Friday, June 5, 2009

Backpacking and Camping in a Hammock

As the warm weather comes, it is time for Hammock Camping! In Hammack CampingThere is nothing like sleeping out under the stars in a hammock. Whether you are backpacking into the wilderness or “car camping” with the family, if the situation is right, consider using a hammock.

If you are with the kids I would advise bringing both a tent and the hammock.The children love to play and lay around in the hammock, but it does take some time to feel comfortable sleeping in a hammock. Better to have a tent as a fallback for the kids.

When you are backpacking solo or with a partner, if the conditions are right, swapping the tent for a hammock may be the best option. There are several reasons to use a hammock or not depending on the situation. Issues like weight, bugs, comfort and temperature.

a setup hammockFirst let’s consider weight. This is always a top concern with experienced backpackers. Compared to an average single person tent, hammocks are lightweight, mine being just under 2 pounds (a Hennessy Ultralight Backpacker Asym). But, compared to an ultralight tent – they are a bit on the heavy site (my Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo is 1 Lb. 10 oz.). On the other hand, if the weather is warm, with a hammock you don’t need a sleeping pad or ground cloth so there is a pound or so weight savings there and bit more simplicity to life. On the third hand (if you have one) – when you are hiking with a partner and sharing a tent, an ultralight 2 person tent is lighter that two hammocks even considering the sleeping pads.

Comfort – After a hard day of hiking you want sleep well. If you have never slept in a hammock before definitely practice spending the night in the backyard in it first. It takes a bit of getting used to. Some people like it almost immediately. I think it is more usual to struggle with it at first, maybe even have a bit of claustrophobia in it (this goes away). It takes a bit of practice learning how to get in and out of the hammock without a struggle. A little more practice to be able to easily be in the hammock and be able to crawl into a sleeping bag or put on a jacket if you are cold. The best way to sleep in a hammock is at a bit of an angle. Have your body 20 degrees or so off center to the center line (ridge line) of the hammock. This causes the hammock to be more flat reducing the curve under your body. When angled in this way you can sleep on your side or turn over more easily.

Generally I find hammocks more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. There are no rocks or sticks poking you in the back. You don’t have to worry about the ground being level and if the rain starts, you don’t need to worry about the ground getting wet and water seeping into the tent. As a bonus you do sometimes get a slight rocking which can help you sleep. The hammocks I’ve listed in the comparison chart in this article all have bug netting. This is a big advantage over tarps which are obviously lighter than hammocks. Most of the hammocks in my chart include a optional tarp to keep the rain off. This comes in handy if there are no trees around to hang the hammock, the tarp can be used alone or you can use the hammock as a bivy.

The main problem with hammocks is that they can be cold. You are surrounded by air, so as the temperature drops and the wind starts it can suck the heat out of you. There are various ways to deal with this, the simplest being – just use the hammock when it is warm out. If the temperature is going to drop into the forties you’ll need to take additional steps. Being careful to hang the hammock out of the wind makes a huge difference. You can add a sleeping pad under you or various other attachments can be added – I will list a few a bit lower in this article. The problem with adding things to the hammock is that it also adds weight; at some point is it more logical to switch to a tent.

The below chart is a Comparison of the camping hammocks available; It my not display correctly in this blog post depending on your computer;
to see a clearer view of the comparison table and with more details; go to the article on the web site: http://www.backpackbasecamp.com/Articles/Hammockcamping.html

Maker Model Weight Dimensions

Clark Jungle

North American

2 lb 15 oz

98" x 44"

Clark Jungle
Vertex 2-person
4 lb 14 oz
104" x 44"ea
Clark Jungle NX -250
3 lb 10 oz
110" x 50"
Clark Jungle Tropical 2 lb. 8.5 oz 98" x 44 "
Clark Jungle Ultra Light 2 lb. 6 oz 98" x 44 "
Hennessy Hammocks Expedition Asym 2 lb. 12 oz 100" x 65"
Hennessy Ultralight Backpacker Asym 1 lb. 15 oz 100" x 65"
Hennessy Explorer Ultralight 2 lb. 9 oz 110" x 66"
Hennessy Explorer Deluxe 3 lb. 6 oz 110" x 66"
Hennessy Safari Deluxe 4 lb. 2 oz 112" x 70"
Hennessy Hyperlight Asym 1 lb. 10 oz 100" x 65"
Hennessy Scout 2 lb. 11.5 oz 100" x 48"
Hennessy Survivor 2 lb. 15 oz 108" x 63"
Hennessy Desert Rat 2 lb. 10 oz 100" x 64"
Mosquito Hammock Jungle Hammock 3 lb. 117" x 48"
Mosquito Hammock Expedition Hammock 2 lb. 96" x 48"
Crazy Creek Crazy Crib w/Tarp 3 lb. 3 oz 94" x 44"
Crazy Creek Crazy Crib LEX w/Tarp 3 lb. 6 oz 94" x 44"
Lawson Blue Ridge Camping 4 lb. 4 oz 90" x 36"
Hammock Bliss No see um no more 2 lb. 6 oz 118" x 59"
Warbonnet Outdoor Blackbird 21.5 - 28.5 oz 120" x 72"
Jacks R Better Bear Mountain 1 lb. 10 oz 88" x 29"

There are more than a few camping hammocks on the market to choose from, some are more suitable for backpacking than others.  The above is a comparison chart of the best ones I have found.  If you know of others or see an error on this page, please email me and let me know. These all include bug netting and most include a rain fly.

There are several others I didn’t put in the comparison chart, either because they don’t come with a rain fly (you could always add a tarp) or their weight makes them too heavy for backpacking.  You may still want to consider these, especially for car camping. Particularly the Grand Truck Ultralight Skeeter Beeter and the Byer Moskito Traveller look interesting, both of these you can get at Altrec.com or Campsaver.comTreklightgear also has some interesting options.

There are several “accessories” that can be added to the hammock – various way to speed up hooking it to the trees, snakeskins to speed up the setup, take down and storage (Hennessy option), smaller hammocks to store you gear, and down blankets to keep you warmer.  A big innovator in this area is JacksRbetter.com. They sell quilts and ‘nests’ to keep you warmer in a hammock, self tensioning lines, clips and various other cool items.



  1. Thanks for the tips... I always seem to fall out of hammocks. I don't see how sleeping in a hammock could possibly be comfortable or good for the back, since it isn't flat.

  2. The trick with hammocks is to lay in them at an angle - about 20 or 30 degrees off center - that flatens them out so your back is flat. But is does take some time to get used to it.