Ditch Your Tent and Give Hammock Camping a Try
We’ve been hearing recently how much switching from tent camping to hammock camping is a game-changer. So we thought we’d give it try—and it’s pretty nice! Of course, it takes a little getting used to, and there are few concessions to be made, but it grants a whole new sense of freedom to enjoy being out in the wilderness. Here’s our list of hammocking pros and cons:
Hammock Camping Pros:
- Can be much less weight and space in your backpack
- It’s like cowboy camping, but without the creepy–crawlies
- Can enjoy the outdoors more without being confined to a tent
- Don’t need to hunt for perfect flat spots for pitching tents
- It’s more LNT friendly, with less impact on the wilderness
Hammock Camping Cons:
- Without a tarp or cover, you’re exposed to cold, weather & bugs
- Takes practice setting up properly, getting used to
- Not ideal for alpine (tree-free) environments
- No shelter for gear, no privacy for changing clothes
- Practical mostly for solo/individual hikers
We sent our new gear review team out onto the trail with a selection of current hammock options to see how they fared. They tested each for comfort, features, setup convenience, and practical packability. Here’s their rundown.
1. Big Agnes Goose Creek UL Hammock
A fantastic lightweight hammock, the Goose Creek UL is a great option for camping and backpacking, as well as ordinary day-to-day use. Our favorite feature was its integrated, adjustable sleeping pad straps, which firmly secured our pad inside, and made it comfortable for both back and side sleeping, while also keeping it from folding up. This hammock’s lightweight, ripstop material was one of our favorite features—strong but still breathable and soft to the touch.
The Goose Creek’s carabiner clips made set up simple and secure, while ensuring compatibility with a number of different strap systems (sold separately). With the simple set-up, and lightweight features, we found ourselves wanting to take it out for afternoon adventures too, not just for overnight sleeping. For lounging, we just flipped it over to keep the pad straps out of the way. This hammock easily fits into its small stuff sack for easy packability. $100
NOTE: Unfortunately, the Goose Creek UL Hammock has been discontinued, but you may still find one on clearance, or at some online outlets. Grab one while you can!
BEST USE: Backpacking | WEIGHT: 12 oz.
PACKED SIZE: 3 x 7.5 in. | CAPACITY: 300 lbs.
2. Klymit Lay Flat Hammock
For those who might be willing to carry a little extra weight to ensure a good night’s sleep, we found the Lay Flat Hammock to be a great option. This hammock employs spreader bars and dual foot straps to improve its stability, and is constructed of a nice, soft material for added comfort. We really liked the wide head section, which was nice for good room to move around and see our surroundings, without suffering from the typical hammock “burrito effect.”
On first setup, this one was a little challenging. We had some difficulty getting the spreader bars through the narrow sleeves, and found the strap system (included) a little less intuitive than some of the others we tried. Fortunately, there are good visual instructions printed in the stuff sack. Despite this, we really enjoyed how comfortable it was. Though, due to its weight, we think it’s more suitable for car camping. Add the Sky Shelter cover (sold separately) to turn this hammock into a fully-enclosed bivy. $150
BEST USE: Car camping | WEIGHT: 2.9 lbs.
PACKED SIZE: 9 x 12 in. | CAPACITY: 300 lbs.
3. NEMO Cloudview Lite
The Cloudview Lite is a nice take on the lay-flat hammock. Its stiff, mono-mesh material feels similar to a trampoline, while still being quite breathable and comfortable. It has spreader bars at the head and feet to prevent the “burrito effect,” with a dropped foot end, which makes for great lounging with a nice propped-up feel so you can converse with companions, or just enjoy the sights. It even has a cup holder on one side, and small storage pocket on the other.
We found that setting up the Cloudview Lite was a little less intuitive than some other systems. And packed up, it’s quite bulky to fit into a backpack, being more similar in size to a tent. Plus, at 3.1 pounds it’s not lightweight, especially considering it doesn’t come with straps (sold separately) or a cover. Instead, we feel like the Cloudview Lite is a great option for some very comfortable frontcountry car camping and lounging, with a few extra perks not seen in other hammocks. $130
BEST USE: Car camping | WEIGHT: 3.1 lbs.
PACKED SIZE: 5 x 18 in. | CAPACITY: 400 lbs.
4. Sea-to-Summit UL Hammock
The Sea-to-Summit UL Hammock is so incredibly lightweight that it almost doesn’t feel like it should be able to support the full weight of a person. But once settled in it’s nice and sturdy. Its 20D nylon fabric is thin and slightly transparent, and while not the softest to lay on, it is comfortable enough. When lying lengthwise without any bedding, it tended to have a little of the “burrito effect,” but with some bedding thrown in it doesn’t wrap up quite so much.
Paired with Sea-to-Summit’s ultralight suspension straps, it was one of the simplest hammocks we set up—the buckles easily hooked right in. The regular size felt a little small for stretching out (we reco the XL size), but when just lounging it was comfortable and large enough to make a pretty good seat. For those looking to trim every possible ounce from their packs—and willing to sacrifice a little comfort and versatility—this is a great hammock choice. $125–$135
BEST USE: Backpacking | WEIGHT: 8.4 / 12.7 oz.
PACKED SIZE: 3.5 x 5 in. | CAPACITY: 300 lbs.
5. Therm-a-Rest Slacker Hammock House
For those looking for a little more coverage, but still want the comfort and versatility of a hammock over a tent, we really liked the Slacker Hammock House. This soft and roomy hammock comes with an attached bug mesh housing, which was great for enjoying the scenery, while keeping the pests away. Alone, it does have a bit of the “burrito effect,” but with a sleeping pad inserted, it maintains a nice, relaxing form. For lounging sans the mesh enclosure, we just flipped it over.
Setting up the hammock portion of the Slacker House was fairly easy and straightforward with the included strap system, which is easily adjustable to accommodate variable tree spacing. Setting up the upper support line to suspend the mesh house and rain fly was a little more challenging, just to get the proper height and line tension, but with some practice we nailed it. At 3.6 pounds, its not ultralight, but for a versatile, completely enclosed hammock system, we feel its worth its weight. $200
BEST USE: All camping | WEIGHT: 3.6 lbs.
PACKED SIZE: 9 x 15 in. | CAPACITY: 400 lbs.
Brandon & Lauren Wood are avid hikers, climbers, and mountaineers who live and play in Bend, OR. Lauren’s first backpacking trip was on Olympic NP’s Hoh River Trail, and her favorite outdoor achievements are biking the rim of Crater Lake and climbing Mount St. Helens. Brandon has summited Mounts Shasta, Hood, and Rainier, and enjoys any warm and filling meal after a long day of hiking, as he believes in the old adage that “hunger is the best seasoning.”
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