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Hammock camping versus tent camping


A debate is growing between hammock camping and tent camping. People who hammock camp like that they are lighter, easier to set up, and take up way less room in your tent. I lean more toward tent camping, but my brother, Jacob, is all hammock. I have slept in both, and can see the benefits of both, but also the downsides of both. When I have a choice, I prefer to tent camp for many reasons, however there a many other reasons why I chose to sleep all night in a hammock other times.


1. Hammock – it’s off the ground

One of the main reasons people don’t like to camp is because you have to sleep on the ground. And, yes the ground is mostly hard and uncomfortable, and is cold in the winter. When you sleep in the hammock, you don’t have to worry about placing your sleeping area around roots, rocks, and other things that can poke you in the back. But when I tent camp, I use a foam mat and a Therm-a-Rest backpacking sleeping pad. Both of these provide enough comfort for me to get a good nights rest, except sometimes my hips ache. They also provide a little insulation from the cold ground. But, if you camp in sandy soil the ground is much nicer.

Jacob goofing around in my hammock.

The first night I spent in a hammock, I had full intentions of sleeping in my tent that night. But I forgot my Therm-a-Rest and foam mat and did not look forward to sleeping on the hard rocky ground without any cushion.

2. Tent – hammock swings

I suffer from migraines and because of them I have problems with dizziness, so things that swing can make me sick. So far I have not experienced a headache while camping in a hammock. Once I got used to the swinging, it was not too bad. It was nice to be rocked to sleep. But sometimes I just wanted to put my foot on the ground and stop the swinging. I toss and turn a lot in my sleep and every time I would roll over, I started the swinging again.

3. Hammock – cradling is comfortable

When everyone began hammock camping, my first thought was “I like to sleep on my stomach and my side, so I couldn’t do that.” However, I can get quite comfy on my side in a hammock and there is no pressure on my hips from pressing into the hard ground.

Jacob waking up one morning on the trail.

Jacob says that his favorite thing is how his feet naturally incline. “It’s a great relief on my legs and feet after backpacking all day,” he says. Being enveloped into the hammock, is quite comfy.

4. Tent – you’re completely closed-in

Many people chose to backpack with hammocks because you can save on both space and weight. One reason I prefer a tent is because you are completely closed in and bugs and snakes stay out. ENO, which is what I have, and other brands make netting that can keep bugs, rain, and other issues out, but that adds to your total weight and takes away from the simplicity to set up. In the tent you are also not out in the elements if you like to camp in the winter, however now hammock brands are making under quilts as well as top quilts to keep you toasty. If you chose to go this route, you save space and weight on a sleeping bag.

My dog, Caddie, like the tent much butter.
My dog, Caddie, likes the tent much butter.

The first night I slept in a hammock, I did not have a rain fly. It was not raining nor was there a chance of rain. It did pour a little bit in the afternoon. Because I was under trees, I got dripped on all night. The next time I hammock camped, I had a small annoying bug buzzing in my ears all night. It was buggin’!

5. Hammock – finding a place is easier

Sometimes trying to find a place to pitch a tent can be difficult. There might be too many rocks and sticks, or there might not be a nice flat spot to sleep. So you would think hammock would be the best, however sometimes you can’t find two good trees to hang your hammock. This not really a problem in Arkansas, we have lots of trees, but I have been to other places, like the desert, where hanging a hammock might not be an option.


Infographic: The Benefits of Hammock Camping

Info graphic courtesy Cool of the Wild.

6. Tent – better designed for storms

On one of our camping trips, Jacob and I knew the second night could get quite stormy. We decided to camp somewhere that had a bathroom in case we needed shelter. Jacob had his hammock tied tightly to the trees and rain fly staked down on the ground the best he could. The wind was so strong it was ripping his rain fly stakes out of the ground and flinging them all around. Jacob said he was hoping to not get impaled by a stake. He said a poorly staked rain fly in the wind turns it into a sail. He knew he would not stay dry in his hammock, so he went to sleep in the bathroom. I later left my tent to join him in the bathroom because the storm got scary.

7. Hammock – lighter, super easy setup

With a tent, you have to remove rocks and sticks away from where you are going to pitch your tent, then you have to lay your ground cloth or footprint, then you have to roll out your backpack, set it up with poles, and if it is cold or wet, attach the rain fly. With a hammock, you tie your straps around two trees and attach your hammock. Like I said before if you want an under quilt, bug netting, or rain fly, this is a little more work, but still easier than a tent. Hammocks are also lighter which makes for a happier backpacker.

Tent verses hammock camping

8. Tent – dogs can snuggle

Some dogs may not mind the hammock, my dog, Caddie, does not like it. She doesn’t like the swinging; she doesn’t like not being able to move around much; and she mostly likes her space so being right on top of me is not acceptable to her. Caddie is also a big dog, about 55 pounds. My hammock can handle the extra weight, but its a matter of comfort inside. Jacob has a “double nest” and I have a “single nest” so his might be a little better, but you are still squished together. Caddie is a bit of a diva dog too.

Caddie and me snuggling in the tent.
Caddie and me snuggling in the tent.

It all boils down to a matter of personal preference as to which is better. Jacob and I have different reasons for why we choose to sleep in a hammock or a tent. Although I prefer tent camping, I like to sleep in the hammock every once in a while to change things up, and in some situations it is just better.

Do you have a favorite? I’d love to hear your opinion. Comment below!

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