Hammock Camping

hammock camping

hammock campingIf you’re into camping, always had a tent, and haven’t ever tried hammock camping, allow me a few minutes to convince you to convert. Now, there are some drawbacks to hammock camping depending on your style and where you’re going. First, most hammocks are for one person. So if you and the significant other need to snuggle, this may not be for you. There are double wide hammocks for two, but I can assure you those are not comfy with 2 in them. The second issue is that you need trees, poles, something to hang from. The one exception to this rule is a Lawson Blue Ridge Hammock, which can be used as a ground bivy.

So let’s talk about why I like hammocks more than tents these days. I don’t like sleeping on the ground, so I have to carry a nice mattress to keep me comfy. That mattress has to be pretty big to stay off the ground and to stay insulated, both means big and heavy in my pack. With hammocks, there are no rocks poking your back, so all you need is appropriate insulation to keep you comfy. Depending on the weather, insulation may not be a factor. In cold weather (depending on what you consider cold) you’ll need something as simple as a small pad inside the hammock with you, a sleeping bag, etc. If it’s really cold, you’d want to have an underquilt. What is that, you ask? An underquilt is exactly what is sounds like. It’s a quilt that hangs under your hammock and leaves a small space of air so that the quilt insulates you from air temps, and your body heat warms up the trapped air, keeping your underside warm (commonly referred to as “CBS” or Cold Butt Syndrome amongst hangers). By the way, the term “hangers” refers to those who like to camp via hammock instead of tents. You’ll also consider a top quilt, to keep your body warm, such as a sleeping bag, blanket or whatever keeps you warm depending on the circumstances. Sounds like a bit of stuff to carry, and weight, but there are light pieces of this gear that still make it lighter in your pack than tent camping.

Let’s talk about the hammocks themselves. There are what is called gathered end hammocks and bridge hammocks. There are a few differences and as a backpacker, weight will be the most. We’re talking about 1-3 pounds of difference, but that could be a big deal depending on your needs and circumstances. The bridge hammocks tend to lay a little more flat, but in both hammocks you can lay diagonally and achieve a flat posture. The comparison to the gathered end hammocks is that if you don’t lay diagonally, you tend to be in a cocoon type of posture and your shoulders and hips are kind of crunched in on you, depending on you size. Bridge hammocks have spreader bars  that keep the sides spread out and a more natural flat laying posture. The bridge type hammocks usually incorporate a bug net in their construction, so a separate net isn’t needed like on some gathered end hammocks. Some of the hammocks, both gathered end and bridge style, also include a rain fly in their total price for a total system.

There are plenty of opinions out there, and plenty of vendors. I have personally bought from Arrowhead Equipment out of Idaho for my Jar Bridge River underquilt for my Lawson Blue Ridge Hammock. There are plenty of other vendors on the web and the big box retailers such as REI, Bass Pro Shops, Cabelas, Field and Stream and others who carry hammocks. My preference is to buy from somewhere I can touch and test the products knowing you’ll pay more for it, with an easier return process (like REI’s return policy is outstanding). However, as mentioned, I came across AHE out of Idaho and the ratings, custom service, small business atmosphere and the great reviews they got brought me to them.


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