the ground. Due to the absence of poles and the reduced amount of material used, they tend to be significantly lighter than a tent. Their reduced weight often results in less space inside than a similar occupancy tent. In foul weather, a tarp is suspended above the hammock to keep the rain off of the camper. Mosquito netting, sometimes integrated into the camping hammock itself, is also used as climatic conditions warrant. Camping hammocks are used by campers who are looking for lighter weight, protection from ground-dwelling insects, or other ground complications such as sloped ground, rocky terrain and flooded terrain.
I have 2 sleeping bag systems. They aren't for the faint-of-heart, though! They are heavy. I have a military modular system and an army surplus bag. The modular system consists of a lightly insulated bag inside an intermediate insulated bag inside a heavy insulated bag inside a waterproof bivy shell. Whew! Talk about warm! I nearly sweat to death using this system. The beauty is that I can use all the bags, some of the bags, just the waterproof/windproof bivy shell, or any combination while in my hammock.
A warm sleeping bag may not always work because the insulation becomes compressed and ineffective. Doubling up sleeping bags can be effective. But then you have to worry about carrying two sleeping bags (per hammock). A camping pad, one used for comfort on the hard floor of a tent, or a thick foam pad is another good option, although they can move around a bit. Some hammocks have sleeves for pads which holds them in place.
Bring warmer sleeping clothes and invest in a warmer sleeping quilt. One thing to remember about hammock camping is you’re going to be colder up in the air than you would be on the ground, thanks to the air passing over and beneath you as you hang. So bundle up a little and invest in an Underquilt and/or Topquilt rated for colder weather, like 20–30 degrees, to be sure of staying warm and toasty all night. Check out more info on Hammock Insulation in our post, “Hammock Insulation – Bags vs. Quilts.”
These rainflys can be set up by creating a ridgeline above your hammock to suspend the tarp. The tarp is draped over the ridgeline. It is then tied in place with either some cord or a hook to keep the fly taught on both ends. Guylines pull the sides of the fly down and keep them in place. Just like a tent. Depending on the weather conditions, you can adjust the tarp accordingly. Keep it more open when there’s a light drizzle or pull the sides in if you’re facing a massive squall.
I started hammock camping a couple of seasons ago, and on solo overnight trips, it’s my absolute go-to. It’s wicked easy to set up after a long day of hiking, and it’s a significantly more sustainable, lower-impact way to camp. Provided you don’t need all the add-ons for every trip—like a rainfly or bug netting—it’ll even lighten the load in your pack. It is a different game, though, and you have to consider a couple of things before grabbing your hammock and hitting the trail.
A few light hammock models use smaller dimensions that may confine you. For example, the Grand Trunk Nano-7 Hammock, and the BIAS Weight Weenie Micro 52 Hammock are both only around 50-52 inches wide, versus the 65″ wide of the Warbonnet Blackbird. Shorter and/or narrower hammocks also limit your ability to sleep flatter on a diagonal to the hammock’s center-line.
Hammocking isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth a try. It’s a genius solution to bad ground conditions, but you may find – in gathered-end hammocks at least – a lack of comfort at each end (lateral squeeze of shoulders/feet), as well as lower back discomfort. One need not be a back sleeper to enjoy a hammock, but it helps a great deal. Side sleeping is possible but awkward. Many are not used to having their feet elevated relative to their rear end.
A problem that may arise from using a sleeping pad in a hammock is that the pad may be too narrow for your shoulders. Depending on the slack of your setup, the sides of the hammock may give your shoulders a slight squeeze. Even if it’s slight, it can compress your sleeping bag in that area. This will reduce the amount of insulation around your shoulders. Luckily there are a couple easy solutions for this. You can stuff your extra clothes along your sides to give you some extra protection. You can also buy specially designed sleeping pads for hammocks that feature “wings” on both sides. The “wings’ add insulation for your shoulders and arms when in a hammock. You can also modify your foam pad to make your own “wings”. Just cut two pieces off a cheap foam pad and attach it to your main pad with some duct tape.
Using a length of rope, tie a line above where the hammock straps meet the trees at each end of your hammock. Drape a tarp over the line and even it out. The middle of the tarp should run along the line and cover your entire hammock. Then, with a few more pieces of rope, tie a line from each of the four corners of the tarp. Run the new lines to nearby trees, roots, pegs or rocks that are heavy enough to act as an anchor. Tie those lines to the various anchors. These anchor lines will prevent the edges of your tarp from flying up in heavy winds.
Two things can add extra-comfort: a cap on your sleeping bag, with which you can surround your head and use it as another protection from the cold, and the size/weight of your sleeping bag. The best option would be an extra-light one, which you can squeeze in a very small case and that will allow you to save space and weight during your backpacking experiences. Indeed, hammock camping is particularly suitable for those who want to keep their backpack light and it wouldn’t make any sense to take up all the space (and the weight) with a sleeping bag, as much warm as it may be.
Narrowly beating out the previous champion, the Warbonnet Blackbird, the Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro is our new favorite backcountry hammock! We loved how comfortable and easy it is to use. Both the sling and bug net are made of strong and soft material, making this super wide option a comfortable choice for camping in mosquito country. With a simple carabiner to clip to your suspension system, it's shockingly easy to set up and doesn't require the stakes and tie-out lines of the Blackbird. This simplicity cuts out what can be a time-consuming adjustment process, allowing you to escape the hungry attention of flying bloodsuckers quickly. Since it's so much broader than the Blackbird and more balanced than the Warbonnet Ridgerunner, we had no problems finding many comfortable positions for spending a night in the backcountry tucked away from biting insects inside the Skeeter Beeter. And if performance alone isn't enough for you, also consider that the Skeeter Beeter is about half the cost of the Warbonnet offerings!
As for damaging trees. Hammocks are actually some of the lowest impact hiking systems out there. Instead of grooming a flat spot or compacting earth, a hammock keeps you above all that. Tree bark can be protected by either flat straps similar to Hennessy Hammock Tree Huggers, or by using a rope system that uses multiple wraps to distribute the load that keeps the rope from digging into the trees.
The Skeeter Beeter Pro is a good budget buy for people looking to dip a toe into hammock camping without a big financial investment. It has a traditional hammock shape, so it’s not as easy to lie flat, but it’s long enough to still be comfortable. It also doesn’t come with a tarp, so you’ll have to get an aftermarket tarp to protect against rain and wind. The Skeeter Beeter Pro isn’t our favorite camping hammock, but it’ll definitely get the job done and the price is tough to beat.
Bonus Tip: Flip the mosquito net hammock upside down so the net is underneath. You can then use the hammock like any regular hammock without the net obscuring your views. Also if you get lazy and don’t want to leave the hammock (as people often do), you can use the now underneath net to store clothes and other light gear. Unfortunately, this tip doesn’t apply for the Hennessy Hammock systems because of their design.
Weight always plays a role, but if I can get a full nights sleep and wake up TOTALLY refreshed, pain free and ready to hit the trail, I would gladly carry more weight. Luckily, I don’t have to! As SGT Rock said, sub one pound is as easy as watching his video! I love the hammock system and, if all else fails, the components can still be used to…gasp…go to ground if needed! The hammock system can cover it all. Great article!
And of course another important hammock accessory is your hammock stand. You can use a hammock stand to set up a permanent hammock in the garden or in a spare room, or you can use a portable hammock stand in order to fold it down and store easily when not in use. These can even be taken with you on a holiday or camping trip so that you don’t need to rely on having two nearby anchor points.
Sleeping in a hammock has some real advantages over sleeping in a tent once you get used to it. Chief among them is mobility: you can pitch camp just about anywhere below treeline. This is handy if you want to beat the crowds and camp in solitude or if you are between shelters and you need to stop for the evening. A hammock has very low impact when you pick a stealth camping site, since you won't compress the forest duff in the same way that pitching a tent or tarp will.
i’ve seen hammocks pull down live trees twice in maine. once nearly hitting me (an innocent bystander) and once nearly killing the guy in it- and it was a HUGE tree. it’s still laying across the stream at cooper brook falls lean-to in maine if you want to see it. so, in my opinion, the size of the tree matters little- you have to think about the topsoil-to-rock ratio its roots are in. i would think anywhere in new england is questionable.
Hammocks do well for practicing Leave No Trace (LNT): With more campsite options, hammock campers can avoid further impacting popular campsites. And since hammocks don’t touch the ground, they have minimal impact. They do not crush or smother plants below them. Note: it’s easy to avoid impacting trees, just use wide tree-straps 1″ to 1.5″. Almost all backpacking hammocks are sold with this type of strap. For more see Leave No Trace.org on Hammock Camping.
When laying in a sleeping bag in a hammock, the weight of your body compresses the insulation and minimizes its ability to keep your backside warm. An extra layer underneath you is critical. Enter your sleeping pad. Keep those buns warm by partially inflating your pad and lying on top of it inside your hammock. Don’t have a sleeping pad? Check out the next number.
When Trek Light Gear first began back in 2003 I had to explain each and every hammock benefit (and challenge) to every customer I came in contact with. Now, it’s still exciting to see how many people are new to the concept – but because of the spread of information it’s amazing to see how many people are coming into the hammock camping lifestyle with an already great understanding of what it offers.
Comparing the weight of a hammock system against a ground system is difficult and complex. Both systems have several popular designs and configurations — Which systems should be compared? And how could we ensure that the systems being compared offer a comparable user experience, in terms of camp comfort, sleep quality, and environmental protections?
Back in my tent days I remember going through a similar routine every summer: I’d wake up in the morning and feel like I needed to get up and out of the tent as quickly as possible even if I was still tired. The sun would quickly be turning my tent into a sauna and I’d find myself moving into a camping chair by the fire pit, waiting for other people to wake up and go through the same process so we could all sit around and talk about what rock or root had kept us up during the night (or marvel at the one person in the group who slept great and seemed to possess an almost superhuman ability to sleep through, and on, anything).