The Truth About Hammock Camping: Claim #1 – Hammocks Are Lighter Than Tents

Are hammocks really that amazing? I thought it would be interesting to do a series and play devil’s advocate by punching through some of the more popular claims about hammocks as they relate to camping. After all, I’ve had my fair share of misery in a hammock: cold butt syndrome, shoulder squeeze, mosquito bites, leg hyperextension, and more. Through it all, however, I keep going back to hammocks as my primary overnight outdoor accommodations, so while I’ll be brutally honest about the downsides of hammock camping, I’ll share my own solutions.

Tentsile Hammock

This prototype hammock tent from Tentsile is a beast at 40 lbs (18 kg)—not something you want to carry far.

Claim #1: Hammocks are lighter than tents.

The Truth Is: A simple, gathered-end hammock can indeed be light, but to be compared with a tent, you’ve got to add a bug net and a protective rain fly. Hammocks also require adequate suspension and tree-saving straps. The ounces really add up, especially considering that most hammocks are designed for only one occupant. All-in-one, purpose-made camping hammocks can be some of the heaviest camping kits available, rivaling three-person tents (the 3-person Tentsile hammock, pictured above, is a whopping 40 lbs/18 kg!). If you routinely share a tent with a partner, you can almost divide the weight (tent, poles, rain fly, ground sheet, stakes, etc.) equally between you, which further reduces the pack weight of the shelter.

Here are some of the heaviest kits (hammocks with bug net, tarp, and suspension):

Honorable mention: New Tribe Treeboat Hammock – 5.4125 lbs (2.45 kg), and that’s only the hammock and tarp, no bug netting.

The Solutions

Shop around. I’ve collected a thorough list of hammock manufacturers (am I missing any? Let me know!) to help make the process easier. There are hammocks in nearly every weight range, just like tents. Hennessy, for example, also sells hammock kits that are only 1.9 lbs (860 g).

Mix and match components. If you’re looking for something lightweight, I recommend putting together your own kit. You could assemble a hammock kit for only 13 oz (367 g)! In my opinion, this is one advantage hammocks have over tents: modular components. You can shave ounces with a smaller tarp, or if you have the money, purchase a full-size, 6.5 oz tarp made of space-age Cuben Fiber (complete with doors!). Pick up a separate bug net that can be removed when bugs aren’t a problem. Lightweight yet as-strong-as-steel Dyneema can be made into ounce-cutting Whoopie Sling suspension lines, replacing heavier cordage on stock hammock kits. You get the idea.

Know what you want (and need). Most hammock users will tell you that comfort is the number one criteria for choosing a hammock (see Claim #2), and will argue that weight is less of an issue when you know you are going to get a good sleep at the end of the day. Also consider that not everyone is backpacking or thru-hiking the AT either. A lot of hammocks are used by weekend campers who “plop-and-drop” from a vehicle, so weight isn’t a problem.

When I’m backpacking and counting grams, I pick a lightweight hammock like the Grand Trunk Ultralight (about 10 oz/283 g) with Whoopie Sling suspension. Bugs typically aren’t a problem in northern Arizona where I live, but when they are, I like the HUG bug net, which I can easily make for less than 3 oz (85 g). For a tarp, I like the 7 oz (198 g) GoLite Poncho Tarp, which makes a great multi-use asymmetric rain fly, similar to the popular stock Hennessy tarps. All told, my shelter hovers around 20 oz (567 g), which is pretty lightweight, even by ultralight tent standards.

  53 comments for “The Truth About Hammock Camping: Claim #1 – Hammocks Are Lighter Than Tents

  1. jrs
    April 27, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    Derek, great start of a discussion or overview, speaking from my own experience from over 55 yrs camping and long wilderness backpacks, i have another observation. I’ve used tents and pads, very good ones, and some were light and shared weight when I wasn’t soloing, then several yrs back I matriculated to Hammocks, in the 60s i had used mountaineering hammocks on climbs which left a lot to desire as comfort, and when I first began to look into usable comping hammocks, I was skeptical at best, i.e. backsleeping and in a banana shape held little appeal, then on a trip I usually take each year I was in Glacier NP, and a couple, sadly didn’t even get their names, introduced me to the new hammocks, as I’ll call them, and showed how to lay flat, I’ve never looked back, But to my point of why no looking back, comfort, which provides rest and my body refreshed for the next days movement. I stopped backing for yrs because i went trail blind, just trudging the miles and forgot the reason i was out in the beauty of nature, and the fatigue, mostly caused by poor sleep, and falling asleep because your bone tired doesn’t translate to refreshed body and mind. So while weight is important, what oz price for a truly rested trail body, i know the hammock has revitalized my life of getting out and more importantly enjoying the trip. sorry so long, but the hammock and gear give added value to the adventure, my 1/2 cent, jim ps your book is better than great, as are your illustrations , we’re blessed with your talent

    • Derek
      April 27, 2012 at 10:09 pm

      Well, now that I’m not playing devil’s advocate, I can let you know I completely agree with you. When I do hammock presentations, I often hear claims about hammocks and I thought it would be interesting to look objectively at some key points.

      I hope the point I get across is that, yes, hammocks can be lightweight — even lighter than tents when you want it. But hammocks can be heavy too. It’s not a good or bad thing, just reality.

      The other reality is that hammocks are comfortable, which is why we prefer them, especially to the ground.

      However, more on that next week when I take the argument against and see what we find.

    • Erik
      August 26, 2014 at 2:41 am

      That’s a really awesome insight thankyou

  2. April 27, 2012 at 9:40 pm

    My hammock weighs the same as my lightweight tent, although using the hammock I end up taking a lot less gear ( like mat, pillow, small hammer, pegs) so the weight and space advantages of a hammock really add up when I’m cycle touring.

    • Derek
      April 27, 2012 at 10:14 pm

      That is a good point. In fact, one thing I didn’t mention are all those “extras” that people bring to feel comfortable sleeping on the ground. In many ways, it tips the scales (again) in favor of hammock’s simplicity.

      I often read that, for ground dwellers, the difference between a good sleep and a bad one are two extra-strength Tylenol. While funny from a certain perspective, it also relates the unfortunate reality of lightweight backpacking and the observation that there really is a lot of pain involved. Masking the pain with drugs, in my mind, isn’t doing your body any favors.

  3. BikerDad
    May 22, 2012 at 8:18 pm

    While weight is a valid concern for many, I personally think the outdoors industry is going a bit overboard on the subject. Admittedly, I may be biased. I’ve got a motorcycle to handle the weight. On the other hand, there seems to be little attention paid to VOLUME, except as an incidental.

    So, perhaps hammock evangelists could pay some real attention to the subject. I’m looking at hammocks as an option because of the limited packing space I have on my motorcycle.

    I’m hoping that in your “Truths About Hammock Camping”, you’ll address space. A second issue is how do hammocks do in wind and rain? I’m talking about the sort of winds that blow down some tents. It appears to me that if the wind is whipping around from point to point, it will blow right “down the tunnel” and soak me.

    • Derek
      May 22, 2012 at 11:38 pm

      Volume, or “bulk” as it is also referred to, is a major concern, as you clearly point out. Typically, when pack weight is reduced, so is volume. For example, a 20°F-rated sleeping bag filled with synthetic fiber will be heavier and bulkier than a similarly-rated down-filled bag. Down is not only lighter, it packs down smaller (I also contend that down is warmer).

      Weight and bulk usually correlate. The heavier an item, the bulkier it tends to be. Looking for low-bulk items will also get you low weight items.

      I think you’re right on target if you’re considering hammocks for their low-bulk. There are many options that will work for you.

      Now to your question about wind and rain. Wind and rain are both combated with your tarp, although a good bug net can also serve as a moderate wind block. Some hammock tarps, such as those that come stock with most Hennessy models, are parallelograms, or asymmetrically cut. These tarps offer minimal wind and rain protection, but are viable in many cases. If you are looking for exceptional wind and rain protection, get a larger tarp that offers full coverage. With larger side panels, you can even add side pull-outs that will add structural support against a prevailing wind.

      You can get a cuben fiber tarp with long side panels and peak doors that weighs under 7 oz (<198 g) and packs down to the size of a burrito.

      • Don McNaughton
        November 9, 2014 at 8:31 am

        Derek, again as a newbie to hammocks, I am gravitating to a larger fly for the Hennessy Ultralite Backpacker I am purchasing. Hennessy sells an 18.6 oz Hex 30D silnylon tarp. I imagine I am not tied to getting a Hennessy tarp (modular — the beauty of hammocks, as you say!). Could you recommend a tarp that is equivalent (more or less) in size, but weighs less?

        • Derek
          November 9, 2014 at 8:54 am

          Yes, but I may exceed your budget :) Cuben Fiber hex tarps from HammockGear.com, mountain laurel designs, zpacks and others are around 7 oz with doors! For more reasonable price on sil, check out Arrowhead Equipment. Jacks R Better has a great utility tarp. The Warbonnet SuperFly is also popular.

    • May 28, 2012 at 9:38 am

      Agreed. I switched to hammocks more for the space reason over weight. My hammock setup weighs about the same as my tent when you factor in everything you need (tarp, suspension, quilts, etc) but it’s the space savings that convinced me to switch. Plus not having to try and find a spot for tent poles in my bag makes packing far less stressful.

      • Derek
        May 28, 2012 at 9:55 am

        Do you include your pad, bag, and ground sheet when you factor the weight of a tent? If you remove those items in common with both methods (e.g., insulation) hammocks can be very competitive in the weight category. But, just like tents, results vary by shelter type.

  4. Clémentine35
    July 2, 2013 at 1:36 am

    Nice review! I personally use a Ticket To The Moon hammock: double to lie down perfectly. They are very comfortable and lightweight: 200g for a double hammock. I also use a TTTM hammock tarp (900g). I prefer sleeping in a hammock because you avoid wet and sloping grounds but also insects.Moreover, it is faster to set up and take down.
    Check on their website: http://www.ticketothemoon.com/en/parachute_hammock.html

  5. A. Dent
    July 30, 2013 at 10:30 am

    “Hennessy, for example, also sells hammock kits that are only 1.9 lbs (860 kg).”

    Should that not be “860 gram” and not kg…. just saying :-)

    a little heavy for my family….

    • Derek
      July 30, 2013 at 10:33 am

      Wow, great catch! I just corrected this error.

  6. Cory
    March 14, 2014 at 12:56 pm

    Well it’s been almost a year since your last reply. Looking at your list of hammocks I noticed an excellent brand missing. Have you looked at http://www.warbonnetoutdoors.com
    I friend turned me on to them last fall. The total weight with fly, net, and hammock and strapings/caribiners was just at 3 pounds. No squished shoulders, plenty of feet room and even has a compartment to store stuff. I don’t feel like a banana in it either. Worth a gander. Sounds like an ad, but I’m just a recent purchaser. Only used it for naps so far but getting ready for an excursion next month.

    • Derek
      March 14, 2014 at 5:17 pm

      Cory, thanks for your post! Yes, I am familiar with Warbonnet. In fact, I know the owner, Brandon, and have even done some reviews on his excellent gear. The short list of hammocks I mentioned on this post was to highlight some of the heaviest kits available. Warbonnet didn’t make the list because they are fairly light in comparison, and good examples of well-balanced hammocks with all the features Brandon sneaks in there. I agree: the Warbonnet Blackbird is a fantastic hammock! I keep an up-to-date list of hammock manufactures on my website if you want to see more vendors that are available.

      • December 10, 2014 at 5:45 pm

        I am looking for a hammock for my son .. the one who has everything when it comes to camping.. but I figured if I got him a hammock he either would want a second one or love the one I got him and use that instead.. :) Have you checked out ROO hammocks.. as in kangaroo. well .they claim to be only 24 oz.. I know…. sounds hard to believe.. but I am getting my son one for Christmas.. it is a double one.. hope he likes it.

        • Derek
          December 10, 2014 at 5:57 pm

          Yes, I’m familiar with the Roo. Greg and his team make great products and I’ve done a review if you’re interested.

  7. Cory
    March 14, 2014 at 7:18 pm

    Thanks Derrick! I found your list about 10 minutes after I posted. I stumbled across your blog while testing my hammock in the back yard and debating on which fly I really need. This next trip I take will be my first hammock hike. I’m very excited to think the one part of the trip I dread most (sleeping) might actually be pleasant. Brandon really has done great work with the hammock. I’ll be reading over your blog for tips! Thanks again.

    • Derek
      March 14, 2014 at 7:24 pm

      Thanks! My best wishes with your hike. I’m with you: sleeping on the ground can be miserable. Hammocks make it fun, relaxing, and comfortable. You might also be interested in my book on hammock camping.

  8. March 31, 2014 at 2:53 am

    The reason why I prefer tents is that I am affraid of widowmakers. One of my worse dreams is that a branch will drop on me during my sleep.

    • Derek
      March 31, 2014 at 6:57 am

      Well, tents offer no more protection from widow makers than hammocks unless you camp in an open field, and then you become a lightning rod :) you just have to be wise about your camp spot no matter what shelter you choose.

  9. April 7, 2014 at 6:39 pm

    How do you stay warm in the cold AZ nights?? I’m needing this info immediately :) I’ve been looking and searching the web for ideas and have a few, just picking your brain!

    • Derek
      April 7, 2014 at 8:40 pm

      The desert is deceptively cold! Arizona can see diurnal temperature shifts of 40+ degrees, dropping from 120°F down to 70°F, which will feel extremely cool. I used regular camping pads for years, and many folks still swear by them. In fact, I still use them on occasion for lightweight backpacking. Under quilts are really nice because they don’t impact the lay of the hammock and insulate around the shoulders as well. You can make under quilts with a surplus military poncho liner for cheap. Send me a PM if you have further questions about staying warm.

  10. Ranjana
    May 3, 2014 at 12:38 pm

    Hi Derek, really great review. I am trying to buy a hammock for my boyfriend who loves camping! I just wanted to know if you still recommend the Grand Trunk Ultra lightweight hammock with the whoopie sling suspension. I know you wrote this article in 2012 and I just wanted to make sure it is still your top pick of hammock. It is really reasonably priced and I would like to buy it if you still believe its the best :) . My boyfriend is 5″11 and has a slender build. We live in Trinidad (Caribbean) so it pretty hot. Thanks so much in advance for all your great help. This is a big help for people who know nothing of camping hammocks. Best Regards, Ranjana

    • Derek
      May 3, 2014 at 12:48 pm

      Trinidad! Awesome! Yes, the grand trunk ultralight would be great. He is just the right height as well. Make sure to get some good tree straps. I would go with the kammok python straps or the ENO atlas. It makes setup easy.

      • Ranjana
        May 3, 2014 at 4:52 pm

        Thanks for your quick response Derek! Will definitely buy one of those straps to go with the hammock. Trinidad has some lovely hikes to go on. If you are ever in Trinidad and Tobago, my fellow scout boyfriend would gladly take you everywhere and anywhere you want to go hiking wise. Thanks again for all your help :) You are a life saver.

  11. Mike
    June 4, 2014 at 11:48 am

    I am probably asking this in the wrong place but at 317 pounds I wonder how safe a 300lb rated Hennessey hammock tent would be? I have it available and would like to try it but that line through the tent looks so tiny. I know I’m overweight for it so that’s why I’m asking. I don’t have the funds or another option I could use some advice before I’m forced out of the house I’m in.

    • Derek
      June 4, 2014 at 1:01 pm

      Mike,

      The weight rating is for the safe working load, taking into account dynamic strain, etc. The fabric and suspension lines are rated at much higher breaking strength. That said, you can easily replace the Hennessy suspension if you want to upgrade to something more robust, say a 1/8″ Amsteel line with Whoopie Slings.

      As for the hammock, Hennessy does sell hammocks that are rated for more weight, such as the Safari.

      • Mike
        June 4, 2014 at 1:31 pm

        I know I can upgrade. It’s just an immediate problem and a lack of funds that drove me to ask.

  12. Jordan
    June 26, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    Have you ever looked into Sierra Madre Research products, namely the Pares hammock and Nubé hammock shelter? What do you think of both pieces, and the bulk/weight of them together?

    • Derek
      June 27, 2014 at 7:10 am

      Yes, I’m aware of them but I haven’t tested them so I can’t speak too directly about them. On appearances they look cool, but I don’t know much more about them.

      • Jordan
        June 29, 2014 at 5:45 am

        Received my Pares hammock recently. I’m very impressed thus far. It’s large, and relatively light, packing up pretty small. I’ll have to wait and see about the Nubé.

  13. Jami
    June 30, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Derek,
    I just read all the posts above, I’m thrilled to run across all this info and you. My husband and I are backpacking (2 yr plan) through central and South America. I KNOW it’s wet, hot, and totally infested with flying biting bugs. I have looked into so many hammock tents and I don’t know a single person who’s had one so it’s hard to get all the info like what you’ve given, gratefully! Can you recommend 1 or 2 that would be well fitted for our upcoming adventure? We leave this coming Oct 3rd.
    I’m so grateful to come across this page! Thanks again!
    Jami

    • Derek
      June 30, 2014 at 5:57 pm

      Jami! Sounds like you have an exciting trip coming up. Let’s chat offline about your needs and I’ll help you the best I can.

  14. Selena
    July 13, 2014 at 6:56 am

    i love camping. but I always experienced falling down over tent lines while i’m rushing to get back in my tent

  15. July 22, 2014 at 8:46 pm

    I’ve never tried hammock before. But it looks cool, though!! The next time I go camping, I’ll definitely do this. :)

  16. Deno
    August 6, 2014 at 6:19 pm

    For me the best part about hammock camping, aside from the lighter weight, superior comfort, reasonable price point, and…well, everything, is the freedom of location. My gfriend and I have slept in a waterfall basin, across a creek (also next to a waterfall), 20 feet up a random hill with roadside parking…you can go ANYWHERE.
    To save weight and make for super-simple set up, I put Whoopie Slings on the four corners of my 12×12 Kelty Noah’s tarp. Slap a ‘biner on the tree straps, one titanium stake per side, cinch it tight, and I’ve never felt a drop of rain (despite the fact that it ALWAYS rains, usually a downpour, at least one night per week-long trip). Granted the Kelty isn’t the lightest tarp out there, but it’s well worth it for the protection.
    The only issue is that with two of us in one hammock (no, we will NOT sleep separately;-) even with a Dyneema structural ridge line it can get a bit cramped. Any thoughts on an asymmetrical hammock for two? Do you know of any available for sale?

    Many thanks and happy hanging!

    • Derek
      August 7, 2014 at 7:04 am

      Yes, you can sleep two to a single asym hammock. What they do down in South America is get a Matrimonial Hammock. These are big and wide hammocks that allow two people to sleep in two separate pockets in the same hammock. Look up “matrimonial mayan hammock” and you’ll see several examples. These are big hammocks, though, and getting a tarp or bug net to cover them will be an issue. I applaud those who can sleep snuggled in the same hammock; I can’t do it :) I recommend folks get two hammocks and pitch them close together; it’s essentially the same thing. But if you must, even psychologically, be in the same bed, you’ll have to compromise on a few things to make that happen: weight, bulk, comfort, etc.

  17. Gary Barton
    August 19, 2014 at 3:19 am

    I’m 71, 5′ 9″, 160lb. Started hiking a couple of years ago, maximum of 3 nights at a time on AT in Georgia. About 35lbs is all I can carry and walk all day, so weight is important. I’ve been using REI Quarter Dome Tent with a small inflatable mattress (15 deep breaths at the end of the day is exhausting, but doable). Finding a level spot to pitch a tent is sometimes difficult, so a hammock has a lot of appeal, if I can convince myself that the much-discussed ‘banana effect will not give me a sore back. I assume my existing air mattress would work with a hammock for warmth and comfort.

    What hammock and related equipment do you recommend for an old guy?

    Gary

    • Derek
      August 19, 2014 at 8:38 am

      You should definitely check out my post on Hammock Camping 101 and Are Hammocks Comfortable. First off, when you hang a hammock correctly and sleep correctly (on the diagonal) you don’t sleep curved like a banana. This is a modern, western concept but isn’t how hammocks are traditionally (and appropriately) used. You might also want to check out my book — I’ve got more details there and a slew of illustrations to get you started.

  18. August 29, 2014 at 4:28 pm

    Hi,
    I’m new to hammocks and would like a recommendation. I would like something light and comfortable that I can use all year round with mosquito net and rain fly. I do most of my hiking, hunting and camping at my ranch http://www.sanjoseranch.me in Chihuahua, Mexico and San Antonio, TX where i live. I talked to Hennessy and they recommended the Deep Jungles which add an extra pound and the Explorer Ultralites. Is hard to decide with so many brands I also saw DD Hammocks and many more. I called Hennessy because I saw it at REI.

  19. September 5, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    Hi, I’ve sent you emails with my information and I don’t know if you have received them. Please let me know.

    • Derek
      September 5, 2014 at 1:06 pm

      Interesting. Yes, I’ve received them and responded to each. Did they make it into your spam folder?

      • September 8, 2014 at 7:45 am

        Hi,I’ve sent two more emails with another email and I still have not received your reply. I sent my contact information on all of them. Can you call me? I would really appreciate it.

        • Derek
          September 8, 2014 at 6:20 pm

          Wow. I just replied again. Are you sure you are missing my messages?

        • Derek
          September 8, 2014 at 6:21 pm

          I won’t have time to call until tomorrow.

  20. September 8, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    I’m hiking the north shore of Lake Superior for 2-3 weeks starting in late September and despite all of the hoo-ha I’ve read here about hammocks, I believe a tent is the better option for coping with the potential of heavy rain and night temperatures in the 30s or lower. My ‘comfort’ level ThermaRest pad makes sleeping on the ground as pleasant as sleeping in my bed at home — more so than hyperextending my knees in my hammock and its claustrophobic vibe which feels like a coffin at times. Just saying…

  21. lance
    October 23, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    I need some help on finding a hammock for the Louisiana swamp. Something very bug and water proof to put in my hunting bag.I sent 1 to many nights trying to build a shelter out the water just to get wet by rain .

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