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.
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.
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.
Three-season is sensible, but I’d add that hammocks can be awesome in deep winter as well. Once set up camp in a couple feet of snow. I set up wearing my snowshoes the whole time, didn’t need to dig or stomp down snow in any way. Use deadfall branches as snow-stakes for your tarp- easy. I have spent nights in my hammock in deep cold (down to -36f thus far), it is work but it can be done.
Top quilts are just plain comfy. Since they don’t have a full zipper (or any zipper) like a sleeping bag, they make hammock entry and exit easy. Many companies make them, but you can also make one yourself. Find any cheap, quilt-style sleeping bag, get all set up in your hammock, sling it over you, zip it up to your calves, and let the rest of it lay over you and bunch up on your sides. See? Glorious.
This past year I used such opportunities — specifically my intro-level 3-day/2-night guided trips — to finally experiment with hammock systems, which had piqued my curiosity while writing The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide because I knew little about them despite their fanatical cult following. When my colleague Alan Dixon first saw my hammock in North Carolina, he immediately saw its potential and committed himself to this experiment, too. Based on his new first-hand experience, he has submitted a three-part series on hammocks:
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.
INSULATION DESIGNED FOR EVERY HENNESSY HAMMOCK: Most places in the world, even jungles, require some insulation at night especially at altitude. We offer two choices with different temperature ranges. Both of these systems have insulation pads that are a wider mummy shape that will protect your arms and shoulders much better than the standard tent pad.
With the huge increase in suitable campsites, a hammock system gives a hiking-inspired backpacker the option to hike dawn-to-dusk (or some variation thereof) without the risk of getting caught in a stretch of un-camp-able terrain. In turn, this flexibility equates to a great number of hike-able time, which ultimately equates to hiking longer distances. I believe this increase in hike-able time will typically outweigh the slight weight increase of a hammock system versus a ground system, if there even is one.
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All of our Hennessy Hammock models are provided with complimentary "Tree hugger" webbing straps to protect the tender bark of trees. The smaller the diameter of the tree, the more times the webbing straps go around the tree to spread the load. The environmentally friendly design requires no ground levelling, trenching or staking. When you walk away from your campsite, there will be no tent footprint and almost no sign that you were ever there.

Many of the less-complicated models did not include suspension. While these models tended to be very easy to set up (merely clipping a carabiner or hooking an S hook onto your suspension system), their ease of setup depends on the suspension system you decide buy. The only exception to this was the Sea to Summit Ultralight which came with unique buckles that integrate perfectly with the manufacturers own system, but require more forethought if you're building your own or have suspension from another company. The buckles have a hole that is too narrow for a standard carabiner, so we had to get creative with climbing slings. In most cases, you can use any suspension system with any hammock without issue, but with Sea to Summit we recommend sticking to their compatible components for your whole setup.


CHOOSING CUSTOMIZED HAMMOCKS:  You can also "Customize" the "Stock" hammock by (Step 1) choosing the hammock body with the length of  webbing straps you want. (Step 2) If you want a rainfly to go with your hammock,  then choose any rainfly including the stock rainfly or buy just the hammock without the rainfly.  (Step 3) You can choose an optional insulation system, designed to fit each model.  
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.
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).

I switched to a hammock a couple years back and got a Hennessy Jungle hammock. *Very* comfortable, dual layer, came with a hex tarp but def. not light. The hammock is built to be pretty tough. The dual layers are nice in that it’s a little warmer in colder weather and bugs can’t bite through during the summer (sometimes an issue with single layer hammocks).
Some hammocks are designed with a dedicated tarpaulin. Others come without a tarpaulin with the understanding the user will want to select the size and style of tarpaulin which best fits their needs. There are many different ways in which hammock campers generally hang their tarpaulin. In some, the tarpaulin is connected to the hammock's suspension line using a system of mitten hooks and plastic connectors. In others the tarpaulin is hung separately using either the hammocks integrated ridge line, or a separate ridge line placed under or even over the tarpaulin.
Dispersed camping is permitted in other zones like the Appalachian Trail, Long Trail, Adirondack High Peaks, and Aspen Four Pass Loop. But the number of promising ground sites is naturally limited — there is too much topographic relief and vegetation. In combination with the area’s popularity, the campsites become heavily impacted, and sleep quality is not as good as it could be.
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.
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.

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!
CHOOSING  STOCK MODELS:  All "Stock" Hennessy Hammocks are a complete shelter system including tightly woven fabrics and high quality support ropes, a matching detachable rainfly, a "no see um" mosquito mesh, a gear loft on the ridge line and a stuff sack with set up instructions on the back. Hennessy Hammock also provides complimentary "Tree Hugger" webbing straps to protect the rope and the tender bark of trees.
You should pay extra attention during winter hammock camping trips because the risk of getting hypothermia from the cold and snow. For ordinary hammocks, you have to prepare many things such as an underquilt, hammock sock, and top quilt for a warm and strong hammock tent. However, the SHEL covers everything just by itself. The SHEL is a hammock tent especially designed to keep you warm in any weather. Insulated with high loft goose down and lined with a heat reflective interior, the SHEL hammock tent keeps you warm, no sleeping bag needed. Designed with comfort in mind, it is breathable yet secure. It is the most comfortable hammock camping experience available. That being said, it never hurts to be over prepared. You may want to bring an extra blanket or sleeping bag to assure that you are ready for the harshest of conditions.
Even if I were counting grams, I would err on the side of a larger tarp. It will offer greater protection from wind and driving rain, and one or both sides can be “porched” for additional living space and ventilation without a critical sacrifice to storm-resistance. Finally, the weight penalty is miniscule — an extra three square yards of ultralight tarp fabric weigh as little as 1.5 ounces.
I have to say this is an amazing guide (first hammock guide I’ve read to the end haha). For the longest time, I’ve been going camping with a tent. I really did not think a hammock would work, and even for my friends who carried it, I thought they weren’t enjoying the camping experience to the fullest. But now, after reading this, I think I’m ready to try out a hammock for our next camping trip. Guess I’ll have to thank my friend for recommending this blog to me.

Derek – Awesome site. My buddy and I have used our Eno OneLink systems twice now and love the entire idea. May never go back to a tent. We are trying to figure out our best option for hanging the tarp ridgeline. He’s running his using the Atlas strap webbing and I’m running a continuous ridgeline between trees. Thoughts? Recommendations? Better ideas?
Alex, I highly recommend using an underquilt. It is warmer* and more comfortable. I am a side-sleeper and am just fine in a normal width 10.5 to 11′ hammock with no tricks or special modifications. If $ is an issue, I would suggest one of the lower cost underquilts like the The $99 Hammock Gear Econ. * On the east coast in the summer when the nighttime temps don’t drop below 70 F you can skip the UQ or pad as you won’t need the insulation under you.
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.
We did notice a few shortcomings in the system, however. The trunk staps are only long enough for smaller trees. That's not the best when California's burly conifers surround your campsites. So you might find yourself having to upgrade the strap. The overall size also comes up a bit short at just 9.5 feet by 3.5 feet, which may feel constraining for larger folks. In general, though, we felt the REI Flash Air takes camping to the next level of comfort and ease with this total set up — and for less than the competition!
Two things can add extra-comfort: a cap on your sleeping bag, with which you can surround your head and use it as another protection from the cold, and the size/weight of your sleeping bag. The best option would be an extra-light one, which you can squeeze in a very small case and that will allow you to save space and weight during your backpacking experiences. Indeed, hammock camping is particularly suitable for those who want to keep their backpack light and it wouldn’t make any sense to take up all the space (and the weight) with a sleeping bag, as much warm as it may be.
Sometimes you’ll find yourself sliding to one end of the hammock. This is because your hammock isn’t level. You’ll want to make sure your hammock is level to prevent you from sliding throughout the night. The first thing to do is to check your straps. Are both straps of equal length? If not, you’ll want to even them out as best as you can. With all materials, the straps may stretch a tiny bit throughout the night. This can throw off your hammock level. By making sure both straps are the same length, they’ll stretch at the same rate. The next thing to check is the strap height. Make sure the straps are level and at the same height. Once you’ve taken care of those 2 steps, your hammock should be perfectly balanced. If you find yourself still sliding to one side, move the straps up an inch or two on that side.
Hammocks have been used as traditional bedding for thousands of years. But just now, they’re starting to gain ground in modern sleep science. The indigenous people of Latin America have long embraced the use of hammocks. Even to this day, some people grow up sleeping in a hammock every night. The Navy also replaced their cots with hammocks shortly after Europeans discovered them in South America. Sailors spent months at a time aboard sea vessels where each man was assigned a hammock.
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