Backpacking is one of the best ways to experience nature and tents are the typical form of shelter.
Yet, camping tents have their drawbacks so it comes as no surprise that they’re slowly losing popularity to the much lighter and much more versatile hammock.
If you haven’t yet given up your bulky, heavy tent for the hammock then this article is for you!
Advantages of Taking a Hammock
Backpacking with a hammock instead of a tent will save you weight and a lot of it. Most likely your tent weighs at minimum 16 ounces while hammocks are very light and usually clock in at five to 24 ounces.
I like to cover 10 to 15 miles a day on most trails and saving a few ounces up to a few pounds on my sleep system is a no brainer.
Saving weight is important but a hammocks versatility is really why it rules supreme over tents. A tent requires a flat or semi-flat area while a hammock only needs to be hung in a way that allows you to sleep.
My favorite and most enjoyable advantage of using a hammock over a tent is that you can be comfy in bed without separating yourself from nature.
You can use your hammock for an afternoon rest while taking in the scenery and during the night you can star gaze while staying warm.
Don’t forget that you can cook your breakfast and make your coffee or tea in the morning without getting out of bed.
Cooking in a tent is a major fire hazard and can lead to severe burns.
Tips for Taking a Hammock Backpacking
Practice, Practice, Practice
A very important tip is to practice setting your hammock up before you hit the trail. The first time I used a hammock while on the trail was a total disaster.
I had just arrived home after a four month trip through Japan and South Korea and a day later I was backpacking on the Channel Islands.
I ordered the hammock while traveling and I took the hammock still in the box to the Channel Islands as I didn’t think I would have a difficult time setting it up, after all it is just a hammock.
And I was right, for the most part…
I watched a few Youtube videos detailing how to set up the hammock before the cell signal disappeared, but I never actually practiced setting up my hammock beforehand and I spent the first four nights paying for it.
I was able to successfully get the hammock set up but I wasn’t able to do so in a way that was comfortable.
As the days progressed my back felt worse and worse to the point of unbearability.
Finally, to my relief on the fifth night I was able to get it set up in a way that didn’t leave me tossing and turning all night in pain and agony. Needless to say, I slept like a log.
It is very important that you make sure to set the hammock up in a way that does not damage the tree you are hanging from.
I’ve seen way too many backpackers damage trees by setting the hammock up without using tree straps or other methods designed to protect the tree.
Take An Underquilt
When sleeping in a hammock you can have the best sleeping bag and still be cold. Your weight compresses the sleeping bag against the hammock when you lay down, stopping the insulation from happening and leaving you very cold.
Investing in an underquilt will stop this from happening and allow you to have a comfy warm nights rest.
Tricks for Staying Warm In a Hammock
Underquilts are quite expensive and if you are reading this then you may just be starting out with a hammock and want to test the waters before diving in.
Lucky for you, I have a few tricks that will allow you to stay warm at night without breaking the bank.
You can take a sleeping pad instead of an underquilt and still stay warm. When using a sleeping pad do not put it in parallel to the hammock, instead place it so it is at a diagonal.
By doing this you will stay fully insulated from the cold when you sleep on a diagonal.
Using a pad instead of an underquilt works for the first time but it does have drawbacks. For instance, a sleeping pad shifts during the night so you will slide around in your hammock.
However, even with a minor drawback like this, using a pad in lieu of a underquilt is still a viable option.
Keeping Your Eye on the Prize
Instead of spending a few hundred dollars on an underquilt watch for flash sales and buy one at a heavily discounted rate.
I use flash sales to buy a lot of my gear and even bought my first hammock and rainfly for $45 during a flash sale.
Make Your Own Underquilt
If you enjoy DIY projects then making an underquilt from an old sleeping bag is cheap and easy.
Check out local thrift stores for quality down or synthetic bags if you don’t have a sleeping bag you’re willing to sacrifice. Making your own underquilt requires some sewing skills so if you’re like me and lack those then try your luck asking a dry cleaner for help.
Benefits of Taking a Hammock Backpacking
There are many benefits in choosing a hammock over a tent, such as the weight and space you will save as well as how much time you will save setting up and taking down your hammock.
They can also be used during the day to relax in while staying immersed in nature. When you decide it’s time for bed you’ll be able to enjoy nature without compromising being warm and cozy.
If you take advantage of flash sales you won’t need to break the bank for a quality hammocks or accessories.
The bottom line is that you will never know if a hammock is right for you until you try it!