Excellent article and replies. I have been using a hammock since I was in scouts back in the late ’80s. The old fishnet style hammocks. Now I own four ENO double nest hammocks and routinely take my son and his friends to teach them how to use a hammock instead of a tent. I even took my hammock on my deployments with the military. We called them our hanging hooches.
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.
Sleeping in a hammock has some real advantages over sleeping in a tent once you get used to it. Chief among them is mobility: you can pitch camp just about anywhere below treeline. This is handy if you want to beat the crowds and camp in solitude or if you are between shelters and you need to stop for the evening. A hammock has very low impact when you pick a stealth camping site, since you won't compress the forest duff in the same way that pitching a tent or tarp will.
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.
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.
Educate yourself on the local area you plan to be camping in before you head out. If there are protected species of trees, refrain from using those as anchors. For example, Joshua Tree National Park is dotted with thousands upon thousands of Joshua Trees. However, Joshua Trees are not actually trees and are protected with their population numbers are decreasing from climate change. They have shallow root systems that cannot easily support the horizontal force exerted by a hammock in addition to a trunk that isn’t as solid as a true tree. Due to their hollow structure and the dry ecosystems they live in, they are also brittle and can break off from the strain.
Rope hammocks are just one of many styles of hammocks. But there are many options out there that provide a superior night’s sleep. Besides the bridge hammock, there are gathered end, and bed hammocks. Gathered end hammocks have each end tied together to a point. The camper lies along the horizontal plane of the hammock. Bed hammocks are designed so that you lie perpendicular to the plane of the hammock instead. We’ll be walking through the more popular gathered end hammock. Let’s first weigh the pros and cons of hammocks.
For the tips of the poles, be careful if you have flexible plastic tips, which is typical. If you don’t do the below, the tip can bend, the spreader bar will pop out, and you will plummet. (Me, into the everglades, where a gator must have heard me splash… its only funny now!) To keep the tip stiff, I sawed two sections of the aluminum foot-end spreader pole that came with the WBRR. It fits just right over my Leki and Komperdell tips. You can just use the end pieces, so that the male insert from the spreader bar pole is in tact, but this is not necessary. Since it is a tiny bit lighter, I use a section that is open on both ends, sized to just barely allow the carbide tip of the pole to mate into the hammock hardware, while still grabbing the trekking pole over the portion where the plastic tip and the aluminum shaft overlap. Maybe 1.5 inches overlap. You may have to push it past the threads for the snowbasket. Mine are worn down, but you can also “screw” it on.
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.
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).