On the downside, the sling itself is narrow, making it one of the least comfortable models we tested. The material is also very thin, giving us concerns about how durable it will be. Also, with so many pieces to put take on your adventure or leave at home, be sure you're grabbing the parts you need, and don't forget anything important! Altogether though, this system's lightweight versatility makes it a solid choice for backcountry adventures.
These straps come in handy in so many ways. I like to keep my clothes and gear off the ground when I camp. The straps can easily be used to hang wet clothes from to dry off. If you’re a camera guy like me, you want to protect your baby. Hang your DSLR from the straps instead of having it sit in the dirt. If it’s raining and you’re really worried about your clothes or camera you can use your hammock tarp ridgeline as an alternative. By hanging your damp clothes right under the tarp, you can guarantee they won’t get soaked. Just make sure they’re not dripping wet before you hang them above you!
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 would start with an adjustable ridgeline and get it to the length when you lay in your hammock and you’re in your “sweet spot.” Also, please note that the 30° hang angle and 83% ridgeline length are just recommended starting points. In my new book, I have more detail about some advanced techniques that look at hammock size, hang angle, and lay angle, and how they are interconnected. Smaller hammocks, for example, work better with a shallower hang angle (15–20°) where larger hammocks can go up to 45° and allow for a perpendicular lay.
I poked around my first stop, Cold Spring Shelter, by headlamp. The area by the shelter seemed more hospitable than the wind-fanned ridge designated for overflow camping. Nearby, I found two torso-size poplar trees about a body length apart. The spacing wasn’t ideal, but compared with their neighbors—trees that were dead, spindly, or too far apart—they seemed like the best choice. I tightened a loop of accessory cord around each trunk and clipped the hammock ends to each loop. I laid my sleeping bag out and swung into bed and closed my eyes.
In the Desert Southwest, where trees only grow at the highest elevations and along perennial water sources, hammocks would be most challenged. Some hammocks have been designed to be pitched on the ground, and I have seen some creative rigging systems, but these approaches have significant trade-offs and seem forced. I’ll just bring my modular tent or tarp & bivy, thanks.
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.
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.
Bottom Line Love hammocking but hate the bugs? Don’t have a fortune to spend on a hammock? Check this one out! From backyards and barbeques to backpacking and sleeping under the stars, this inexpensive hammock is an inexpensive and comfortable choice. This complete system includes everything you need to stay protected and comfortable, for a low cost! For true hammock camping versatility this package can't be beat - take only a shockingly light hammock or all the pieces for a complete sleeping shelter. The Blackbird is an interesting asymmetrical design that will give you a comfortable hanging experience in all kinds of weather and terrain.
Hi Derek – I really appreciate you putting out all this info about camping hammocks. I have not camped much before for all the reasons you point out about the problems of sleeping on the ground. I just this Spring learned that camping hammocks exist. I am already a hammocks enthusiast since I make them for a living where I live at Twin Oaks Community (though they are back yard hamx, not good for camping), and so I am enthused to buy a camping hammock and bug net and tarp and try it. I bought your Ultimate Hang book and read it, and have thought about what you wrote about deciding about what I need and want. That gave me some qualifications, but I am still bewildered at all the variety of options and quality available. So I seek more specific advise based on my needs/wants and budget. If you are willing to offer that, would I ask that here on line, or to you directly off line? (Also, I do not know what I should put for the website line below since I do not have a personal website, so I left it blank)
First and foremost, hanging requires a suspension system, and many models don't come with this essential component. While many manufacturers sell compatible suspension systems, quite a number of options either don't have suspension systems factored into the cost or have poorly designed systems included, such as the rope slings that come with the Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter or Bear Butt Double. Many of the expedition models come with suspension systems, such as the Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker and Expedition, REI Co-op Flash Air and the ENO SubLink Shelter System (though the Sub7 does not if you buy it on its own). Both Warbonnet models had two optional suspension systems available for an additional cost, or you could choose to purchase just the hammock and attach it to another suspension system.
The Bear Butt Double and Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter are both made of soft, durable nylon and are quite wide, allowing a wide range of comfortable sleeping positions. The Warbonnet Ridgerunner comes with head and foot spreader bars, which our side and stomach-sleepers loved above all else. The REI Flash Air also has a single spreader bar holding up the integrated bug net up and away from your face. Our smaller reviewers loved this sleep system, and our taller reviewers thought it was pretty good, but felt a bit confined inside. Depending on the environment you are planning to camp in, all of these models are roomy and comfortable for spending the night outside.
I would also hang my hammock anywhere. I slept in it from the lift tower on top of Bromley. I hung it from the rafters in the new AMC Madison hut. I even stealth camped at the lookout just south of the Summit of North Kinsman. The trees were very short up there and I rigged up 5 to six of them to support me without any problems. The sunset / sunrise from up there was just amazing.
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.
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.
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.
One of the slowest body parts to recover from body temperature is the foot. When you lie down in the SHEL hammock tent, it may take quite a while for your icy feet to heat up. If you put hot water in a warm bag such as a fashy, you can keep it warm for a long time. However, be careful not to let the hot water run out. Other products that can be useful during winter camping to keep you warm maybe hand or foot warmers.
An often overlooked aspect of hanging a hammock is the angle of the hammock suspension to the ground. In the hammock community, the magic angle is 30 degrees. This may bring back geometry nightmares but Derek Hanson figured that this angle can be approximated with ones hand (mine was 28 degrees). Derek wrote one of the best hammock reference manuals on the market, The Ultimate Hang, which is the place to start with all hammock questions.
Having a safe and fun time out in the wilderness is dependent on the quality of your gear. A backpack or pair of boots failing far from the trailhead can be a significant problem, and your shelter system is no different. If you are planning to sleep in a hammock, the protection it provides and the durability of its construction are of extreme importance. A rip in the fabric can be as bad as having no tent poles and may leave you laying on the cold ground stringing your shelter up in some haphazard fashion or putting it over you like a blanket. Not fun.
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)
The spacious and durable Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest is an excellent hammock for outdoor lovers. It's wide and tough enough to fit two people comfortably. It also comes in a bunch of different color combinations. It's heavier than the hammocks we prefer to backpack with, but it’s perfect for camping, hiking, and trips to the park. For the same dimensions but nearly half the weight, we recommend checking out the ENO SuperSub Hammock.
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.
I think the bear issue is a big one for me. Ground tents are bigger and offer cover from the bear’s sight. The hammock tent is smaller and movement in them is constricted. I imagine waking up to a bear very close to my hammock tent and not being able to move much to appear threatening to the bear. Thus he gets closer and with a swipe I’m in trouble. This is a frightening scenario. Am I seeing this wrong?
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.
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).