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Hammocks and back issues
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matt brisbin
(firestarter01) - F

Locale: Bay Area
Hammocks and back issues on 12/17/2012 11:33:36 MST Print View

I didn't see any post on the surface that seems related so here it goes. I've been thinking about trying out a Hammock but I feel that I'd just wake up with a sore back since I'm used to sleeping on a very stiff bed or the ground. From pictures and such there just looks to be too much give in the suspension cords. Is this, or has this been, an issue for anyone?


Jolly Green Giant
(regultr) - MLife

Re: Hammocks and back issues on 12/17/2012 12:05:50 MST Print View

You'll likely get more responses over at, but some experienced folks here may reply too.

My experience with hammocks is that they are far more comfortable than the ground. The hang and suspension you're referring to do sag and stretch, but with some tweaking it is possible to lay nearly flat. This is very common to hammockers. To someone on the outside looking in, they think you are bent like a banana. You aren't. You are laying diagonally which mitigates much of the bend and the belief that you need a stiff bed is pretty much a non-issue. Now whether you can sleep in them is another story which is my problem. Despite finding them far more comfortable than the ground, for whatever the reason I just can’t fall asleep in a hammock.

Buy a $20 cheap-o from Wallyworld or somewhere else and give it a shot. Set a ridge line and keep adjusting it until you like the lay.

Purchase or borrow a copy of the Ultimate Hang and it will tell you just about everything you ever wanted to know about hammocking:

Kevin Babione
(KBabione) - MLife

Locale: Pennsylvania
Trying a hammock on 12/17/2012 12:31:41 MST Print View

I tried a hammock and haven't gone back to sleeping on the ground since. One of the best "starter" kits out there is available from Butt In A Sling Hammocks.

Get their Weight Weenie Hammock ($47.95) plus their standard suspension ($25) and for around $75 you've got a great hammock that's set to go out of the box and only weighs around 12 ounces total. They make hammocks that are 11 feet long so there's lots of room for you to get your diagonal lay down to be really comfortable.

Try it for a weekend and you'll be hooked. If you really don't like it you can unload your purchase for minimal loss on Gear Swap (or PM me and I'll probably buy it).

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
minimizing stretch on 12/17/2012 12:42:58 MST Print View

There is actually not much give to a properly hung rig, unless the components' material properties let them stretch. The thinner fabrics like 1.1 oz ripstop nylon will stretch more than heavier ones like 1.7 and 1.9 nylon and even heavier 2+ oz/yd fabrics like taffeta and supplex. Staying with midweight material will minimize this. For suspension, polyester strapping and amsteel are very low stretch.

Brian Reyman

Locale: Rocky Mountains
Flat Lay on 12/17/2012 18:51:50 MST Print View

+1 to what others have said. A key, though, is that you lay on a diagonal across the hammock instead of directly inline with the straps, which keeps things fairly flat. You can see more on it at:
or here:

For many, many hammock users (including myself), laying in a hammock is far more comfortable on the back, knees, hips, shoulders, etc. than on the ground. I've never slept better than when in my hammock (as long as I have the proper insulation under me to keep me warm).

matt brisbin
(firestarter01) - F

Locale: Bay Area
Thanks everyone on 12/18/2012 21:33:41 MST Print View

Thanks for the quick responses everyone. Sounds like I'll be picking one up to give it a try.

Such a great community,

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
But then.... on 12/18/2012 22:00:35 MST Print View

...there are some folks who just are unable to make it in a hammock. Sadly, I am one of them. I spent a winter, spring and summer trying to make a hammock work for me. Got a nice flat lay, good quilt and under-quilt, and simply could not fall asleep in the wretched hammock(s)! Usually I would only fall asleep somewhere around 3:00 or 4:00 am, utterly exhausted, and then have the weirdest dreams I've ever had!

Also, as another sufferer of a wonky back, I found that a hammock did NOT help my back - but it probably related more to not being able to get a restful night's sleep than any physical discomfort of the hammock.

If it works for you, great! If it doesn't, you will at least have tried it. There are some real advantages to hammocking, like very low impact, no worries about flat places to sleep (just have to find two trees the right distance apart!). But in the end, for me, an Exped pad trumped a hammock for a good night's sleep!

Edited by grampa on 12/18/2012 22:02:12 MST.

Joe L
(heyyou) - MLife

Locale: Cutting brush off of the Arizona Tr
just another hanger on 12/22/2012 22:08:07 MST Print View

Hanging in my hammock or lying on my pad on the ground, both seem comfortable at bedtime, then 8-10-12 hours later, the hammock is still just as comfortable, while on the ground is exceptionally uncomfortable. Thus, hanging in a winter snow storm is much, much better than sleeping on the ground for me. In the winter, more insulation (foam pads) is needed under you, but the comfort on long nights is worth carrying the weight to me. YMMV

As others have noted, some get relief from back problems by using a hammock and others get problems when hanging. I can sleep diagonal laying on my right side but get cramps from laying on my left side. That may be pinched nerves in my vertebrae. I mostly sleep on my back, diagonal in my hammock.

For my trail walking, I have no reason to ever go back to the ground. I can usually find trees or adjacent-to-the-corner-post, reinforced fence posts to hang across. If the land is that treeless, I adjust my hiking time the day before and after in order to get to suitable trees. That is the good news about topographic variation, the vegetation changes with the altitude. Haven't spent much time in slickrock canyons.

george carr
(hammer-one) - F - MLife

Locale: Walking With The Son
Re:Hammocks and back issues on 12/25/2013 20:17:42 MST Print View

I fought the urge to try a hammock for years and finally gave in two years ago because of back issues. I no longer have back problems on hikes, and if I start having back problems at home I hang in the hammock overnight and my back problems go away. If I had my way I'd hang 365 days a year (can't seem to convince the wife to let me put hooks in the bedroom walls, lol).

Steven McAllister
(brooklynkayak) - MLife

Locale: Atlantic North East
Hammocks and back issues on 12/31/2013 10:57:10 MST Print View

I sleep on a very firm mattress at home for back comfort reasons.

I tend to move from back to side, to back to other side all night long when I sleep in my bed or on the ground.
Combination of appendages going to sleep and hip and knee sensitivities.

I do not do this in a hammock.
I may move to my side once or twice all night and instead stay mostly on my back.

I always sleep better and longer in a hammock.

Mine is a Warbonnet BlackBird(gathered end), but I would probably get the same results in most any hammock.

Some people prefer bridge/spreader bar end hammocks, others like gathered end.

The Blackbird has a foot box that makes for a flatter lay for taller people than a standard gathered end hammock.

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Hammocks and back issues on 12/31/2013 11:50:28 MST Print View

There is virtually no give in the suspension cords as they are usually something like Amsteel Blue for whoopie slings, or low stretch webbing as with the Warabonnet strap system.

There is some give with the hammock fabric, but that is when first loading the hammock and bottoms out with any real weight. With high quality hammocks, weight recommendations have as much to do with stretch and comfort considerations as safety. If the fabric stretches too much, you can't get a flat lay--- your butt is going to sag down, so be honest about matching your weight to the maker's recommendations.

If the hammock is properly hung and adjusted, you should find yourself laying flat with your feet slightly higher. You should be laying on the diagonal with no "banana" shape at all--- it's more like a taco :) The fabric is in contact with your entire body, so you don't have the pressure points at hip and shoulder like sleeping on the ground. You don't need much of a pillow either.

Taller sleepers need a wider hammock as much or more than a longer one. The shorter SUL hammocks like the Nano 7 tend to be narrower as well, making them even more cramped for taller users. BIAS is one manufacturer that offers wide gathered end hammocks. Hennessy has height recommendations for their models. Most of the Warbonnet models are fine, but I would ask questions if you are really tall. IIRC, the owner of Warbonnet is a tall guy.

I'm pretty much a side sleeper in a bed, but sleep on my back most of the time in a hammock. You can certainly roll on your side. I will often lay with one leg bent just for an alternate position.

I sleep longer and sounder in a hammock and free of mud, rocks, roots and bugs.

It takes a little practice to get the feel of a proper hang. The height of the tree straps and ends of the hammock will vary with the span between the trees, so each setup is a little different. Using a ridgeline is an excellent way to judge the tension on the hammock.

I absolutely recommend setting up at home, taking time to get the feel of a good hang and spending a few full nights in the hammock.

I have occasional lumbar issues that have not been a problem with hammock use.