Welcome my friends. I see you’re on the hunt for the best camping hammocks.
Well. You’re in luck because I’ve just put together a little guide for you to follow.
A sleeper hammock?! But, but what about tents?! No! They’re bulky, heavy and they suck... and you already know that!
I’ve looked at dozens of hanging beds while cycling and snoozing. Some of them are crap, and some of them are excellent. If you’re in a hurry, check out Hennessy's Explorer. It’s my personal favourite because it’s filled with additional features.
Right, let’s get going. The (suspense)-ion is killing me… See what I did there... Don’t worry, there’s plenty more where that came from.
Comparison Chart Reviews
Top Rated Sacks
Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro
Crikey! Right off the bat, we've got ourselves a bloody corker.
The Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro sets the bar high. A brilliant barricade between you and everybody's least favourite friend (no, not your Uncle Barry). The mosquito.
How does it do this I hear you ask...
Well. It's not once, not twice, but THRICE stitched. Ooooooo.
I'm not sure if many mozzies are persistent after a second lot of stitches, but it all adds to the durability.
To further add to its barrier it comes with a "No-See-Um" mosquito netting that hangs overhead but away from your face. You can quietly sip on your pint of rum as you slip into a deep, warm slumber... perfect!
Don't forget you'll awaken 30mins later to be violently sick. A pint of rum? What's wrong with you!
Anyway, that's enough of me, let's see what the specs are on this badboy.
- Weight limit - 400lbs
- Weight - 1.6lbs (No tarp)
- Pack Size - 10'6 x 5'
- Height Limit 7ft
I’d say the Skeeter Beeter Pro is excellent for people looking at a high quality entry level bit of kit. It’s your traditional shape, but it’s big enough for a larger person to fit inside. (I'm 6ft 2", around 200lbs, and fits me well).
There’s no additional tarp. So if you’re in need of one you’ll have to make a purchase separately.
There's one thing I don't like about this hanging bed. There are pockets on the inside that are the most pointless things I've ever seen in my life.
Anything you place in there will fall out. You'll have to put any valuables you don't want squashed on the outside the bed
Other than that, I'm a genuine fan of this and think it would suit a lot of peoples needs. It's far from the lightest or the warmest, but it's an excellent entry level bit of kit.
What Are Buyers Saying?
First up is a review by "K" - Well, I'm pretty sure that's not their real name! But let's see what they thought!
"The included suspension paracord that is included is wholly inadequate. It is way too short and I don't trust it not to break. I would suggest getting some tree straps or slings at the same time as you order it. I bought Kammok Python straps.
They are great, but overpriced, you can find something just as good more reasonably priced with a quick search."
This is a valid point and something that all cheaper options suffer with. For some reason they all come with appalling suspension chords. If you want to sleep with any confidence you'll need to upgrade these ASAP (I've suggest some decent straps further down the page).
"The net can be somewhat annoying to deal with at times.
I would say go for it if you really need the net. If you're getting this one and don't think you'll need the net that often, I'd buy a separate net."
Bit a low blow. Going straight for the jugular with the products biggest USP! I'm not sure if this reviewer was aware but it's made so you can actually flip it over and sleep on its underside if you don't need the netting.
Hennessy Explorer Deluxe Series
Not only is the Hennessy the name of Biggie Smalls preferred booze, it's also one of my top rated options.
(I hope you're getting these references or I'm probably starting to look pretttty weirrrd).
So, why's the Hennessy in the top spot?
Well, it comes with it's patented "easy enter, easy exit" design. So you can wave goodbye to any slapstick comedy sketches here.
You can kick back and relax. Happy in the knowledge you'll not appear in any shit "you've been framed" videos any time soon.
Other than that it comes with everything you'd want to see on a top class backpacking camping crib, including a tarp (unlike the Beater Skeeter).
- Weight Limit - 300lbs
- Weight - 3.9lbs
- Pack Size: 5" x 8" x 12"
- Height Limit 7ft
There’s a few variations of the Hennessy available which can get a little confusing when looking at maximum weight capacity.
Basically, the more expensive Explorer Deluxe (listed here) can take up to 50lbs more weight and is 1ft longer than the Exhibition.
The materials are the same. So if the measurements of the Exhibition are all you need then go for that. It's cheaper.
The added features and durability of this hanging sleepers come at a cost. Not only is it expensive. It's weight is comparable to that of a lightweight backpacking tent. Although the rainfly can be ditched when the weather is nicer.
For me, it's a close call between this and the Beeter Sketter, but the Hennessy takes the win. Overall the Hennessy just comes with more features and if you're alright with the extra weight it's the better option.
What Are Buyers Saying?
Jackie McBride Says:
"I love this it. The only downside is it is slightly confusing to set up"
Sound point. It's much better to set it up for the first time on a sunny day in your backgarden, then in a drizzly forest with nightfall fast approaching.
"Comfort in the bed is absolutely exceptional. Last summer, when staying at our family cottage, I stayed in the front yard instead of sleeping in a bed in the cottage -- for a month. It is that comfortable. Again, after arranging yourself slightly diagonally, you are almost flat. Extremely comfortable"
Endorsement indeed! I can't say I find a thin bit of material more comfortable than my own bed! But each to their own, I guess he found the hammocks sweet spot. Or the cottage he stayed in was horrible!
Ultralights are a great choice if you're looking to use them during the day or on a summer trip.
They're known to be less comfortable. But if you’re sleeping on a warm evening occasionally then an Ultralight will most likely be all you need.
If light is what you're after then you won't get much lighter than the Hummingbird S Plus.
But remember that it's the bare bones so make sure it's warm enough to sleep out in the open. (I've got a keep warm checklist below).
The Hummingbird brand was designed by an FAA certified parachute rigger, so they know what they’re on about.
There are three types of Hummingbirds available and I've listed their specifications below:
8.8ft x 3.11ft
9.8ft x 5.5ft
9.8ft x 7.1ft
Good chart ay!
Interestingly, they are incredibly strong for their weight. But keep in mind that no tarp or bug net is provided.
What Other People Think?
When my kit arrived I was a little sad because the carabiners seemed to be falling apart a little and even though they worked I was worried about the longevity.
I emailed Hummingbird and they replied within the hour with the most impressive email I've ever received from a company.
The person who talked to me said they stand behind their product and take great pride in what they make and that I must've gotten a defective part which can happen though very rare.
I felt it was important to include this review because customer service is a huge and often overlooked aspect of a product. You can tell here that the company really cares about giving great support.
If their products are anything like the service they provide then you know they'll be of a high quality.
Because the material is so light, you are trading a bit of insulation for the light weight. This is not a concern to me at all but might be for some. I use a blanket and I took this thing. I slept outside all night with a blanket on top of a mountain.
Another fair point. You can't have an option as light as this without sacrificing other aspects. If you know you'll be in areas where warmth is important to you, then you'll want to choose something else.
Grand Trunk Nano 7
At just over 200g it’s good competition for the Hummingbird. It packs down light and comes with bent wire carabiners the make it easy to attach to tree traps.
What Do Other People Think?
On one hand the product is a superb, high-quality product. On the other hand, it's very difficult to sleep in because of its smaller dimensions.
This seems to be a common complaint with Ultralights. When trying to save as much weight as possible they'll often make them smaller.
When thinking of winter one of the last things to come to mind is overnight camping! But it's possible if you prepare properly.
First of all you'll need a 4-seasons sleeper.
Admitedly the NX-270 looks more like a spaceship than a bed.
But, if you're looking for something to brave the elements then it's a great option.
If you were ever on the look out for the best of both worlds then this would come pretty close.
Lawson Blue Ridge
If I had choose between the NX-270 and this. This would win. It’s the ultimate hybrid tent-hammock that’s been rated by top publications such as Backpacker and Outside. It also received the prestigious 2015 Gear Of The Year Award by 50 Campfires.
The awards given are not without good reason.
It’s design gives it the ability to be suspended as a hammock or on the ground as a tent. This greatly increases it’s terrain options that are often limited by one or the other.
The spreader bar and arch pole system keeps the hammock flat and taught. This stops the sometimes uncomfortable banana effect created by normal hammocks.
One of the first things you want to ask yourself before any purchases is what type of pitching are you going to be doing? There are three types you can choose from depending on how you're going to use them.
- Camping: Very comfortable and ideal for fair to poor weather conditions
- Ultralight: designed to be used for fast and lightweight hiking/cycling trips. When you cut weight you'll usually loose comfort
- Winter: Full blown exhibition products that are made with high end materials for extreme weather conditions. They're heavy and bulky.
Weight Of The Hammock And It's Max Capacity
You should always consider your own weight and the maximum wight capacity of the hammock.
Adding too much weight to the material will reduce it’s lifespan and could result with you falling through the middle, and landing on the floor.
You should also consider the weight of the hammock.
If you're camping in the summer you'd consider an ultralight and if you're camping in the winter you'll be miserable unless you're in something nicely insulated.
These items are at opposite ends of the weight spectrum and are used for different purposes.
Make sure you know why you're getting yours.
Suspension Systems Used
There are different suspension system available and the most common combination is the use of straps and carabiners. The systems that the hammock come with suck, so make sure you upgrade before heading to the mountains.
As a general rule of thumb the longer the straps and the more attachment points it has, the better. This'll give you flexibility to work around trees of different shapes and sizes.
You’ll also want to use straps that are tree-friendly. Tree-friendly straps are usually 0.75”+, flat and made from nylon and polyester
Duraibility - What Are They Made Of?
You can't compromise on the construction and the use of quality materials. You'll end up spending more in the long run. Or worse. You could have a catastrophic failure in the night and end up in the dirt.
Most hammocks available are made from two different materials. Either Cotton or Nylon.
Cotton: These can be made into nicer designs due to its weave. However, they’re bigger, heavier and soke up water easily. They perform terribly in the wet as they hold water and dry very slowly. Don't get this type of material is you plan on going on a extended trip.
Nylon: These are what you want. They’re lighter, not as bulky and nylon repels the water. Everything you could ask for!
Hammock sleeping can quickly get very cold, even in summer. So I've here's my guide for keeping warm on colder nights.
1) Location. Location. Location (English TV reference - Love you Phil!)
Unless you're a kite the wind will not be your friend. When choosing your campsite be on the look out for any dense forest, or perhaps a big rock to act as a wind break.
2) Bring Your Mummy
Unless you have a very special relationship with your Mummy (Mom), it's OK to leave her behind.
You can now get mummy style sleeping bags that'll keep you warm down to 15F or less. I wont talk about them too much as I’ve written an incredible guide on sleeping bags you can read here.
Although I will give you a top tip:
Make sure you chuck all unworn clothes in your sleeping bag. It takes up dead air space and it's no fun trying to de-ice your socks in the morning!
3) Get A Pillow
Not only will having a pillow be far comfier than without. You'll be adding another layer between you and the cold hammock fabric.
4) Trap In That Hot Air
Tighten up that tarp. Trapping the heat around your body is essential. When things turn really nasty you want to get a tarp involved as well. (more on tarps below)
5) Get A Sleeping Pad.
When you’re in your hammock the weight of your body will compress your sleeping bag and reduce it’s ability to keep you warm. Partially blow up a sleeping pad and sleep underneath it.
6) Get Your Top Covered
Whether your're in an Ultralight or Winter hammock a top quilt will do wonders. It's just like a bed quilt. Open it up and lay it over the top of you for yet another layer.
7) Boil A Hot Water Bottle
Yep! boil up some water and pour it into your flask before you go to bed. Wrap it in a few socks and stick it in your sleeping bag.
8) Sometimes You've Got To Admit Defeat.
I know it's hard but sometimes you've just got to know when to say 'when'. If you find that you're being kept awake by your own teeth chattering instead of the wildlife... It's time to call it a day!
Re-asses. Upgrade your gear and come at it again!
Best Two Person Sleeping Gear
So I've done a bit of research, scoped out the products and come to the conclusion that a two person hammock is just simply not a good idea. You can easily sit or lye next to each other in a bigger hammock, but sleeping is different.
No matter how wide the material is you'll end up rolling on top of one another... Unless that's what you want, but that's a story for a different website!
What most people do is get two hammocks and hang them either side of a tree. This way they can sleep together without crowding each other out. Click here and here to see some examples.
If you're certain that you'll be alright in a double then the Eagles Nest Outfitters [ENO] - Double is a popular choice. Although like I said before, most people don't enjoy being scrunched together.
But wait... there is one hammock that'll do the job...
.... No... no I'm not sure if I should tell you about it...
Oh go on I will!
There's something called the Clark Vertex 2-Person Double, and it's something special.
But be warned. It's not cheap. Two hammocks tied to a tree work just as well.
Snoozing Without Trees
Is it a bird? Is it a plane? NO! It's the incredibly rare treeless hammock. Careful, you'll frighten it.
These are clearly no good what so ever if you're backpacking, hiking or bicycle touring!
But if you're camping out in your garden of an evening with a glass of wine, they're alright!
The Vivere Double with Space-Saving Steel S is a popular choice that comes in an array of colours for you to choose from.
This is the one I'd got for if I wanted to do a bit of garden napping. You don't have to worry about weight and size as it's just a big old bit of hanging material for you to flop into.
If you have a hammock already you just buy the frame separately.
Or if you wanted something more perminant you could take a trip to your local DIY store and purchase two 8ft 4x4 wooden posts, a bag of cement and two eye bolts.
Fixing these into your back garden would give you a long lasting and solution to somewhere without trees. Although it would take far more effort on your behalf.
Camping in your car? Ummm... What? I know, that's what I thought, but it's a thing.
And the ultimate guide wouldn’t be complete without mentioning it. I travel around on my bicycle so have no need of a car hammock but I think they’re a cool idea.
I’ve spent many nights sleeping in my car after a classic night on the beer when I was younger. It was always shit nights sleep!
Waking up in the morning with a wonky neck, and mouth like an ashtray was most Sundays, but waking up to that in a car is a great way to feel like you’re really hit rock bottom...
But not if I had access to a car hammock!
You can pick one up pretty cheaply and it would be nice to use if you were going somewhere where the weather was too bad to sleep inside
Aside from my boozer story they’d be good for someone who was on an extended road trip. Who said you need a $$$$ VW Camper when you can strap some fabric to your Fiesta!
I had a look online but struggled to find any car options available other than this one.
There are however, absoletuly loads of dog hammocks available. If you were buying one as gift you could just get them one of those instead. They'd never know 😉
Best Brands You Could Buy
There are several popular brands on the market that come highly recommend. Here I’ll go through the top four brands.
ENO is great for people on a budget because most of the extras such as rainflys and bug nets are sold separately.
You can either buy everything at once or you can start with the essentials and add more if you need to.
However, they’re normally heavy for backpackers and touring cyclists in comparison to other brands
Hennessy is up near the top as well. It’s often compared to ENO and people have strong opinions about one or the other.
They’re more expensive than ENO’s but that’s because they come with all the accessories.
They don’t hold as much weight as ENO and they’re smaller.
However, they come with built in bug nets and innovative designs such as allowing you to get in from the bottom!
Grand Trunk is another great brand to purchase from. There are several different models to choose from so make sure you check what’s included.
Models come with varying set-ups so you might need to purchase aftermarket accessories.
The Humming bird brand is known for making excellent daytime hammocks. You could use them to sleep in if you wanted to, but people seem to stick to ENO or Hennessy.
Hummingbird uses high quality materials but are unable to provide the overall protection from the elements that other hammock brands are able to offer.
Accessories And Essentials
You would of noticed that not all hammocks come with tarps. This is great because not every trip requires you to be covered up in this way. And buying seperatley allows you to mix and match more than buying everything in one go.
There are a few things you should consider before buying a cover.
Some people like to have their tarps covering everything up. While others prefer them how I like my swimming trunks. Skimpy.
There are no right or wrong types and your choice will depend on many factors. Like weight, coverage, versatility, and durability.
There are tarps designed specifically for hammocks but almost any type will be fine.
If you’re looking for maximum coverage from the elements then you’ll want to look out for winter tarps. Winter tarps will have extra flaps that can be folded inwards to close you in.
An added bonus of large tarps is the extra modesty you get for changing, and being enclosed can sometimes help with the mental battle of feeling “safe”.
However the downside to the extra size is that you’ll need a much bigger space when pitching it so this will restrict where you’re able to sleep.
As well as all that, large tarps are heavier and bulkier. It’s all tradeoffs so you’ll need to decide what’s more important for your upcoming trip.
If you’re not off into arctic conditions then a moderate tarp will likely to the job. Just keep in mind things like sizing as it’s much harder to keep dry under a small tarp then a big one.
Best Size Tarp For Camping
No matter what type of tarp you end up going for you’ll want to choose something that extends between 15 - 30cm over each ends of your hammock.
A key thing to remember is that a hammock sags when it’s hung up. So a 3meter long hammock will have a maximum length of just over 2.4meters
The majority of hammocks come without straps. This means you’ll have to buy them separately unless you know how to hang with rope.
It’s highly likely that you’ll come across hammocks that provide straps but these are too low quality to do anything with. You'll end up saving yourself lots of hassell in the long run by buying a decent pair at the start.
There are two types of suspensen types to choose from - Straps and Whoopie Slings.
These are my personal go to as I’m useless at anything practical. You simply clip them to the hammock and wrap it around the tree. Quick and easy.
The Atlas straps are my personal favourite as they're strong , durable and very convienent. They are 9ft long that come with over 30 different adjustment points.
The straps weigh 11oz and can hold weight up to 400lbs
These are a little more complicated than straps so I don’t use them, but they’re far more adjustable and lighter than straps. They don’t take a great deal to work out, it’s just that straps are my preference.
The Hummingbird Ultralight Whoopie Slings Straps are a great design.
They’re some of the lightest suspension slings you’ll come across.
They’re easy to adjust, can be st up quickly and will hold about 400lb in weight. Each strap is 8.3ft long and their combined weight is 2.1oz
How To Hang A Hammock
Being a top notch adventurer I left my hammock hanging instructions at home when I first got it. Needless to say I returned 20mins later to pick them up!
Luckily it’s the same procedure whether you’re hanging it between trees or on your bacony so oner you’ve mastered it you can do it anywhere.
A breakdown of what you need to consider when hanging your hammock are listed below:
- Distance between the two objects.
- The distance between the two ends of material
- How high off the ground the you sit
- The amount of forces being applied
This is an incredibly simplified version of a much more detailed guide found here. It looks complicated but once you’ve set it up a few times you’ll be able to eye ball it rest of the time.
How Do You Get In One Of These?
With all this talk about the best, we've not spoken about how to get in one!
After years of the run and launch myself approach which was rarely a success I decided to follow this guide.
- Gently sit back into the hammock and let it level out.
- Swing your legs up and stretch them out.
- Lie back and relax - Only to suddenly remember you've left your beer jussst out of reach.
Easy! I Don't know what I was thinking before!
Is Getting Shut-Eye In The Woods Safe?
When I talk about safety I'm talking about creepy things!
This is something that concerned me when I first began camping. Everything was coming to kill me past 9pm as being more out in the open scared me!
While 99% of it is in my head it doesn't hurt to be prepared for the fast approaching zombie apocalypse (and the odd animal after your food). So here are a few tips to make sure you're left alone at night.
Keep Your Food Away From Your Camp
This is a great rule to follow whether you're in a hammock or tent. Don't sleep with your food. No matter how much you like giving your sausage a cuddle, waking up face to face with a grizzly is a great way to put an end to your trip.
Make sure that all your food is kept at least 100 feet away from your camp. Or when if you're feeling especially like an adventurer you could give the Bear Swing a go.
If you're as shocking at the bear swing as I am, you'll need about 30mins to actually get the rope over a branch!
Protection From Animals On The Ground
You're obviously suspended which means you're protected from more measly animals like squirrels or snakes.
If you're confident in the strength of your hammock (you'll be Ok with the ones I've suggested) then you can hang it up pretty high. As long as you're able to get in and out then the skies the limit 😉
Pick A Camp That's Away From Animal Activity
It's tempting to pitch your camp next to postcard picture lakes, but it's probably wiser to pitch it a little further away from the waters edge.
Who knows what kind of activitiy could go on there at night. Animals or otherwise!
Keep an eye out for game trails as well.
You’ll want to make sure you don’t set your hammock across one of them and get eaten or shot. Both of those things are rubbish to have happen to you on an adventure trip.
Are They Bad For Your Back?
My back is good. But everyone is different. I was looking around a few forums and stuggled to find anyone with who had a bad experience with them.
I tried to find guys with opposing opinions but couldn't find any. I guess they're too busy trying to fix their bad backs than boast about how supple they now are.
But, we're all different so my advice would be to simply try one out and see how it goes.
Hammock Vs Tent
Oh my.. Oh my, my. Did I just see that horrible four letter word written on my glorious article?! Write that again and you'll be called another four letter word
It's a legit question and one that centres lots of debates.
It’s easy to think that swapping your tent for a hammock is like downgrading (I know I did). But it’s not. Not for me at least anyway. I’ve found it far more comfortable and easier to set up.
It feels more ‘open’ And I used to have a hard time convincing myself not to be scared of stuff in the dark. But once I got over that it was all good, and now I like the open air feel it gives!
But there’s a catch!
If you find yourself on a nice beach or above a tree line, then a hammock will be no good to you.
However, I’ve encountered numerous poor nights sleeps in my tent when I had to camp on rocky ground, steep slopes or wet earth. And now that I think about it. Dense forest can make it incredibly difficult to set up a tent as well.
Ahhh. I’m more of a hammock guy but if tents your style then go for it.
How To Make A Hammock
You know what, I wasn’t originally going to put this in. But then I thought hey “this is the ultimate guide” so why not throw it in here for good measure.
Good measure you say. What an excellent paragraph link. You’ll be doing lots of measuring indeed.
Here's an absolutely rubbish video by Quince Captain Home but I like her accent and how uncomfortable she looks at the end makes me laugh.
And last but not least it's banana hammocks....
Just kidding.. That's next weeks article...
Right. I've gone weird again so I think we'll call it a day here. Get yourself a hammock. Or don't. It's up to you.
To the pub!
Image Credit Wiki Commons and Flickr Creative Commons - Gfreimann, Mace Ojala, The Scarlet Manuka, Luis Perez, Tomas Quinones, Patch Attack, Oakley Originals