The best kind are styles that are designed to fit inside the sleeping bag such as the Kylmit Inertia X Frame. One of the biggest annoyances when trying to use a sleeping pad with a hammock is staying on top of the pad. It’s easy to shift your weight and move the sleeping pad from out underneath you. Some hammocks feature two layers to hold sleeping pads in place. Other hammockers like to stuff their pad inside their sleeping bag as long as it fits.
On the downside, the sling itself is narrow, making it one of the least comfortable models we tested. The material is also very thin, giving us concerns about how durable it will be. Also, with so many pieces to put take on your adventure or leave at home, be sure you're grabbing the parts you need, and don't forget anything important! Altogether though, this system's lightweight versatility makes it a solid choice for backcountry adventures.
This past year I used such opportunities — specifically my intro-level 3-day/2-night guided trips — to finally experiment with hammock systems, which had piqued my curiosity while writing The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide because I knew little about them despite their fanatical cult following. When my colleague Alan Dixon first saw my hammock in North Carolina, he immediately saw its potential and committed himself to this experiment, too. Based on his new first-hand experience, he has submitted a three-part series on hammocks:
In locations with ample trees of sufficient strength, the primary advantage of hammock systems is the huge increase in suitable campsites. In Shenandoah National Park, for example, most of the terrain is rocky and steeply sloping; the number areas suitable for ground camping (i.e. flat; and free of rocks, roots, and vegetation) is very limited. Moreover, many of these areas have developed into crowded, heavily impacted campsites.
Planning to do the High Sierra Trail this coming August, and was curious if anyone has experience taking a hammock rather than a ground setup on the HST? I know there will be at least one camp at Guitar Lake where I’d have to use my hammock as a bivy, but are there any other sites where this would be an issue, or other reasons hammock camping the HST would be a bad choice?
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!
As more and more options make it to the market, it's easier to find affordable versions. But how do you find an affordable option that doesn't sacrifice comfort, versatility, and longevity? Enter the Bear Butt Double! This straightforward parachute version is made of some of the thickest nylon of all the models we tested, has triple stitched seams, and boasts one of the highest weight capacities available. It's also among the largest in overall size, meaning finding comfort is a cinch no matter if you're 4'2" and reading a book or 6'5" and snoozing in a sleeping bag. It comes with lightweight carabiners and a quippy sticker.
Several of the expedition models had a bit of a learning curve to their set up to be able to get comfortable. The Warbonnet Blackbird and Ridgerunner fell into this category, but after practice, we were able to set them up with relative ease and confidence. Additionally, some slings don't come with all the components you need to set them up — beyond just a lack of suspension system. Both the Warbonnet Blackbird and both Hennessey models lack the stakes necessary for a complete set-up.
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.
I think your fear is unfounded. Bears will smell you, regardless of whether you are in a tent or a hammock. If you smell like food AND if it’s an aggressive bear, I think they’ll do what they want with you. Because aggressive bears tend to hang out in high-use backcountry (and frontcountry) areas, this makes a strong argument for smart campsite selection no matter what you use.
All the things you heard about how hammocks can be set up in the worst places are absolutely true… but should be avoided if possible. Ground sleepers may get grumpy when they see a hammocker over a prime spot, but its first come first serve in the woods. Flat spots help with any late night bathroom breaks. Sleepily exiting a hammock on a decline and falling into your tarp does not make hammock camping more fun.
All of our Hennessy Hammock models are provided with complimentary "Tree hugger" webbing straps to protect the tender bark of trees. The smaller the diameter of the tree, the more times the webbing straps go around the tree to spread the load. The environmentally friendly design requires no ground levelling, trenching or staking. When you walk away from your campsite, there will be no tent footprint and almost no sign that you were ever there.
I love my current hammock (Warbonnet) so much I am sleeping in it at home most nights. I tried to use my hammock in the So. Cal portions of the PCT last spring and found myself on the ground most nights so I sent it home till I could find a good part of the trail for hanging. I was sorry to see it go! Looking forward to reading the next installment.
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.
One of the unique concepts of hammock camping is the new diversity of suspension systems and add-ons which campers use in making their hammock set-up unique and functional. The line on which the hammock's weight is held is often swapped for a variety of lighter weight suspension made of Dyneema or other UHMWPE material. These reduce both weight and bulk. Many use similar lines formed into a constriction knot (colloquially referred to by the brand name "Whoopie Slings") for quick adjustment and setup. These may be connected to the webbing straps ("Tree Huggers") using a lightweight toggle or a carabiner, or more uniquely designed connectors such as Dutch Clips or Tri-Glides.
First and foremost, hanging requires a suspension system, and many models don't come with this essential component. While many manufacturers sell compatible suspension systems, quite a number of options either don't have suspension systems factored into the cost or have poorly designed systems included, such as the rope slings that come with the Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter or Bear Butt Double. Many of the expedition models come with suspension systems, such as the Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker and Expedition, REI Co-op Flash Air and the ENO SubLink Shelter System (though the Sub7 does not if you buy it on its own). Both Warbonnet models had two optional suspension systems available for an additional cost, or you could choose to purchase just the hammock and attach it to another suspension system.
The traverse powerlock from REI would work. REI made some deal with Komperdell, and Komperdell makes their poles. REI replaces the 3-year no-questions-asked Komperdell warranty with their (lame) 1-year warranty. Thanks, REI. (Bias disclosure: I hate REI.) I had to scour for Ridgehiker Cork Powerlock from Komperdell when I wanted to get a backup pair of poles, though my originals are still going strong after 5000 miles. I see they are now on Backcountry. Y’all give Andrew some compensation, and click on his backcountry link (or, fine, whatever, REI) and get you a pair. (I have no affiliation with anybody.)
On the downside, the suspension system is sold separately, upping the price point overall. It's also on the heavy side, making it a tough option to pick for backcountry adventures. It's also disconcertingly easy to tip over. This tipsiness makes for excellent physical comedy but cuts down on the relaxation factor. If you've been dying to try suspended camping, but can't get comfortable sleeping on your back, give the Ridgerunner a try!
In other cases, your hammock equipment might be used in order to hang your hammock outdoors in your garden. In this case, it might include a nail and a hook, or perhaps carabiners for hanging on a hammock stand. We’ve reviewed two sets of carabiners, both of which are very effective at holding huge amounts of weight without taking up too much space in your bag!
So I just got a warbonnet blackbird XLC. Brandon mentions that you should hang the foot end of the hammock at least a foot higher than the head end. I noticed that you don’t mention anything about this. Is this recommended for other gathered end hammocks? It seems I lay the way Warbonnet recommends, my head would be closer and a little more center(still off to the side though) to the head end of the hammock while my feet would me much closer to the middle of the hammock and very much off to the side. I guess I’m just curious what you know about this.
Hammocks are great but have a little bit of a learning curve. Everyone’s different so it’s a matter of finding what works and is comfortable for you. For anyone thinking about switching from ground dwelling to hanging should check out: https://hammockforums.net/forum/content.php Awesome resource for everything hammocks. Learn as much as you can before you buy, or even better, try to find someone with the gear you are thinking of purchasing and try theirs first. Hammock length, width, fabric material, etc all make a difference in how you lay and feel while resting. For me, I sleep better in my hammock than at home.
Every Hennessy Hammock is a complete engineered shelter system for one price. Often other hammocks look like a bargain until you add up the cost of all the parts, then you find that they cost more, weigh more and are bulkier in your pack than a Hennessy. We manufacture a line of 24 specialty hammocks, including jungle hammocks, double bottom hammocks, insulated winter hammocks, camos, ultralights, and the right size and weight for anyone up to 350 lbs. Hennessy Hammocks come in five different lengths from 9 to 12 feet long .
I’m very intrigued by a Hammock system, it’s not really something I seriously considered before reading your post. One thing that the post doesn’t really address that I’m very curious about is what do you do with the rest of your gear? The photos show packs, etc. on the ground under the hammock, are there any solutions for your pack, etc. other then the ground such as attaching it to the hammock itself?
Thanks Derek. Since my question I now have three nights in the hammock – two in my backyard and one at a Cub Scout one nighter with my son – and can confirm sleeping ON two of the Costco down comforters doesn’t do much for temps in the mid to low 60’s. I had cold spots waking me up several times. Yes, I’ve read all about the loss if insulation properties when these things are compressed but I had to learn it myself as part of this “process”. Thanks for the suggestion!
Overall, we found the Hennessy models to be the most complicated to set up, which is why we scored them some of the lowest ratings in this category. The suspension system requires a special Hennessy tie-off that, while easy to do once you've learned it, is a bit complicated at first. It's also tricky to get the right tensioning with these models, and you have to make sure that the asymmetrical tarp and the sling itself are correctly aligned. All of the instructions are printed right on the bag, but it reads a bit like a Dr. Bronner's label — wordy. You will want to practice setting these models up before going out into the backcountry.
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.
I have used my Clark Jungle Hammock while exploring rivers in the Guyana jungle, suspended overnight above a half metre of swamp water in Borneo, and used it in West Africa too (where I suspect a leopard would view it as a large green hanging burrito), and it works great. Nice to be above the ants, centipedes, scorpions and snakes, easy to set up, and I make it a bit more comfortable by the addition of the short, wide version of the Neo Trekker mat inside, which lessens that “squeezed shoulder” effect. In BC Canada I prefer a tent. Using a hammock in colder weather isn’t something that I’ve tried, mainly because all the extra quilting required to block the cold and wind would seem to negate this hammock’s advantage – its compactness and simplicity. In the tent I’m typically a stomach sleeper, so was worried how I would adjust to hammock sleeping, but it’s actually quite comfy, and makes a great seat during the day too. In 2013 I’ll use the hammock in Belize, my WE Bug Dome tent (awesome ventilation) in the heat of northwest Australia, and possibly a slighly heavier grade tent along the BC coast later in the year. The Clark Jungle Hammock is the best expedition hammock made, and has looked after me well on many epic journeys.
Just spent the first few nights in my new HH Explorer Ultralight (light intermittent drizzle, 50' at night, hammock chilly to touch but fine in my 20' Dick's cheapo synthetic bag without pads or other addons). Love it, I'm a convert now, and I really LOVED my REI HC T2 tent before this, so that says a lot. I agree, getting ground conditions (rocky/thorny/muddy etc) out of the equation changes everything. So far I've not been out in a real marathon downpour, but will probably spring for a larger tarp (a hex in camo). +1 on snakeskins improving setup/takedown; included free if you order direct from the HH website (limited time offer?) Looking at slap-strap-pro or another just-wrap-and-click solution. I recommend the HH Explorer Ultralight for those over 6' and wanting a little more durability while still keeping weight down (39 oz).
More openness. Adventurers like Alastair Humphreys aren’t fans of tent camping, as you’re essentially trading a sturdy roof at home for a thinner roof in the woods. If your goal with camping is to get as much nature and fresh air as you can, sleeping in a hammock is the way to go. You’ll rock to gentle breezes, fall asleep while watching the stars, and open your eyes to the sky. If the forecast calls for rain, or you’d like to sleep past sunrise, just put a rain tarp over your hammock.
Sometimes the best defense is to avoid camping near hubs of mosquito activity. Stay away from camping near large pools of stagnant water where mosquitoes breed. The shore of that crystal clear lake might seem like a great campsite, but it’s also mosquito heaven. Just moving a few hundred feet away from the edge of the lake can reduce the amount of mosquito activity.