Man sitting in backpacking hammock near mountains

Is It Better to Use a Backpacking Hammock Than a Tent While Hiking?

Out of all the gear, you should bring with you when going on a hike, many people struggle with deciding if they should use a tent or a backpacking hammock. If you’re anything like Seth Haber, the founder, and CEO of Trek Light Gear, you probably grew up using a tent.

However, your opinion could change just as Seth’s did when he tried using a backpacking hammock—he even said the switch has changed his life! Talk about an amazing claim, right?

Well, maybe he’s on to something there.

Person using a hammock in nature.

Advantages of Using a Backpacking Hammock

Alan Dixon posted a guest article on AndrewSkurka.com where he talks about his experience making the switch from being a tent user to using an ultralight backpacking hammock. In the article, he talks about the advantages of backpacking with a hammock:

  • Comfort while camping – hanging in the air to sleep is a lot more comfortable than sleeping on the ground.
  • Improved Sleep Quality – since you are more comfortable sleeping while suspended in the hammock, you’ll be able to sleep better. Since you’re going to sleep better, you’ll feel more well-rested and have more energy to continue your hike.
  • Fast Setup – in many instances, you can set up your backpacking hammock a lot quicker than you can a tent because you don’t have to look for an area that isn’t covered with rocks, branches, or other debris.
  • Reproducible and Consistent Setup – no matter where you are, you can be sure your hammock setup will be done the exact same way night after night. Setting up a tent may not be as simple because you have to contend with a sloping ground, debris on the ground like leaves and twigs, and other abnormalities.
  • Leave No Trace – hikers live by the “Leave no Trace” rule. With a hammock, they don’t have to worry about putting holes in the ground or flattening the grass as you would a tent. Note: To avoid damaging the trees, it is recommended that you use the wide tree straps that come with the best hammocks for backpacking.

How to Choose The Best Backpacking Hammock For Your Needs

If you’re curious about going camping or hiking overnight and want to use a backpacking hammock instead of a tent, we’re here to help you discover how to choose the best hammocks for backpacking. Here are the things you will want to consider when looking for your very own hammock, as detailed by REI.

Man enjoying hammock in nature.

Hammock Dimension: Width

Hammocks vary in width, so it is a smart choice to choose hammock that can accommodate you comfortably. Backpacking hammocks tend to range between 4 feet wide to 8.5 (102 inches) wide.

If you are sleeping with a partner, you may want to opt for a wide width hammock; however, if you are sleeping alone, you’ll want to choose a narrow one because if it is too wide, all that extra fabric will cocoon you and could cause you to feel claustrophobic.

Hammock Dimension: Length

The length of the hammock isn’t nearly as diverse as the width. It is recommended that if you are tall, opt for the 8-foot long hammock, but it is all a matter of what you feel comfortable with.

Hammock Suspension System

The setup of your hammock will require a suspension system, as well as a set of carabiners. Most of the times these are sold with the hammock, but some manufacturers will sell them separately and call them an accessory.

Hammock suspension system in use (black with red stripes)

When choosing the best backpacking hammock to suit your needs, you’ll want to take that into consideration. Do you want to pay extra for necessary products, or are you okay with the extra fee?

Hammock Weight Capacity

Hammocks can be found to accommodate as little as 150 pounds to as much as 500 pounds. When choosing your hammock, you’ll want to consider how much the person or people weigh that will be using it.

While you may be relatively light, maybe your golden lab will want to sleep with you—that’s an extra 50 to 60 pounds that you may not have considered. Make sure you check the specs for static weight.

Weight of The Hammock

When you’re going hiking, the weight of the hammock is going to come into play. While it is true that backpacking hammocks are lighter than tents, you may want to choose an ultralight backpacking hammock if you already have a lot of gear to carry.

Keep in mind that the lighter the hammock, the narrower, and shorter it may be. Also, you will want to consider the suspension system in with the total weight. So typically you can expect to have an overall hammock weight between a 1 pound to several pounds.

Hammock Insulation

Depending on the time of year you that you plan on going hiking, you’ll want to choose a hammock that provides you with enough insulation or air flow. Most hammocks are constructed out of a lightweight nylon that is breathable and allows air to circulate.

If you are choosing to go hiking during the colder months, you’ll want to choose a hammock that works with under quilts, top quilts or sleeping pads.

Hammock in forest.

Conclusion

By choosing to sleep in a backpacking hammock on your next hiking trip can be a great way to minimize the amount of weight you have to carry. Not only that, you have the ability to set up your hammock quickly.

That may not seem like a huge deal, but after backpacking for hours, you’ll be more than eager to get off your feet and be comfortable.

A hammock is a perfect tool because it lets you lay back, kick your feet up and relax—without sticks and stones poking you in the back!

Leave a Comment: