Backpacking hammocks make a great alternative to traditional tents. Find out whether backpacking hammocks are a comfortable choice in this post.
Are you planning a backpacking trip? Are you confused about choosing the right sleep system for your trip? Do backpacking hammocks make a comfortable choice?
Backpacking hammocks make a comfortable sleep system during your backpacking trips. They allow you to get ample snooze, so you have a refreshed mind and body. But backpacking hammocks also come with a few cons that you should know about so you can make the right choice for yourself.
When it comes to backpacking trips, there's nothing more important than getting a good night's sleep. With ample comfortable sleep at night, you can wake up with a refreshed and healthy mind and body, which is critical for backpacking efficiently. But many backpackers are confused about whether backpacking hammocks make a comfortable choice or not.
As an experienced backpacker who has slept on the ground and in the hammocks for decades, I have developed a detailed insight to address your question of whether backpacking hammocks are comfortable. Let's take a closer look at the pros and cons of backpacking hammocks so you can make the right choice for yourself.
The Primary Advantage of Backpacking Hammocks
If you are on a backpacking trip to a location with ample trees of sufficient strength, the primary advantage of backpacking hammocks is that it gives you a choice of numerous suitable campsites. Finding a suitable place for setting up a tent can be a challenge in locations where the terrain is steep and rocky. Moreover, in wet weather conditions, finding a dry spot that is flat and free of vegetation and rocks can turn out to be an even greater challenge.
But the terrain or weather is no longer a concern when you opt for a backpacking hammock. You can conveniently set up your hammock system as long as you find two trees that are at least 12-18 feet apart without worrying about the steepness of the slope and the rockiness and wetness of the terrain.
With a significant increase in best-possible campsites, a backpacking hammock gives backpackers an option to hike from dawn to dusk as they don't have to worry about being caught in a trail stretch that is not favorable for camping. In turn, they get more hike-able time, which allows them to cover longer hiking distances.
Other Pros of Backpacking Hammocks
The greater access to campable sites is not the only benefit that backpacking hammocks offer. There are several other pros of backpacking hammocks that you need to know.
Backpacking Hammocks Make a Light-Weigh Alternative to Camping Tents
Backpacking hammocks make a lightweight alternative to camping tents. While the average weight of backpacking hammocks ranges between one and two pounds, you can find backpacking hammocks that weigh less than a pound, whereas an average camping tent for two-person weighs around 4 pounds.
If you are someone looking to shed some of your backpack weight for your backpacking trip, then camping hammocks make a great choice for you. These low-weight camping alternatives help you shed some weight while giving you the freedom to set up your hammock wherever you want.
Backpacking Hammocks Save Backpack Space
Another benefit that you can enjoy with backpacking hammocks is that it makes a space-saving solution. Backpacking hammocks take up much less space in your backpack than a conventional tent because, unlike traditional camps, hammocks do not have tent poles. Moreover, they also have less material that folds up conveniently. Furthermore, there are two separate parts of the hammock that can be divided up easily compared to the parts of a tent so you can pack your sleep system more strategically.
You Get a Comfortable Sleep
When people start on their backpacking trip, they are looking forward to an adventure, but your hiking adventure shouldn't compromise on your comfort. And that's precisely why backpacking hammocks make a great choice.
Many backpackers who have experience with both sleeping on the ground in a tent and in a hammock claim that they get a night of better and more restful sleep in a hammock than sleeping on the ground. And when you are on a backpacking trip, a better rest at night allows you to recover quickly for the next day's journey.
So with a backpacking hammock, you can get a comfortable night's sleep and feel more refreshed the next day to complete your trip.
Backpacking Hammock Also Makes an Excellent Camp Seat
As you head out for your backpacking trip, you need to minimize the load that you are carrying, and that's another reason why backpacking hammocks are more convenient. Hammocks can turn into an excellent camp seat, so you don't have to carry a separate, dedicated camp chair that will further cut down your backpack's weight and allow you to be more comfortable on your trip.
Backpacking Hammocks Make a Durable Sleep System
One of the biggest concerns with an on-ground sleep system is that they are more likely to suffer from punctures. After all, they get the most on-ground exposure from the wet and rocky surface, which increases the likelihood of a punctured bottom of your tent. Moreover, when you set up a tent for sleeping on the ground, your tent's upper portion is exposed and can be hit and strayed by tree branches on the trail.
With a hammock, you don’t have to worry about punctures or damage by the branches. Since a hammock has zero contact with the surface, it’s much less likely to suffer from punctures in the same way an on-ground sleep system would. Also, since it is off the ground, a hammock won't leave you wet, as is the case with the punctured bottom of your sleep system.
Moreover, the top of your backpacking hammock is typically covered with a tarp which protects your hammock against damage from the tree branches.
Combine these two factors, and you will understand how backpacking hammocks make a durable sleep system. Additionally, you will find many hammock manufacturers offering a lifetime warranty on their hammocks.
With a Backpacking Hammock, You Sleep on an Elevated Surface
Since a hammock is tied to the tree, you get a chance to sleep on an elevated surface. And while it may seem unnatural, as most people sleep in a bed at home, sleeping on an elevated surface during a backpacking trip can save you from a lot of inconveniences.
When you sleep off the ground, you don't have to worry much about the crawling insects that may bother you on an on-ground sleep system. Moreover, you also don’t have to worry about sleeping on top of an insect’s nest.
You Can Quickly Setup a Backpacking Hammock
Setting up a backpacking hammock is a quick and more convenient way to set up your sleep system than a ground system. With a backpacking hammock, you save time because, unlike camping on the ground, you don't have to spend time finding a suitable area and then clearing it up of rocks and debris. To set up a backpacking hammock, all you need is two trees where you can clip nylon straps around trees, and you are good to go.
While setting up a backpacking hammock may take some time for beginners, once you get used to the idea of how to set up a backpacking hammock, you will be able to do so in just a minute or two.
The convenient setup of a backpacking hammock not only saves time but also saves your energy for your journey ahead.
You Get a Consistent Set-up Every Night
When you choose a backpacking hammock, you get a chance to enjoy consistent sleep every night, which is usually not the case with a ground sleep system. Your tent experience changes every night as your sleep experience heavily depends on the terrain. With changing surfaces, you have to get to sleep on the ground with varying slopes and ground cover. But it is something that you can avoid by choosing a backpacking hammock. With a backpacking hammock, you can look forward to a consistent sleep experience night after night.
Backpacking Hammock Helps You Leave No Trace
With the changing climate, it is everyone's responsibility to take care of our environment, especially when you are out in nature. As you try to practice Leave No Trace (LNT), choosing a hammock makes a great choice as it avoids impacting the flora and fauna of the area that you are visiting.
Since you are not on the ground, you can reduce the risk of damaging on-ground plants and insects. But if you are concerned about impacting the trees that you are strapping your hammock with, you can avoid this impact by using wide tree straps.
You Get a Chance to Enjoy Solitude
Do you really want to get away from the hustle-bustle of urban life? Then choosing a backpacking hammock makes the best bet for you as it gives you a chance to enjoy solitude in its purest essence. When you choose a backpacking hammock, you don't have to be a part of the crowded social scene at the most popular camping areas.
Instead, you can enjoy greater peace of mind with better protection from the ground and the bugs with a backpacking hammock.
You Can Set Up Backpacking Hammocks Near the Water
Many people who get started with a backpacking trip want to set up near a water source to enjoy more serenity. But it is not possible when you have to set up a tent as the terrain near a water source may not always be perfect for setting up a tent.
But a backpacking hammock gives you the freedom to set up your sleep system near a water source as long as there are trees, even when there are no convenient ground campsites nearby.
Backpacking Hammocks Better Protect You Against Rain and GroundWater
When you are on a backpacking trip and the weather gets wet, a backpacking hammock saves you from a lot of inconveniences. When it is raining, or the ground is wet, a hammock makes a great sleep system as it protects you from getting wet on the ground. Moreover, it has an overhead tarp that offers protection against rain. And while it saves you from inconvenience while sleeping, let’s not forget that a backpacking hammock can also be used as a chair, so if the weather gets wet, you can take a break and relax on a dry bench and enjoy the serenity of nature.
Backpacking Hammocks are Easier to Get In and Out Of
It is easier to get in and out of a backpacking hammock than other sleep systems. Instead of crawling into them and rolling out of them, you just need to sit up and put your legs onto the ground.
Backpacking Hammocks Allow You to Enjoy Greater Visibility
When you choose a backpacking hammock as your sleep system, it makes a comfortable choice, but it also makes a safer alternative because a backpacking hammock is typically more visible than a tent. As a result, it gives you enhanced safety, especially during hunting season than the safety you get in a tent.
Backpacking Hammocks Can Also Have an Emergency Use
While most backpackers would know the primary purpose of a backpacking hammock, it is worth knowing that a backpacking hammock can be used during an emergency. In case of an emergency, you can hang the hammock and use it as a sign for emergency personnel to find you. Moreover, in case of an emergency involving excessive bleeding, the hammock straps can be used as tourniquets. Furthermore, the hammock itself can be used as a stretcher or to make splints.
The Potential Drawbacks of a Backpacking Hammock
While a backpacking hammock is comfortable and provides several advantages as you go on a backpacking trip, they are not flawless, and there are a few limitations that you should learn about.
Backpacking Hammocks May Be Heavier Than Other Alternatives
While backpacking hammocks are usually lighter in weight than the on-ground alternative, it is possible to get a hammock with a heavier weight.
Backpacking hammocks, especially ones that offer protection against cold conditions, may be slightly heavier than a ground system. So if you are planning a backpacking trip, especially during the cooler months of the year, or are looking for better protection against cold, you should be prepared to carry some extra load.
Using Backpacking Hammock is Not Intuitive
For most backpackers, setting up a ground system seems intuitive as it is what they are used to at home as well – a standard bed. However, it may take some time to get familiar with setting up and getting used to the idea of sleeping in a hammock. With that said, and while it may be considered a disadvantage, there is nothing quite difficult about setting up a hammock. Once you master the art of setting up and sleeping in a hammock, you will be surprised that it takes less time to set up and offers you a greater sleeping space than any other alternative sleep system.
Some Backpackers May Not Find it Comfortable to Sleep in a Backpacking Hammock
The comfort that a backpacking hammock offers might be an advantage to many backpackers. However, the comfort it offers is subjective. While some backpackers may enjoy a great night’s sleep in a hammock, others are not comfortable with the slight banana bend that one experiences while sleeping in a backpacking hammock. Some backpackers may also feel slightly squeezed and even claustrophobic in a backpacking hammock.
The problem may be reduced by using a bridge hammock or a wide asymmetric hammock; however, it cannot be completely resolved. So if you are someone who is not comfortable with the slight bend that one experiences in a backpacking hammock, then it doesn't make a convenient sleep system solution for you.
Backpacking Hammock Increases Your Exposure to Cooling
When you choose a backpacking hammock, know that it can increase your exposure to cooling from underneath, which can be a challenge, especially if you are planning your backpacking trip during the cooler months of the year. Even during not-so-extreme cold temperatures (as low as 60-degree), the air currents can lead to significant head loss from under the hammock.
Increased exposure to cooling is not a concern with other sleep systems, including on-ground sleep systems as backpackers insulate their underside. If you choose a hammock, know that you will need effective insulation underneath your hammock, such as under a quilt. This is in addition to the conventional topside insulation, which is usually a sleeping bag or a full-sided tarp. Investing in an under quilt means you have to spend extra for enhanced insulation, and it also means carrying more weight on your backpacking trip.
Backpacking Hammocks May Make an Expensive Choice
One of the potential drawbacks of choosing a backpacking hammock is that it may make an expensive choice. While you can conveniently find backpacking hammocks that are cheaper than tents, there are often additional costs that are associated with choosing a backpacking hammock. When you choose a backpacking hammock, you need to spend extra to invest in a tarp, an under quilt (for better insulation), and a bug net. These accessories, along with a hammock, can significantly increase the total amount that you have to spend on purchasing a complete backpacking hammock set.
Setting Up a Backpacking Hammock May Be a Challenge
While the ease and convenience of setting up a hammock are mentioned as an advantage above, it can turn out to be a potential drawback without trees. If you are on a backpacking trip in a desert or a mountain where there are no trees, you will have trouble setting up a backpacking hammock as it needs tall, strong and sturdy trees to set up. So if you are backpacking through the sparse grown forest or any other place where there are no trees, setting up your hammocks may be a challenge.
Backpacking Hammocks May Damage Trees
Backpacking hammocks are becoming increasingly popular. However, not many backpackers are aware that improper use of hammocks can damage or even kill the trees that they hang from. Therefore, many campsites and national parks have forbidden the use of a backpacking hammock within their boundaries.
Therefore, before you venture out on your backpacking trip, make sure you check the requirements of the place that you intend to visit and ensure that the use of backpacking hammocks isn’t banned in the area that you intend to visit.
Backpacking Hammocks May Not Be the Best Choice For Pets
Is your pet accompanying you on your backpacking trip? If yes, then backpacking hammocks do not make the best choice. Instead, you should opt for other alternatives such as a tent. Your pet will find it much easier to get in and out of the tent than in a hammock. Moreover, your pet’s claws may also damage your hammock.
You May Have Privacy Issues
When you choose to have a backpacking hammock, you will have to spend time out in nature. Whether you want to get dressed or to tick your check-ins, you will be doing everything outdoors, which means your privacy may be an issue. If you are concerned about your privacy and need a separate space to get dressed or to do your personal stuff, then backpacking hammocks are not for you.
Moreover, since there is a lack of privacy with a backpacking hammock, you are more likely to interact with wildlife and people passing by. Furthermore, it may turn into a safety concern as wild animals such as a mountain lion or a bear may attack you while you are fast asleep in your hammock.
Backpacking Hammocks Offer Limited Options for Groups
Backpacking hammocks make a great choice if you are on a backpacking trip alone. But what if you are on a trip with three more individuals? In that case, a backpacking hammock may not be the best choice as it is designed for conveniently accomodating a single person. You may find double hammock tents, but spending a night after a hectic and eventful day with another person in a hammock may not make a very comfortable alternative because every time you or your bunkmate moves, there will be a movement in the entire hammock resulting in disturbance while you sleep.
Backpacking Hammocks Offer Lesser Interior Space
If you are on a backpacking trip with your friends, a backpacking hammock doesn't give you the space to hang out with your friends. You cannot invite your friends to play any board games or cards, and it can be an even more significant concern, especially when it's raining because your backpacking hammock won't protect you unless you’re lying in it.
Moreover, apart from giving you no space for your friends, having lesser interior space may pose a challenge for you as well as you won’t have any space to store much of your backpacking gear safely. While some backpacking hammocks give you a chance to connect your gear bags with the hammock, they may still not support your entire backpack, which means you will have to leave your gear bag underneath your hammock and hope while sleeping that your gear doesn’t get wet or is filled with bugs at night.
How to Choose a Backpacking Hammock
Now that you already know whether backpacking hammocks make a convenient choice or not, it is also integral to know how to choose a backpacking hammock, especially when you are buying your first backpacking hammock.
Backpacking Hammock MaterialS
Before you invest in a backpacking hammock, you will need to decide on a type of hammock to buy. Some of the different types of backpacking hammocks that you can choose from include the following.
- Symmetrical and asymmetrical hammocks,
- Single-layer and double-layer hammocks,
- One-person and two-person hammocks, and
- Gathered or bridge hammocks.
The Size of the Hammock
Depending upon your backpacking needs, once you have decided on the type of hammock, you will then choose a hammock size that is critical for you to get a comfortable night’s sleep. When choosing the size of the hammock, make sure you go for an option that is both wide and long enough to conveniently accommodate your body for a peaceful night’s sleep.
Backpacking Hammock Materials
You can also choose from a variety of hammock materials. Make sure you opt for materials that are strong enough to support your body weight. Moreover, choose a water-proof material that protects you against getting wet. The two most popular materials for a backpacking hammock are nylon and polyester.
Don’t Forget the Backpacking Hammock Add-ons.
While you need to give enough consideration to choosing the type, size, and material of a backpacking hammock, make sure you don’t forget the backpacking add-ons such as a camping quilt, a tarp system, and bug netting so you can stay safe and comfortable on your backpacking trip with a hammock.
About THE AUTHOR
I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.Read More About Peter Brooks