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.
As mentioned previously, never use rope or paracord to directly tie your hammock onto a tree. The weight exerted by your body causes a rope to dig into a tree. This can severely damage the bark, especially if the tree is being constantly used to hammock from. The bark protects the soft layer underneath that brings food from the roots to the leaves. If the damage to the bark goes more than 50% of the way around the trunk of the tree, the tree will lose branches and leaves if not completely die.
If you get a hammock, it should only take one or two nights for you to get comfortable to sleeping in it. That first night however can be a little disconcerting and you might want to take a Benedryl to help you get drowsy and settle down. I made the mistake of sleeping in a hammock for the first time in very hot weather in Maine near the Kennebec River. However, with a little practice and experience, you will learn how to orient your hammock to take advantage of cooling breezes and avoid being hot at night.
You will be light on your feet and ready for any scenario with the ENO SubLink Shelter System with the Sub7 hammock in your pack. The Sub7 by itself was the second lightest model we tested, weighing in at just 6.4 ounces. That is downright impressive and we had to reward it. We tested the SubLink Shelter System upgrade. It contains suspension, a bug net, and a rain fly. Altogether, it's not a featherweight system, but each component individually is the lightest ENO offers, from the 4.1-ounce Helios Suspension System to the 16-ounce ProFly Sil Rain Tarp (the most substantial component). You can pick and choose what you need and leave the rest at home with this setup. Going out for just one summer night and trying to keep your weight down? Bring only the sling and suspension. Going into inclement weather? Bring it all. This setup will allow you to customize your adventure, staying lightweight at the same time.
With greater campsite availability, I can get away from habituated camping areas to find peace and quiet, and a better night of rest. Hammocks are a blessing to those that do not desire the crowded social scene at most Appalachian Trail (AT) shelters and other popular camping areas. And when better campsites exist — more aesthetic, more protected, less buggy, etc. — I can utilize them.
Just found this great series of articles. I had often wondered if one of the Deans of long distance UL hiking would ever find his way to “light side,” and now he has. I know there are strong opinions on both sides of issue because, like sailing or flying or any activity where weight is a governing factor, every consideration is really just a compromise – light weight, low cost, strong and durable – pick 2!
Again, with any system, there are pros and cons to using self-inflating pads or mats. I'm sure you can imagine how devastating it would be if an inflatable pad or mat was your only insulation system while out on a hiking trip and you discover while setting up your sleep system for the night that it has a hole in it. Bad news unless you also carry a repair kit!
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.
When you are lying on your back in the hammock, there is mosquito netting above you and along the sides. Running lengthwise down the inside of the hammock is a cord called the ridgeline, which has a little pocket where you can store your glasses or an LED light for easy access during the night. All the rest of your gear is outside of the hammock. After hanging my bear bag, I usually hang my backpack on a nearby tree and cover it with my backpack cover in case it rains. If my boots are wet, I hang them from the ridgeline outside my hammock but still under the rain fly.
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.)
These straps come in handy in so many ways. I like to keep my clothes and gear off the ground when I camp. The straps can easily be used to hang wet clothes from to dry off. If you’re a camera guy like me, you want to protect your baby. Hang your DSLR from the straps instead of having it sit in the dirt. If it’s raining and you’re really worried about your clothes or camera you can use your hammock tarp ridgeline as an alternative. By hanging your damp clothes right under the tarp, you can guarantee they won’t get soaked. Just make sure they’re not dripping wet before you hang them above you!
Get your hammock set up with plenty of slack. It’s important to lie at an angle to get comfortable. All you are doing is shifting your body from the midline of the hammock 30 degrees so that you are lying at a diagonal. What you’ll notice is that the center of the hammock is the tightest, while the sides remain loose. By adjusting the angle of your body, you’ll be cutting across the curve of the hammock. The hammock will flatten out underneath you and give you a flat lay without pressure points. Your neck and feet will maintain a slight elevation and the hammock will conform to your back.
Hammock camping in the winter can be exhilarating and unique. Imagine a white snow-covered mountain, a red burning campfire, and a warm cup of coffee. That being said, there are special preparations that need to be made to have a positive experience while winter camping. One of those preparations that we encourage here at Khione Outdoor Gear is the SHEL hammock tent. Hammocking is the simplest way to camp, and should be able to happen year round. Normal hammock covers or hammock tarps won’t be much protection from the cold, but a SHEL hammock tent is able to provide a waterproof barrier from the snow as well as an insulated shelter from the cold.
Hi Derek – I really appreciate you putting out all this info about camping hammocks. I have not camped much before for all the reasons you point out about the problems of sleeping on the ground. I just this Spring learned that camping hammocks exist. I am already a hammocks enthusiast since I make them for a living where I live at Twin Oaks Community (though they are back yard hamx, not good for camping), and so I am enthused to buy a camping hammock and bug net and tarp and try it. I bought your Ultimate Hang book and read it, and have thought about what you wrote about deciding about what I need and want. That gave me some qualifications, but I am still bewildered at all the variety of options and quality available. So I seek more specific advise based on my needs/wants and budget. If you are willing to offer that, would I ask that here on line, or to you directly off line? (Also, I do not know what I should put for the website line below since I do not have a personal website, so I left it blank)
1. Angle your hammock suspension (rope) at around 30°. Pitching a hammock too tight between anchor points puts an enormous amount of force on the suspension lines and hammock, leading to potential failure (and discomfort). A tight pitch also raises the center of gravity, making the hammock unsteady. Pitching the hammock at 30° ensures you get a deep sag (tip #2).
More comfort. Say goodbye to sleeping on rocks, roots, mud, bugs, and sloping, uneven ground. Hammock camping allows you to rise above it all. Learning to sleep comfortably in a hammock has a learning curve, but once folks get the, er, hang of it, they report getting the best night’s sleep in the outdoors they’ve ever experienced. Some even prefer their hammock to their bed at home. So if you want to hit the trails each morning well-refreshed, and return home feeling rejuvenated instead of exhausted, go with a hammock.
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.
In the mountains, two trees are often easier to find than a patch of earth flat enough to pitch a tent. This factor alone is enough reason to give hammock camping a try. It’ll take some time to feel out your preference—the perfect hang is subjective—but you’re good to go with two trees and enough line or a pair of straps (more on that below). Keep it off the trail (human or game), and give yourself about two feet of ground clearance. That’s just enough space to keep yourself from an unfortunate midnight run-in with a curious porcupine.
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.
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).