Andrew, I’m a huge fan of your book which got me into the modern way of thinking about camping and hiking. (Being a bit of an old timer) – thanks. One comment which you make in the book and in the blog which I think is a huge insight is that you have to ‘learn’ how to use the new techology like hammocks. Tents are pretty straight forward, with hammocks, it takes a fair bit of time to ‘shake down’ the techniques and be comfortable. I have been doing simple one nighters with a friend and our hammocks getting the ‘hang’ of it and have found that each time we go, we are getting better nights sleep. It does take time. Sufice it to say that I am ironing out the bugs before I introduce my wife to the experience. Have learnt over the years that the first night of camping will be a decider as to whether they will participate in future adventures.
Insulate. In warm temps, the air circulation provided by a hammock will keep you cooler than sleeping in a tent. But in colder weather, tent camping offers an advantage in that the ground acts as insulation, returning the heat you give off. When you’re sleeping in a hammock, your body heat escapes out the bottom and is lost; this is the cause of what’s called “Cold Butt Syndrome” — the top of you is warm because it’s covered in blankets, but your bottom is chilled.
Rainflys come in many different shapes and materials. Almost any kind of tarp can turn into a sturdy shelter to protect your hammock from the elements. But there are several rainflys out there that are specifically designed for hammocking. These have some hammock specific features to differentiate them from a standard ultralight tarp. These rainflys are made with silnylon, a strong waterproof material. Silnylon is much lighter than the standard blue plastic tarp but just as effective of a shelter.
Kids love to camp and adventure too! It’s never too early to introduce children to nature--with adult supervision of course. Camping with kids is a great way to bond and educate them about the environment. But let’s be honest, sometimes you just need a handy toy or distraction. Enter, hammock. If you’re just a kid at heart, and need a little relaxation after a hard-day’s hike or outdoor excursion, let your hammock be the wind beneath your wings! A cold beverage in hand, and that soothing swinging motion = a superb way to end your day.
Just spent the first few nights in my new HH Explorer Ultralight (light intermittent drizzle, 50' at night, hammock chilly to touch but fine in my 20' Dick's cheapo synthetic bag without pads or other addons). Love it, I'm a convert now, and I really LOVED my REI HC T2 tent before this, so that says a lot. I agree, getting ground conditions (rocky/thorny/muddy etc) out of the equation changes everything. So far I've not been out in a real marathon downpour, but will probably spring for a larger tarp (a hex in camo). +1 on snakeskins improving setup/takedown; included free if you order direct from the HH website (limited time offer?) Looking at slap-strap-pro or another just-wrap-and-click solution. I recommend the HH Explorer Ultralight for those over 6' and wanting a little more durability while still keeping weight down (39 oz).
Depending on the size of your hammock (and how tall you are), you may feel a tight ridge under your legs when lying diagonally. This can cause hyper-extension on your knees. Ouch! To relieve this pressure, place some padding under your knees. Extra clothes or a small pillow would work great. (Remember: Longer, not wider, hammocks are generally more comfortable, allowing you to lie diagonally without leg hyperextension.)
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.

3. If I didn't already do dinner earlier on the trail somewhere because I'm stealth camping. I set up the kitchen and cook dinner. In the rain this is under the tarp, when it isn't raining this is outside the tarp. If I need to use the underside of the tarp, I use the method shown in the vestibule tip. I can use my trekking poles to lift up the fly a little or just leave them leaning against a tree.
Depending on the size of your hammock (and how tall you are), you may feel a tight ridge under your legs when lying diagonally. This can cause hyper-extension on your knees. Ouch! To relieve this pressure, place some padding under your knees. Extra clothes or a small pillow would work great. (Remember: Longer, not wider, hammocks are generally more comfortable, allowing you to lie diagonally without leg hyperextension.)

Some hammock manufacturers offer a complete system that integrates the hammock body, bug net and rainfly. But keep in mind that some companies also sell each of these pieces individually, which allows you to carry only what you need and reduce your weight. Note that Hennessy now allows you to mix and match pieces (for some additional cost), including longer straps and a bigger rainfly, to tailor your setup.
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.
New to hammock camping and have yet to read your book – but I will! Thus far I’ve obtained everything I need except an underquilt – and I’m trying very hard to get good things at low prices as this is all a test for me now. After all, I might not like it out in the woods. Back to underquilts: they’re not cheap. I’m trying to accomplish the most comfortable summer night’s sleep with possible temps down to 60. I don’t want to try a pad as it seems too much to figit with for comfort. I’m aware blankets/comforters/etc beneath you can compress and lose their insulation benefits. . What recommendations do you have for a budget underquilt? Would a body heat reflective emergency blanket work to lay on? Would the Costco down comforter compress too much beneath me therefore offering very little insulation? Help me stay cheap!
We placed a decent amount of importance on this metric because many people want to purchase a lightweight option for sleeping out while backpacking or traveling. However, if your motivation for owning a hammock is based more on wanting to relax in your backyard or take a nap a short distance from your car, then this metric probably is less important to you. If you aren't overly concerned with weight, then by all means, go for more fabric and a roomier design! With what you'll gain in comfort, we don't think you'll be sorry with that decision.
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!
Your answer has lead to some confusion. The hammock itself will sag as weight is added to the hammock but typically the suspension lines, even with a structural ridgeline, will also drop down below the original 30 degrees from horizontal after weight is added to the hammock (person enters the hammock). So is 30 degrees the best angle “before” entering hammock even if the suspension lines drop to as much as 45 degrees after? Some people weigh a lot especially if two hammocks are side by side using Dutch’s double whoopie hooks, could be over 500 lbs of tension on the webbing straps coming from the trees.
1. There are “camps” in the hammock world (just like in most endeavors) that have become fans of a manufacturer or style of hammocks. Not everyone likes a bridge, not everyone likes a gathered end hammock. Not everyone that uses a gathered end will agree about how to whip the ends, how long to make it, or how wide it should be. Sometimes people that are fans cannot see past what they are fans of enough to understand there may be a better way, or a way people like better.
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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