The question we have to solve: tent or hammock? Camping hammocks have grown in popularity over the past few years, but are they all right?
For the past year, I’ve been playing around with my camping hammock to see how it will hold up my tent. The results might surprise you. Before you try hammock camping for yourself, read our guide to easy hammock camping.
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In this article:
Benefits of a hammock
1. Trees are everywhere
At first glance, the camping hammock seems far more restrictive than the conventional tent – at least when it comes to finding the perfect place for the night. Surely it’s agony to find the perfect pair of trees, isn’t it? Not correct.
There is never a shortage of trees on the most popular wilderness trails. Most national parks are full of trees, and even in relatively thinly overgrown regions there are still plenty of places to hang a hammock. They just think they aren’t there because you haven’t looked.
If you’re still not convinced, try this experiment: the next time you go for a walk in the wild, try to count how many suitable hammock campsites you see. Chances are, you are counting a lot more than you expect.
In the tent vs. camping hammock debate, trees simply don’t play as much of a role as you might think.
2. That means more campsites!
In practice, I have found that it is usually much easier to find good hammock campsites than to find a campsite. Trees are everywhere, but also uneven, rocky ground. This is especially true in wooded areas where tent campers struggle with roots and stones galore.
How many times have you settled in your tent at the end of a long day only to be chased in the back by a sneaky stone? What about those moments when you find the ground is nowhere near as level as you thought and now sleep on an annoying slope?
The reality is that once you switch to a camping hammock you usually have more flexibility than tented campers. For example, when was the last time you camped right next to your water source or up a slope next to a crowded campsite?
3. Setup speed
This may be controversial, but I’ll say it: hammocks are quicker to set up. Between less time looking for a location, clearing a place, hammering pegs and the like, tents take a few minutes until even the professionals are set up.
Camping hammocks, on the other hand, only involve clipping straps around two trees. You’re done in seconds and it couldn’t be easier. Tidying up is also a breeze. Put simply, the question of which camping method can be set up the fastest has long been answered.
4. Protection from cold, wet ground
Who likes to wake up and discover they’re camping on mud? We’ve all experienced those nights when it rains and suddenly this perfect campsite turns into a muddy, 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’re hardcore and like to say you don’t care about comfort, but let’s face it.
Deep down, we all want to sleep really well, and camping hammocks are much more durable than any tent. So whatever is more comfortable, the hammock wins every time.
Perhaps not the number one factor for everyone, but camping hammocks are a little cheaper than most tent structures. My affordable hammock setup cost me less than $ 100 while my tent was a few hundred. Obviously there’s a lot of wiggle room here and the price difference may not matter to most campers.
Disadvantages of a hammock
1. Frustrating learning curve
I’m not going to gloss it over: my first camping hammock antics were pretty lame, mostly because I spent half the time wrestling with a slightly uncooperative hammock.
I’m not alone. Most campers are used to tents, and switching to a hammock can be a learning curve. Finding the right height and getting comfortable takes a little practice, not to mention investing in time.
While it is possible to pitch a camping hammock more easily than your average tent, it is not easy. In fact, the biggest complaint new hammock campers have is the added weight.
The hammock itself isn’t the problem; It’s the tarpaulin, insect net, straps, and other equipment that make this setup just a few pounds heavier than a tent. Unfortunately, hammocks lose weight in the weight department, though maybe not all of the time.
When is a camping hammock better?
Casual camping on the beaten track
For casual camping trips into your average national park, camping hammocks are simply much better than tents. Even in the tightest of campsites, you won’t have any problems finding a place to sleep. Not only that, you’ll sleep better than anyone else, too.
If you are camping in Woodlands
All heavily forested areas are good for camping in hammocks. While tent dwellers struggle with the roots and rocks mentioned above, chill a few feet off the ground in style and comfort.
When should you stay with your tent and avoid camping hammocks?
Maybe it’s just me, but I have had no success camping in the beach hammock. It might sound idyllic just finding a few palm trees and kicking back on the beach with a piña colada, but chances are it won’t work that way.
In reality, you end up miles from the shore and try to find a reasonably decent tree by the side of the road. For beach goers, tents are much better.
If you’re going on a serious hike above 4,000 feet above sea level, camping hammocks are next to useless. The extra weight will pull you down and good luck finding a single tree.
Even if you can find a place to camp, the wind will blow you around all night. Stick with your tent for intense hikes.
Here is an interesting video from Survival Know-How showing the correct use of hammock camping gear:
The answer to the question of a hammock or tent depends entirely on your needs. Choosing hammocks instead of tents is not about sacrificing comfort for the sake of minimalism or roughing it up in the great outdoors.
It’s actually the other way around. Hammocks are easier to set up and take down and can make camping more comfortable and enjoyable without the sacrifices associated with minimalist camping gear.
What do you think? If you’ve had your own experience of 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 relevance.
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