Thinking of venturing into the great outdoors and sleeping in a hammock? If so, certain aspects of spending the night in a hammock are unsurpassed. At the same time, hammock camping, like all good things, comes with some drawbacks.
When considering going into the wild, it’s easy to picture the best-case scenario for your camping or hiking trip. The imagination envisions a pristine, utopian outdoor setting free of lightning bolts, mosquitoes, stinging nettles and shivering cold.
In the same way, it can be easy to paint an idea of how you think your hammock experience will go without properly weighing the potential ups and downs. What follows will give you an excellent idea of what to expect before ever stepping foot outside.
Benefits of Sleeping in a Camping Hammock
If you’re considering purchasing a camping hammock, the benefits are what grab your attention. The good news is there are plenty of upsides to sleeping in a hammock overnight. What are some of the best ones? Here goes.
It’s an Uplifting Experience (Off the Ground)
Ever get a tree root in your back or a rock under your head while resting in a hammock? We didn’t think so.
The ground can be an inhospitable companion at times. It’s where critters hang out and most campers aren’t stoked by the thought of close contact with furry friends (or fiends) in the dead of night. The ground can also be uneven, slanted or rock covered, making for rough to impossible tenting repose. That’s no problem with a camping hammock since ground conditions are largely irrelevant.
For overnight river floaters, there can be another challenge. Some river corridors have plenty of trees along their banks but the ground surrounding those trees can be quite marshy, especially after a heavy storm. Imagine running out of daylight and having to set your tent up on swamp—not even close to fun. A hammock, in that scenario, would get you through the night quite nicely, however.
It’s More Comfortable
Virtually everyone would agree that a properly hung hammock is far superior in comfort when compared to a traditional tent. Especially if you’ll be spending multiple nights in the wilderness, your body will thank you. It stands to reason that a better rest will give you an all-around more enjoyable experience while camping.
There are also gathering evidence that implies hammocks are more than just comfortable. Their extreme comfort can lead to better health according to a number of studies.
An NPR news article cites a study from the University of Geneva (Switzerland) where sleep in a stationary bed was compared with sleep in a bed that rocked ever so slightly, much as a hammock does.
The study found individuals fell asleep more quickly who experienced gentle rocking and that their deep sleep state known as REM sleep increased in duration. Also, there was an uptick in what neuroscientists call “sleep spindles”. These rapid bursts are associated with the brain’s ability to remember new information and rewire itself.
It’s More Versatile
When it comes to tent dwelling, you need a flat, dry spot. If you don’t find that flat, dry spot, you could be in for a long, miserable night.
Not so when sleeping in a camping hammock. You have a lot more options regardless of the terrain. Want to nestle into some thick brush where you’re unlikely to be spotted by other campers? No problem. Want to tie your hammock over a babbling brook? You can do that, too—just don’t forget where you’re at in the event of a late-night bathroom trip!
Can Save Weight in Your Backpack
Tent camping requires a sleeping bag, sleeping mat, poles, and stakes. Hammocking gear, on the other hand, tends to weigh less than traditional tents. Especially if you’ll be on the move while camping such as river exploration or hiking, the weight of your gear is a high priority. This can make or break your trip.
You need to carry along all of your necessary gear but if it’s too heavy, you’ll struggle. Even small amounts of weight over long treks can make a huge difference. In some cases, you can cut the weight of your sleep dwelling gear in half by moving from a tent to a hammock.
You’ll still need a rain fly/bug net suspension, suspension system, top quilt with stuff sacks and an under quilt for your hammock. Even so, that can mean carrying as much as five pounds less in gear.
Drawbacks of Sleeping in a Camping Hammock
The fewer unpleasant surprises when spending overnight time in the outdoors, the better. Since every camping system comes with some bad points along with the goods, here are a few of the downsides of hammock camping to keep in mind. If these “maladies” give you major pause, hammock camping may not be your best choice.
Steeper Learning Curve
Most people, with little to no effort, can set up a simple tent in the wild. That isn’t often the case with camping hammocks. There’s a science involved from finding the right trees to achieving the optimal angle and sag.
You might go into the wild without trying your new tent out at home first. You’d probably fare pretty well with that game plan, too. Trying that same approach with your new hammock would likely not go so well.
First, you’ll need additional gear along with your hammock to be successful. And the only way to figure out what you’ll need is through plenty of research and practice.
Because of the steep learning curve involved, it’s smart to try out your hammock in your backyard first. If you have a tough time setting it up there, imagine the hassle of trying the same thing far away from civilization. It’s also wise to sleep in your hammock at home to learn what angle works for you and what doesn’t.
If you struggle to get your hammock system just right, don’t stress. With ample practice, you’ll learn how to set one up like an all-star in no time.
Staying Warm Takes More Effort
Most people who’ve been in the wilderness overnight have spent at least one cold, lousy night in a tent. That could’ve been due to a number of factors including dampness of gear or an inadequate sleeping bag.
The ground can leach warmth from you in a tent to a point but it also returns some of the heat your body emits. A cool draft of air underneath your hammock, however, can quickly make your body cold with no available heat return.
Even if the temp only dips slightly below 70 degrees while hammock camping, you could wind up with a cold backside or worse. If you’ve ever slept in a tent on an air mattress on a chilly night, you experienced the same thing as you would in a hammock. There’s air above and below you in either situation.
That’s no problem if you run into hot weather because that airflow will keep you cooler in a hammock than a tent. But if things get cold, you’ll need additional gear to stay comfy. The good news is that underquilts, over quilts and a rain/wind fly all help to keep your hammock toastier.
Sometimes a product’s greatest strength can also be a weakness depending on the situation. One of the biggest plus sides of camping hammocks is they can be hung virtually anywhere…if adequate trees are close by, that is. Without trees, you’re in for a long night.
Sleeping in a treeless field, a sandy beach, above the tree line or in a dessert could be tough to impossible with a hammock. Yes, it may seem obvious, but there are some terrain types where you’ll just need a tent.
Another consideration is if you plan to stay at a prescribed camping site. There’s always the possibility you won’t have the trees you need to effectively hang your hammock. If you’ll be camping close to your car, you can remedy this by bringing a hammock stand.
Can Be Challenging to Get In & Out Of
Learning how to sleep in a hammock isn’t automatic. In a traditional tent, getting in and out is generally a “piece of cake”. Simply unzip the door and step out and go back in and zip it back up.
Hammocks are a bit more challenging. Just like mounting and dismounting a horse takes practice, so will entering and exiting your hammock. Eventually, you’ll figure out a system that works for you, though.
Is Sleeping in a Camping Hammock Right for You?
That’s ultimately your call. Outdoor diehards recognize the value of both camping hammocks and traditional tents. Both are valuable options to have in your outdoor repertoire and are worth using multiple times each season.
Now that you’re armed with the pros and cons of sleeping in a hammock, you’ll have a better idea of what type of sleeping arrangement to choose. It mostly depends on the nature of your outdoor adventure and what you prefer. The most important thing is to have the best time out in nature as you possibly can.
Hammock or traditional tent? Our vote is either one depending on your goals and the terrain you anticipate.