Hammocks – Not Just for the Lazy Afternoon

Over the past two years, I have embarked upon a drastic deviation from my normal camping routine. Up until that point, I only knew camping as pitching a tent and sleeping on the cold hard ground as has been done for centuries. My world was rocked one evening as I was talking to a close friend. He had purchased a hammock in which to relax on lazy afternoons. Although both of us are avid backpackers neither had ever even considered replacing our tent with a hammock. This conversation sparked a whirlwind of research online regarding the plausibility of the perversion of camping as I knew it. Through my research, I found that it was not only possible but that there were many die-hard backpackers and campers who had made the switch I was considering. Not only had they switched, but many claimed they would never go back to being a “ground dweller”. There are many details to consider when making the switch to hammock camping, but the one that outweighs all else is the comfort factor.
Hammocks by the lake
Let’s consider the two camping styles objectively for a moment. While sleeping in a tent, you are laying on the ground. Granted there may be an air mattress or a pad beneath you but you will likely still wake up feeling like you slept on the hard ground. With a hammock you are elevated above the ground and are cradled in soft fabric that conforms to your body. You wake refreshed and ache free after a night in a hammock. Now at this point many of you are thinking of the old school rope weave hammock that leaves you looking like a waffle after only a few minutes. While this hammock may be fine for the occasional nap at the lake or beach, it is in no way useful for hammock camping. There are hammocks that are designed specifically for backpacking and camping. They are light weight, made of modern outdoor materials and many include features like an integrated bug net. Here a few manufacturers to check out.

  • Warbonnet Outdoors – This is a small company that is known in the camping world as one of the best. They have a unique design for their hammocks that allows the user to lay flatter (flat=comfort).
  • Eagles Nest Outfitters – This is one of the bigger names in hammocks. You can find these hammocks in most outdoor gear shops. They make fairly good quality hammocks and many accessories but their hammock design is basic. I know many people who have these and they work great.
  • Clark Outdoor Products – This is a manufacturer I have heard a lot about but never seen their product. They have an interesting design that includes flexible poles that give the hammock more structure. These seem like the Cadillac of hammocks, big and roomy with lots of features but with a bit of a weight penalty.
  • Grand Trunk Goods  - This manufacturer covers the gamut in hammocks. They offer everything from the very basic hammock ($20) to the deluxe model ($150). I have heard a lot of good things about these guys.
  • Hennessey Hammocks – Tom, the owner, is one of the forefathers of the modern hammock camping world. They produce high quality gear and their customer service is second to none. Despite being one of the bigger names in hammocks, there is still a good chance that Tom will be the one to answer the phone if you call Hennessey.


These are just a few of the manufacturers of camping style hammocks out there and they all offer high quality gear. A little research will need to be done to determine which design works best for you. For this, I suggest checking out www.hammockforums.net. Also, keep in mind that many of these manufacturers are still considered cottage industries and they will be more than happy to talk to you via phone or email and help you determine what will work best for you. Over the past two years I have camped exclusively in my hammock and even converted three other ground dwellers to hammocks.

I urge you to “elevate your perspective” and try out a hammock. See you on the trail.

About the Author Jeremy

Comments

  1. When I was in the Boy Scouts (in Dallas), our troop was completely divided between hammock-sleepers and tenters. About 12 of us would sleep in hammocks, and create these sprawling “hammock-ghettos” with four tarps overhead, protecting us from the rain. Some of the dads were concerned that we were rubbing bark off the trees–I never listened to them, but some kids switched to gentler methods of setting up the hammock (there different elastic straps you can use that are gentler).

    As for myself, I used two climbing-quality daisy chains and a brazilian doublewide hammock from REI. My hammock was set up in 5 seconds every time.

    • Tucker, I have heard of a lot of boy scouts having the exact same divide. In fact Hennessey’s entry level hammock is called the scout. I did not get to participate in scouts as a child but I have heard a lot of good things about the organization. Also the concern of damaging trees with the suspension on a hammock is a valid one. I have read many discussions about this exact topic and there are even speciality products designed to help the hanger avoid damaging trees. I have found that if you are not using the same tree over and over, simple webbing straps rarely do any damage. Glad that you were reminded of good times. I hope that you are still holding to your scout roots and continuing to get out in nature (and sleep in a hammock…of course)!

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