There was a wide variation in weight between the heaviest and lightest setups we tested. Our score for the weight metric takes into account the hammocks themselves and anything attached to them (such as carabiners), and a stuff sack (if included). Suspension systems, such as tree straps, were not included in the measured package weight unless the manufacturer specifically included them in the same stuff sack. Many of the models we tested did not come with a suspension system, and the weight of your final setup is therefore contingent on the system you choose to implement.
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.)
You can also tie your hammock into a makeshift backpack to carry any survival items you come across. Your tree straps are also useful to have. Use them to fasten branches together into an emergency raft. The large hammock can form a makeshift sail to increase how far your raft can take you. Get creative, there’s unlimited ways to put your hammock to use.
Hammocks are all the rage these days, and people love them from backyard hangouts to backcountry living. But you always want to consider your wallet. The systems we tested range in price from as little as $30 to as much as $250 — that's a big difference! A high price tag doesn't guarantee a better experience either — some of our favorites were among the least expensive models and systems we tried! For example, the Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro won our highest accolade - the Editor's Choice award, yet retails for only $90. If that's still too much for your budget, the Best Buy Bear Butt Double goes for only $35.
Another common source of confusion is attaching the hammock to the trees. Many hammocks come with a set of paracord or some other type of rope as their “suspension system”. Using a bare rope on the tree will dig into the bark of the tree. This damages the bark and causes stress on the tree. To avoid this, always use some form of webbing or tree straps when setting up the hammock. The width of the tree straps spreads the weight across a larger surface area. Remember that you’re using a living tree to get that perfect hang. Do it a favor and don’t cause unnecessary damage with cords and rope! If you need to tie your hammock to the webbing, here’s the only knot you’ll need.
Now, sleeping in a hammock is completely different from sleeping on a surface and takes some getting used to. There’s no one way to get comfy, and just like in the yard, it’s going to take some time to find the best fit. So, try out a few different ways to see what feels comfortable. Shift your bag up or down, and change the tension on the straps—do what feels good, and don’t be afraid to adjust! Hopefully, by the time you’ve tucked yourself in, you’ve also gotten your miles in and crushed a couple of mountains. If you’ve done it well, they’ve crushed you back, and you’re just about ready to sleep the sleep of the dead, anyway.
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.
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.
Another common complaint from tent campers is the insect problem that comes with any open air camping. A tent protects you from biting buggers as long as you’re not leaving the door open. But most hammocks will leave you completely exposed to mosquitoes. Fear not! Many options exist for you to protect yourself from biting insects. Many bug nets are designed specifically for a hammock. They’ll give you complete 360 degree protection.
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.
Think of tarps like accessories: mix and match to your liking. The main consideration is ridge line length, to ensure the hammock is covered end to end. I often use a poncho tarp from GoLite, pitched on the diagonal. After the ridge line length is covered, anywhere from a few inches or a foot in either side (depending in your preference) the next consideration is side coverage. There is a lot of variety there.
Rope hammocks are just one of many styles of hammocks. But there are many options out there that provide a superior night’s sleep. Besides the bridge hammock, there are gathered end, and bed hammocks. Gathered end hammocks have each end tied together to a point. The camper lies along the horizontal plane of the hammock. Bed hammocks are designed so that you lie perpendicular to the plane of the hammock instead. We’ll be walking through the more popular gathered end hammock. Let’s first weigh the pros and cons of hammocks.