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This question asks what the downsides are to hammock camping, but doesn't really address the reasons why you would want to sleep in a hammock to camp.

Let's say I'm backpacker new to the idea of sleeping in a hammock. What are the advantages of a hammock or reasons to choose it over the traditional tent and why?

Please be descriptive and pictures, where relevant, are worth a thousand words as they say.

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Can I improve this question? If so, how? –  manoftheson Feb 8 '13 at 21:58
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Your questions is very open-ended. Hammocks and tents offer different benefits and drawbacks in different climates and for different individuals. This site is not meant to start a discussion of these various items but to drill down to a definitive answer to a question. I'm not sure there is a definitive list of advantages to hammocks over tents. –  Justin C Feb 9 '13 at 22:19
    
@JustinC - Great point. My goal was to try to create a question that would create a comprehensive summary of the pros of a hammock versus a tent, the converse of the question about the downsides. I could provide a specific season or scenario, but then it seems there would need to be a question for each season, etc. Regardless, it seems that some type of documenting of the advantages of hammocks would be useful to those who are either new to it or considering it. I think there is a definitive answer to this if I just figure out how to ask it the right way. –  manoftheson Feb 10 '13 at 23:17
    
I mostly agree with what you have said, and I think that is why you don't have any answers yet, but the questions has not getting votes to close. There is an answerable question somewhere in there but I don't know what it is. –  Justin C Feb 11 '13 at 1:03
    
@JustinC - I edited it so hopefully this is better. –  manoftheson Feb 12 '13 at 0:35

4 Answers 4

up vote 12 down vote accepted

My experience comes mostly from backpacking in remote areas without already made tent sites. I have found that a hammock is better for me and my style of camping. If you are mostly a car-camper and are used to pulling your SUV up to a pad site, YMMV. Following are the reasons I believe a Hammock is better than a Tent.

  1. Weight - In all but the coldest seasons a hammock system will be lighter than a tent system for sleeping. (In colder weather an under-quilt is required to insulate you in a hammock. This makes the weight savings only slightly less than a tent. But an insulated hammock is still much lighter than a 4-season tent.)

    Proposed Hammock System:
    Grand Trunk Ultralight Hammock - 12 oz. (340 gram)
    Grand Trunk Funky Forest Tarp - 20 oz. (570 gram)
    Hammock and Tarp Hanging Gear - 8 oz. (230 gram; rope, cord and 6 aluminum tent pegs)
    Total Approx. 40 oz. (1100 gram)

    Proposed Tent System:
    TNF Mica FL 1 - 44 oz. (1200 gram)
    Footprint TNF FP Mica FL 1 - 4 oz. (110 gram)
    Tent Pegs and Guy Lines - 8 oz. (230 gram; you will likely need more pegs than I am allowing here)
    Total Approx. 56 oz. (1600 gram)

    That is a whole Pound (ca ½ kg) of weight savings. I purposefully used one of the lightest tents I could find.

  2. Comfort - This is somewhat subjective but I have found that a hammock is more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. I am side-sleeper and with the correct amount of swag a tent is comfortable in this position as well. Remember that hammocks are designed to be laid in at an angle. Also, a tent usually requires a sleeping pad for comfort which will add another 10 to 14 oz (280 – 400 gram) to the above Proposed Tent System weight.

  3. Cost - A Hammock system is almost always cheaper than a tent. Hammocks are simplier to produce and require less engineering to develop.

    Using the same items as above.
    Hammock and Tarp Price: 19.99 + 79.99 = $99.98 (This is a very expensive Tarp)
    Tent and Footprint Price: 319 + 50 = $369 (The trade-off for such a light tent is that it will be very expensive)
    You can buy a lot of gear with the $250+ you will save...

  4. Flexibility - A Hammock provides greater flexibility on location of placement. Some would argue the opposite but in an area that has some trees I have never had an issue "finding the exact right trees". Seeing a good spot and setting a good hang for a hammock comes with experience. Other benefits include, the ground doesn't have to be flat or smooth, you can even setup over water or snow. You don't actually even need trees, you can setup on the ground in an A-frame or Lean-To configuration. I have setup between the roll cages on two Jeeps. There are lots of possibilities.

  5. Leave No Trace - With the proper straps instead of ropes a hammock will make less of an environmental impact. The problem with a tent are the preperations required before setting it up, usually this includes removing all debris and rocks from a site or at least flattening of leaf litter.

  6. Packability - A Hammock is easier to pack than a tent. Due to their non-rigid shape than can be stuffed into any shape. You can fit them into any available space in your pack. This usually leads to being able to carry a smaller pack for the same length trip, which leads to more weight savings and greater comfort while hiking.

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Hammocks are cheap in mild climates but start being as costly, if not more, in colder climates. –  ppl Oct 22 '13 at 2:58
    
I suppose if you bought the most expensive hammock kits from HennessyHammock or the $180 Ember Underquilt from ENO you could get up to $400 for your Hammock System. But the great thing about hammock camping is customizing it exactly how you want it and you don't need to spent all that money to do it. One the other hand a quality 4-season tent is going to run your $400 without even trying. –  d3lphi Oct 22 '13 at 20:49
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I suppose you haven't camped in a storm at -10°C on a mountain plateau with not a single tree in sight. –  gerrit Oct 23 '13 at 13:50
    
I have not. However I would probably not choose a hammock for a trip on which I was likely to encounter conditions like you mentioned. I didn't say they were the best things ever and the best choice in all conditions... –  d3lphi Oct 24 '13 at 15:47

I am an avid hammock camper. I went on a 4 day trip where is rained nearly every afternoon. Besides the obvious benefits (not requiring even ground, sleeping comfortably, etc.), I found that hammock camping had the distinct benefit of not having to climb into a tent for rain protection. I was able to simple walk under the tarp and sit in my hammock. That's much better than lying down even though I had that option too. I can cook next to my hammock (something you do not want to do inside a tent).

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That sounds like the benefit of a tarp to me, independent of the method of sleeping. –  gerrit Oct 23 '13 at 13:52
    
However, it would mean that you would have to carry an additional piece of gear when tent camping given most scenarios. While with hammock camping, it will be part of the gear in most circumstances. –  Chuck Burgess Oct 28 '13 at 0:40

Not a hammock camper (not a camper at all...) I can imagine another advantage that hasn't been named yet: As you are not on the ground you don't have to be afraid of water on the ground. So especially in rainy weather where the soil cannot handle all the water you have to take some measures to secure a tent against getting flooded or washed away. In a hammock you just don't have to care as long as you store your stuff away from the ground.

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Not a hammock camper myself, but I can think of a few:

  • More ventilated in the summer.
  • Lighter to carry - you don't need something to pad the place you're sleeping on and you don't need the same level of rigidness that a tent offers.
  • Usually more environmentally friendly - since they are smaller than tents hammocks leave a shorter toll on the environment when produced and when discarded.
  • In a heavily wooded environment, it may be easier to find a place to attach a hammock than to find a clearing to pitch a tent.
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