Im after a bit of advice for a total hammock set up for bike touring in the UK and Europe. I won’t be doing any extreme conditions, generally in the spring and summer months. Think ive settled on the DD Frontline hammock with their 3x3m tarp. I have a Therm-a-Rest which will be my insulation and gives me options of ground or hung sleeping. Firstly, i do like to monouvre in my sleep, will the Frontline be ok or is a bridge hammock best? This leads onto the bag question, ive tried a mummy type bag and just don’t seem to get on with them due to movemen restrictions. Im thinking a rectangular bag which can cope with most conditions, which is able to be unzipped to allow a cooler nights sleep, any suggestions?
These stock systems are functional and usually intuitive. But they may not necessarily be the lightest, most adjustable, or best for your specific needs. To explore alternative suspension systems, check out Dutchware Gear, and read posts on the topic by Derek Hansen at The Ultimate Hang, which is an excellent resource (and book), and the single best place to continue your hammock education.
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.
An additional component of comfort that is often overlooked or difficult to decide on when internet shopping is fabric type. The models with the softest, most supple fabric were the Bear Butt Double, and the Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter. The Trek Light Single and Sea to Summit Ultralight lost some love here due to the slight scratchiness of the thin nylon. If you plan to be wrapped up in a sleeping bag, this isn't a big deal, but it's something to keep in mind if you will be napping in your short shorts.
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.
A common issue with hammockers is the lack of adequate insulation under them, which leads to a cold night and the promise to never hammock again. Ground-sleeper top insulation (sleeping bag) can be recycled. However, when getting into a hammock in a sleeping bag, the bottom compresses rendering it useless in keeping the underside warm from the cold air. A flat sleeping bag in conjunction with any wind under your tarp leads to both conductive and convective heat loss. The result of all these losses is cold butt syndrome (CBS) and an chilly nights sleep. The simplest (not comfy) way to avoid this is by using a sleeping pad in the hammock.
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.
There are a wide variety of hammock designs on the market, plus all sorts of accessories, such as straps to hang the hammock, rain flies, mosquito nets, and quilts for cold weather If you have a limited budget, and you are only going to camp in clear, warm weather, you can start simple and just buy a hammock and straps. But keep in mind that in the future you might need a fly, bug net, and cold-weather accessories. With most brands, you can buy the various items individually, or purchase kits that combine many of the pieces and can save you a bit of money in the long run.
The primary appeal of hammock camping for most users is comfort and better sleep, as compared to sleeping on a pad on the ground. Hammock camping enthusiasts argue that hammocks don't harm the environment in the way that conventional tents do. Most hammocks attach to trees via removable webbing straps, or "tree-huggers," which don't damage the bark and leave little or no marks afterward. Whereas it's easy to see a frequently used campground because of the effect on the grass, scrub and topsoil, the presence of a hammock camping site is much harder to detect. This has found favour with hikers and campers who follow the principles of Leave No Trace camping. Hammock camping also opens up many more sites for campers - stony ground, slopes, and so on - as well as keeping them off the ground and away from small mammals, reptiles and insects. Sleeping off the ground also keeps the camper out of any rainwater runoff that might seep in under a tent during a downpour. Lastly, the relatively light weight of hammocks makes them ideal for reducing backpack weight, thereby making it a good option for ultralight backpacking enthusiasts.
A problem that may arise from using a sleeping pad in a hammock is that the pad may be too narrow for your shoulders. Depending on the slack of your setup, the sides of the hammock may give your shoulders a slight squeeze. Even if it’s slight, it can compress your sleeping bag in that area. This will reduce the amount of insulation around your shoulders. Luckily there are a couple easy solutions for this. You can stuff your extra clothes along your sides to give you some extra protection. You can also buy specially designed sleeping pads for hammocks that feature “wings” on both sides. The “wings’ add insulation for your shoulders and arms when in a hammock. You can also modify your foam pad to make your own “wings”. Just cut two pieces off a cheap foam pad and attach it to your main pad with some duct tape.
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).
With a hammock, you can get around this in one of two ways. Insulate the bottom with an under-quilt, which hangs under the hammock itself. Or, place a sleeping pad inside the hammock. Personally, I prefer the latter, and run with a Big Agnes Deer Park 30 Sleeping Bag, a Big Agnes Gunn Creek 30º Sleeping Bag, and a Big Agnes Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad.
Underquilts hang directly below the hammock and each manufacturer provides some method of adjustment. It's usually in the form of small shock cord and cord locks. The idea is to provide insulation and wind protection to your exposed underside. Underquilts work best when hung properly and snugly against the bottom of the hammock. They work so well because the hanger doesn't compress the insulation. When a hanger enters the hammock, the underquilt gives and moves with the weight of the user due to the adjustable shock cord attachments. In contrast, if a hanger puts a sleeping bag inside the hammock with them...the hanger gets into the bag and compresses the insulation with their weight. This reduces the effectiveness of the insulation. Underquilts don't have that problem.
John Lepak is an art director, graphic designer, and weekend mountaineer. He hasn’t met a rock scramble he didn’t like, and spends his free time either in the mountains or obsessively cooking Mexican food. When John isn’t pushing pixels, crushing miles, or making the best carnitas caseras you’ve ever tasted, you can find him living the dream in the Connecticut woods with his wife Kat and a muscly little pitbull named Fiona.
Unless you’re camping out in the hot tropical rainforests, you’ll need a way to stay warm. The traditional sleeping bag and sleeping pad combo works just as well suspended in the air. But why do I need a sleeping pad? Since I’m not on the ground, shouldn’t my sleeping bag be enough? That is not the case! The breathable fabric of a camping hammock that is so comfortable in the summer heat, also allows for the cold night air to pass through just as easily. A sleeping bag will cover your top insulation, but it is less effective underneath . A cheap foam pad can go a long way oftentimes. An inflatable pad can also work well in a hammock.