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Going from hammocking to the ground - and now stuck in between
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Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Going from hammocking to the ground - and now stuck in between on 01/04/2013 16:14:49 MST Print View

Long post warning.

This past march I got the MYOG bug and taught myself how to use a thread injector. My first project was a gathered-end hammock. I loved it for afternoons in the woods and a few naps. It wasn't until this past fall that I slept overnight in it. Overall, it was pretty comfy, but I'm a side sleeper and had issues with my hips and knees getting torqued through the night. Yep, I slept diagonal and had 83% sag. I even put a pillow between my knees.

So I went back to the ground, thinking, "It wasn't uncomfortable when I was in Scouts."

I must have had amnesia or something, because I swear my old Z-Rest was comfortable as a young kid and teenager. That thing got me through a few years of overnight trips, and then finally Philmont. It's been 12 years since that trek through New Mexico, and my first night back on the ground wasn't comfortable at all. Prior to my return to the ground, I bought an REI Stratus pad - budget friendly pad...seemed thick and comfy. It did not do the trick with keeping me comfortable. I would wake up with my knees, hips, and shoulders killing me. I probably had to adjust my position 10 times each night.

I'm sure this is the quintessential question for backpackers - how can I sleep comfortably?

Here's my experience with pads - for reference, I'm 6'3'', lanky, and 165 lbs wet.

1) Z-Rest - after years of use, it's pretty useless for me.

2) REI Stratus - 2.5" maybe on the outer baffles, but certainly not in the middle. My hip and shoulder can hit the ground even when it's fully inflated. This leaves me a little disheartened with air-filled pads. Would I have a different experience with a NeoAir or Exped?

3) Classic Thermarest - borrowed this from my dad. He used it over 12 years ago on our Philmont trek. Hips and shoulders DONT touch the ground when I laid down on my hardwood floors. This has me baffled (no pun intended) because it's about 1.5" thick. I have not spent a night in it yet, so take this with a grain of salt.

This is where it leaves me - stuck between wanting to find a good ground system and wondering if I should go back to hammocking. An asym hammock and quilt system would be too expensive, and possibly too heavy (I know there are exceptions). A ground system would be lighter and more affordable, but I might have to learn to sleep differently.

Thanks for reading. Any thoughts?

Ian B.

Locale: PNW
Not helpful but here I go on 01/04/2013 16:46:54 MST Print View

I'm in the same position as you. Spent a decade in the Infantry sleeping on the old USGI CC pad without any issues but now it just kills me. Doesn't help that I'm a side sleeper. One distinction is that I enjoy the hammock just fine and can only assume that the experience will improve once I ditch the CC pad for an underquilt.

I'm a side sleeper and most of the issues I have are with my hips when I'm forced to sleep on hard ground. I have a few hammockless trips in the next six months so I'm pondering the following setup: MLD superlight bivy, Z rest, and a torso length Klymit Inertia X-light. I’m going to use some sort of stuff sack pillow under my head and my ruck under my legs to help with my alignment I figure that if the Klymit fixes this problem then it's worth the 8 oz penalty for a good night’s sleep.

Just a theory at this point but good luck working it out.

K ....
(Kat_P) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Coast
Re on 01/04/2013 17:39:39 MST Print View

I think which way you choose to go will have to do with what you are looking for in your outings.
I have both set ups; my ground set up is about a pound and a half lighter than my hammock set up. Personally I have no interest in any kind of roughing it when it comes to sleep comfort and warmth. There is plenty of roughing it that can be done ,with toiletries, cooking and even mileage.
I like to sleep well when I am out and I am quite capable of carrying the extra pound or so without it slowing me down.
If you are interested I have an extra Hennessy Asym. Hammock, not sure if the model but it's quite large. You are welcome to borrow it and see if it works for you.

Andy F
(AndyF) - F

Locale: Ohio
Re: Going from hammocking to the ground - and now stuck in between on 01/04/2013 18:17:17 MST Print View

I have an Exped SynMat UL (and an older Downmat for winter). I weigh about 60 more pounds than you, and my hip only hit the ground on either mat if I put most of my weight on it. It doesn't touch the ground when in a sleeping position, but that's only if I inflate it to maximum. I'm a side, stomach and back sleeper.

Edited by AndyF on 01/04/2013 18:17:55 MST.

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Three issues on 01/04/2013 19:12:33 MST Print View

I have two issues with hammocks - 1) Using an underquilt means you have two quilts...that seems like it would add up to a lot of space. 2) It also means that going to the ground is impossible since you don't have a pad to sleep on if your hammock breaks (unlikely, but possible) or if there's no trees. I have trekking poles, so I know it would make a bivy if I needed it. Overall, the extra 2 lbs or so isn't a big of a deal to me if I can sleep sound.

My issue with ground camping is that my hips can't sink down low enough to be comfortable like they do at home on a mattress. I'll go to REI tomorrow and try out an Exped Synmat UL7 and bring a stuff sack filled with trail clothes to go between my knees...maybe that'll make a difference?? I know the only way to really know is to try it overnight, but at least this will give a comparison.

Doug I.
(idester) - MLife

Locale: PNW
Re: Three issues on 01/04/2013 19:35:01 MST Print View

"1) Using an underquilt means you have two quilts...that seems like it would add up to a lot of space."

Depends on the season, of course, but my 3-season underquilt doesn't take up much more room than my Synmat UL, and it weighs less. And it's a full underquilt, not a 3/4.

"My issue with ground camping is that my hips can't sink down low enough to be comfortable like they do at home on a mattress."

Yeah, I never sleep as comfortably on the ground as I do in a hammock, part of that is because when I'm in my hammock I don't toss and turn. When I'm on the ground I toss and turn all night. But my Synmat UL is the best pad I've slept on so far when I am on the ground.

Stephen Barber
(grampa) - MLife

Locale: SoCal
Comfort on the ground on 01/04/2013 19:42:27 MST Print View

Ben there, done that! Had the pain in the hips and shoulders sleeping on the thin pad. Got worse the older I got. Now I'm an old geezer, with tons of experience, and I've found the solution!!!

At least for me!

Exped UL 7 for 3 season, the down version for when it gets chilly (that also seems to happen at a higher temperature these days!). Use the Schnozzle to inflate it; during the day, the Schnozzle makes a dandy dry bag for my sleeping bag and puffy jacket!

The Exped has slightly larger tubes on the outside, so it keeps you centered. It's thick enough and warm enough to keep me warm and as comfy as my mattress at home. It doesn't crinkle!

What more can I ask for? Porters???

Craig W.
(xnomanx) - F - M
Re: Going from hammocking to the ground - and now stuck in between on 01/04/2013 20:15:24 MST Print View

Another vote for the Exped Synmat UL7.

Franco Darioli
(Franco) - M

Locale: @Tarptent
from hammocking to the ground - and now stuck in between on 01/04/2013 20:17:51 MST Print View

What a disappointing thread.
I was looking forward to something like this :

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Exped Synmat UL 7 vs. REI Stratus on 01/04/2013 20:20:37 MST Print View

Hahaha! I'll work on it ;)

I'm going to try out a UL 7 tomorrow in store and see if it's any different for me than my REI Stratus.

Don Selesky
(backslacker) - M
Re: Going from hammocking to the ground - and now stuck in between on 01/04/2013 20:23:22 MST Print View

I'm a side sleeper on the ground, but have no issues with sleeping on my backin a hammock. I generally sleep on the diagonal in an asymetrical hammock.

I agree that using an undercover takes up too much extra space in the pack. I generally prefer one or two CCF pads underneath me, depending on how cold it will get. I've tried various inflatable pads, but they tend to be too stiff, and distort how the bottom of the hammock lies. Also, I use wrestler's elbow/knee pads on my elbows as insulTion where they touch the side of the hammock. Much more efficient than insulating the entire top part of the ammock itself.

Edited by backslacker on 01/04/2013 20:24:28 MST.

Tom Deal

Locale: Northern Idaho
Re: Going from hammocking to the ground - and now stuck in between on 01/05/2013 16:03:20 MST Print View

You Might try one of the new bridge hammocks. I have heard the are very good for side and stomach sleeper's.War Bonnet has came out with one and I'm looking forward to testing it out. As for the UQ and TQ being to bulky. I find it not to be true with mine.They both fit into a stuff sack smaller than my old BA encampment (48oz)and the TQ(21.1oz) UQ(17.5)weigh less combined.Keep in mind one synthetic and the other is goose down

Stephen Komae
(skomae) - MLife

Locale: northeastern US
side sleeper on 01/05/2013 20:35:05 MST Print View

I'm a side sleeper as well.

For hammocking, the Clark North American has treated me real well, as the design and stiff fabric of the hammock gives it some form that actually creates a pretty flat bed, one that a full 2.5" inflatable pad can even fit into easily. I'm still in search of an underquilt that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, however. The lighter Clark Tropical is constructed exactly the same way, but with less cold-weather adaptations.

For the ground, I've been using the NeoAir XLite to great effect for nearly 40 nights now. It is *very* comfortable and you can easily tweak the firmness by letting some air out. I have the Stratus too and I toss and turn on that some nights whereas I'll often sleep through the entire night on my XLite.

I'm also experimenting with the Big Agnes Q-Core at 3.5", but I haven't had enough experience to say. I don't feel like the firmness can be adjusted as well as with the NeoAir, which is still comfortable at a bit over half inflation.

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
Did some testing today on 01/05/2013 21:00:19 MST Print View

Here's what I came up with after a short visit to REI.

The REI Stratus pad has baffles that are "pinched" together entirely. My knees and hips felt like they were sliding into the cracks between the baffles. It also was NOT 2.5" thick in the middle...just on the sides. IMO it's too thin.

The Synmat UL 7 is different. The baffles are not "pinched" together. They have more of an I-beam construction. This made it feel much less like a pool float and more like a mattress. So that feature, the thickness, and the weight won me over.

And one pad that I am really looking forward to trying in the future is the BA Q-Core SL. They don't have any out in production (that I know of), but the regular Q-Core is really comfy! The extra .7" of thickness over the Exped was noticeable, as was the staggered I-beam construction. As the Q-Core SL is listed on, the weight will still be more than a Synmat UL 7 of similar size. So in the end, I don't think it's going to win when it comes to weight, but it should be a really nice pad once it's released.

Conclusion - I'll stick with the ground. Hammocks are awesome, but lack of money at the moment and fear of having 4 lbs. of quilts in my bag are keeping me at bay. Maybe in the future...until then, the Exped Synmat UL 7 won me over.

Daniel Saunders
(Boulderman) - F

Locale: Front Range
Warbonnet Bridge on 01/05/2013 21:57:42 MST Print View

If you decide to look into hammocks again, I'll second the suggestion you look at the Warbonnet bridge hammock (the Ridgerunner) and its specialized underquilts. You can get Warbonnet's 20* 3/4 Lynx underquilt which weighs <13 oz, add a 18-20 oz topquilt, and you're looking around only 2lbs of quilts, not 4. Very comfy! I'm happy with the Ridgerunner hammock, and for me, the weight increase over my ground setup is worth it for the increase in comfort.

Edited by Boulderman on 01/05/2013 21:58:31 MST.

Zorg Zumo
(BurnNotice) - F
Re: Going from hammocking to the ground - and now stuck in between on 01/05/2013 22:51:40 MST Print View

My goodness! I went from the ground to a hammock so that I could sleep comfortably. No way would I go back to the ground unless there was some really fantastic pad.

I too had to learn how to master side-sleeping in a hammock - not that difficult in a WBBB. I'd go back to the ground if I was winter camping, but I don't, so I don't.

Loki Cuthbert

Locale: Portland, OR
Keep up with the DIY on 01/06/2013 10:14:06 MST Print View

If you're going to look into bridge hammocks I'd suggest making one. It's a bit more complex than a gathered end, but it will strengthen your DIY Fu. and you can design a lighter weight version.

grizz did an awesome ultralight bridge hammock.

Also take advantage of being able to make your own quilt. You could have an awesome underquilt that costs $50-$100. If you don't want to work with baffling or down that's not a fine; climasheild apex is pretty cheap, and packs down small. Comparatively if you look at the new 20* under quilts from Enlightened Equipment the down weighs 16.5oz and the synthetic apex weighs 18 oz.

The weights of an underquilt are comparable to what you would be carrying for a sleeping pad.

The combined weight of my hammock, bugnet and big mamajamba tarp is 30 oz(i use a heavier 1.7 nylon since I'm close to 200 lbs and like having less stretch in my material) which I think is pretty decent for a 1 man shelter. I DIYed a hammock and tarp for my girlfriend that comes in at 23oz. SGT Rock on hammock forums has a 13 oz hammock set up using a cuben tarp.

I don't feel like I've gained much weight going to a hammock. I don't feel like it's more expensive than sleeping on the ground because a good pad and ultralight tent cost's more than my current hammock set up.

If you're planning a hike where you know you have to go to ground at some point then bring a light weight pad, but don't feel like you HAVE to keep one with you just in case.

Worrying about having to go to ground in case your hammock fails is kinda silly imho. I feel that unless you're more than 60 miles away from the trail head you should be able to hike out with only one or two rough nights of sleeping on the ground on make shift insulation from branches, pine needles etc.

I'm not worried about my straps or whoopie slings failing on me. If I was I could bring a single back up for 1 oz since I doubt they will both fail. The only other thing that could fail is my hammock ripping down the middle. I guess I could bring a back up hammock 1.1 ripstop hammock for 4-5oz. Both of those options are lighter than bringing a pad just in case.

When you start to have the mind set that your gear is going to fail on you then you should start carrying redundant things that have no use. Why not bringing a two inflatable sleeping pad because you might loose your patch kit. Or what if a seam blows out on it and you can't patch it. What if you get more punctures than your patch kit can repair etc.


Edited by lokbot on 01/06/2013 10:29:16 MST.

Tyler Miller
(FightingTheTide) - F

Locale: Southeast
To the ground...for now on 01/06/2013 13:36:23 MST Print View

I guess cost all comes down to whether you make your own gear. For me, going to the ground was a better financial decision. Money is tight and I only had a certain amount to spend - which I've been saving up for months now.

Making a bivy and flat tarp only set me back about $50. That left me with enough money for a pack, down quilt, sleeping pad, stove, and some other essential gear - all of which I would need anyway if I stuck with hammocks. If I put my money into a new hammock setup, I would also need to make a bigger tarp, an asym hammock, an underquilt, and a bugnet. I'm fine making all of that myself...but it would indeed cost more (and weigh more) than my ground setup.

Oh, and I didn't really mean to say that suspension failure was a big deal...I was just rambling ;)

I appreciate all the help.

Kevin Burton
(burtonator) - F

Locale: norcal
Re: Going from hammocking to the ground - and now stuck in between on 01/06/2013 16:05:25 MST Print View

I have the Warbonnet Blackbird with UQ + TQ and I'm VERY happy.

It was definitely expensive. I do have to admit... but I'm super comfy in it.

My only chance I would make is that I think I should have down booties for my feet.

The hammock could be lighter. The size is definitely overkill and it's rather larger. We're not talking about a TON of weight though. Maybe I could shave 1-2 lbs if I had a smaller hammock and maybe cuben fiber tarp.

Michael Haubert
(SoCalMike) - F

Locale: So Cal
Re: Keep up with the DIY on 01/06/2013 16:39:55 MST Print View

+1 on Loki's advice. I don't sleep well on the ground. I find hammocks to be much more comfortable than sleeping on the ground and find the bridge hammocks to be the most comfortable of the hammocks that I've tried--and I've tried quite a few.

I recently made a Grizz Bridge and will make some more in the near future with some subtle changes to tweak my set up. If you are a DIY/MYOG kind of camper, I encourage you to give it a try. His videos on YouTube are great.

I can sleep on my side in a bridge hammock, which gives it an advantage over other hammock set ups. This may be what you're looking for.

Good luck,

Michael (SoCal Mike)