If my town is anything like the rest of the country, people are becoming obsessed with hammocks this summer. Brightly colored hammocks sway from trees in every park you pass. In the year I’ve owned it, I have stargazed in it, camped overnight, read books in the park and cooled off next to a lake. I use it whenever I get the chance. When I sleep in it, I get the best night’s sleep. And nothing is better than waking up in the morning to sunlight streaming through the trees as it crests over the mountain. I love my hammock. I wanted to write about the perks and drawbacks about hammocking that I have found. I hope that by reading it you will want to get outside into your hammock as well.
Comfort is the main pro for hammocks. Everyone I talk to about them mentions how comfortable they are. I personally don’t like the rope hammocks you see on the cover of travel magazines (mostly because of the rope burns and itchiness), but fabric hammocks are where the comfort is. I have gotten the best sleep in a hammock of any sleep system I have tried. I guarantee a hammock will be your best friend when you go to sleep after a long hike.
Hammocks keep you cool on a hot summer night or day. When it gets unbearably hot in my apartment or on a hike, I take out my hammock so I can cool down. Because of the air flowing beneath you and on the sides, I have found that I cool down much faster. Brush your feet in the cool grass or dip them in a stream and you will cool down even faster.
Versatility is the last main pro that I have found. Because my hammock is so small (I have the Kammok Roo), I can take it practically anywhere. Most of the time, I keep it in my trunk, but I can throw it in my purse if I need to. It is much smaller than my one-person tent and packs much easier too. Not only is it versatile in size and storage, there are many ways to sit in a hammock. Who knew? I always thought there were two ways: sit or lay down. No according to Kammok. Watch the video below for six ways to sit in your hammock and some other useful tips.
Lack of protection
One big drawback I have seen has been the feeling of lack of protection. Obviously, tents don’t protect you a lot either, but there is something about having a thin piece of fabric between you and the outside world that is terrifying. It is scarier than a tent because your head is right up against the fabric that is “protecting” you from that outside world. I camped out in my hammock a few months ago and woke up in the middle of the night to the sounds of a stray dog running around me, stopping and panting next to my head.
While cooler sleep is great for the summer, winter camping leads to some uncomfortably cold nights. You aren’t right on the ground like in a tent and toasty warm. I actually got my hammock for Christmas, and, although I wanted to try it out right away in my backyard, I made it about 20 minutes before deciding my shivering in blankets was no longer fun. Winter camping in a hammock will require much more insulation than usual.
Reliance on trees
The last drawback I want to mention is the need for trees. If you are hiking or camping somewhere that doesn’t have many trees, your options will be limited. You may have to go a long distance to find the right trees, which could be much farther away from the trail or campsite than you would like. I just went to a family reunion, and I wanted to camp next to where my cousins had set up camp, but I had to go far away from them to find trees suitable for my hammock.
- Keep your hammock in the back of your car. I do this and it is available wherever I go. I can stay spontaneous and decide after a hike that I want to camp overnight. I also keep my sleeping bag and other gear in my car, which makes decisions like this easier.
- Get tree-friendly straps for nature’s benefit and your peace of mind.
- If you have a hard time packing the hammock into its pouch (I think my hammock needs more space), get a dry bag or other waterproof stuff sack instead. Even if there is a little extra room, it will pack better in your backpack because it is slightly malleable rather than a stuffed brick.
- You don’t have to get the same brand tarp, straps and hammock. Most gear is interchangeable, but be sure to check sizes, especially the tarp so it provides adequate coverage. This could save you a bit of money. Also, some places have discounts if you buy multiple pieces at once. I bought my hammock and straps, and they threw in the mosquito net for free. Eno hammocks are pretty good too, and they are more affordable.