If you think hammocks are only for lounging on porches or in backyards, think again. A backpacking hammock can be a more than viable alternative to a tent, or as a backup or compliment to a tent on your hiking and backpacking journeys.
Perhaps you’re already aware that more and more outdoor enthusiasts are opting to use backpacking hammocks during their trips, but don’t really know the reasons. The truth is, there are certainly some practical reasons, but there’s also the preference factor as well.
Read on to find out the different backpacking hammock types, and how to choose the best backpacking hammock for your needs.
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Whether you’re leaving for an overnight hike, or an extended backpacking trip, a hammock can help you in plenty of ways. Tents are almost always brought along on any duration of a trip, but these tents can present you with a few distinct disadvantages, depending on the situation.
The first issue with a tent is weight. While backpacking tents are often smaller and lighter than ordinary camping tents, they can still weigh your pack down, and take up much needed space that could to go towards other gear. Hammocks are much lighter, and are able to compact to incredibly small sizes.
Backpacking tents aren’t the most comfortable things to sleep in. Not only can they be small and slightly claustrophobic at times, they also depend on the ground for your overall comfort level. Backpacking generally happens on diverse terrain, so finding that perfect flat spot with no rocks can be pretty tough.
Hammocks are suspended off the ground, so you never have to worry about rocks under your sleeping bag, or water soaking you and your gear. You’re always high and dry.
Tents have few variables that give you options for what to do with them. What you see is what you get, with an added rainfly being your only real feature you can mix things up with.
Hammocks can be used with or without mosquito netting, with or without a tarp, and several other variables as well. You also have the option of angling the hammock to your liking, while also adjusting its height, and even the direction you want to face for that view in the morning.
Backpacking hammocks can be a bit ambiguous, possessing features and designs with other types. There are four main classifications you can put them in, however.
These hammocks are very durable, while also having a bit of give to them that can make lying in them for extended periods quite comfortable. They are great for single campers, simple to set up, and have a low weight.
A parachute nylon double hammock is similar to the single, only bigger. This can be to the advantage of larger backpackers that need an extra bit of room, or for colder conditions when you want to wrap yourself up on the hammock more to retain body heat and block out the cool air. Two people can casually sit or lay in a double hammock, but only one can sleep comfortably.
Like every other ultralight backpacking gear, an ultralight hammock will be made from the thinnest and lightest material possible, making it both highly compactable and very light in your pack. They almost always accommodate only one person, and are usually better for warmer weather.
Parachute nylon single hammocks are already on the lighter side, so if you don’t mind carrying an extra pound or two, or need a bit more hammock to work with, you’ll probably want to opt for the single over an ultralight version.
If you’re heading into more extreme conditions, a backcountry or expedition hammock is a must. These hammocks are often made from the same heavy-duty and durable nylon that a tent is made from, and also include features like guy-lines for more space, and mosquito nets. These hammocks can sometimes sleep two people, and provide plenty of room for casual lounging and rest.
Although hammocks are simple items, there are still some gear options available that allow you to get better and more versatile use out of your hammock in any number of environments.
A backpacking hammock stand gives you the freedom to pitch a hammock almost anywhere you’d like, without having to depend on trees. While hammock stands used at home tend to be big and bulky, a backpacking hammock stand is usually collapsible and made from lighter materials.
If you are going to be backpacking above tree lines, in national parks that forbade using trees for hammocks, or an area with little vegetation, a hammock stand is a must.
Tree straps are almost always a must-have item when using a backpacking hammock. These straps easily attach to your hammock straps on each end, giving you a more stable hold on the tree while preventing slippage. They also make the hammock level more simple to adjust, while also protecting the tree itself.
Backpacking tarps are one of the most versatile pieces of gear you can bring with you, and provide the perfect compliment to hammocks. If you want a bit more privacy, or want to shield yourself from the elements such as rain, wind, or snow, simple pitch a tarp over your hammock with each side sloping down, and you’re good to go.
If you’re a little apprehensive about depending on a hammock during your next backpacking trip, there are a few things you can do.
If possible, practice pitching your hammock in your yard, or at a nearby campground or hiking area. This will allow you to get comfortable with the process, and speed up your ability to set the hammock up in a hurry at the end of a long hike.
Another option is to bring a hammock along on your next backpacking trip, while also packing a tent. This gives you the flexibility to choose what you’d rather use each night, while getting used to sleeping in one should you go that route.
Regardless of the methods you use, it shouldn’t be long before the advantages of backpacking with a hammock become apparent. Good luck!