There is nothing more important than getting a good nights sleep while backpacking. With ample snooze time, you’ll have a healthy mind and body, and will therefore be able to backpack more efficiently.
While the default option for what backpackers sleep in seems to be ground shelter, hammocks have been growing more and more in popularity. So what exactly does backpacking with a hammock entail?
Here are the pros and cons to consider when looking at a backpacking hammock:
To set up your backpacking hammock, all you need are two trees roughly 12 – 18 feet apart. Because of this, you can sleep pretty much anywhere, and unlike ground shelters, you don’t have to worry about even ground, busy campsites, or wet surfaces.
This will allow you to hike for longer distances without worrying about finding a sufficient place to park a tent.
Also, set-up time for hammocks is low given the nature of the system.
Con: Quality vs Money
A good quality hammock with padding, insulation, a mosquito net, and a rain tarp can run a hefty price. Basically, like with much in life, expect to pay in direct relation to the amount of comfort you desire.
Many backpackers find hammocks just as – if not more – comfortable than ground shelters. With a hammock, you don’t have to worry about rocks, sleeping pads, or uneven surfaces. A better nights sleep will allow you amply rest your body so you can cover more terrain!
Con: Getting used to suspended sleeping
Even though many backpackers praise the comfort of a hammock, there are logistical differences between sleeping in a hammock vs sleeping in a bed. Expect an adjustment period. Movement while in a hammock can be tricky, and it takes a bit of training the brain to get comfortable with it.
Pro: Leave No Trace
Ground shelters have the nasty habit of smothering plants beneath them and leaving peg-holes in the ground while hammocks have neither of these problems. However, keep in mind that if your tree straps are too narrow, they could damage the bark. When you are purchasing your hammock, be sure to do some research so you find wide enough straps.
Con: Effective Insulation
As anyone who has backpacked with a tent in less-than-warm conditions knows, it is very important to stay insulated. Sleeping pads, sleeping bags, and good quality tents are all essential to a good night sleep. Likewise with a hammock. Before you set off, be sure to pack insulating materials to wrap yourself in, and pay extra attention to your underside, which can be prone to drafts.
Pro: Can double as a camp chair
Hammocks make great chairs to lounge around in even before bed. You can sit in it while enjoying your campfire, and huddle under your tarp if it starts to rain. This will take literal weight off your shoulders should you be one who regularly packs a camping chair.
Con: Park Regulations
Be sure to check with whoever manages the park where you’re going beforehand to ensure that you are allowed to use a hammock. Many state parks forbid or discourage the use of them due to their belief that trees will be damaged.