When’s the last time you got outside, cooked over an open fire and dozed under the stars? Now most people may think “tent” when they think camping, but you’re not most people, are you? Hammock camping, ahem, elevates the outdoor snoozing experience to new heights. While your typical backyard hammock is surely comfy as you watch birds or read the paper or try not to flip over, it is not going to cut it on a camping trip. You’ll want a hammock especially made for blissfully sleeping unfettered in the Great Outdoors. Not sure how to choose? Fear not. We’ve got some suggestions to help you get a leg up—or both legs up—in selecting the right hammock to get your next camping adventure off the ground.
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SWING ON A STAR?
Sure, we all would. But since that’s not possible, we’ll do the next best thing: Swinging in a hammock. Hammocks have been around for a pretty long time—evidence suggests they date back 1,000 years to Central America, where indigenous people crafted them out of tree bark, and they have been used by sailors and astronauts and all sorts of people in all sorts of places since then. And science shows that the gentle swinging motion of a hammock synchronizes brain waves, which helps people fall asleep faster and sleep better. So you can see that hammocks are great. Why not incorporate them into your camping adventures?
Camping hammocks offer a number of benefits beyond the whole sleeping-while-floating experience, including:
- Being lightweight
- Being easy to pack and carry
- Taking up less space than a tent
- Allowing for more interesting location options
- Being perfect for swinging and snacking
- Keeping you off of the cold/rocky/muddy/stabby/whatever-y ground
- Letting you enjoy the fresh air more than a tent
- Helping protect you from critters and the elements
- Making it easier to sleep comfortably on your side (and lie flat, for that matter)
And even if you’re bringing a hammock as a supplement to rather than a replacement for a tent, it’s sure to make your time in nature that much more relaxing.
HOW’S IT HANGING?
There are several things to review and investigate before you throw down any cash for your hammock. Let’s check ‘em out.
Hammocks can run from 4-ish to 8-ish feet wide. Depending on how much extra-stretching-out room you want, or how many people might be sharing said hammock, you’ll want to choose one that is wide enough, but not too wide. There are fewer options when it comes to length, so just be sure your tallness, or lack thereof, will fit comfortably.
Cotton may be the fabric of our lives®, but it’s not the fabric of most hammocks. Most are made from lightweight nylon, which is nice and breathable. If you’re doing some cold-weather camping, you’ll probably want to toss in some warming accessories, like sleeping pads or quilts. PRO-TIP: Under-quilts should be added to the underside of the hammock, not inside, to be more effective.
Most limits range from 150-500 lbs. Check specifications before you buy to make sure you’re getting a hammock that can hold you and whomever or whatever else you plan on sharing it with.
Screens can help block bugs from getting into your hammock (both net and net-free options exist) and tarps can keep you safe from unpleasant and/or unexpected weather. Some hammocks have both as parts of the system.
Some hammocks come with a suspension system and carabiners for set up, but others offer them as accessories, so just be sure you know which one you’re getting. You’ll also be interested in picking up some webbing straps, nylon ropes and tree slings. Make sure your straps are wide enough—¾-inch should do—so you don’t harm any trees in the making of your hammock. You’ll probably also want to select a hammock that has many attachment points to make sure set up can be more flexible.
AND THE WINNERS ARE…
Depending on what you’re looking for—ultra-light, affordability, all the bells and whistles—the options below will help you get started on the path to finding your perfect swinging sleeper.
There’s no shortage of reasons that the Warbonnet Blackbird is the favorite for lots of campers. Think ultralight material, extra comfort, excellent design, features like an integrated bug net and storage shelf, two different fabric weights, single or double layer construction and a suspension system that’s easy to set up and adjust and suitable for a variety of weather conditions and terrains. It comes in at $170, which isn’t entirely cheap but also not the most expensive and worth it for its versatility and the experience it provides.
ENO SubLink Shelter System with Sub 7 Hammock
Talk about lightweight. The Sub7 weighs in at a mere 6.4 oz. including carabiners (but holds 300 lbs.), and that’s pretty impressive. Add to that its versatility and customizability, this setup will give you a comfortable and excellent camping experience under a variety of circumstances—you can pick and choose the components you need for any given adventure and leave the rest at home. ENO offers upgrades for all hammocks that include suspension, a rain fly and a bug net, all of which pack up in a stuff sack, which also doubles as a pillow. This sucker allows you to be prepared for any situation, making it worth its $250 price point.
Grand Trunk Ultralight
This affordable option ($20) is easy to use, comfortable and lightweight. This is a great starter hammock for those who aren’t convinced swinging and sleeping is the way to go—you can test the waters without breaking the bank. It may not be the most durable option, but if you’ve used it long enough to discover hammock camping is for you, you’ll probably want to upgrade anyway.
This tear-resistant, all-purpose camping hammock is durable yet lightweight and easy to pack and set up. It has a 500-lb. capacity and is rugged and roomy—it can fit two but is also comfy for one. Bonus: Kammok is one of our Smash & Grab Gift Card partners. That means you can buy your favorite camper a Smash & Grab Gift Card that they can smash into submission and then use to buy a versatile and handy hammock. The world wins!
Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker Asym Zip
The Ultralite Backpacker ($250) is perfect for the minimalist adventurer. It’s lightweight, sturdy and has a unique asymmetric design—the hammock forms a rectangle as well as a diagonal pocket to help you lie flat while providing extra room on the sides. The mesh canopy keeps the bugs away while still letting the air get through. Great for ultralight backpackers and campers who still want some comfort along the way.
GETTING INTO THE SWING OF IT
Hammock camping may sound slightly weird to the uninitiated, but once you start, you won’t be able to stop. Waking up that much more immersed in nature will make you realize sleeping aloft is the best thing you can do for yourself, for both body and mind. And now that you’ve got a beginner’s guide to hammocking in your brain, all you need to so it gather your friends, hit the road and get ready to hang out. See what we did there? Yeah. Now get on out—and up—there. You won’t regret it.