View Full Version : Thinking of going hammock..... concerns

08-18-2005, 05:32
Ok so a bunch of people on this site have recommended me a hammock or tarp tent instead of a tent. I am seriously considering it due to the lighter weight... not to mention I slept in a hammock over the summer.. and it was probably one of the most restful and comfortable naps I have ever taken.

Here are my concerns:

1. Have you ever been to a place where you were not able to find a place to hang your hammock? What would you do in that situation?

2. Weather resistance - I absolutely hate getting wet.. I have a major phobia of wet sleeping bags. I noticed most hammocks, the tarp you string over it.. doesn't look all that big. What happens during torrential downpours with diagonal wind-driven rain? Do you still stay dry? That's my biggest concern.

3. Durability. The HH in particular. are they prone to rips, tears, and other such abrasions... more so than your average tent?

I would really like to be able to be free from the whole tent thing.. but I can't get these concerns out of my head. I really appreciate the full enclosure that a tent provides.. and the peace of mind that I can sleep in my tent through a terrible storm raining cats, dogs, and frogs.. with high winds.. and still wake up bone dry. I feel secure in a tent. Well, it's not so much a fear of ME getting wet... so much as it is my gear.. and especially my sleeping bag, which is down.

Can you alleviate my fears? I would assume with so many people using hammocks nowadays.. that they are pretty stormproof.. but I don't know.. it doesn't look like the tarp covers the sides enough.. or provides enough coverage... does it?

Also.. what are the pros and cons of the Tarp Tent vs a Hammock?
I was also looking into tarp tent reviews. Most people seem to absolutely love them.. but I read a couple reviews about water droplets being 'blasted' in through the netting on the sides during heavy storms.. that scares me.

I want to be able to move to a lighter shelter.. and a hammock seems like a great choice - it's comfortable - it's light - no worrries about rocks or sticks poking into your back - no worries about waking up in the middle of a stream.... but does it stay totally dry underneath that tarp? Are my fears unfounded and irrational?

Ok so I know the pros to owning a hammock... what are the cons ?

08-18-2005, 09:37
1. Living in the Northeast, I have never had a problem finding trees. Often there are too many trees, making it easier to set up a hammock than find the place for a tent. This is a major advantage of a hammock over a tent in tree country. No more need for level ground either.

2 Setting up an earlier version of a HH in my backyard during a rain storm, my head got wet. So, I sewed in an extra foot of nylon around the edges, and solved the problem. Newer versions have bigger tarps. Read the thread under "larger tarps".
Using waterproof "snakes-skins", and leaving the fly attached to the hammock, allows for fast and dry setups in the rain. Many prefer hanging the fly or tarp directly to the trees. Setting up the fly/tarp first means the hammock can be hung out of the rain and your gear can be placed under the tarp, too. Keep the down bag bagged until all is ready. Tarp covers can be set low enough to keep out diagonal rain. Also since the hammock hangs high when empty, you have a dry space underneath the tarp to sit and cook and socialize. If I am not using the hammock, I can use the 8x10 as a stand alone shelter big enough for two and gear. (see posted photos in other thread)

3 Since a hammock rarely touches the ground, they are much less prone to rips, punctures, or tears.

Tarp tent? A great lightweight alternative to the heavier tents. If you use trekking poles, no need to carry tent poles. If mosquitoes are not a problem, use a regular tarp. Golite, Owareusa, make tarps that fit in the palm of your hand when bagged.

Not recommended above tree line in winter, but tarps work great in winter camping in the trees.

In short, at least for three seasons, use that heavy tent no more!

08-18-2005, 09:57
take a scroll over to sgt rock's hiking headquarters and read his hammock camping tips... there's a section in there about him spending time ''in the field'' with his hammock during a tropical storm (it was hurricane somebody, back in 2002, but by the time it reached us here at fort polk it was downgraded to a TS.) i think it was 4 days, he said. i just remember it was a gully washer, and he was out in it (i'm now just a civilian puke who works on post.) most of the army guys here spend two weeks a month out in the woods, pretty much year round.

you have to set things up smart, which comes with experience, but hammocks are definately dry. if you carry a lot of extra 'stuff', you may not be able to bring it all 'inside', but that's what plastic trash bags are for. maybe a larger tarp than the standard diamond one will help you feel more confident.

never had mine rip or tear on anything, and it's pretty brambly down here. i've camped with it in the adirondacks too... too many trees. brother and his friend in their tent had a harder time finding a spot than i did.

wet bag-don't know what kind of down bag you have, but my WM has a pretty good covering material, and it's hard to get water to soak into it. sweat's a whole 'nuther deal, but that's an issue with any bag.

sleeping pad wrestling is the only down side i've had with my hammock, and it's the price i pay for an excellent night's sleep. but once i'm settled down for the night, the pad stays put and i sleep like a baby. nice being up off the ants, armadillos, and other creepy-crawlers too.

08-18-2005, 10:15
I think that you will be pleased with a hammock, but you do need to practice setting it up and adjusting it to stay dry. It is as easy or easier to set up a hamock as any tent, but probably is also true that those minor adjustments and tweaks are more critical with a hammock. That has been my experience anyway. Twice in my hammock I have gotten a little wet. Once was clearly my fault, due to inexperience with the set up and the "adjustments" referenced above. This was in a driving rain with high winds. Again, however, I consider this my fault (poor site selection, failure to make proper adjustments to the tarp, etc.). This was also before I went with a larger tarp. The other incident was when I was in a HEAVY fog . . . and I mean REAL HEAVY. This very heavy fog/dew caused heavy codensation which pooled. This was not a major problem, but a controllable observation. After some experience, I think that it is a truism that you will stay drier in a properly pitched hammock than in a tent. For one obvious thing, you are up off of the saturated ground.

Regarding finding places to pitch, this has not been a problem for me in the Southeast. It is easier (patricularly in the mountains) to find two properly spaced trees clear of undergrowth than it is to find a clear flat spot to put a tent. Before switching to a hammock, I have walked miles more than planned just to find a suitable tent site. I do sometimes have to search a bit to find trees without a bunch of undergrowth or branches in the way of my set-up. This sometimes is more of an issue than you might suspect, but still not nearly as difficult as finding that flat clear campsite. On the other hand, if you are ever above treeline or in a field without suitable trees, you can always go to the ground and use just the tarp or set the hammock up as a bivy. I believe Sgt Rock has pictures and descriptions of this on this site. Fortunately, I have never had to go this route when camping, but have set up the hammock as bivy in the backyard to see how it would work. It is less than ideal (and you are sleeping on hard ground again), but it would work in a pinch.

Durability is not a problem. I own two Hennessy Hammocks and a Speer Hammock and use them all. I have had no problems with durabilirt of any of the hammocks. In a very high wind, I did have one of the corner ties rip out of my 8x10 Speer tarp, but this was easy to work around in the field and Ed Speer repaired the tarp for free. Great service!

I hope this helps!


Just Jeff
08-18-2005, 10:36
The only time you'll likely have more difficulty in finding a hammock site is above treeline or in the desert. If your trip has only a small portion in these areas, you could plan to use a pad instead of an underquilt for that trip so you'll have it for the ground sleeping nights. Just pitch your same tarp.

I haven't gotten wet in mine yet, but I got the bigger tarp (JRB 8x8). You have to figure out the little tricks, like attaching the tarp below the hammock supports to give better protection, but with some experience you're no more likely to get wet in a hammock than in a tent.

The only durability issue I've had is a teeny hole in the HH netting where I snagged it before I got my Python Skins. Not even big enough to fix...but if it gets bigger I'll just slap on a 1" square of duct tape. Since you don't ever have to put the hammock on the ground (like you do a tent), I'd say it's less likely to suffer these durability issues, which means you can use lighter materials and save weight.

A (very) few people here at WB have tried a hammock and gone back to tents...maybe one of them will chime in here. Search the archives if you're motivated. Most hammockers say it's the best gear decision they've made, but do what works for you.

08-18-2005, 11:24
I'm one of the hikers who went tent, hammock and then back to tent again ...at least in the colder seasons. I tried several of the popular modifications for cold weather hammock use and found that I wasn't willing to go to that extent just to carry the hammock. I'm sure some or all of them work. It just got a bit too complicated for my taste and I found myself carrying more and heavier loads just to support my shelter needs in colder weather.

I like my HH and have every intention of using it in the warmer months. In fact, I just purchases the JRB 8 x 8 tarp for better rain/wind coverage.

I recently purchased a 23 ounce tent (with mesh and floor) that serves me better once the temps drop.


08-18-2005, 15:24
Yeah I think I'm going to go light tent for the time being - I plan on doing a lot of winter camping this year. And I don't really have the means to carry those extra pads and underquilts and whatnot. The extra wind protection is nice too.

However.. once spring hits.. I think I am definitely going to buy a hammock and use that all throughout until fall.

08-18-2005, 15:47
Yeah I think I'm going to go light tent for the time being - I plan on doing a lot of winter camping this year. And I don't really have the means to carry those extra pads and underquilts and whatnot. The extra wind protection is nice too.

However.. once spring hits.. I think I am definitely going to buy a hammock and use that all throughout until fall.

Sounds like a reasonable plan, but I do want to clarify something that might be a misconception for you when you say "I don't really have the means to carry those extra pads and underquilts and whatnot." A typical ground dweller using a tent has a tent (often with a fly), a pad of some sort, and a sleeping bag. A cool weather set up for a hammock camper is no more and often less. The hammock and fly is smaller and lighter than most tents. The top blanket and underquilt is nothing more than a sleeping bag that is split into two part. The bottom half of your sleeping bag (the part that you lay on and squish all the loft out of in a tent) is just on the ouside of the hammock. A top quilt and under quilt are the same compressed size, weight, etc. as a sleeping bag. Unless it is REALLY COLD you probably do not need a pad in a hammock if you have an underquilt, so you same that bulk/weight.

Best of luck whatever you decide. Either way, you'll have a great time just getting out there!

08-18-2005, 16:06
Hey Trip ...maybe I'm dealing with outdated info. Out of curiosity, what is the weight of your winter hammock set-up (that would equate with my tent, mattress and sleeping bag ?? ...and how many pieces are we talking about ?

Just as a reference point, I'm carrying a tent that weighs 23 oz, a pad that weighs 11 oz and a sleeping bag that weighs 32 oz. That's a 56 oz (3.5 lbs) package.
I might have given up on winter hammock camping too soon !!


08-18-2005, 16:48

You've still got the edge on weight, I believe. I may weigh this stuff tonight to double check, but here is a close guestimate . . .

Option #1
Speer Hammock with 8x10 tarp = 32 oz.
down Speer TopBlanket = 16 oz.
Peapod (I purchased with 1 extra oz of down) = 29 oz.
Total = 77 ounces or 4.8 lbs.
** note that in cold weather (what we are talking about here, right) you can and probably would leave home the removeable bug net from the Speer set up. This would save a few more ounces . . . maybe 5 or 6 oz would be my guess.

Option #2
Hennessy Ultralight backpacker (Remove the HH small fly and replace with the 8x10 Speer tarp above. The HH as sold is 31 oz. I do not know the weight of the HH tarp. The 8x10 Speer is 13 oz. My GUESS is that after swapping the tarps this rig is probably 33oz.
down Speer TopBlanket = 16 oz.
Jacks R Better Nest Underquilt = 20 oz.
Total = 69 oz or 4.3 lbs.

Neither of these take into account stuff sacks, snake skins (if used), stakes (if used). I hope this helps. I may weigh this stuff tonight and update.

08-18-2005, 16:52
By the way, either set up described above -- for me, a cold sleeper -- would be comfortable to the low 40's without wearing a bunch of warm clothing layers. Once it dips to the 30's and below, I start adding layers, a fleece hat, etc.

08-18-2005, 16:56
Good info Tripp ...thanks.


08-18-2005, 17:06

Check your math...your numbers come to 66 or 4,125 lbs...

my three season rig is:

HH extreme light racer with tree savers and JRB suspension system and Python skins aka snake skins is 16 oz, JRB 8x8 Tarp and cords 10.8 oz Nest and No Sniveller quilts 20 oz each...Total 66.8 oz.

A mild weather hiker, 45 degree range, can have the same set up with JRB Summer Universal Blankets, over and under for 14.5 oz each...this would yield a comparative total of 55 oz...best part is that all this could be packed to 8 inch in diameter stuff sack by 12 inches tall. That is smaller than a Ridgecrest Thermorest long rolled up.

Hammock rigs with quilts can be made to compete not only with tents but even enable summer backpacker to meet the Backpacking light SUL 5 lb base weight challenge, normally reserved to the spartan pad and small spinnyl tarp crowd.

comparision of bulk (http://www.whiteblaze.net/gallery/showphoto.php/photo/7945/sort/1/cat/500/page/1)


08-18-2005, 17:12

Check your math...your numbers come to 66 or 4,125 lbs...============================================ ========

Ooopsss ...my bad. Guess it's been a long day here at work. Actually, I'm looking at a sleeping bag right now that would cut the weight of that item in half. Doesn't count though, since I haven't got it yet.

Gettin kinda psyched about the hammock again since I'll now have a fly/tarp that actually gives me some protection. Had some pretty wet/cold nights with the original HH fly.


08-18-2005, 19:09
i have never got wet or cold,i hate sleeping on the ground:cool: neo

Just Jeff
08-18-2005, 20:03
My 3 season option #1:
HH BP UL Asym - 20 oz
JRB 8x8 - 11
JRB quilts - 40
Total - 71oz

My 3 season option #2 (no bugnet):
Green homemade hammock - 7 oz
Hammock supports - 4 oz
JRB 8x8 tarp - 11 oz
JRB quilts - 40 oz
Total - 62 oz

Ground dweller option:
Tarptent Virga - 24 oz
Ridgerest short - 9 oz
Lightweight quilt ~ 20 oz
Total - 53 oz and nowhere near the comfort

So there's 7 oz difference in my Option #2 and a typical lightweight ground dweller. Replace the short pad for a regular and it's only 2 oz difference. I guess you could get a lighter quilt if you spent the money, though.

So on average, a hammock camper might carry an extra 20 oz over a comparable-season ground dweller, but you can't tell me a short 3/8" CCF pad is as comfortable as a HH. Well, you can tell me but I won't believe you because I've used both!

And the extra "usable" space you get under the tarp vs hunkered down in the tarptent is an issue for me, too. If I wanted a tent, I'd definitely get some kind of tarptent...but why be really light and almost comfortable when I can be light and comfortable?

08-18-2005, 22:46

Option #2
Hennessy Ultralight backpacker (Remove the HH small fly and replace with the 8x10 Speer tarp above. The HH as sold is 31 oz. I do not know the weight of the HH tarp.

the HH Backpacker Asym stock tarp weighs 6 oz
(ok, i'm a geek. but it comes in handy sometimes.)

08-20-2005, 01:39
Yeah I think I'm going to go light tent for the time being - I plan on doing a lot of winter camping this year. And I don't really have the means to carry those extra pads and underquilts and whatnot. The extra wind protection is nice too.

However.. once spring hits.. I think I am definitely going to buy a hammock and use that all throughout until fall.
During the winter you might want to get Ed Speer's book (via. hammockcamping.com ) and consider his arguments for camping hammocks. Most people who try them don't go back to tents except in special situations. (Me included.) :sun

Doug Frost

Just Jeff
08-20-2005, 02:45
Agreed. He has lots of that info on his book's website. Check out his "200 Tips..." ( http://www.hammockcamping.com/Tips/Tips.htm ) and the other articles on that page.

Still worth buying the book, though.

08-20-2005, 20:47
ok you know what. screw it I changed my mind.. I'm going to get an ultralite backpacker A-sym

08-20-2005, 22:51

just make sure you get something for the cold- check out JRB they're great.


Just Jeff
08-21-2005, 01:10
Attaboy!! You won't regret it. And if you do, you can always sell it to someone here on the list or trade it for a decent tent.

Just be sure to test in the yard before you hit the trail.