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.
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.
Big believer in hammocks too lately. One of the big benefits for me is a reduced footprint generally speaking for a campsite, and the speed at which I can put up and take down a hammock. The first trip I committed to using a hammock I pitched in a rain storm and was uneasy about how well it would handle. I pitched a flying ridgeline that I tied previously, Staked out the tarp, and then slung the hammock out of a bishop bag. Done in 5 minutes or less and my hammock stayed bone dry. It was great. Since then I’ve been in wind storms and a few other scenarios and it’s been a great system. I’d just say find a tarp that has tie outs along the middle of the tarp. I have a small-ish tarp that is closer to the old A-frame style and in strong wind it snaps. First time I slept through a wind gust I was waking up every 20 minutes thinking my tarp was ripping or getting ready to fly away. Adjusting the pitch helped a lot.
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.
Excellent overview Alan, I have been sleeping and camping in hammocks for almost 50 years and appreciate a nice clean introduction to it like yours. Derek H’s recommendation about “go to ground” options is critical. Please read the “sticky” articles at hammock forums BEFORE any on going crazy discussions by us engineer and research scientists who are excessively technical, passionate, and opinionated. An incremental approach to a new hobby or sport is always the best. Hammock hanging has actually been very simple and effective for thousands of years, have fun with it, your back will be more healthy.
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.
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).

About going to ground when necessary … many hikers have spent nights with a tarp system on the ground already – going to ground with a hammock set up is very similar. Especially if you use a non-integrated bugnet. I use the 9.5 oz bugnet from Wilderness Logics when hanging my simple/lightweight gathered end hammock. When I have to go to ground, this bugnet is my full enclosure with zipper, I don’t even use the hammock at all on the ground (no need to risk abrasions). Any hammock tarp should work fine tightly pitched closer to the ground than normal using 2 trekking poles or sticks instead of tree trunks. My 1.1 oz cryo ground sheet goes inside the bugnet with my cc pad under me and quilt(s) on top (you can use both top and under quilts for extra warmth in this setup if necessary). For a close comparison, zpacks.com tarp tents actually use a mesh floor by default to save weight, and Joe recommends the ground sheet on top of the mesh to keep any running water under the groundsheet.
Big Agnes ditched their bags’ bottom layer of insulation for a built-in pocket to fit an air pad. But, really, you can use any bag-pad combo. Once you’re in the hammock, your weight will pin the pad down, and the sides help keep it in place overnight. I dig this setup primarily because, unlike with an under-quilt, I can use it in a tent or for cowboy camping just as easily.
Underquilts are my favorite option. They are lightweight devices which provide insulation and serve as a wind barrier when hung beneath the hammock. There are a plethora of manufacturers of underquilts in all different shapes, sizes, colors, fabrics, temperature ranges, attachment methods, and insulation choices for any kind of hammock on the market today. The two most popular means of insulation are goose down and Climashield synthetic material. Each has its own unique set of pros and cons, but that's a topic of discussion for another day.
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, smaller campers have more options since, larger campers will prefer roomier designs. We felt that there were no double models that slept a pair comfortably, though larger doubles fit two loungers better than a single, and slept one very comfortably. All of that considered, we still had to pick some winners and losers from the perspective of our astute testers. The hangs that we found the most comfortable were the Bear Butt Double, Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter, Warbonnet Ridgerunner and the REI Co-op Flash Air, though all for different reasons.
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.
Another common complaint from tent campers is the insect problem that comes with any open air camping. A tent protects you from biting buggers as long as you’re not leaving the door open. But most hammocks will leave you completely exposed to mosquitoes. Fear not! Many options exist for you to protect yourself from biting insects. Many bug nets are designed specifically for a hammock. They’ll give you complete 360 degree protection.
Good information. I learned the insulation aspect of hammock camping my first time out. It’s hard to sleep with a cold but. I know you don’t like home made items, but my budget couldn’t afford a $200 under quilt. I took a black poncho liner I found in a hunting store and had it sewn in half lengthwise. The seamstress also added a couple of 1″ channels along each side and I used shock cord and cord locks from the camping store to fashion the hanging system. Works great. I’ve tested it down to 30 degrees coupled with a 30 degree sleeping bag and sleeping in my base layer. Stayed toasty all night. I bought a compression sack and can stuff my entire sleeping system, hammock, under quilt and tarp into one smallish bag that weighs about four pounds.
Hammocks are all the rage these days, and people love them from backyard hangouts to backcountry living. But you always want to consider your wallet. The systems we tested range in price from as little as $30 to as much as $250 — that's a big difference! A high price tag doesn't guarantee a better experience either — some of our favorites were among the least expensive models and systems we tried! For example, the Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro won our highest accolade - the Editor's Choice award, yet retails for only $90. If that's still too much for your budget, the Best Buy Bear Butt Double goes for only $35.
Hammock Forums has always had a strict rule against political and religious posts. This has normally applied to issues that most members can agree are contentious...gun rights and carry laws, differences in religion, political elections and candidates, etc. As we've said several times, this isn't about First Amendment rights but about keeping this particular site respectful and on-topic.
In less popular areas, I find that ground shelters are a comparably valid choice. For example, I have found excellent ground sites in Michigan’s Porcupine Mountains, along New York’s Finger Lakes Trail, and around Mount Kineo, a low-use corner of New Hampshire’s White Mountains. I should point out that in addition to having lighter traffic, these areas have more level ground and more open forests.

First time hammock campers often hang their hammock with little slack thinking this will be more comfortable. However, hanging it loose with slack in the middle actually makes the hammock easier to sit and lay in (more on laying in your hammock below). You should also aim to keep the hammock lower to the ground. A low hung hammock is better because you can reach your belongings on the ground without getting up and if you accidentally fall out of the hammock you won't get hurt. 
We already know, from Dutch’s backpacking experience on the Appalachian Trail, that experienced hikers know what they want and need for their hammock and backpacking gear — it’s simply the challenge of finding the items in stores. Since many stores don’t offer what hikers want, many opt to create their own camping gear to meet their backpacking needs.
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.
Most folks that go the homemade route when they are new don’t have a grasp of what exactly they need and it usually leads to a cold and or wet nights sleep and them not wanting to hammock again which is absolutely what I want to avoid when giving advice. If the homemade gear works well then by all means use it often. I am happy to hear you were able to use what you could find to make a bottom wind break for your hammock and that it kept you toasty warm.
Chasing a whipping tarp corner in the middle of the night in the wind, with rain pelting your face is an experience to avoid. Some suggest using sticks or rocks and don’t carry stakes at all, but hunting items in the dark after a fall day of hiking is not easy. For aggressive wind, put stakes all the way into the ground and place rocks on top. Even 5.5lb-base-weight-hiker Lint carries stakes (4:20).
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.

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.
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.
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.
While a hammock puts your closer to nature, it also leaves you more exposed to the elements. Unless you’re 100 percent certain that there will be no precipitation in the forecast, you should think about buying a rain fly. Usually made of nylon or polyester that’s coated with polyurethane, the fly will shield you from rain and snow, and also block chilly winds and trap heat. On the market you’ll find a wide variety of rainfly options, from streamlined models that weigh around eight ounces, to larger ones that weigh 25 ounces and almost cover you like a tent. While some are rectangular, others have a diamond shape, which allows you to secure the fly closer to the ground for more coverage.
Are you new to the glorious world of hammocking? Or has it been a while since your last 'mock purchase? This market is more diverse than ever, and it's to end up in a very deep rabbit hole. We're here to help! After sifting through countless options and researching the top models, our experts spent hundreds of hours hanging, lounging, napping, and overnighting in these 'mocks in weather ranging from chilly alpine nights to hot summer days. Comfort is a priority, but we also assess how easy they are to hang and examine their durability and versatility. Single versus double no longer means what it used to, weight capacity isn't as telling, and there are specific designs for diverse uses. We recommend checking out our Buying Advice article to help you figure out what kind of hammock is right for you before diving into our individual reviews. For ultralight thru-hikers and local park loungers alike, we identify the best models for specific uses as well as all-around performers and budget options.
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.
Having a hammock is not just great for relaxing and getting a great night’s sleep. The bright colors and large fabric makes the hammock a perfect item to have in the worst case scenario. If you ever find yourself lost, the eye-catching colors of a hammock can be an excellent flag to signal rescue crews. The large surface area allows the hammock to catch the wind and let’s you fly a bright, visible flag.
Blankets won’t cut it when the temps dip to 40º, so be sure to bring along a warm, mummy-style sleeping bag. Preferably the bag will be rated to 15º F or less, with a down or synthetic fill. Be sure to cinch the hood closed around your head to shield it from the elements. Bonus tip: keep clothes and boot liners in your sleeping bag to keep them warm and take up dead air space. You’ll be thankful in the morning, too, when you’re not putting on freezing cold, snow-laden clothes or liners.
The hammock was developed in Pre-Columbian Latin America and continues to be produced widely throughout the region, among the Urarina of the Peruvian Amazon, for several years in Ghana,[2] and presently throughout North America, Europe, and Australia. The origin of the hammock remains unknown, though many maintain that it was created out of tradition and need. The word hammock comes from hamaca, a Taino Indian word which means 'thrown fishing net'. On long fishing trips, the Taíno would sleep in their nets, safe from snakes and other dangerous creatures.
rg “What is the insider’s guide to legally hanging in the Smokies?” There are many threads on hammockforums.com concerning hanging in the GSMNP as well as rules on the park web site. In our case we did reserve spaces in each shelter and stayed on our schedule. During hiking seasons, and within the AT thru bubble, the shelters are most always over crowded. We used the fact that they were overcrowded as permission to hang outside of the shelter, while minding our LNT and hanging etiquette. There were also non-shelter sites to choose from in the GSMNP (my preference).
When you’re lost, you might find yourself stranded in a place where there are no trees for your hammock. In this case, your hammock can be your impromptu bivvy and provide some protection from the elements. Crawl into the hammock on the ground and wrap the sides around you. This might not be the most comfortable, but it’s better than no protection.
Of course, always try to keep your hammock and your hammock straps as much balanced as possible. However, this doesn’t prevent you from hanging stuff on your straps instead of leaving it on the ground. It can be a camping light, your backpack, something you need to dry out. These parts of the gear can turn out to be very useful too, so don’t ignore them.
One way to guarantee a cold night is by setting up tarp ends parallel to the wind (above).  The issue was compounded by pulling the side tie outs to give the wind more area to blow through. This issue is very easy to spot because the wind will blow up the tarp like a bouncy castle. The usual triangle shape of your tarp can approach half-circle status if the wind picks up enough.  If it’s windy, grab some leaves and drop them to get an idea of which way the wind is blowing. Then set the long side of the tarp into the wind with the sides fairly low to keep wind out.
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In the Desert Southwest, where trees only grow at the highest elevations and along perennial water sources, hammocks would be most challenged. Some hammocks have been designed to be pitched on the ground, and I have seen some creative rigging systems, but these approaches have significant trade-offs and seem forced. I’ll just bring my modular tent or tarp & bivy, thanks.
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.
As for complete expedition setups, the heaviest was, again, the Expedition Asym Zip at 49.2 ounces. Not much less were the REI Co-op Flash Air at 44.8 ounces and the ENO SubLink Shelter System at 44.6 ounces. Considering all three include rain flies and bug nets, we thought this trade-off in weight gains was fair. Several models include integrated bug nets but not rain flies and were quite competitively weighted, including the Warbonnet Ridgerunner weighing a hefty 38.4 ounces, the Editor's Choice Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro weighing 28.8 ounces, and the Warbonnet Blackbird weighing an impressive 19.2 ounces.
There are a ton of different closed-cell foam (CCF) pads on the market. Some are made by major outdoor equipment manufacturers and others can be purchased at your favorite X-Mart store. The idea here is simple: the CCF provides a thin barrier between the hanger and the cold air or wind. CCF pads are cheap, most are quite durable, and all are very light.
Stay warm. Sleeping pads help, but they tend to slip around—or out of the hammock—during the night. They can also compromise comfort by preventing your hammock from hugging your body like it’s meant to. If you expect temps below 40F, invest in an underquilt ($100 to $250, depending on the temperature rating), which hangs beneath you and provides a pocket of insulated air to keep you warm.
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