As to actual hammock size wider and or/longer is generally more comfortable. Most unfinished fabrics are limited to around 60″ wide which means that most hammocks are around 58″ wide when finished. This can be a bit short for some folks. That can be a bit narrow for some people in a 10′ length. As such, the trend these days is for an 11 foot hammock. This extra length gives you more room to lie diagonally, which keeps your body flatter which most people find more comfortable.
Most people (with a properly setup, true backpacking hammock) find it far more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. As such, they get a better night’s sleep, every night. In contrast, ground sleeping changes (many times for the worst) nearly every night due to sloping ground, bumps, depressions, wet areas, rocks & tree roots. It can be near impossible to find a good area large enough for a tent.
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).
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.
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.
I like to keep my options open and I have just WAY too much hammock gear. Not only do I use underquilts but I also use inflatable mats. I have a goose down-filled inflatable mat which I love. It's easy to inflate and deflate, is a deluxe model (i.e. very long and wide), and provides a great deal of warmth and wind protection. These aren't cheap X-Mart inflatable toys. Inflatable pads by any of the major hiking/camping gear manufacturers use top-notch materials and craftsmanship. Some have insulation, some just use the air in them as the barrier between the user and the cold ground or cold air, and some use a combination of air and insulation.
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.
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.