The humble hammock has been around for thousands of years, and it is still used today in parts of the world as a primary sleeping accommodation. Yet many people I speak with think hammocks are “uncomfortable,” or it will hurt their back,” or “they’re great for summer lounging only,” or “it’s too easy to fall out.” A lot of these misconceptions come from the modern rope hammocks with their spreader bars and large woven nets. These hammocks are notoriously tippy, due to their high center of gravity and tight pitch. Unfortunately, they’ve given authentic hammocks a bad wrap.
A hanger has a few options available in order to stay warm. There is no right way or wrong way. It's all a matter of personal preference. Some people like underquilts, others like self-inflating pads or down-filled inflatable mats, closed-cell foam (CCF) pads, or even sleeping bags. (While sleeping bags alone aren't the best option, it's a cheap option nonetheless...and I'll explain later why it's probably not the best choice.) There are a wide variety of styles, colors, and options available to hangers by small, cottage-industry hammock business owners who go out of their way to keep up with the latest trends. I'm certainly no expert in this field and have learned a great deal of things from my friends at HammockForums.net, but I have personal experience with each of the options listed...so let's take a quick look at each one.
In 2000 I was looking for a lighter shelter than a tent for backpacking. I was looking for maybe some tarp or light tent but hadn't made a choice. I was stationed at Fort Polk and had been using a net hammock with a poncho as a shelter when in the field and was very pleased with using them except for the bug problems, which can be annoying for a place like Fort Polk.
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It’s a myth that hammocks are cold. Properly setup, a true backpacking hammock (with a good under-quilt) is quite warm. I’ve slept warm and comfortable in a hammock many a cold winter night in the Mid-Atlantic. The main reason for the “sleeping cold” myth is that people unaccustomed to sleeping in a hammock do not use an under-quilt or don’t adjust it properly leaving huge gaps. [Not using an under-quilt with a hammock is equivalent of someone using their sleeping bag directly on the snow without an insulating ground pad and saying that all sleeping bags are cold.]
But even if you can sleep on your side, after a while you may decide not to. After a few days on the trail in a hammock, that natural slight curve becomes your friend. The tired knotted back muscles relax extremely well sleeping in that curve, and after getting used to it, you will prefer it. Often I find he transition into the hammock after a long break from the field is fairly easy, but getting used to a flat bed after a few weeks in a hammock is actually harder. Another point about sleeping like this. When you can elevate your feet above your body, it helps to reduce the swelling that sometimes happens overnight after a good hard day of hiking.
Lightweight and space saving. Camping hammocks like the Hennessey include a rain fly and mosquito netting, and yet still weigh under 3 lbs. It’s so comfy you can forgo the pillow and sleeping pad you would have brought in order to sleep comfortably in your tent too. And the great thing about camping hammocks is that you can break them into individual components and only take the things you need. If you’re camping in a warm, bug-free area on a clear night, for example, all you’ll need to bring is something like the Grand Trunk Double Parachute, which weighs only 28 ounces, and packs down to the size of a softball.
When lying at an angle, you’re not restricted to only sleeping on your back. You can move around into all sorts of positions. Just find one that you are most comfortable with. I prefer to sleep on my side and I can comfortably sleep in that position when I angle my body. Since it’s almost impossible to flip in a well designed hammock, feel free to toss and turn as much as you want. Check out this hammock hang calculator to figure out your perfect hang!
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).
These rainflys can be set up by creating a ridgeline above your hammock to suspend the tarp. The tarp is draped over the ridgeline. It is then tied in place with either some cord or a hook to keep the fly taught on both ends. Guylines pull the sides of the fly down and keep them in place. Just like a tent. Depending on the weather conditions, you can adjust the tarp accordingly. Keep it more open when there’s a light drizzle or pull the sides in if you’re facing a massive squall.
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).