We already know, from Dutch’s backpacking experience on the Appalachian Trail, that experienced hikers know what they want and need for their hammock and backpacking gear — it’s simply the challenge of finding the items in stores. Since many stores don’t offer what hikers want, many opt to create their own camping gear to meet their backpacking needs.
It has been attempted, if that is your question. Shaped ends, both concave and convex, even different whipping or gathering styles. I tested one commercial version of a cat-cut hammock and it was very interesting. The overall hammock length, your height, and the hang angle are more significant factors to eliminating the center ridge on a rectangular hammock. http://theultimatehang.com/2013/09/simply-light-designs-streamliner-sl-hammock-review/
I have 2 sleeping bag systems. They aren't for the faint-of-heart, though! They are heavy. I have a military modular system and an army surplus bag. The modular system consists of a lightly insulated bag inside an intermediate insulated bag inside a heavy insulated bag inside a waterproof bivy shell. Whew! Talk about warm! I nearly sweat to death using this system. The beauty is that I can use all the bags, some of the bags, just the waterproof/windproof bivy shell, or any combination while in my hammock.
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.
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.
Like any activity outdoors, be aware of your own safety when hammocking. Before you set up your hammock, check your gear. Make sure there are no defects or signs of significant wear on the hammock or the suspension. Examine your carabiners and make sure there hasn’t been any warping. When you choose a hammock spot, make sure you pick sturdy trees that can bear your weight. Avoid saplings as they will bend and stay away from dead trees because they can snap under the load. The ideal tree should be at least thick enough that you aren’t able to completely wrap your hands around the trunk.
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).
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.
Some people prefer hammock camping because it allows them to ditch an armful of traditional gear and carry a more nimble sleeping system. As you compare brands, you’ll see that they all use similar nylon fabrics that are lightweight and breathable. Also, one company’s single or double hammock will weigh about the same as a competitor’s products. However, a couple of manufacturers offer super lightweight hammocks that weigh less than 7 ounces, which could be a good choice if you want are planning a backpacking trip.
Yet, I disagree with you about hammocks being a good option for backcountry camping in Glacier National Park. This is because backcountry camping is restricted to designated sites and there is no way to know if there will be suitable trees that will allow you to hang over the square of bare ground at your reserved site. Glacier prohibits hanging over vegetation in order to protect the fragile vegetation in these high-use areas. (more info here: https://www.nps.gov/glac/blogs/Backcountry-Relaxing.htm)
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.
Conversely, most backpackers do not understand the first thing about backpacking hammocks. There is a bit of an art to setting up a hammock and sleeping in one. Thus, learning to hammock camp may initially take more time. As noted earlier, however, there is nothing terribly difficult about setting up a hammock, and in the long term it is probably faster to set up a hammock than a ground system.
If extreme comfort is your main goal, then you should get to know the Kammok Roo. The Roo is one of the largest, toughest, and most luxurious camping hammocks on the market. It's built with durable materials, is big enough to fit two comfortably, and it even comes with a lifetime warranty. It's heavier than the hammocks we prefer backpacking with, but it’s perfect for camping, hiking, and trips to the park.
These days it seems like there are 100s of companies making backpacking hammocks. The number of options can be overwhelming. Many of them make great hammocks, but we want to avoid cheap knock offs that use inferior materials and construction. We look for a few important markers of quality when selecting a hammock. First, we examine the seems to make sure they are triple stitched for strength, durability, and safety. Second, we look at the the weight the hammock is rated to safely support. Third, if we are going to be backpacking or hiking with the hammock we look at how much it weighs, more expensive fabrics will be light weight, durable and very strong. Fourth, we look at reviews online and from trusted blogs and outdoor publications. And lastly, we look at cost and value. For example does the hammock include the straps for hanging or do those cost extra (more on tree straps next).
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.
You’re not going to sleep a wink if mosquitoes are feasting on your face. If you plan to camp in a buggy area, consider a hammock with an integrated mosquito net. With some models, the netting is attached to the top of the hammock. While these work pretty well, be aware that mosquitoes can penetrate the hammock fabric beneath you. In other models, a net slips over the bottom and top to encase the hammock completely. As you look at various models with mosquito nets, consider how easy it is to enter and exit the hammock. With some, you enter through a horizontal, vertical or L-shaped zipper, while others have overlapping flaps of fabric, or an opening with a Velcro-type closure.
As mentioned previously, never use rope or paracord to directly tie your hammock onto a tree. The weight exerted by your body causes a rope to dig into a tree. This can severely damage the bark, especially if the tree is being constantly used to hammock from. The bark protects the soft layer underneath that brings food from the roots to the leaves. If the damage to the bark goes more than 50% of the way around the trunk of the tree, the tree will lose branches and leaves if not completely die.