So, you’ve seen the photos of campers lounging in their hammocks with amazing scenic vistas at their feet and you’re ready to ditch that tent and sleeping bag. I don’t blame you.
Hammocks are super comfortable and you don’t have the extra expense (and weight) of a sleeping pad weighing down your backpack. But getting yourself a good backpacking hammock to lounge in style by that waterfall isn’t as simple as walking into your local REI and grabbing the first one you see on the shelf. (Not that I don’t love my local REI!)
So, let’s look at some of the things you should consider before you ditch your tent and we’ll share what we think are some of the best camping hammocks for the money right now.
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Our Picks: 9 Top Rated Camping & Backpacking Hammocks (2017 - 2018)our ratings are based on value and performance
Tent vs Hammock – A Basic Comparison
If you’re reading this, then we can assume that you have a basic familiarity with each of these. So, let’s dive right into the comparison here. If you’re like me, then the first benefit you notice to using a hammock instead of a tent is that you can wake up to a view like no other from your perch. And let’s not forget that awesome night sky being the last thing you see before you close your eyes.
And after that romanticized idea if hammock sleeping, the most obvious benefit of using a hammock is that your gear gets considerably lighter compared to needing your tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag. Of course, you still might want to take your sleeping bag to ensure that don’t get too cold out there.
Oh, and don’t forget that you’ll need a camp spot where you can actually tie up the hammock, otherwise you’re just sleeping on the ground in a hammock! I’ve seen some outdoor blogs saying to use your trekking poles to put your hammock up – this sounds like a terrible idea that ends with you back on the ground. So, keep mind mind that to use hammocks, you need to be able to properly secure them for sleeping. (Disclaimer: I haven’t actually tried using trekking poles to hang a hammock – if you have, feel free to comment below and let me know if I’m wrong about this being an absurd idea.)
Plus, with a hammock, you don’t have to worry about finding a flat spot or clearing the campsite of rocks and debris – just find two trees 8′ to 12 feet apart and you’re ready for setting up camp.
But focusing on tents, where the tent really shines here is that you can use it in any type of weather. Yup, you won’t want to be hanging out in that hammock during a downpour. Nor will you want to sleep in it when the temperature dips too low.
However, there are ways to make hammocks more adaptable to all conditions. Deal with rain by using a rain tarp to stay dry. Prevent the mozzies from making you their nightly feast by using a bug net. And make it work in cooler weather by adding a sleeping pad under your body to insulate yourself from the under drafts.
With the right preparations, you can end up with a three-season camping hammock – but by that point, you have to ask yourself it really saves you that much weight or are you doing it just because you like the idea of hammock camping over tent camping?
At the end of the day, it’s your call.
Types and Styles
As you can imagine, there are lots of different types of hammocks available on the market, but this guide only focuses on camping hammocks that you can sleep in overnight. These are typically lightweight, made of ultra strong and durable material, and next to impossible to accidentally fall out of thanks to the single gather point at each end.
For most campers out there, this is what you’re looking for right here. You get something that is ultra durable and that stretches a wee bit. The end result with this type is that you are comfortable and secure. And, there are two different styles available:
- Singles – for the solo sleeper
- Doubles – for two people, larger people or the camper who just wants a lot of extra space
As you might expect, the double style only differs from the singles by being wider.
If the parachute nylon type isn’t lightweight enough, then you can move on up to the ultralight type of camping and backpacking hammock. Obviously, this type weighs less. However, that is accomplished with a thinner and less durable material. So, you might not be as comfortable in it and you certainly can’t use it if you are a larger person without wondering how long it will support you. Granted, I haven’t actually heard of one of these types failing someone, but since the material isn’t at strong it seems like it’s not a matter of “if” but “when.” So, if you are a heavier or larger person, use of these types of hammocks at your own discretion.
If you are serious about your camping and are doing some hardcore backcountry backpacking style adventures, then you will definitely want to make the upgrade to a backcountry type of camping hammock – these are also known as expedition hammocks. This type is easy to spot because models typically more features than the other types. You get things like bug nets and extra space via guy-lines. So, this style is not really for your hobbyist camper, but more for you hardcore outdoors types.
What To Consider Before Buying Camping Hammocks
You already know how hammocks compare to tents and the different types that you will come across when shopping, so you’re ready to buy, right? Wrong. Before pulling out that shiny credit card to order one for your next backpacking or camping trip, first take a moment to learn what questions you need to ask yourself before you buy, as well as other things to take under consideration.
How Will You Use It?
Right now, you’re probably thinking about how awesome your life will be when you’re lounging with an amazing vista similar to that in the photo at the top of this page. But it’s time to be honest with yourself. Where do you plan on using one of these? Will it be for backcountry backpacking trips? Or do you really just want to use one at the campsite for lazy days instead of actually sleeping it? Will you be sleeping it in alone? What type of weather do you expect to use it in?
Answering all of these questions before you start checking out what’s available for purchase will go a long way in helping you to make the right decision. Cause you definitely don’t want to buy an ultralight if you end up doing some cold weather camping.
Be Honest – What Size Do You Need?
If you intend to sleep with someone else in the hammock, then picking a size is easy. However, if you prefer to do your sleeping solo, then you need to decide if you should go with a regular size or a wider option. And no, the wider options aren’t for “fat” people. If you want extra room, if you need extra room due to your height or body size, or if you feel better protected against the elements with more space, then definitely go with a wider option. There’s no shame in selfishly wanting the double when you really only a need a single.
And if you are really tall or have a heavier body type, don’t be ashamed of getting the wider style. You will be MUCH more comfortable in it, and that is really all that matters. Right? Right!
How’s The Terrain Of Your Campsite?
Before you get too excited about camping hammocks, take a moment to consider the surroundings where you will be camping. Will you be in the desert or above the treeline? Cause you need a place to hang this thing up securely. Sure, if you’re in the desert, then you might be able to find a couple of adequately spaced boulders that you can secure one of these to. If you’re lucky, that is.
Bottom line – you’re gonna need some sturdy trees that you use to secure your hammock for the night. If you can’t count on that where your adventures take you, then the sad reality is that a tent is probably a better option for you, my friend.
Do You Need Protection From The Elements?
Not all hammocks come with bug nets and rain guards. Do you expect to be in conditions where you might get rained on or attacked by mosquitos or something like those annoying biting flies in Germany? Or even just a style that protects you (somewhat) again the cold air. If any of these things are true for you, then definitely go with something that has the features you need to stay protected from the elements.
How To Insulate From The Cold?
Depending on where you’re camping, you night need to protect yourself from the cold – even in the summer months. For this potential problem, you have a few different solutions. The most obvious is to just use a sleeping pad so that you won’t feel the cold draft under your hammock. Of course, the obvious problem with this solution is that you can end up moving off the pad while you sleep.
To prevent the sliding of your sleeping pad, you can opt for a double layer style of hammock. This style has a built-in sleeve for your sleeping pad that is located under the layer where your body lies. The benefit of this style is that your sleeping pad will stay right where you need it while you sleep, no matter how much you squirm around.
Another option to keep you warm is to use an underquilt out there. Of course, if you already own a sleeping pad, this isn’t the most economical choice since it requires an additional purchase of the underquilt. A good cheap option is the Ember 2 Hammock Underquilt at REI. You can only order it online though, but I think it’s one of the best hammock underquilts for the money (and cheapest high quality option). You can check it out in the image below.
Do You Need An Easy Setup?
When it’s time to set up your campsite for the night, how you hang your camping hammock can vary. Some models come with heavy duty straps, others give you climbing-grade carabiners and proper nylon cords, while others give you absolutely nothing to hang it with.
The truth is that you can actually use a strong rope to hang it yourself, if you’re into that sort of DIY thing. I’m not, but there are plenty of people who have shared videos on YouTube and instructions on other websites. I think that going with straps is the easiest way to go about it.
Regardless of how you want to hang it, be sure to check what comes with the hammocks you are considering buying in order to know if you need to make a separate accessories purchase to get it up at your campsite.
Since one of the advantages that hammocks have over tents is weight, definitely check out the weight of all the models that you’re considering buying for your next adventure. A general rule of thumb is that the more durable the material, the more that it weighs. So, your backcountry/expedition type is going to weigh the most.
An important part of the weight is that you must also consider the suspension system weight when comparing models. Since some models come with nylon cord and others don’t, you’ll have to add the weight of the cord to those without it in order to do a true weight comparison.
And if weight is your number one factor to consider, know that the ultralight type has some models where the total weight is under one pound!
You definitely want to get a good night’s sleep, right? With that in mind, it’s important to pick a type of hammock that will keep you comfortable for the duration of your camping trip. Most campers prefer the parachute nylon models because the fabric has just enough stretch to it for comfort. Overall, I think they are the most comfortable type of camping hammock and definitely the comfort choice for longer camping trips.
Our Top Picks: Best Camping and Backpacking Hammocks
With so many options available to you out there, finding that perfect hammock for camping can be overwhelming. If you want a little help with your decision, then check out my picks for the five best camping hammocks below. I’ll give you some basic info on each one and information on where you can buy it online.
As you may already know, Grand Trunk has a great reputation when it comes to high quality camping hammocks at affordable prices. This double model has lots of room, is super comfortable, lightweight, and perfect for longer adventures in the wilderness.
It officially comes with a two-year warranty, but there is more than one story online of the company replacing hammocks well after that period at no additional cost to the camper. So, if you’re looking for a company that really stands behind their gear, then look no further.
Purchase online at:
We suggest comparing prices at the trusted retailers listed above to find the best price.
For backcountry campers, this hammock is one of the best choices on the market right now. It has an affordable price and is made by a brand that has a good reputation in the industry. Materials feel durable, yet remain comfortable for several nights of sleeping.
Obviously, the best thing about this one is that it is super lightweight, which is perfect for backpacking and backcountry expeditions. This is also a good camping hammock for tall people – os if you’re around 6-foot tall, this should work just fine for you. Any taller than that though, and I’d imagine that it wouldn’t be a good fit.
And we really like that this one has such a low, affordable price! Hard to beat the value for the money right here.
Purchase online at:
We suggest comparing prices at the trusted retailers listed above to find the best price.
top image licensed via Shutterstock