I have been hammock camping for several years and I am thoroughly enjoying it. However, after reading your book multiple times, spending time on this website, and practicing different techniques, I am still struggling with the perfect sag and the 30 degree angle. In particular I have recently been trying a 108 inch ridgeline on my hammock, but it has been causing me some confusion because it holds the hammock in a different position than it would if I removed the ridgeline. I use suspension straps with a cinch buckle, and I have a gathered end hammock. Any suggestions?
We're always on the hunt for the best products available, and the ever-shifting 'mock market has us on our toes! We've added several new models to help you choose the best system for your needs. From the complete set up of the REI Co-op Flash Air (a new Best Buy awardee) to the versatility of the Bear Butt Double and a brand new Editor's Choice, the Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter, we're determined to keep you up-to-date. Whether this is your first 'mock purchase or you're a lounge addict, read our updated review to continue your search with confidence.
BUYING ONLINE - Check the seller's return policy before you buy, but you can almost always return an unused hammock within a certain time frame after purchasing. We recommend buying your top choice, testing it at home, and returning or exchanging if it doesn’t feel quite right. We've been buying lightweight hammocks online for years and we've yet to have any problems.
Another thing to look for are widowmakers. Named for their potential to seriously injure the unaware. Make sure you’re not hammocking underneath sections of dead branches. This is especially important if you are camping in the winter where ice and snow can accumulate on branches above. The increased weight can be just enough to send the heavy branch falling on top of you.
Too many people attempt to string up a hammock as tightly as possible between anchor points. This can cause a cocooning effect that can squeeze your shoulders and bow your back uncomfortably. Instead, try hanging your hammock with a good sag, as in a smiley face. If you really want to geek out, a good starting angle is 30-degrees from horizontal. This is the most important tip to make your hammock more comfortable. A deep sag also lowers the center of gravity, making the hammock more stable and harder to fall out of.
If you’ve gone camping before, you’ve probably spent some time in a tent. While tents are great, they do have a few drawbacks. Some people find it uncomfortable to sleep on the ground without a large inflatable mattress which isn’t very practical to bring if you are camping as you hike. Other people don’t like looking for the perfect campsite that has a flat area for the tent while also being away from potential rain runoff. Modern tents are very intuitive to set up, but many people still don’t enjoy fumbling with poles and keeping track of where to stake the tent down. Tents are also a bit heavy and bulky, unless you are willing to spend a lot of money on a premium backpacking version. Additionally, while tents provide great protection from the elements, they also confine you within its walls instead of letting you experience the full majesty of the outdoors.
The lightest setup we tested was the Sea to Summit Ultralight, clocking in at a featherweight 5.8 ounces — and that included the integrated compression stuff sack! If you remove that feature, the hammock itself only weighs 4.8 ounces. This weight doesn't include suspension, but Sea to Summit offers a compatible ultralight suspension that will add less than 3 ounces to your setup.
2. Keep it simple. The folks on Hammock Forums are incorrigible tinkerers, and a lot of them give no thought to weight and/or complexity. It’s easy to turn following tip (1) into a never-ending spiral of experimentation. That may be your style, and if so, more power to you. But I’m guessing most readers of this blog want a reliable, simple, lightweight set-up that they don’t need to fuss with. With discipline, this can be done with a minimum of iterations and expense.
Accessories that may be essential for your setup are unique mattresses, which provide wings to keep your arms and shoulders warm, underquilts for even colder temperatures, top quilts for extra coziness, and different styles of bug nets and rain flies. Check out each review for more suggestions on accessories and alternate versions available from each manufacturer.
While silnylon is superior, any kind of tarp will work to create an effective shelter from the rain. The plastic blue tarps can make a variety of effective shelters for your hammock. They are also durable and cost only a fraction of a silnylon fly. The downside of these tarps is the bulk and weight, making them less than ideal for ultralight packs.
Honestly, the comfort is the number one reason to switch and can't be emphasized enough. It is way more comfortable than any pad out there including the self inflating pads. Besides supporting you back, relaxing your body, and reducing foot swelling, there is the gentle rocking that can lull you to sleep, as well as the lack of mystery bumps like rocks and roots that you think are not there until you lay down to sleep like there is sleeping on the ground. You don't slide to one end of your hammock like sometimes happens in your tent when you can't find the perfect level spot.
But my favorite option is hammock underquilt – especially from the guys at Hammock Gear. From a weight to warmth ratio perspective, there’s no beating a down underquilt. I find that the incubator 20 isn’t too warm for autumn nights and is actually rated conservatively. I’ve taken it down into the teens before. But that will also depend from person to person. The one downside to an underquilt is if you get stuck without trees, you can’t use it for bottom insulation. By laying directly on the underquilt on the ground, you compress the down and that takes away any insulation.
INSULATION DESIGNED FOR EVERY HENNESSY HAMMOCK: Most places in the world, even jungles, require some insulation at night especially at altitude. We offer two choices with different temperature ranges. Both of these systems have insulation pads that are a wider mummy shape that will protect your arms and shoulders much better than the standard tent pad.
Some people think using an underquilt during the summer is overkill. But as long as you’re not using a 0 degree rated quilt, you should be ok using that in the summer. As a huge bonus, you might not even need a sleeping bag or top quilt! In warmer temperatures, the micro climate your underquilt creates can be enough to keep you warm through the night. Learn how to make an inexpensive summer underquilt.
But for me the comfort factor trumps all. Too many sleepless nights, even on good pads and I had all but given up on ever sleeping outdoors again (and no, I don’t count sleeping in RVs/trailers or any vehicle as sleeping outdoors). Then two years ago, I discovered the Deans of Hanging – Shug and Professor Grizz Adams – check out http://hammockforums.net. Now, I will gladly pay even a hefty weight penalty in exchange for the difference in comfort. However, as SGTROCK noted in the second article, UL weights with hammock gear rival, and may even beat, that of the UL tarp and pad crowd. I even managed to use UL rock climbing gear to anchor my hammock suspension when there were no suitable trees to be found. Short of an emergency bivouac, I will never go back “to ground.”
Last but not least, the mat. A good sleeping mat will not just make your nights more comfortable, but it will also insulate your hammock from the cold. This is an ultimate hack, but you could make your hammock sleeping mat DIY by using the same insulating material people use to insulate their car windows when sleeping in. You can shape your mat so that it follows the hammock’s shape and you can even attach to it an inflatable cushion to get the ultimate sleeping asset when hammock camping.
The Hennessy Hammock Expedition and Explorer hammocks offer a couple of options with the classic and zip models. You mention the velcro model which is the classic and gives the ability to enter through the bottom. They also have a zip type that can be entered through the side which gives another way to get in and out of the hammock. Good brand that makes a quality hammock. Nice article, good descriptions.
Serac hammocks come with the attached stuff sack. A great bonus for storing your camping hammock and compacting it down. It keeps the hammock small and the drawstring even allows you to clip it onto your backpack. But aside from the obvious, the attached stuff sack makes a great easy access pocket for when you’re lounging around on your hammock. I always love to empty my pocket of my keys or phone when I lay down. It’s much more comfortable, and I can make sure I have nothing sharp that might rip my hammock. The stuff sack is perfectly situated for you to store your belongings while you relax. You can even keep a cold beer in there. Don’t swing too wildly though or you’ll risk spilling your beer 😉
You can also tie your hammock into a makeshift backpack to carry any survival items you come across. Your tree straps are also useful to have. Use them to fasten branches together into an emergency raft. The large hammock can form a makeshift sail to increase how far your raft can take you. Get creative, there’s unlimited ways to put your hammock to use.
Setting up a Hennessy or taking it down can be very fast if you use Snakeskins. These are nylon tubes that you slide over your hammock when you pack it up. Rather than dismantling the rain fly and the hammock, you roll them together tightly while they are still hanging and slide the Snakeskins over them starting from each tree until they meet in the middle. This forms a long snakey nylon tube which I store in an external side pocket on my pack. When you go to set the hammock up again, all you need to do to tie it off on two trees and slide the snakeskins towards the trees, which wil unfurl the hammock and fly. All you have to do is to stake out the fly and your hammock is fully set up. Snakeskins greatly expedite setup and tear down, particularly in the rain, and can greatly help in keeping the rest of your gear dry.
However, rain is not the only reason why you should set up a tarp. First of all, it will protect you from anything falling from above. This means that you will be able to set up your hammock even more easily, as insects, leaves and birds’ “precious gifts” won’t be a threat anymore. Also, it keeps humidity away and it helps to keep the hammock area dry and aired. Anything else?
I do a lot of car camping. I like going to local parks with friends, hanging out, telling tall-tales, eating too much, comparing our latest camping or hammock gadgets, and enjoying great fellowship. I don't worry about what things weigh or how large they are. Camping out of my car affords me the ability to bring all kinds of stuff and try different things. While some hikers would find my gear on the heavy side, that doesn't bother me. I'm not into that sort of thing. That's okay. I do my thing with like-minded friends and we have a great time. I like being able to walk over to my truck, pull out my heavy sleeping bags, plop them into my hammock, and be comfortable from the elements all night long.
More versatility. Hammocks offer more freedom of location when it comes to where you’ll lay your head at night: tie your hammock up between trees and rocks, beneath piers, over a stream, on a hill, next to a waterfall…you can even string it up between two car racks. Plus, a hammock does double duty on your trips — not only serving as a bed for sleeping, but as a chair and a lounger. Take a nap, read, and relax in your hammock during the day. And of course it can serve the same purpose when you get home; while a tent sits in your basement between trips, you can use your hammock all the time for relaxing in the backyard (or even inside).
Experience a level of comfort on the trail almost as good as your bed at home and maybe even better. The patented asymmetrically shaped hammock supports your back like a quality mattress off the ground. Tall or large campers and campers with injuries, arthritis, bone spurs or back pain tell us about finding their first night of comfortable camping in many years with the larger Explorer Deluxe or Safari Deluxe models. You will wake up in the morning feeling great. Some owners of Hennessy Hammocks claim that they come home from their adventure feeling better than when they left. Some hikers have tossed out their beds when they got home from a hike and set up their hammock in the house.
Some hammocks are designed with a dedicated tarpaulin. Others come without a tarpaulin with the understanding the user will want to select the size and style of tarpaulin which best fits their needs. There are many different ways in which hammock campers generally hang their tarpaulin. In some, the tarpaulin is connected to the hammock's suspension line using a system of mitten hooks and plastic connectors. In others the tarpaulin is hung separately using either the hammocks integrated ridge line, or a separate ridge line placed under or even over the tarpaulin.
These stock systems are functional and usually intuitive. But they may not necessarily be the lightest, most adjustable, or best for your specific needs. To explore alternative suspension systems, check out Dutchware Gear, and read posts on the topic by Derek Hansen at The Ultimate Hang, which is an excellent resource (and book), and the single best place to continue your hammock education.
Put your pad inside your sleeping bag. This helps keep things from moving around, and helps the bag from bunching a little. It’s not a perfect system because you do have a lot of material under you that can bunch up. Laying the bag open and sitting in the middle before you get in helps. I’ll admit that with a sleep my bag you will need to do some maneuvering to get situated at first. This is why under quilts are so much beloved. They are less fussy. But pads and bags can do the job of keeping you warm, you just have to work a little more.
Expedition models need to offer a good night's sleep for many nights in a row, regardless of the weather or terrain. All of the Hennessy and Warbonnet models tested as well as the REI Flash Air do this well. Conversely, some of the smaller, lightweight models, like the Grand Trunk Nano 7 or Ultralight Starter or the ENO Sub7, may not be the most preferable to camp in for more than a night or two. However, if you're taking on an adventure where weight matters, like thru-hiking the Appalachian or Pacific Crest Trail, this might be a worthwhile tradeoff.
Tip #6: When you find 2 perfect hammocking trees (thick trunks, alive, little or no ground cover between them), carefully check for sensitive plant life (especially vital at higher elevations), wildlife habitat and hazards such as insect nests or poisonous plants. Avoid stepping on roots and lichen, and minimize transporting non-native species by cleaning shoes between trips.
The humble hammock has been around for thousands of years, and it is still used today in parts of the world as a primary sleeping accommodation. Yet many people I speak with think hammocks are “uncomfortable,” or it will hurt their back,” or “they’re great for summer lounging only,” or “it’s too easy to fall out.” A lot of these misconceptions come from the modern rope hammocks with their spreader bars and large woven nets. These hammocks are notoriously tippy, due to their high center of gravity and tight pitch. Unfortunately, they’ve given authentic hammocks a bad wrap.
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.
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.
Seek natural shelter As you set up your hammock, a main goal is to deal with potential wind. Rather than setting up your hammock in exposed areas, move farther into the forest to enjoy the natural sheltering effect of the surrounding trees. Also, seek out natural wind breakers like rock formations, and think about hanging a tarp between two trees as an extra layer of protection.
Alan, the only thing I think is missing here is a short nod to taking a hammock to the ground. Those that dismiss hammocks because of lack of anchor points (e.g., “above the treeline”) may benefit from knowing that a hammock kit can be pitched on the ground similar to any tarp set-up. A lot of UL hikers use minimal tarp systems like the Gossamer Gear Twinn, using trekking poles or sticks to erect their shelter. A hammock with an integrated bug net easily doubles as a ground bivvy in such cases.
Are you one of those backpackers or thru-hikers that weighs every item that goes in your pack? Are you traveling for an extended period and space in your bag is highly limited? If you answered yes to any of that, then the Sea to Summit Ultralight might be your golden ticket. This impressively tiny option weighs a mere 5.8 ounces, including its integrated compression stuff sack and a shocking 4.8 ounces without it. Even better? It packs down to about the size of a can of pop. It doesn't include suspension, but Sea to Summit offers an ultralight option for that too, weighing less than 3 ounces and small enough to also fit into the stuff sack.
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.
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.
When I Thru-hiked the AT in 2012 I switched to a hammock in Harpers Ferry. My tent was just to hot at this point. I went to Trail Days and picked up a Hennessy for 50% off. The hammock was amazing. I agree with all of your points. By the time I reached Maine it started to get very cold at night and I would often hang my hammock up in a shelter trying to get the heat from the other hikers.
I am brand new to hammocking. I recently bought a Nube shelter with Pares hammock. They were the only ones that offered what I wanted in a hammock. In the twenty minutes I’ve spent on your website, I’ve learned more than the three or four weeks I spent on YouTube before purchasing, and learned, consequently, that I’ve been setting up my Pares incorrectly. I need a good tip for achieving the 30-degree angle on the suspension lines.
The Hiker Lite with its poly taffeta bottom and in a 10′ x 56″ size sounds like it would be a very tempting minimal hammock with great support and reasonable weight. While i can sleep in a 1.0 oz nylon hammock I am not entirely enthusiastic about the sag. Both the stiffer poly fabric and 1.4 to 1.8 oz fabric should make the hammock much firmer without a huge weight penalty.
When you sling your hammock, it’s important to use the wide straps that manufacturers produce, because they have minimal impact on trees and keep them healthy. If you rig up your hammock using rope, you could cut into the bark and do serious damage. Also, manufacturers’ straps usually include several loops, which allow you to adjust the length easily.
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).