5 Reasons I Love Hammock Hiking & Hammock Camping
…plus 10 bonus reasons listed by other hiking and survival experts
As a hiker I’ve spent countless nights under the stars, exploring the natural wonders of this beautiful planet. Along the way I’ve tried various methods of outdoor accommodation, but one experience has outshined the others: hammock camping. Hammock hiking offers numerous advantages over traditional tent camping, and in this blog post, I will share my personal insights and the reasons I believe hammock camping is the way to go.
First a quick summary; I spent the past 5 years almost exclusively tent camping. I carried a tent for my first 300 miles on the Appalachian Trail. It was an integral part of my through hiking gear system. What did I like about tent camping? It provided an enclosed, complete, lightweight shelter.
What didn’t I like? The setup time. Blowing up an air mattress every single night. The process of breaking camp. Crawling in and out of the tent. Condensation which unavoidably ended up on my sleeping bag. The constant leaves and debris which made their way into the tent in spite of me leaving my boots in the vestibule. Debris which was a constant presence on the outside of the base which, every night, rested on the forest floor picking up mud, bugs and other organic matter which ended up inside my backpack.
What do I like more about hammocks? Here are my top 5 reasons I will never sleep in a tent again:
- Time… comparatively speaking, it takes a lot of time to set up a tent.… after a long day hiking I don’t want to spend 10 to 15 minutes setting up camp. I want to set up camp and complete my chores quickly so I can let me body rest.
- Air mattresses… granted I’m not a specimen of buff masculinity, but dang, it wears me out blowing up an air mattress.… I’m already tired from hiking all day and now here I am trying to fill an air mattress? Oh, and back to that time thing. It takes a good 5 minutes in addition to the 10 minutes I just spent setting up my tent.
- Ergonomics… at 20 years old I could hop up and down off the floor no problem. However, at 60 years old, crawling up and down into a tent several times an evening is harder on the ol’ dad bod. Sure, I’m hiking mile upon mile upon mile and you may think I’m limber as a llama; but something about the ‘up-and-down-to-the-ground’ motion getting in and out of a tent is different, and harder, than meandering up and down mountains.
- Comfort… when sleeping in a tent I have spent countless nights pitching my tent on less than ideal ground surfaces. I recall one night hiking through the Smoky Mountains at, I think it was Tricorner Knob Shelter. The shelter was full, there were no decent tent sites to be found, and I ended up pitching my tent on an incline next to a tree knowing I would be sliding all night and thankful the tree would catch me…. worst nights ‘sleep’ of my life.
- Ease of Set-Up… my hammock system is so freaking easy to set up. My hammock has the under quilt attached, a full-length bug net, and my quilt stays inside. The whole system is self-contained with hooks ready to attach to the tree straps. Literally my sleep set up is complete in two minutes flat.
But wait, there’s more! I’m not the only one who loves hiking with a hammock. After taking a peek online at several other hammock devotees, here’s a list of the top 10 reasons listed by others.
- Comfort – A good night’s sleep is essential for any long distance thru hiker. When you’re well-rested, you can face the challenges of the wilderness with ease and enthusiasm. Hammock camping provides a comfortable, cradling sleeping surface that conforms to your body, reducing aching muscles, stiff joints or sore spots when you wake up.
In contrast, tent camping often means sleeping on the hard ground, and even with a quality sleeping pad, it can be difficult to find a comfortable position. Did I mention how uncomfortable I was in my tent at Tricorner Knob Shelter? Hammocks eliminate the need to search for that perfectly flat, rock-free campsite. With a hammock, just find two sturdy trees at an appropriate distance, and you’re good to go!
- Rapid Setup and Breakdown
After a long day of hiking, the last thing you want to do is spend an excessive amount of time setting up camp. With the right setup and planning, hammocks are quick and easy to set up and take down; usually taking only a couple minutes. Modern hammock suspension systems, such as straps or whoopie slings, make the process even more efficient.
Tents, on the other hand, require more time and effort to erect. You need to find a suitable campsite, assemble poles, stake out the tent, and set up a rainfly. When it’s time to break camp, you’ll need to reverse the process, which can be especially tedious when dealing with wet or muddy gear.
- Lighter and More Compact? … maybe… but especially in Summer
Carrying a backpack can quickly take its toll on your body, particularly during extended trips. Hammock camping can reduce the weight and bulk of your gear. A lightweight hammock, suspension system, and tarp together often weigh less than a traditional tent setup. Additionally, with a summer setup, hammocks pack down smaller. That being said, size and weight will depend on the time of year. My winter hammock setup, although, just as light as my winter tent setup, takes more space… thus I carry a larger pack when I hike in winter… my favorite time of year.
- Leave No Trace
Hammock hiking minimizes impact on the environment. By suspending your shelter above the ground, you avoid trampling on vegetation and compacting soil. This helps preserve the natural beauty and ecological integrity of the wilderness for future generations to enjoy.
Tent camping, though, requires clearing a space and setting up directly on the ground which can damage the surrounding plant life and disrupt delicate ecosystems. While it’s possible to minimize this impact by selecting established campsites and adhering to Leave No Trace principles, hammock camping is inherently more eco-friendly.
- Improved Air Circulation and Temperature Regulation
Hammock camping allows for better air circulation, eliminating condensation and keeping you cooler during hot summer nights. In addition, hammocks can be adjusted to various heights, allowing you to take advantage of natural shade or the warmth of the sun, depending on the weather conditions. Tents, however, can become stuffy and uncomfortable in hot weather, even with adequate ventilation.
- Elevated Protection
By sleeping above the ground, hammock hikers enjoy a certain level of protection from ground-dwelling critters and insects. While no shelter is completely impervious, a hammock with an integrated bug net provides a nice barrier against mosquitoes, ticks, and other visitors that might try to join you in your sleeping space.
- Versatility and Adaptability
Hammock camping offers a level of versatility and adaptability that tent camping simply can’t match. With a hammock, you can set up camp in a wide range of environments, from dense forests to rocky hillsides. You can even suspend your hammock over small streams or use it as a chair during the day; it is truly a multifunctional piece of gear.
- Opportunities for Stargazing and Scenic Views
One of the joys of spending time outdoors is gazing at the night sky, and hammock camping allows you to do just that. On those clear nights you can lie back and enjoy an unobstructed view of the stars above. This can be an awe-inspiring and inspirational. Some of my best ideas have come to me as I was gently swinging in my hammock under the stars.
- Encourages a Minimalist Mindset
Hammock camping promotes a minimalist mindset, encouraging you to bring only the essentials on your outdoor adventures. With limited space in your hammock at night you’ll quickly learn to prioritize your gear and pack efficiently. This approach not only lightens your load but also helps you focus on the experience rather than the rarely used gear we are all inclined to carry with us ‘just in case’.
Tent camping, by comparison, often led me to overpacking because I had the space in my tent. I have been guilty of carrying excessive gear because I could. After I unpacked everything, it was as if my backpack exploded in my tent. And what gets unpacked must be repacked… Every. Single. Day.
- A Unique and Memorable Experience
There’s something profoundly satisfying about swinging gently in a hammock, cocooned in your own personal haven, as you listen to the sounds of nature around you. It’s an opportunity to connect with the environment in a way that a tent simply can’t provide.
Hammock camping has numerous advantages over tent camping, from comfort and weight savings to environmental friendliness and unforgettable experiences. As a seasoned adventurer, I can attest to the many benefits of hammock camping and I encourage you to give it a try on your next outdoor adventure. Once you’ve experienced the joys of sleeping above the ground, swaying gently in the breeze, you will likely never return to the confines of a tent again.