Backpacking Hammock vs Tent

Hybrid Tent Hammock

When backpacking, shelter and sleeping gear are paramount for ensuring a successful journey. After a long day of navigating unforgiving terrain, ascending peaks, or logging miles through a forest, a good rest is needed to restore your body and get ready for another day.

Shelter is always important as well, especially when conditions are not ideal. If it’s raining or snowing, or simply high winds, having a covered rest area can be the difference between your excursion being enjoyable, or downright miserable.

Woman Laying Inside Tent

It is for this reason that backpackers are always sure to pack a tent along, or materials to create a makeshift shelter. For years, tents were the most popular choice, and for obvious reasons. Recently however, there has been a growing trend towards using hammocks in place of a tent, at least when conditions are ideal.

Is there an advantage of one over the other? The answer to that may depend on your preferences. Read on to find out what both have to offer.

Tent

Tents are a time-tested and proven way to secure yourself both shelter and adequate rest when backpacking. When backpacking, it’s always best to use a tent that has been specifically designed for backpacking. These tents weigh far less than a standard tent and can compact down to an incredibly small size.

Backpacking tents are classified in several ways, with each classification referencing certain characteristics and features. Here are the main ones you’ll come across.

Man Sitting in Backpacking Tent
  • Capacity - This refers to the amount of people that can comfortably fit inside. Most backpacking tents are intended for one person, but there are tents that can hold anywhere from 2-3 people. The downside to this is increased weight in your pack.
  • Seasonality - Seasonality ratings help you determine the types of conditions that your tent is appropriate for. 3-season, extended season, and 4-season tents are common options, with the 3-season tent being rated for the warmest weather.
  • Weight - This is self-explanatory. The lower the weight, the better. Ultralight tents are often made from thin material, are very small inside, and lack any added features.
  • Livability - This is where the most variance is. Livability refers to the tent’s features, design, and any other aspect that can make it more comfortable and versatile. Interior room, ventilation, doors, and storage compartments are all examples of livability features that can make your tent much more useful and comfortable.

Advantages of a Tent

Tents are the most traditional way to set up your living quarters for the night. The ability to create an entire enclosed space is preferred by many for several reasons.

Couple Laying Next to Tent

Privacy is always better with a tent, and there are many who like to have a little time to themselves at the end of the night. Others may prefer the fact that they can keep out any insects or roaming animals as they sleep, giving them more peace of mind.

An enclosed shelter is also more favorable when conditions are not ideal. Rainflys can help keep your tent dry, while also helpings prevent biting winds from stealing your warmth inside.

Multi-person tents are also a good way for your backpacking party to share warmth, and stay close together. While the weight may be increased in your pack, other members of your party can carry some of your items to even out the backpack’s weight.

Hammock

Some people may scoff at the idea of using a hammock on a backpacking trip, but the truth is that they are quite convenient, comfortable, and versatile in more ways than one.

Couple Sitting in Hammock

Backpacking hammocks are often made from the same materials as tents, and are very durable and lightweight. They can be easily set up between two trees, on poles, or even using portable stands.

Hammocks can be used in conjunction with camping tarps, which allows you to set up a covering over your tent if you’d like privacy or protection from wind, rain, or snow. Other accessories such as mosquito nets and propped up coverings can help you turn your hammock into more of a suspended tent.

Advantages of a Hammock

Hammocks may seem unconventional at first, but they posses many advantages that backpackers can appreciate, and that goes beyond the speed in which you can set them up and tear down.

Hanging Camping Hammocks in Bags

The most obvious benefit is that hammocks are much smaller and lighter than a tent. They also lack poles, so you can really save some space and weight by using a hammock in place of a tent. This can be a huge advantage for anyone who is undertaking ultralight backpacking.

Rocks, tree roots, and divots in the ground can end up being more than an annoyance when trying to fall asleep in a tent, leading to poor sleep and diminished energy the next day. Puddles of water can be a problem as well. Hammocks are suspended above the ground, so you never have to worry about the conditions below.

For those that feel a little claustrophobic inside a small backpacking tent, a hammock gives you the options of sleeping in the open air, with a perfect view in the morning. This can not only give you better sleep, but a more in-tune nature experience.

Laying in Hammock

Versatility is a major advantage with hammocks. You can suspend them in several different ways, and also combine their use with other items, such as tarps.

Which is Best

As we said earlier, the final verdict between the two may come down to a matter of preference.

If your ultimate goal is to travel as light as possible, a hammock is your best choice. Be sure that the area you are traveling in has an abundance of trees, however.

Hanging Hammock Tent in Forest

Tents are best suited for more inclement weather, or for anyone that prefers to have an enclosed space. A hammock may not be the best choice in snowy areas or if you expect plenty of rain.

A third option would be to use both a hammock and tent on your trip. A single occupant hammock won’t add much weight to your backpack, and it gives you the option to choose each night depending on your campsite. This option is also a good way to ease into hammock use if you aren’t fully comfortable with it at first.

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