Getting started in the world of hammock camping can take a ton of effort and feel overwhelming! I should know, I made the transition from tent to hammock myself a few years ago.
Unfortunately, there was a lot I didn’t know about hammock camping and it cost me time and money both!
With hundreds of nights experience on the trail guiding backpacking trips, I know what to look for in great gear. There are a lot of details involved in choosing the best backpacking hammock for your needs and personal style.
At a Glance: Top Recommendations:
- Hennessy Hammock Ultralight Backpacker – Best Overall Hammock
- Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter – Best for Beginners/Budget
- ENO DoubleNest Hammock – Best for Couples
- Kammok Mantis UL – Best Hammock tent
- Hummingbird Single – Best ultralight hammock
- Kammok Roo Jr – Best camping hammock for kids
- Dream Hammock Darien – Best if you don’t mind waiting
- Dream Hammock Sparrow – Best 4-season Hammock
Note: Clicking the above links will take you to further information, current prices and customer reviews on Amazon
Let’s get right into it and find out what gear belongs in your backpack! Here’s what’s to come in this article:
What You'll Learn
- How to Choose the Best Backpacking Hammock for You
- Suspension Systems – How to Hang
- Bug Nets – Beat those Noseeums
- Rain Tarps – Shelter from the Water
- Camping Hammocks in Cold Weather
- The Best Hammocks for Backpacking: Reviewed
- Hennessy Hammock Ultralite Backpacker – Top Backpacking Hammock
- Dream Hammock Darien Best Hammock for Ultralight Backpackers
- Hummingbird Single – Ultralight option
- Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro – Best for Budget/Beginners
- Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock – Best for Couples
- Kammok Mantis UL – Best Hammock Set
- Dream Hammock Sparrow – Best 4-Season Hammock
- Wrapping Up
How to Choose the Best Backpacking Hammock for You
Remember, we’re all different. Whether it’s body size, sleep preference, hiking location or other factors – you need something different from the next guy. Keep that in mind as we go over some of the details of hammock camping.
Material & Fabrics
Hammocks for backpacking are usually lightweight – or at least lighter weight than recreational ones. That means they have to push the envelope a bit with materials. These lightweight materials generally are one of two main types:
- Nylon is a man-made material that is extremely durable and abrasion resistant. This material is heavily used in backpacking gear because it’s effective and affordable. Nylon can be made more robust with the inclusion of thick reinforcement threads called ripstop nylon.
- Polyester is another man-made material common in backpacking and sports gear. It is known for its great wicking capabilities in clothing. In hammocks, however, it is sometimes used as a lightweight material for bodies. Depending on the weave and exact fiber type it can be both affordable and lightweight.
Both nylon and polyester are perfectly acceptable materials for hammock camping. For those seeking the absolute lightest, high-end polyester weaves may often offer the pinnacle of performance.
There are two main construction styles – camping or recreational. These styles offer dramatically different end results:
Gathered-end hammocks are made by cinching up all the material at the end of the hammock. From that “gathered end” a suspension system travels out to the trees. Gathered-end ones are affordable and easy to DIY or make at home.
The biggest downfall of a gathered-end camping hammock is that they tend to cause “banana” shaped sleeping positions.
Some gathered-end models are made to lay asymmetrically so the user lays across them at an angle. This helps flatten the hang lay so if the banana lay bothers you, it’s best to look for this feature!
Pros of Gathered Hammocks
- Simple Construction
- Low bulk
Cons of Gathered Hammocks
- Banana shaped lay
- Lack of “wiggle room”
Bridge Hammocks try to solve the problem of the banana shaped lay as well. Instead of making you lay at an angle, bridge hammocks attempt to flatten out the entire hammock.
With a bridge there are two spreader bars at the head and foot of the hammock. These bars spread out the weight and pressure of the user across the material. Any suspension on the hammock then attaches to these bridge bars.
Pros of Bridge Hammocks:
- Flatter lay
- More wiggle room
- More traditional feeling sleep position
Cons of Bridge Hammocks:
- Spreader bars are large and heavy
- Perfecting the hang may be fiddly and may take tinkering
Suspension Systems – How to Hang
Suspension systems are tricky and can rapidly get confusing! They’re an area of hammock technicality that many newbies don’t even realize they have options.
The suspension system of any hammock refers to the rope, webbing, or cord that holds the weight of the user. Suspension straps (“tree straps”) are the most common for beginners.
Suspension systems are critical to a good hang and a technical look at them can quickly get more complicated than this article can cover.
There are several competing popular styles of suspension but one style beats them all for simplicity and lightweight. That is the whoopie sling method of hammock suspension!
Whoopie slings are common on some of the best hammocks for backpacking. Fortunately, even on those without whoopie slings, they can be added afterward without too much hassle. To make or modify your own whoopie slings, start with this tutorial video:
To save you some time in research I’ll give you a tip to unlocking a lightweight suspension: Dynaglide rope is by far the lightest suspension material you can use. However, it may not be quite strong enough to support heavier users and tight hang angles.
If you need suspension gear to make or adjust your suspension, there are few resources as good as the Whoopie Sling site. You can also learn more about the technical forces and components in a suspension system through their great educational material as well.
When you’re deciding on a suspension, make sure to consider that it will bear the entire load of you and your gear in the hammock. Don’t skimp on the weight capacity of your suspension material – if in doubt go with a stronger material!
Tree Hugger Straps
In order to attach the hammock to a tree, you need some kind of strap. In the past, some have been made to attach to the tree using the same suspension rope that attaches to the hammock.
Unfortunately, that can cause damage to the tree and is not allowed in many areas of public land.
Tree straps not only save the tree, they also save your hammock suspension. Tree bark can be damaging to suspension lines over time. Plus, many tree hugger straps are designed to help you quickly adjust distances.
There is really only one general rule for tree hugger straps in my mind: they must be 1” wide or more.
For more information on tree hugger straps check out this comprehensive resource.
Aside from that single rule, anything goes when it comes to tree hugger straps. However, what I like to look for is a lightweight webbing material.
Seek the lightest webbing you can find that is 1” wide or more and has a load rating that can handle the weight of you and your gear.
I made my own tree hugger straps. Many hammocks come with them. For the gram weenies like me, seeking to cut every ounce, you may want to make your own.
Treehugger straps usually also require toggles when being used with whoopie slings. I made my own as well, but you can purchase them.
Most toggles are made from old aluminum arrow shafts cut into 2’ – 3” lengths. If you happen to have one on hand just cut it with a hacksaw and gently sand down the burs to make your own and save a buck or two.
Bug Nets – Beat those Noseeums
One of the last features to think about with a camping hammock is the bug net. Essentially it’s a question of “to bug net or not to bug net”?
The answer is that you need to have a bug net unless you happen to be in an area that’s completely free of bugs. There’s really no other way to comfortably sleep the night away.
Some users will use an oversize recreational hammock, like a double Eno, and wrap the whole thing around them to protect from bugs. This method of protection has several problems, only one of them being claustrophobia.
Bug nets do add a bit of weight, but not much for their added comfort. For that reason, I urge people to opt for bug nets.
Bug nets come in two flavors: integrated or separate.
Integrated bug nets are convenient and effective. Unless you have a specific reason for avoiding them, it’s best to look for a hammock with one included.
If for some reason, you already have a hammock you want to use or you go with one without a bug net, you can add one after. Bug net “sock” slip over the entire hammock and surround you in 360 degrees of bug protection.
One advantage of a removable bug net is that you can remove it and leave it at home when bugs are negligible. Considering the disadvantages of removable bug nets, however, this may not be worth your time.
Rain Tarps – Shelter from the Water
The final component is a hammock rainfly/ tarp. Shelter from the rain is one of the many reasons why hikers are reluctant to shift away from tents. I’ll note a few things here to think about and avoid and then cover all you need to know about rain tarps.
- To avoid: Some camping hammocks include integrated rain tarps. My Hennessy came with an integrated rain fly which caused no end of problems, with water dripping. After some research, I finally learned why and have ever since avoided this style of rain fly.
Integrated rain fly, when attached to the suspension, lose tension when you lay in the hammock. Laying in the hammock pulls the two end attachment points closer together and thus causes tarp slack, allowing water in.
Instead, what you need is a nice lightweight rainfly with its own suspension cord. For this purpose, you can choose to use one of a number of materials.
- Cuben fiber or dyneema fiber is by far the lightest weight material you can use for a rain fly. It’s also very loud and very fragile to puncture. This material will save gram weenies several ounces but at a high expense on the wallet.
- Silpoly is, in my view, the best bang for your buck. This is a waterproof silicone impregnated polyester fabric. These tarps from Underground Quilts employ silpoly to great effect and they’re my preferred tarp for any situation!
- Silnylon is a classic material and you can’t go wrong, really. When it comes to technicality and number crunching it may or may not beat silpoly. If you find a cheap silnylon tarp that fits your needs, I wouldn’t hesitate to go with it!
Understanding the size of tarp to go with is a bit trickier. If you’re a gram weenie you’ll probably want to save every ounce by picking a small size. I would urge you to avoid this in this case as a small tarp is a big pain in the butt.
Instead, go with a moderate to large size tarp and save yourself a lot of trouble. An extra ounce or two here will give you more room to get in and out of your hammock without getting soaked. It may also afford the room you need to cook underneath the tarp on a nasty weather day.
For those unconcerned about weight or cost, I’d go with a very generous sized silpoly tarp from Underground Quilts. The weight will still be quite light and you’ll have tons of “elbow room” and no worries during driving rains.
- Asymmetrical tarps are crucial for those using asymmetrical hang hammocks. Remember that some gathered end hammocks cause users to lay slightly sideways, known as an asymmetrical hang. You’ll either need an asymmetrical tarp or a large traditional tarp that will adequately cover you from rain.
Camping Hammocks in Cold Weather
Winter hammock camping. Hammocks are highly susceptible to heat loss during winter and therefore struggle to compete with conventional shelters like tents for efficiency.
In order to survive the cold winter temps you’ll need a few critical things:
- Appropriate top quilt
- Appropriate underquilt
- Winter rainfly/tarp
This doesn’t sound so bad, does it? Well, unfortunately, those thick warm quilts – even when made from good quality down – weigh quite a bit and take up a decent amount of space in the pack.
Plus, most wraparound 4-season tarps are nearly double the weight and bulk of minimalist summer tarps.
That said, even in a tent you’ll need bulkier, heavier gear for the winter. However, when the dust settles and we crunch the numbers, staying warm in a hammock takes more gear in the winter.
Remember that weight and bulk are not the final deciding factor in every case. If you enjoy hammock camping and want to keep on hanging right through the winter, there’s no reason to worry about crunching numbers.
For the gram weenies and ultralight purists among you, I would urge you to consider other shelter options for super lightweight winter camping.
On Underquilts and Top Quilts – Insulation
Chances are good that you’ve heard about these. They’re the hammock equivalent of a sleeping bag. However, because of the lay of a hammock, using a sleeping bag won’t work. Traditional sleeping bags lose insulation value when used in a hammock due to the crushed loft.
That said, this article is primarily about camping hammocks so we won’t dig into the nitty-gritty details of quilts. I will arm you with a few tips though:
- Higher loft numbers are lighter weight when comparing like for like/li>
- Down underquilts can be hit with rain spray if you use too small of a tarp
- When in doubt, go with a warmer underquilt and buy several top quilts based on expected temps
Buying a new underquilt and top quilt to match all the changes in outdoor temperature that you might experience throughout a backpacking season will cost thousands of dollars!
I would buy one warm underquilt for 3-season and a 20 degree top quilt plus a 40 degree top quilt to cover 90% of situations.
Of course, you’ll have to decide what’s best for you, your sleep preferences, the time of year, and your budget!
- Note: Not all hammocks have attachments for underquilts. Add some afterward with a little DIY sewing – they’re not hard to add.
The Best Hammocks for Backpacking: Reviewed
Let’s be clear – there are tons of camping hammocks out there. However, only a handful of them really measures up against the strict needs of backpackers and campers.
Hennessy Hammock Ultralite Backpacker – Top Backpacking Hammock
- Weight 1 lb 12 ounces (complete shelter system, rainfly, tarp)
- Hammock weight alone 23 ounces
- Load capacity 200 lbs
Hennessy made my very first (and still only) backpacking hammock. Meeting the manufacturer at Trail Days in Damascus, VA was my introduction to the then-budding phenomenon of backpacking hammocks.
- Popular cottage manufacturer
- Tons of aftermarket accessories
- Asymmetrical rainfly included
These guys know how to make a camping hammock. One of the design features you won’t find elsewhere is the “classic entry” model. With these, two overlapping layers of fabric on the bottom provide the entry into the bugnet-protected hammock. This makes the it lighter by removing the zipper.
Note: You can order the zipper model like I did if you prefer.
These gathered end asymmetrical hammocks have an included lightweight rainfly. The current Hennessy Hammock model rainflys have their own independent suspension that prevents rainfly sag.
While the hammock and rainfly come in at about 2 pounds total, you can always tweak a Hennessy to your liking. There are many accessories and changes you can make to create the perfect backpacking sleep system for you with this platform!VIEW ON AMAZON VIEW AT REI
Dream Hammock Darien Best Hammock for Ultralight Backpackers
- Weight and weight capacity depends on your customizations
If there was a single hammock that’s “the best” for everyone it would be the Darien from Dream. Seriously, this thing is loaded with features and options.
You can custom order almost every single detail including fabric, color, and options. The downside is you have to wait 6-9 weeks for delivery. Which is no good if you want to get started quickly!
- Multiple fabric choices
- Complete control of options
- Extremely lightweight
- Integrated bug net
- Takes 6 weeks to deliver
This hammock is designed with an asymmetrical lay out of the box. What you won’t get out of the box, however, is a tarp.
That’s okay though because most discerning backpackers using hammocks probably have their own tarp preferences anyways.
You can order this hammock ready with whoopie slings so there’s no tinkering necessary. I’d advise this method!
Plus, you can choose from 10’ hammock models or 11’ ones. The longer 11’ model will be a bit heavier but you’ll get a flatter lay and more room for taller sleepers.
Practically everything about this ultralight hammock can be customized. If you don’t see the options you want, just send them an email.
You’ll also be hard pressed to find a lighter hammock at a lower price with all the features of the Darien. It’s notorious for being among the all time top performers in the world of backpacking hammocks.VIEW AT DREAM HAMMOCKS
Hummingbird Single – Ultralight option
- Weight: 5.2 ounces (note this doesn’t include the rainfly, tarp, or straps)
- Load capacity: 300 lbs
If you want an ultralight camping hammock and don’t want to wait for Dream to make you one, then take a look at the Hummingbird Single.
Made in the US using the lightest parachute fabrics, the guys at Hummingbird have cracked the balance between packable and comfortable. An FAA certified parachute rigger is responsible for the design, leaving out unnecessary hardware that adds weight.
Note that this does not come with a tarp, tree straps or rainfly, so in order to use it, you’ll have to order those separately.
Hummingbird tree straps are designed to complement their hammocks, keeping the ultralight backpacker in mind. With a weight capacity rating of 400 lb, you can get the standard straps or the extra-long ones for those massive trees.VIEW ON AMAZON VIEW AT HUMMINGBIRD
Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro – Best for Budget/Beginners
- Weight 1 lb 13 ounces (includes bugnet but no tarp)
- Load capacity 400 lbs
I still remember getting started backpacking. This was a time in my life when inexpensive gear ruled my world by necessity. I spent hours searching for the most affordable version of the gear I needed. That’s why I made sure to include an option that can get you hammock camping on the cheap.
- Gathered end
- Full bug net
- Tree hugger and suspension included
- No tarp included
At this price, you might expect lower quality but that’s not the case here. While you lose some of the customization available from cottage industry manufacturers like Dream or Jacks R Better, that doesn’t mean a loss of quality.
This hammock holds a generous 400 pounds of user and gear weight. All that weight capacity comes in at about 1 lb 13 ounces of weight for the hammock and bug net combo. Keep in mind, however, you will have to go find your own rainfly.
If saving every single ounce isn’t that important to you and you don’t mind tinkering with your gear, you could save a pretty penny going this route!VIEW ON AMAZON
Eagles Nest Outfitters DoubleNest Hammock – Best for Couples
- Weight 19 ounces (doesn’t include straps, tarp or bugnet)
- Load capacity 400 lbs
With all my experience and research I’ve just never been able to find a double hammock that works really well for couples.
No matter how much you love your partner, hammocks just aren’t the place to share sleeping space.
A double always seems like a good idea, and some people love them. Enter the ENO doublenest.
This is a rugged hammock from a well-loved manufacturer that provides comfortable sleep if you insist on sleeping together.
If you want to get creative, you can still be close to one another and use your favorite single hammocks with a little inventiveness.
The Fuse system from ENO Outfitters provides a spreader bar that put just enough space between two hammocks that you can both sleep comfortably yet shoulder to shoulder.
You’ll still need two hammocks, suspensions, tarp and tree hugger straps.
That said, you can get away with one large rainfly to go over both. I’d order in a custom size large silpoly tarp from UnderGround Quilts to finish up this setup.VIEW ON AMAZON VIEW AT REI
Kammok Mantis UL – Best Hammock Set
Even if you don’t mind doing the research and trial and error associated with creating your own customized camping hammock, it’s hard to get it right.
Instead of mucking around with the details yourself, many of you are probably more inclined to buy a finished system. That’s what this is!
The Kammok mantis UL is almost a “hammock tent”, with a trail weight of less than 2 lbs, it’s adaptable to 4 season use with some insulation additions.
- Everything you need for camping
- Includes rain tarp (& guy outs), straps, structural ridgeline, bug canopy
On top of that, you’re guaranteed that the hammock, tarp and rain fly will all work well together. There’s no messing with adding or removing clips and toggles to make sure everything fits right.
Kammok is a small cottage industry manufacturer from the US and they know what they’re doing. It’s nice to see an easy to use option for those who want to get started quickly and without hassle.VIEW AT KAMMOK VIEW AT REI
Dream Hammock Sparrow – Best 4-Season Hammock
I have to admit that hammocks make unusual choices for winter shelters. Due to several technical factors, they’re very hard to keep warm during the winter.
Therefore most backpackers opt for more traditional winter shelters.
However, if you love hammock camping you can still get out there in the winter. You’ll need a 4-season hammock like the Dream Sparrow.
- One of few hammocks with overcover option
- Tons of customization options
- Whoopie Sling suspension option
- Takes 6 weeks to be delivered, made to order
When you order, make sure you get the net and overcover, or overcover only for winter use. This overcover provides an extra degree of warmth and wind protection on those icy nights.
You’ll also need a very generously warm underquilt. Before you’re finished buying your setup you’ll also need to walk away with a 4-season rainfly/tarp.
By the time you’re done, you’ll have everything you need to enjoy 4-season hammock camping.VIEW AT DREAM HAMMOCKS
The world of hammock camping and backpacking is a whole new experience for many backpackers who are used to tents. It’s a fun new skill and hanging can add a breath of fresh air to the experience of enjoying the woods.
If you’re not prepared, it can be frustrating. There’s so much new gear to learn and understand! Plus you’ve got to figure out exactly what to get, where to buy it, and how much you want to spend.
And then you’ve got to figure out how to hang it and sleep in it. No wonder some people stick to tents.
After reading through this article you should be more than prepared to make an intelligent buying decision on your next backpacking hammock! I’ve tried to give you as much technical and personal guidance as I can based on my own seasons of sleeping above ground.
Remember that everyone has different needs and you may even pick different gear based on the time of year that you’re out and about. It’s always easiest to get started in the summer, so begin there and pick the best gear you can to enjoy getting out with your hammock in the enjoyable warm months!
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