The issue we have to settle: tent or hammock? Camping hammocks have exploded in popularity in recent years, but are they all cracked up to be? Over the past year, I have been toying around with my camping hammock to see how it measures up to my tent. The results might surprise you. Before trying hammock camping for yourself, check out our guide to basic hammock camping.
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In this article:
- Advantages of a Hammock
- Disadvantages of a Hammock
- When Is a Camping Hammock Better?
- When to Stick with Your Tent and Avoid Camping Hammocks?
Advantages of a Hammock
Trees Are Everywhere
At first glance, the camping hammock seems far more restrictive than the traditional tent – at least when it comes to finding the perfect spot to crash for the night. Surely it is a pain in the backside to find the perfect pair of trees, right? Wrong. On most popular wilderness hiking trails, there is never a shortage of trees.
Most national parks have plenty of trees, and even relatively sparsely vegetated regions still have plenty of spots to string up a hammock. You just think they are not there because you haven’t been looking.
If you are still unconvinced, try this experiment: next time you go for a walk in the wilderness, try keeping a count of how many suitable hammock camping sites you see. Odds are, you will count far more than you expect. So in the tent vs. camping hammock debate, trees just are not as much of a factor as you may think.
That Means More Campsites!
In practice, I have found that locking in good hammock camping sites is usually much easier than finding a tent site. While trees are everywhere, so is uneven, rocky ground. This is particularly true of wooded areas, where tent campers have roots and stones galore to contend with.
How many times have you settled down in your tent at the end of a long day, only to have some sneaky rock jab you in the back? What about those moments when you discover the ground is not nearly as even as you thought it was, and now you are stuck sleeping on an annoying slope?
The reality is, once you switch to a camping hammock, you’ll find you usually have more flexibility than tent campers. For example, when was the last time you tent camped right next to your water source, or up a slope to the side of a crowded campsite?
Speed of Setup
This one may be contentious, but I’m going to say it: hammocks are quicker to set up. Between spending less time looking for a site, clearing a square, smashing those pegs in and the like, tents take a few minutes for even the pros to get set up.
Camping hammocks, on the other hand, just involve clipping straps around two trees. You’re done in mere seconds, and it couldn’t be easier. Cleanup is a breeze too. Put simply, the question of which camping method is quicker to set up is well and truly settled.
Protection Against the Cold, Wet Ground
Who enjoys waking up to discover they are camping on slush? We all have had those nights when the rain comes down, and all of a sudden that perfect campsite becomes a mushy, wet, mess of misery. You won’t get that with a hammock. Ever.
Overall, hammocks are more comfortable than even the best camping mattress. Maybe you are hardcore and like to say you don’t care about comfort, but let’s be honest. Deep down inside, all of us really want a decent night’s sleep, and camping hammocks provide that much more consistently than any tent. So concerning which is more comfortable, the hammock wins every single time.
Perhaps not the most important factor for everyone, but camping hammocks are a bit inexpensive than most tent set-ups. My affordable hammock set-up cost me less than $100, while my tent was a few hundred. Evidently, there is a lot of room for variation here, and the price difference may not even matter to most campers.
Disadvantages of a Hammock
Frustrating Learning Curve
I’m not going to sugarcoat it: my first few camping hammock escapades were pretty lame, mostly because I spent half the time wrestling with a somewhat uncooperative hammock. I’m not alone. Most campers are used to tents, and switching to a hammock can a learning curve. Getting the height right and making yourself comfortable takes a bit of practice, not to mention a time investment.
While it’s possible to make a camping hammock setup lighter than the average tent, it is not easy. In fact, the most significant complaint new hammock campers have is the additional weight. The hammock itself isn’t the problem; it’s the tarp, the bug net, the straps, and other gear that ends up making this set-up just a few kilos heavier than a tent. Unfortunately, hammocks lose in the weight department, though perhaps not all of the time.
For a good lightweight camping hammock, check out this tactical hammock review.
When Is a Camping Hammock Better?
Casual Camping on Well-Trodden Trails
For casual camping trips to your average national park, camping hammocks are just so much better than tents. You’ll never have trouble finding somewhere to sleep in even the most cramped of camping sites. Not only that, but you’ll sleep better than anyone else.
When You’re Camping in Woodlands
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Any heavily wooded areas lend themselves well to hammock camping. While tent dwellers are struggling with the aforementioned roots and rocks, you’ll be chilling a few feet above the ground in style and comfort.
When to Stick with Your Tent and Avoid Camping Hammocks?
Perhaps it’s just me, but I’ve had no success with beach hammock camping. It might sound idyllic to merely find a few palm trees and sit back with a beach-side piña colada, but odds are it won’t work out that way. In reality, you’ll end up miles away from the shore, trying to find a half-decent tree by the roadside. For beach bums, tents are way better.
When you are doing a serious hike at over 4000 above sea level, camping hammocks are pretty much useless. The extra weight will drag you down, and good luck finding a single tree. Even if you do manage to find somewhere to camp, you’ll be knocked around all night by the wind. Stick with your tent for intense hikes.
Here’s an interesting video from Survival Know How that shows the proper use of hammock camping gear:
The answer to the question of a hammock or tent depends entirely on your needs. Choosing hammocks over tents is not about forgoing comfort for minimalism’s sake or roughing it in the great outdoors. It is actually the other way around. Easier to set up and take down, hammocks can make camping more comfortable and enjoyable minus the sacrifices linked with minimalist camping gear.
What do you think? If you’ve had your own experience with hammock camping, let us know in the comments below.
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Editor’s Note: This post was originally published in February 2018 and has been updated for quality and relevancy.
I tried hammocks. I went back to a tent for a number of reasons. (a) I sleep on my side. Not the easiest thing in a hammock. Not impossible. Just not easy. (b) I like my shoes and such close. Not outside. (c) If it is rainy, I can move around in a tent all day. Eat, read, whittle, etc. (d) You can socialize in a tent. (e) Wind. A tent in 40 mph is spooky. In a hammock, it’s insanity.
As someone who hammocks whenever possible and is miserable when my wife makes me sleep in a tent with her, I just wanted to answer some of your reasons. If your hammock is long enough and you sleep on a 30ish degree angle, you can lie flat and sleep on your side/stomach. In a bed, I always sleep on my side/stomach but in a hammock I find I sleep best on my back with one leg bent up. If you are hanging fairly low, your shoes can be literally 6 inches from you. If you are in a backpacking tent, you can’t move around in it as it is barely big enough for you. Even a small two man is fairly miserable to socialize in. You can pack your hammock up and leave your tarp up and hang out with a friend under your hammock tarp. If it is that windy, you should be hanging in an area where the woods are thick enough to stop some of that direct wind. But if you hang your tarp down very low on your hammock and make sure you are 90 degrees to the direction of the wind, the wind won’t whip through your hammock taking any warmth you have. Hammocking is not for everyone, but there are a lot of people who swear by them. http://www.hammockforums.com
with a wider hammock and ridge line to hang your shoes and larger tarp to increase your area of operation should fix most of the issues, but a 40 mph wind in a hammock all I can say is where is your sense of adventure
Guess you’d have to try it to be able to say for yourself. I didn’t like hammock. Can only sleep on back. If you flip around at night, it’ll be bad. And “only a few kilos more” for a hammock. You must be kidding (about carrying that much weight).
I found that in rainy or windy weather, the hammock left me cold underneath. I would have to carry another ground cover/mattress to put under me. I like hammocks in the summer when it is not so cold at night, and crawling bugs, critters and snakes are not hibernating.
I had this problem at first as well until I learned about underquilts. They are amazing.
I like to sleep with my wife. She is my camping buddy. It is impossible in a hammock. It’s also a bunch warmer!
Most campgrounds & government owned woodlands specify that you are not allowed to tie anything to the trees.
Yes!! by looking at the comments, I dont see any benefits to camping in hammocks. Ditto what Dan-o said. I mean who sleeps in one position for 6-8 hours and even if you could, you cannot lay flat. Having my wife next to me is important as BG said. Whens the last time you hat rats gnaw through your tent. Don’t camp in the hood. I could go on.
National parks do not allow camping outside of marked camp sites. Make note.
Weird but I do both. I set up my hammock for the day and fare weather but keep my tent close by in case it gets really bad out. I sleep better in my hammock but I am doing solo camping. If my wife was with me… hang out on the hammock during the evening and retire to the tent at night. Solo camping I have a nice under quilt with sleeping bag, bug net and large tarp which I use with poles during the day in porch mode. Raise up the hammock and remove the poles to make a nice tight V and I’m snug. I side sleep just fine. It’s all Preference. Just get out there and try it.
We had several army surplus hammocks when I was 12, Dad, my brother and I slept in them almost every weekend that summer, I hardly ever wore shoes so that was never an issue for me. We all slept better hanging in the hammock than any of un ever slept on the ground.
i have 2 person tent w framed hammock inside, helps to be short!
Would you recommend a hammock for people with back problems? It is always a hassle to go camping when your bad aches so much.
Oh, absolutely. But do your homework on what an appropriate camping hammock is. Hint: most outfitters don’t sell them. And learn how to hang it, and how to lay in it (diagonal). Hammocks are much better for your back. Do it right, and you’ll have the same experience I did the first time – I woke up from what I knew was restful sleep, but then the minute I stood up out of the hammock, I knew I would never want to sleep on the ground again, it was that good. Or, I should say, I didn’t feel anything like what I normally feel getting up off the ground.
I prefer the tree tent style hammocks, because you can sleep on your side in those. The only drawback is that they really aren’t any lighter than a tent. But as long as you’re not doing any long-distance trekking, they’re great. Not cheap, though.
The curse of being a stomach sleeper… I could never do hammock camping 🙁
Uhhh…….there are no trees in the desert.
What ever happened to the world war 2 jungle Hammock (roof and screen iincluded?) I carried one for years Camping. If they made a comeback I would purchase it.
Haven’t you people heard of a tent with a queen sized bed inside ?? I’ve done trailer camping tent camping all of it camping is great either way .. just get out and go it’s sll good and fun
It depends on the season; the three that have no snow, a hammock works. In cold weather with that snow stuff and wind chill, a tent is a million times better for staying warm. I have never tried the hammock in full winter mode, as late fall is cold enough to learn that wind chill will freeze you right in your hammock.
As for the living in the snow, I did it once for a week and decided that it is an experience that I don’t want to repeat. (not to mention the fishing sucked).
Since I don’t live in the woods full time, a few days here and there, I experiment with what might work for me. (always in pursuit of fish, and less fished bodies of water) So, if you are like me, then have two methods of camping; the hammock camp, and the tent camp. (three if you count the trailer/RV method, but that doesn’t get far enough off the beaten path).