Camping Hammocks overview

hammock? Relaxing, huh? Why do folks think of tents when they hear the word "camping"? Modern hammocks can serve as light, bug free, weather sound shelters

Camping Hammocks overview

Updated June, 2015

Ever slept in a hammock?

Relaxing, huh?

So, why do so many folks think of tents when they hear the word “camping”? Modern hammocks can serve as light, weather sound shelters, and can accommodate some types of terrain that are not options with tents. Hammocks can be a great alternative to tents for hiking, backpacking, paddling, canoeing, etc.

*Many of the links will take you to a trusted retail site where you will find additional product info and can purchase them, if you like.

CampSaver.com has a wide selection of hammock gear here.

Hammock projects you might like:

Back in the day, I carried a light hammock made of something resembling a fishing net in my pack on some excursions into the woods.

I honestly don’t even remember where I first got the idea that getting a hammock for camping would be cool. It was early Spring, right before the water warmed enough to start boating. I saw a picture of a Grand Trunk Skeeter Beater Pro somewhere online… complete with an integrated mosquito net. That chance encounter set the wheels in motion. Boating and kayaking stole my attention over the summer, but as it cooled and I parked the boat for the final time of the season, I kept thinking about getting a camping hammock. I’m no expert, but I am learning. Here is what I found. I offer this info with a big warning that Hammock stuff can get addicting really quickly!

Camping hammocks 101: Material type

Net: Like the one I had as a young Boy Scout. Light, very portable, good for a quick relax along the trail or in camp. NOT good for overnight sleeping, bug season, or when it is raining. I’m pretty sure mine was from Campmor.

camping hammock net hammock

net hammock

Cloth, gathered end: There are a wide variety of designs and cloths available. Generally, for camping, a light weight nylon or polyester is a good choice. The ends can be gathered a variety of ways (rope in a sewn channel, whipped, grommets, etc.). When I posted the question on Facebook “what kind of hammock should I get?”, multiple folks said I should get one from Eagles Nest outfitters… ENO. My friends at GetOutdoors also carry the Eno system and speak highly of it. I have to admit that I don’t understand the rabid loyalty that the ENO brand evokes. While they appear to be well made, they are lacking many key features that I think define a “camping hammock” vs a “recreational hammock”.

Camping hammock overview

Eno single hammock

Cloth, Bridge: Picture a suspension bridge that you would drive your car on, with the load of the bridge held up by a series of cables attached to supports at each end. The same principles work for hammocks, with the sleeping surface hanging below the support system on each end. I won’t pretend to understand the geometry involved, but I’m told bridge hammocks can provide a fairly flat sleeping surface. Not too many places to get a Bridge hammock. Jacks R Better is the only vendor I’ve run across so far.

Camping Hammock overview

Jacks R Better Bear Mountain Bridge hammock

Spreader bar hammock: Not to be confused with the bridge hammock, although they may outwardly appear very similar to the untrained eye. The Blue Ridge Camping Hammock by Lawson (click here for our review of the BRCH) is the example that I am most familiar with. However, there are various “jungle hammocks” that use spreader bars and woven rope clews at each end.

 

Mosquito hammocks: These might be the gathered end, spreader bar or bridge type design, but they have added mosquito netting to protect the occupant from bugs. The mosquito netting might be sewn to the body of the hammock, or added to to surround the hammock. In my mind, without a bug net of some sort, you really can’t call it a “camping hammock”. And I have a strong preference for sewn-on bug netting, as it also serves to keep stuff from falling out of the hammock overnight as I toss and turn.

Camping Hammock overview

Warbonnet Traveler hammock

Camping Hammock overview

Warbonnet Blackbird hammock

Hammock sleep systems: Take a mosquito hammock and add to it an integrated weather shelter. Often some sort of tarp is built in to the hammock system to make for a viable alternative to sleeping in a tent. However, one can easily add a tarp separately. I prefer non-integrated tarps as it gives me more freedom in how to configure it based on my needs for a specific outing.

Camping Hammock overview

Hennessy hammock system (lights optional?)

Which type of hammock you chose really depends on how you intend to use it. An interesting consideration is if you plan to sleep straight down the center of the hammock, or on diagonal. The ENO picture above shows someone lying straight down the center of the hammock. Here is a picture of a Warbonnet Blackbird, with the occupant sleeping on a diagonal ACROSS the centerline of the hammock. Laying on diagonal can provide a flatter sleeping surface which most agree is more comfortable, as opposed to the banana shaped sleeping surface that most folks associate with hammocks.

Camping hammock overview

sleeping diagonally in a hammock

Suspension?

Blue Ridge Camping Hammock - tree strap

DIY tree strap with DIY Whoopie Sling suspension secured by an aluminum toggle in a marlinspike hitch

Straight out of the box many hammocks require that the user supply the suspension system… the ropes to connect each end of the hammock to the trees or post that will support it. With so many different suspension options gaining popularity lately, it is easy to understand why many manufacturers leave out the suspension, since many users would just remove it and replace with what they prefer.
For example, those coming from recreational hammocks like the Eno or Grand Trunk, may prefer daisy chain straps that allow 5-15 different adjustment points on each end of the hammock. Others accustomed to camping hammocks may insist on a continually adjustable suspension system like Whoopie Slings (click here for DIY Whoopie Sling instructions) made from 7/64” Amsteel. Ultralight hikers may opt for Dyneema or another very thin, light, strong line to keep their weight to a minimum.

I would like to see every camping hammock maker ship their hammocks with, at minimum, a basic suspension setup, even if just a rope like Hennessy uses, and a set of 1.5” – 2” wide tree straps to spread the compressive forces of the forces of the suspension line on the sometimes delicate outer n layer of the tree. Here is a tutorial on 3 easy ways to make tree straps.

Insulation
Many new hammock campers are surprised to find that sleeping in a hammock overnight below about 70 degrees can be a chilly experience. Even in the Summer if the overnight temp will be below 70 for more than an hour or so, then I outfit my hammock with an UnderQuilt or sleeping pad for bottom insulation. For most hammocks I use a fleece and nylon underquilt, an Insultex and nylon underquilt, or both, wrapped around the bottom of the hammock. (click here for more info on underquilts) In the Lawson Hammock, which has a very different bottom shape, I have tried a Therm A Rest Z-Lite Sol Sleep Pad in the Lawson Hammock, and it insulated well, but moved around as I moved during the night.

What now?
Outfitting hammocks for specific uses might be sufficient material for a volume of books. Folks have found creative ways to make hammocks lighter, bigger, more comfortable, more utilitarian, harder to find (camo), warmer, cooler, drier, etc. The options for customization are part of why hammocks are so interesting to me.

Have you tried hammock camping yet? If so, what do you use?

CampSaver.com has a wide selection of hammock gear here.

Please check out the other hammock related articles here at Gear Report for more info on hammocks, tarps, DIY projects, etc. Here are some you might find interesting:


About Jeff

Jeff is the Editor in Chief of Gear Report and a National Shooting Sports Foundation Media member. He reports on the outdoor industry, reviews gear for camping, hiking, shooting, hunting, paddling, backpacking and other active pursuits. A USAF veteran, Jeff earned a MBA in Marketing and Health Services. He specializes in consultative selling and internet marketing. As the VP of BD & Marketing, Jeff provides sales and marketing leadership to MGECOM, Inc. and helps http://MGECOM.com acquire new clients in need of solutions for online merchants in need of Affiliate Marketing program management. Jeff founded and manages Cress Sales & Marketing LLC, offering online sales and marketing consulting and services to online merchants and service providers.