Hammocks for Camping: An Inexpensive Alternative to Tents

camping hammockHammocks for camping and backpacking

Hammocks for camping provide a lightweight, inexpensive alternative to tents. The nice thing about hammocks is, if there are places to tie off, the ground does not have to be level. Rocks and tree roots do not present obstacles. You can string up a hammock between trees or rocks. A hammock can be set up between two car-top carriers. When it comes to uses beyond camping, a hammock wins that competition hands down with respect to a tent. Few people set up a camping tent at home. A hammock can be set up and enjoyed in the backyard at home on numerous occasions. As a general, rule hammocks are much easier and take less time to set up than tents. Use a hammock in combination with a rain tarp to provide weather protection.

One of the main disadvantages of hammock camping is insulation or lack of it. In tent camping the ground acts as an insulator reflecting your body heat. That’s not available in hammock camping. Your body heat escapes from the bottom of the hammock and is gone forever. You can address this with a good sleeping pad and a sleeping bag appropriate for the environment you’re camping in. Some hammock users prefer to use a backpacking quilt like the Blaze Underquilt from Eagles Nest Outfitters instead of a sleeping pad. The amount of insulation you will need from the combination of your sleeping bag and sleeping pad (or underquilt) will depend on the outside temperature.

If you have never camped in a hammock, consider taking an inexpensive lightweight model on your next short camping trip in addition to your tent. Test it during day for lounging or short naps. Try sleeping in it at night knowing that you have your tent as a backup if things don’t go well.

Equipped properly and used in an hammock-appropriate environment with the right sleeping bag and pad or underquilt, a hammock can provide one of the most enjoyable and restful sleeping experiences available to a camper.

Features to Look For in Camping Hammocks

  • HAMMOCK RAIN FLYMost rain flys are a simple tarp with a ridge line running through the center. The rain fly is installed over the top of your hammock. It keeps you and your hammock dry in rainy conditions. It protects you and your gear from the sun. The best rain flys are waterproof, tear resistant and lightweight.
  • HAMMOCK MOSQUITO NETTING – Look for a hammock with integrated mosquito netting or one with some simple way of adding netting. There are types of mosquito netting that are designed specifically for hammock camping. Usually the mosquito netting is suspended from a ridgeline above the hammock and the hammock goes inside the netting. A zipper allows the camper to enter and exit the netting. Some campers prefer a separate mosquito net setup since it prevents insects from landing on the surface of the hammock itself. Hammock camping is best in the months that are worst for buggy nights. You don’t want to spend the night swatting mosquitos and other insects.
  • HAMMOCK FOOT BOX – A foot box prevents your feet from extending off the end of the hammock if you sleep diagonally.
  • DOUBLE LAYERED FLOOR– A double layered floor makes the hammock stronger. Your sleeping pad is inserted between the layers so that it’s held more securely in place and neatens up the interior of the hammock. A double layer hammock is usually going to be heavier than a single layer. Some hammocks are available with both single and double layered floors.
  • ASYMMETRICAL DESIGN – A hammock with asymmetrical design allows the camper to sleep diagonal to the centerline of the hammock providing a flatter sleeping positions as contrasted to the “banana curve” sleeping position in the center of the hammock.
  • HAMMOCK POCKETS – Look for pockets or some type of “shelf” inside the hammock for nighttime storage of personal items.

These six top rated camping hammocks contain the features in the list above to varying degrees.

Russe Mosquito Net Outdoor Hammock

russe mosquito net hammock

The Russe Mosquito Net Outdoor Hammock is lightweight, strong (rip proof parachute nylon) and compact. It fits inside it’s own stuff sack and adds little to the total weight of a backpack. You will sleep protected from mosquitos and insects. The mosquito netting hangs high enough away from your head to keep away insects. Users in insect-friendly south Florida sing its praises. The hammock can be used in the backyard without the netting.

  • Dimensions: 47” x 95”
  • Capacity: 330 lbs

Grand Trunk Air Bivy Extreme Shelter Camping Hammock (pictured at top)

The Grand Trunk Air Bivy Camping Hammock is made of Rhombic ripstop nylon. It comes with integrated mosquito netting. It has inside storage pockets. The overhead suspension is easy to assemble. An included polyurethane coated tarp protects you from rain when installed over the hammock. Tent stakes and guy lines are included with the hammock. Triple stitching at stress points increases the hammock’s strength.

  • Weight: 19 ounces
  • Dimensions: 8’ x 4’
  • Capacity: 250 pounds

Hennessy Expedition Camping Hammock

hennessy expedition hammock

Hennessy is a pioneer in the idea of asymmetrical design of hammocks. What asymmetrical design means is that the hammock is made with a diagonal axis making the hammock feel wider and longer and creating a larger sleeping “comfort zone” for the camper. An integrated bug net and a coated polyester ripstop rainfly are part of the design of the Hennessy Expedition Asym. A large mesh pocket is suspended from the ridgeline and slides back and forth. This Hennessy hammock can be used on the ground as tent supported by hiking poles. This is a hammock to consider if you’re camping in a wet environment.

  • Weight: 2 lbs 12 oz
  • Dimensions: 100” x 48”
  • Capacity: 250 pounds

Clark NX-270 Four-Season Camping Hammock

The Clark NX-270 hammock has in integrated mosquito net that can be unzipped to the foot end of the hammock and stored in its own pocket. A breathable weather protective layer zips over the mosquito netting to create a water resistant covering. A custom rain tarp, sold separately, is available for the hammock. The hammock has six pockets that hang underneath the hammock for boots and other gear. These insulated pockets are accessible from inside the hammock. They contribute to keeping your bottom warmer on cooler nights. There are two more pockets inside the hammock.

  • Weight: 2 lbs 15 oz
  • Dimensions:
  • Capacity: 300 lbs

Lawson Hammock Blue Ridge Camping Hammock

The Lawson Hammock Blue Ridge Camping Hammock has consistently been given high marks by respected outdoor publications like Backpacker Magazine and Outside Magazine. It can be used as a hammock or as a tent. The construction of the hammock keeps the bed flatter and tighter as contrasted to the “banana bend” common to most hammocks. Aluminum arch poles spread the bottom of the hammock and provide a flat roomy sleeping surface. The mosquito netting and rainfly attach directly to the hammock. Remove the arching poles and the Blue Ridge Camping Hammock can be used around camp (or in the backyard) for lounging or napping.

  • Weight:  4.25 lbs
  • Dimensions: Bed is approximately 90”x 42”
  • Capacity: 275 pounds

Warbonnet Outdoors Blackbird

The Warbonnet Outdoors Blackbird is available in either single floor or double floor design. The double floor design increases weight somewhat, but by inserting your sleeping pad between the layers you can keep it securely in place and the interior of the hammock neater. There is a full-length zipper on one side. The mosquito netting can be pushed back out of the way if it’s not needed. You’ll find a 2-square-foot storage shelf inside the hammock that holds shoes or other gear. A foot box maximizes legroom and enables the camper to sleep in a more comfortable diagonal position.

  • Weight: 1 pound 9 ounces
  • Dimensions: Hammock body is approximately 120” x 63”
  • Capacity: 250 pounds

Books About Hammock Camping

The best selling book on hammock camping is five-star-rated The Ultimate Hang: An Illustrated Guide to Hammock Camping by Derek J. Hansen