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.
This seems to be a very old thread but I’ll bump it anyway. I’ve got a Blackbird but I haven’t geared it up for cold weather. Earlier in these posting I see that someone mentioned using and emergency blanket as a sub for an under quilt. I wonder how well that works and has there been a clever way thought of to attach it? Hope some of you guys are still reading this.
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.
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.
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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The reasons to hammock are not always clear to people that have never tried one. Often I get comments about how a person hates sleeping on their back or can only sleep on their side, or how sleeping with that curve will wreck their back, or even how they don't want to damage trees with the cords. All these are valid concerns, yet each are simply the worries of the uninformed, similar to family fears we hikers are all in danger of getting eaten by bears daily.
DESIGN - Getting a "flat lay" is the main goal for sleeping hammocks. Camping hammocks use asymmetric designs to achieve this. Sleeping diagonally in an asymmetric hammock will allow your head and feet to lie lower than they would in a traditional hammock. Most camping hammock users find asymmetric designs to be more comfortable than traditional hammocks for sleeping.
Hammocks are fantastic for back sleepers and can be decent for side sleepers, but, for the most part, you can forget about sleeping on your stomach. Until now anyway! Enter the Warbonnet Ridgerunner, our Top Pick for Side Sleeping. It has spreader bars that help create the flattest lay possible, so flat we were able to get comfortable on both sides and even on our stomachs. It's like laying in a floating cot made out of top-of-the-line materials. The Ridgerunner also has an integrated bug net with its own cord attachment system, so it's good to go right out of the bag.
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).
I guess it depends on where and how you use paracord. Some folks have tried to use a single line of paracord for hammock suspension as a way to reduce weight, but the cord often fails. The 550 lbs load limit does not afford much latitude for dynamic strain or if the hammock is pitched too tight. The forces on each side of a hammock can exceed the load weight due to sheer forces. These forces can exceed 550 lbs pretty easily. Check out my hammock calculator to play with the numbers.
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).
Hammock camping in cold weather can be warm and comfortable. But it requires a good under-quilt (usually down) that is well fitted (no gaps) to the hammock body. While not a difficult skill, beginner hammock campers should test out their winter system on low-risk, short-duration outings first in order to develop their skills and know-how. Note the full-length, under-quilt (green sleeping bag looking thing below the hammock). Photo by Jack Tier of Jacks ‘R’ Better.
It seems obvious enough, but a tarp or rainfly is critical if you’re out in weather or in a place where weather can move in quickly. For this, I use the ENO DryFly Rain Tarp. It’s light, it’s quick to set up, and it has kept me dry. The trick is, rig the tarp just above the hammock, so when the hammock sags under your body weight, you’re not exposed to the rain and wind blowing in from under the sides.
Though it isn't the lightest option we reviewed, we feel that the added width (and the comfort and ease it provides) along with the integrated bug net make its weight more than reasonable. As much as we appreciated the bug net to keep those mosquitos at bay, it isn't able to come off or even fold back completely out of the way, so it's always there. We also weren't stoked on Grand Trunk's heavy carabiners and damaging rope suspension system and would upgrade to lighter carabiners and trunk straps before taking this on a backpacking trip. If you're looking to tree camp without sacrificing comfort, we strongly recommend the Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro.
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.
The Jacks ‘R’ Better Bear Mountain Bridge Hammock has a unique design that achieves a truly flat lay. This suspension bridge design keeps tension along the top edges of the hammock, which allows your feet and head to hang much lower than traditional hammocks. This flat-sleeping design also lends itself well to sleeping pad use. The downside of this design is that it adds weight. It’s also a wider design than many hammocks, so you’ll need a wider tarp for rain and wind protection, which will also add weight. The Bear Mountain Bridge doesn’t come with a tarp, so you’ll want to add one of Jack's tarps or buy an aftermarket tarp. This hammock is among the heavier backpacking hammocks we recommend, but the unique comfort it offers is worth the weight for some campers.
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.
Tom knew that the people of Central America sleep diagonally in their hammocks. So, with that knowledge, he changed the shape of his hammock into his patented asymmetrical design which lets you lie level on the diagonal with excellent support under your lower back and knees. The asymmetrical shape also provides more usable space inside the hammock for storage in a gear loft and accessory oversize storage pockets on the ridge line.
I own a Hennessy Hammock Backpacker Asym (31 oz.) which is a very popular model amongst hammock hangers. To get into it, you enter it from below, standing up in a slit that runs half way down the middle on one side. Once inside, you lean back and sit on the half that does not have the slit, raise your legs and lie back. The edges of the slit are covered with velcro and close together under your legs. To get out, you press your feet on the velcro seam which will open below you, stand up and slip under the hammock to get out.
Excellent overview Alan, I have been sleeping and camping in hammocks for almost 50 years and appreciate a nice clean introduction to it like yours. Derek H’s recommendation about “go to ground” options is critical. Please read the “sticky” articles at hammock forums BEFORE any on going crazy discussions by us engineer and research scientists who are excessively technical, passionate, and opinionated. An incremental approach to a new hobby or sport is always the best. Hammock hanging has actually been very simple and effective for thousands of years, have fun with it, your back will be more healthy.
Buy a tarp with adequate coverage. To sleep warm and dry in a hammock you need to keep wind and rain away from your hammock body. Smaller diamond or asymmetric tarps, e.g. the Hennessey Hyperlite Rainfly, affectionately known by some as a “napkin tarp,” may not provide adequate protection from blowing rain, or from the cooling effects of wind. While a few ounces heavier, a more pragmatic choice may be a larger hammock-specific “hex” tarp. A fairly standard hex size is a 10.5-foot ridgeline with an 8.5-foot width.
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:
Brandon at Warbonnet makes some nice underquilts that will work well with your BB. I prefer the Yeti http://www.warbonnetoutdoors.com/yeti-underquilts/ 3/4 underquilt. I just jam a small piece of foam like a sitpad into the footbox of my top quilt to provide insulation under my feet and calves. Hammock Gear also makes some nice underquilts http://www.hammockgear.com/under-quilts/. Hope this helps. Warm hanging, -alan
In locations with ample trees of sufficient strength, the primary advantage of hammock systems is the huge increase in suitable campsites. In Shenandoah National Park, for example, most of the terrain is rocky and steeply sloping; the number areas suitable for ground camping (i.e. flat; and free of rocks, roots, and vegetation) is very limited. Moreover, many of these areas have developed into crowded, heavily impacted campsites.
When I Thru-hiked the AT in 2012 I switched to a hammock in Harpers Ferry. My tent was just to hot at this point. I went to Trail Days and picked up a Hennessy for 50% off. The hammock was amazing. I agree with all of your points. By the time I reached Maine it started to get very cold at night and I would often hang my hammock up in a shelter trying to get the heat from the other hikers.
Hammocks do well for practicing Leave No Trace (LNT): With more campsite options, hammock campers can avoid further impacting popular campsites. And since hammocks don’t touch the ground, they have minimal impact. They do not crush or smother plants below them. Note: it’s easy to avoid impacting trees, just use wide tree-straps 1″ to 1.5″. Almost all backpacking hammocks are sold with this type of strap. For more see Leave No Trace.org on Hammock Camping.
A warm sleeping bag may not always work because the insulation becomes compressed and ineffective. Doubling up sleeping bags can be effective. But then you have to worry about carrying two sleeping bags (per hammock). A camping pad, one used for comfort on the hard floor of a tent, or a thick foam pad is another good option, although they can move around a bit. Some hammocks have sleeves for pads which holds them in place.
Overall, smaller campers have more options since, larger campers will prefer roomier designs. We felt that there were no double models that slept a pair comfortably, though larger doubles fit two loungers better than a single, and slept one very comfortably. All of that considered, we still had to pick some winners and losers from the perspective of our astute testers. The hangs that we found the most comfortable were the Bear Butt Double, Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter, Warbonnet Ridgerunner and the REI Co-op Flash Air, though all for different reasons.
Leave your pillow at home? No worries. Your hammock has you covered! If you’re notoriously forgetful, and find yourself constantly missing that one super-crucial item, then this hammock has your back. There is nothing worse than sleeping without a pillow, so if you find yourself without one on your next camping trip, try bundling up your hammock and using it as a soft place to rest your head for the night! Problem solved. See how easy that was?
A little dirt don’t hurt...BUT...if you are skeptical about getting a your clothes dirty, spread your hammock out for a dry, dirt free space to sit or lie down! Sunbathing on the beach, picnicking in a dewy meadow, playing cards at your campsite, whatever the occasion may be, your hammock will be there for you! And don’t worry about getting it filthy--these guys are lightweight and quick drying, making them a breeze to shake off and dry out! So you can forget about packing along that extra blanket, as long as you have your hammock, you’re set!
Walked around Mount St. Helens last weekend on the Loowit Trail with one of my best buddies and had an amazing time. The trail is pretty tough, with quite a few wash outs and steep sections, but the rewards are well worth it. Here are a few of my favorite shots from the trip and we also posted a full backpacking guide on our website. Hope you enjoy! . Annie and I are back on the road again and feeling great. Our first stop is in Denver for Outdoor Retailer and then we’re off to explore. Glacier NP and the Wind River Range are at the top of our list right now, but we’re leaving things open. Just looking to get out and enjoy nature at its finest. 🏕🚐🌄😍 . #mountsthelens #loowittrail #washington #cleverhiker
Question regarding hammock fabric. I think in one of your articles or comments you mention preferring a pretty thin fabric for your chameleon due to weight considerations, I assume single sheet. For my first hammock I bought a Warbonnet with 2 ply 1.1 fabric, mainly due to worries about mosquitoes biting through the fabric. I’m interested in going lighter though. In your experience are bugs biting through an actual issue? You’ve mentioned taking your chameleon in South American jungles so I figured I’d ask.
A few light hammock models use smaller dimensions that may confine you. For example, the Grand Trunk Nano-7 Hammock, and the BIAS Weight Weenie Micro 52 Hammock are both only around 50-52 inches wide, versus the 65″ wide of the Warbonnet Blackbird. Shorter and/or narrower hammocks also limit your ability to sleep flatter on a diagonal to the hammock’s center-line.
BUYING ONLINE - Check the seller's return policy before you buy, but you can almost always return an unused hammock within a certain time frame after purchasing. We recommend buying your top choice, testing it at home, and returning or exchanging if it doesn’t feel quite right. We've been buying lightweight hammocks online for years and we've yet to have any problems.
Most hammock campers will need to have effective insulation underneath their hammock, in addition to the conventional topside insulation (i.e. sleeping bag). This can be a properly installed sleeping pad, but this ground-inspired product does not translate well to hammocks, and under-quilts are widely preferred. In extreme cold temperatures, a full-sided tarp to block the wind is also very helpful.
Weight always plays a role, but if I can get a full nights sleep and wake up TOTALLY refreshed, pain free and ready to hit the trail, I would gladly carry more weight. Luckily, I don’t have to! As SGT Rock said, sub one pound is as easy as watching his video! I love the hammock system and, if all else fails, the components can still be used to…gasp…go to ground if needed! The hammock system can cover it all. Great article!
The first thing I do when setting camp up is dig out my hammock. This is always followed by stares while everyone else is setting up their tents. Sleeping under the stars in a hammock might seem a little crazy for those used to sleeping in a tent. The confusion usually leads to questions. “What about the bears and bugs? Aren’t you going to be cold? Won’t that hurt your back?