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how to hammock camp?
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William Mitchell
(astronutski) - F
how to hammock camp? on 04/24/2008 13:07:26 MDT Print View

We've backpack camped for a few years now, going lighter and lighter every chance we get, which is now getting more and more expensive for those precious ounces, but that's another thread for another day, lol.

What I'm wondering is how do the Hammock sleepers out there like it? I would love to try it but don't want to commit to $300 for a new system to find I don't like it. Sure, laying in a hammock after a long hike sure feels great and so do little naps, but how about overnight? I'm a side sleeper (with frequent rollovers), is that really possible in a hammock? Maybe I just haven't found the correctly spaced trees yet, but in my limited experience there's too much arc to the hammock to really lay on my side.

Seeking tips and advice from the hammockers out there please.

Bill Mitchell

Richard Matthews
(food) - F

Locale: Colorado Rockies
starter kit on 04/24/2008 15:55:43 MDT Print View

I think the best starter kit is a Claytor No Net ($45) with ccf pads between the layers. Use a painters drop cloth for a tarp and sleep in your back yard. It took me three nights in the hammock before I understood why there were many loyal fans. YMMV.

Scott Ashdown
(waterloggedwellies) - F

Locale: United Kingdom
Re: how to hammock camp? on 04/24/2008 17:30:15 MDT Print View

Hi Bill,

Just a thought, but many new hammock users sleep lengthways in there hammocks and are subequently more likely to notice the arc. If however you lay more diagonally across the hammock you can pretty much lay flat.


Kris Thornton
(kthornton) - F

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: how to hammock camp? on 04/24/2008 17:52:51 MDT Print View

I use a Hennessy Hammock Ultralight A-Sym and find that it meets all of my needs. I'm a side sleeper as well and because of the asymetrical cut of the hammock have found that this isn't a problem. The hammock is cut so that once you are in it you lie at about a 20 degree diagonal and this is very flat and comfortable.

The stock Ultralight weighs about 880g but I've got the larger fly on it to deal with all of the rain we get here in the Pacific Northwest. Hennessey also have snakeskins which slide down over the hammock and fly which makes take down and setup alot less messy if things are wet and only takes about 2 minutes. With both of these on the Ultralight that bumbs the weight upto about 1.3Kg. Its more than a tarp or poncho but a lot more comfy and during the warmer months you don't have to have a foam pad under you.

If you are really looking to cut weight you can get the Hyperlight which is about 700g including the smaller fly.

Hammock camping also has to fit the areas that you like to hike in. Where I am there is no problem finding trees to hang it but if you are above the tree line it can be more difficult. I've heard of people using rock climbing nuts to hang hammocks or using poles to pitch it like a bivy but I haven't tried either yet. I'm looking to do the John Muir Trail next summer and I doubt if I'll bring the hammock.

The Hennessy website has some good info on hammock camping on it and so does Sgt. Rock's Hiking HQ.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
hammock sleeping on 04/24/2008 17:53:37 MDT Print View

first, what hammock have you tried, and how much "arc" did you use it with?

The arc or banana shape in your hammock will allow you to sleep on a diagonal. Once you find this position, you will fall into it automatically. More arc, the more flat you will lay. Side sleeping is enhanced the longer the hammock, as well. A 6'3" man weighing 235lbs will have a hell of a time getting comfortable in a small recreational hammock.

so, do tell how tall you are, your weight, and the features you think you want (bottom entry, top entry, pockets built in, small tarp, huge tarp, removable netting, no netting etc...) there are 6-7 companies who make hammocks devoted to camping. I have a modified Claytor Mosquito with a MacCat tarp, and have been hammock camping for 6 months or so. Chances are Im not going back to ground sleeping, ever. Its that nice.

Edited by mikeinfhaz on 04/24/2008 17:56:06 MDT.

Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Hammocks...been there, done that. on 04/24/2008 18:18:23 MDT Print View

I too thought hammock camping may be the way to go. Unfortunately, I had zero information on the topic and zero influences. I also had little help from my local gear shops and no one I knew used them.

So......and you can quote my wife on this, I bought nearly every hammock I could get my hands on to try them out. I got killed with shipping costs and in the end, none of them worked for me. I should mention I'm a big guy (6'6" and 265 pounds). My sleeping preferences and both my height and weight were factors when it didn't work.

In the end I can say with some clarity that some manufacturers are better then others. Hennessey Hammocks more or less are the industry leaders because they have a ton of patents on unique features which make things much nicer. One of their patents includes an entry point which comes up from the bottom and essentially closes automatically with velcro when you get in and put your body weight into the hammock. They also have mosquito netting integrated and already spaced out, so all you have to do is tie two ends of the hammock to the tree and everything is already laid out perfectly. For me, it was a total pain to get out the Hennessey, however. I also tried Jungle Hammocks, Speer Hammocks, Eagles Nest Outfitters (ENO), Mosquito Hammock, and the Travel Hammock. I found the Travel Hammock to be the biggest, but it was the worst made. All the others are made fairly well, vary in pricing, and have different frills. I think the Hennessey was likely the best overall and had the most frills all sensibly packaged.

Personally, if I were you, I'd order an ultralight with no mosquito netting from one of these guys (the Travel Hammock probably runs around $20) and you can figure out quickly if hammock camping is for you. Just set it up in your backyard and give it a shot. Sleeping diagnally will allow you to almost lay flat.

Jacks R Better is a manufacturer working with something call the "Bridge Hammock" with the unique feature being a spreader bar (like a trekking pole) at either end. The theory is that it will spread the laying surface out nearly equally and nearly flat, but some people report some shoulder pinching.

Anyway, that's my two cents. In the end, I didn't find one that worked for me whether because of my size or because of my weight. Actually, come to think of it, the failure of the hammock is what caused me to read Ryan Jordan's Ultralight Backpacking book and it is what got me here. I can honestly say the best night of rest I had was following one simple comment Ryan made which was to find a suitable and soft surface to sleep on. Trying this, whether in a tent or tarp (or however light you want to go) was actually my saving grace as I slept plenty fine without even a pad of any sort. Putting this all in context, "nothing weight less then nothing", meaning, the hammock adds weight and ultimately is poorly insulated with the wind and ground sucking your heat away. Sleeping on the ground can be more comfortable, more roomy, and lighter if you play your cards right.

Jeff Boone
(jnboone) - MLife
The answer is........ on 04/24/2008 18:33:09 MDT Print View

Is a great a resource for hammock camping as backpacking light is to UL.

I have a Hennessey Hyperlite and love it. There is a learning curve though. Went camping with my son this weekend and had to sleep on the ground (on sand, behind a waterfall in a cave!!) Sure did miss my hammock!

Joe Kuster
(slacklinejoe) - MLife

Locale: Flatirons
how to hammock camp on 04/24/2008 18:50:03 MDT Print View

I'm 5'11" at 210lbs and I toss an turn a lot. I've found my happy place with hammock camping and I currently enjoy the HH hyperlight.

The trick is insulation during the non-hot part of the year. Even the 50's can be very cold in a hammock if you arne't prepared.

William Mitchell
(astronutski) - F
followups to questions/info so far on 04/24/2008 19:12:27 MDT Print View

Wow, what fantastic comments! Let me try to comment further.

For starters I'm 5'9, 175lb. We've used junky string hammocks from Walmart for a few years, but this year we bought ENO Singles and boy those are a great upgrade! I had read something about laying diagonally but thought I needed a much wider hammock to do that, maybe I do. The single was wide enough to lay straight, but I don't think I'd like to try it diag. I was thinking about getting teh double and trying it.

I don't know how to convey the amopunt of arc, but it was more than I liked laying straight, which is the way I thought it was done. I suppose I can picture it getting flatter diagonally with more arc, makes sense.

I will look into the Hennessy, thanks for that tip. Also will get on that hammock forum!

That's another thing I wsa very concerned about, the cold back. We camp down in the low 50's possibly high 40's at times and I would definitely need something under the back, like under the hammock for insulation.

Camping in the cave sounds absolutely beautiful, and behind a waterfall, how cool! I wouldn't be able to help myself from thinking I was taking some bear's house, that might be upset with me upon returning though ;^)

And finally, I don't really know what features to look for, I don't know what's out there. I suppose pockets would be nice, bottom entry scares me, definitely bug net and rain tarp, most likely big so my pack stays dry.

Thanks again guys, this is very informative stuff!

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
hammock chat on 04/24/2008 21:07:53 MDT Print View

see you on the hammock forums Bill. those folk'll steer you straight.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
how to hammock camp on 04/24/2009 11:09:13 MDT Print View

to ressurect an older thread - on it's anniversary to boot:

James K. - the brand I did not see mentioned is the Claytor hammock - the "jungle" is huge at 10' long and is made for larger folk. I agree that no way you are going to fit in a small 4x8' size but Clark now makes a "NX-200" that is designed for big guys. The high price is a stinger tho. Ive seen other threads where you mention inadequate coverage for tents and tarps as well. Hope you the best, I know its been a while since these postings but have you found sufficient shelter?

about staying warm: you use a pad on the ground, so why not in a hammock? it is a common mistake and often overlooked. about 5 years ago, i did it myself, expecting my bag to keep me warm. That was the beginning and the end of my hanging. It wasnt until 2 years ago that i was searching the web for down quilt instructions that i came across JustJeff's site and it was jammed full of useful hammock info, so i took it up again..(and never looked back)
so here i am, just under 2 years using a hammock, and about 1.5 years as a full time hanger, started out without any knowledge of proper site selection, didnt know anything about underquilts, or staying warm, and had a blind prejudice against hanging because i thought (like most others) isnt it hard to find trees? arent hammocks cold? what if it rains?

now i make and sell quality down underquilts in a 2/3 length (to keep torso and thighs warm) with 2.5" loft and will keep you warm down to freezing at least, in conjunction with a short lower leg pad (trimmed ccf) you can do well for 3 seasons. For as little as 14oz! Want to camp at 16°? add a 1/4" ccf pad to the entire rig, combined with the UQ and youre good to go. (provided your topside insulation is adequate)

i urge anyone seeking advice to visit the hammock forums. for some reason, even tho most folk on this site are very knowledgable, there are still arguments over which ground pad is better..etc.. when the point of hammocking is often overlooked and sometimes met with disdain - likely based on ignorance. and that's ok, we're here to help.

the ability to choose what shelter components work for you, your environment, and your hiking style are priceless. these choices can make the perfect shelter. so read up on them, decide what conditions you are willing to test your gear in, how much you want to spend, and if you are confident enough to take the plunge. the beauty of all this is you can pick a hammock, match a tarp to your expected conditions, tinker with the support system, use pads or quilts or both together- sleep 4 seasons in most areas of USA, (unless you like to camp in howling wind, 12' of snow and -22 degrees, thats all YOU, im staying home!)
see Shug's youtube videos of winter hammock camping in Minnesota.

fwiw, my 3 season rig good to below freezing is under 5lbs total. that's hammock, tarp, top quilt, underquilt and pad with all stuff sacks and stakes/guylines. I just got a MacCat spinnaker tarp so the weight is several ounces less since i last checked..
my winter rig is just ounces heavier since I forego a netting hammock but add weight with a much larger tarp, and all fits into a ULA Conduit. happy hangin' and we'll see you in the trees!

Edited by mikeinfhaz on 05/01/2009 15:58:23 MDT.

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Hammock Camping on 04/24/2009 11:29:52 MDT Print View


For sure visit the hammock camping forum. I did that before converting to hammocks.

I suppose the hammock hangers are a little like UL'ers, they (we?) tend to be somewhat zealous about it.

Overall, hammocks are generally heavier than the lightest UL option (tarp/bivy combo) but can be as light or lighter than tents depending on equipment.

I converted primarily because I sleep WAY better in a hammock than on the ground (even on soft forest duff using a BA pad).

I've tried to customize my hammock setup so I can go to ground if necessary, so that takes a little more time and effort, but has been worth it for me.

One huge positive for me has been that there are a LOT more places I can camp along the trails I usually hike with a hammock. Rocks, roots, steep slopes, heavy rains? No problem! Lounge in comfort during a break? I can have my hammock up in about a minute and use it as a chair or to lay in. Ah.... sweet!

John Myers
(dallas) - F - MLife

Locale: North Texas
Side Sleep on 04/24/2009 11:33:09 MDT Print View

Also, to answer one of your questions, I usually sleep on my side in my hammocks.

And even though I sleep on the diagonal and lie almost totally flat, I cannot sleep on my stomach. My head and feet are raised a little bit.

FYI, 6' 1", 175.

Patrick Browning
(optimator) - F
Hammocks on 04/24/2009 12:37:45 MDT Print View

I just bought my first hammock a couple of months ago. I went with the Claytor Jungle hammock. I have NEVER been able to sleep as soundly on the ground as I do in my hammock. Eventually I'll replace the stock tarp with a sil tarp, but in the meantime I don't care at all about the extra weight, the comfort makes it worth it! The gang over at hammockforums are a great group of people. VERY helpful. Check the classifieds over there. The odds are, if you pick something up and it doesn't work for you, you can turn it quick and get your money back. I looked at hammocks with a skeptical eye for along time, till I tried one....

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
hammock nonsense on 04/24/2009 13:17:21 MDT Print View

good news Patrick, and its becoming more common. One thing i love and will report every time is the sheer versatility of a hammock/tarp combo. With a tarp (like the jrb 11x10) pitched high, you can stand up. I pitched mine about 7' high and enjoyed some Jack while sitting in my hammock. The job of the tarp was to keep me dry as i cooked my meal, and enjoyed a campfire (!) right there... in drizzling rain that kept all of my campmates in their confining, tiny solo tents. Sure, a guy with a GG the One might have us beat on weight, but so what? He's got little to no view, and what view is only in one direction, he's got to sit on his haunches to get anything done, and cannot cook inside a puny vestibule without fear of burning the highly flammable spinnaker or choking to death on scentless, poisonous CO gas - it truly is a nice feeling to have so much space, and fwiw its truly a multi use item also. Scenario: its raining. hard. ive hiked 14 miles and dont want to search for a flat, well draining, campsite that hasnt been beat down over the months by countless tent campers. my tarp is on top of my pack so i pitch it quickly on a rocky sloping ground full of roots and pinecones. In less than 2 minutes, all while standing, ive got a 100 square foot shelter. and, all of my gear stays dry in my pack, until i decide to pull it out. mopping up a tent floor is a thing of the past. I can arrange all of my gear and such from a standing position. also, my 6 tentmates can come over and enjoy a game of cards! (i should start charging rent) exept here's the problem... a bunch of my tent camping mates are converting to hammocks.
I have converted at least 4 tenters to the way of the Ewok without doing so much as explaining in as little as one minute how the hammock works. Some of the guys and gals i know that have converted were not influeced by me whatsoever, they simply looked at my hammock and realized there's something amazing going on here... something you wont read about in Backpacker and something you dont see on the showroom at REI. One hour in the Warbonnet Blackbird may make you as passionate as the rest of us. Is it worth a shot? you call it mate.. if you like your tent, thats cool. If you like the tarp/bivy combo thats cool. (but sleeping on the ground under a tarp is exactly how i made the conversion to sleeping in the air under a tarp.. not much learning curve there- side sleeping being second in my decision)
*not trying to point out any flaws specific to the GG One shelter, as I understand its a fine shelter so excuse me for using it as an example :)
there are those who try several setups and just cant do the hammock thing, but from my personal observation Id say it is about a 10>1 ratio in favor of hammocks.
thanks for listening, im on my way to look at electric cars. good day!

Edited by mikeinfhaz on 04/24/2009 13:29:31 MDT.

te - wa
(mikeinfhaz) - F

Locale: Phoenix
hammock videos on 04/24/2009 13:53:04 MDT Print View

here's a little short video i made last week, after camping under 2" of fresh snow we made our way into Sycamore Canyon near Sedona, AZ.
the video is silly on purpose. by silly i mean im putting on a fake accent and being fairly carefree about specific details on our equipment. watch at your leisure:

this is a video of winter extreme conditions (-26°F!) as put out by our hangin' friend Shug Emery:
he's nuts!

Edited by mikeinfhaz on 04/24/2009 14:25:11 MDT.

Jonathan Boozer
(anywayoutside) - MLife

Locale: South East
Re: hammock videos on 04/24/2009 14:07:12 MDT Print View

Hammock or not - Shug's videos are a must all of them.

Hikin' Jim
(hikin_jim) - MLife

Locale: Orange County, CA, USA
FWIW on 04/24/2009 14:21:15 MDT Print View

Here's my experience, FWIW:

I have a Hennessy A-Sym. I sleep great in it. It takes a bit of getting used to, but I sleep really well. I found it tough at first to get in and out of my bag in the hammock. I got used to it after a bit, but it's still more difficult to get in and out of your bag and get your bag situated around yourself properly.

I use a 3/4 length Ridgerest inside the hammock to insulate my underside. Speaking of insulation, I have had some cold, miserable nights in my hammock. They are well ventilated -- which is great when in warm weather -- but that ventilation allows a lot of heat to be lost by convection when I'm in my 32F WM Summerlight. I no longer use the hammock if it's going to be less than 60F at night or if it will be windy.

Yes, I can use a warmer bag, go to a full length Ridgerest, get an underquilt, etc, but that starts adding up in terms of weight. When it's going to be less than 60F at night, I've found that I'm better off overall sleeping on the ground.

Overall though, I love my Hennesy A-Sym, when I can use it.

Therein lies another problem. I live in Southern California. In the mountain areas close to me, it's mostly chapparal with a few scattered pockets of oaks in the canyon bottoms. A lot of the time, it's hard for me to find appropriate trees in usable proximity to one another for my hammock. I find that due to the paucity of trees in S. Calif, I generally only use the hammock when I'm going to somewhere I've been before and am confident suitable trees will be there. I've chanced it a few times and done well, but there are an awful lot of places where I can't use my hammock. Also, as has been pointed out, trips above tree line make hammock use difficult.

Lastly, I can't always find trees that are of the size that will work with the supplied straps. I bought a couple of lengths of 1" climbing web, and that solved the problem.

Richard Nisley
(richard295) - M

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: hammock videos on 04/24/2009 14:33:11 MDT Print View


Great job on the videos! Not only interesting content but a lively and funny delivery.

todd h
(funnymoney) - MLife

Locale: SE
Re: hammock videos on 04/24/2009 15:43:01 MDT Print View

Great video, Mike!