Where hammocks really shine (outside of their comfort, of course) is their modularity. Nearly every component is upgradeable or can be exchanged for other options. You can pick-and-choose and mix-and-match pieces to create your own “perfect” system. Want a roomier bug net? Lighter suspension system? How about a bigger (or smaller) rain fly? Hammocks make it happen. In some ways, hammocks are a gear junkies dream (and a wallet’s curse): there is literally no end to hammock accessories. Compare that to a tent—ever try to modify a tent fly, upgrade the poles with a lighter set, swap the sidewalls for more or less bug netting, enlarging the tent space from one person to three person, or increase the footprint? You might as well buy a different tent1.
The vast majority of hammocks sold and used for outdoor recreation are the ubiquitous “parachute nylon” style with colorful fabric and gathered-ends. All it takes is some bug netting and a tarp to make these hammocks viable 3-season camping shelters. However, putting together a hammock shelter à la carte can be a daunting prospect because there are are simply WAY TOO MANY OPTIONS and twice as many opinions on which is the “best” choice. The truth is, there is no single “perfect” hammock camping kit that I could prescribe for everyone—it all depends on what you want and need.
Tip #1: When going to the hammock à la carte menu, know what you’re looking for.
But what if you don’t know what you’re looking for? Start with an inventory on how you intend to use the hammock. Are you primarily a car camper? Backpacker? Are you on a budget? Are you looking for the lightest, most packable options? Do you expect to hammock camp year round, or only in three seasons (spring, summer, and fall)?
In helping you narrow your choices, this maxim holds true 98%2 of the time:
Inexpensive • High-Quality • Lightweight: Pick two.
- Can’t spend a lot but want light gear? It’s probably not durable.
- If you want something durable but lightweight, it’s probably space-age, and therefore expensive.
- What about a durable yet inexpensive? It’s probably heavy. And bulky.
If you shop around, you are likely to find great deals that maximize on all three, but for some people, one or two of these considerations is most important. For example, if you mainly car camp then lightweight gear probably doesn’t matter. A thru-hiker, in contrast, is probably looking for the lightest gear that won’t break the bank (and will last the whole trip—can’t we wish for all three?)
Tip #2: Try before you buy. One benefit of brick-and-mortar gear retailers is the ability to walk in and try something out. A few hammock camping accessories like bug nets and tarps can be found in these stores. Hammocks, on the other hand, are not as common nor are they regularly “set-up” to try out. If you are looking at upgrading or supplementing your kit, a great option is to attend a Group Hang with fellow hangers. HammockForums.net regularly displays posts for upcoming Group Hangs where you’ll find a wide-variety of hammocks (and other gear) on display and opportunities to try them out.
Tip #3: Rummage sales. If funds are low but you still want to upgrade or expand your hammock repertoire, there are a lot of à la carte options available either on eBay or on the HammockForums.net marketplace. This is a great way to find gently used and new gear for sale, or to post hammock gear you no longer need3.
Tip #4: Do-it-Yourself. A lot of hammock gear can be made if you have some basic sewing skills. A gathered-end hammock is a wonderful beginner project. xollox on HammockForums.net has collected a pretty comprehensive list of hammock-related DIY projects. Making gear is a great way to minimize costs, learn a new skill, or just tinker around.
Tip #5: Be prepared to pay for quality. I suppose this is more of a reminder than a tip. High-quality gear is often expensive. A lot of people complain about the high cost of a down-filled under quilt, for example, without realizing the cost breakdown of materials or the labor-intensive processes. In my own experience, paying for well-made gear is worth it in the long run since it often performs better and lasts longer, among other qualities.
As I indicated earlier, there are literally thousands of ways to assemble a gear list so it helps to lay some ground rules. First off, for my lists, all the gear is commercially available. Second, I’ve limited myself to explore three examples that suit a variety of interests or skill levels: an entry-level list, a low-cost list, and a lightweight list. Finally, these lists reflect a snapshot in time when I made these lists. In other words, the gear featured represent my personal recommendations based on my own experiences, not paid listings or to promote one brand over another. I expect to expand or extend this list in the future as things change or my testing dictates.
Pick Your Camping Hammock Options à la carte — Hammock Camping Comparison Chart
How to use this table: The gear column is selectable. Click on an item to choose from a drop-down list. The URL, weight, and cost are all updated automatically.
|Hammock||Pick||—||0 oz (0 g)||$0|
|Bug Net||Pick||—||0 oz (0 g)||$0|
|Tarp||Pick||—||0 oz (0 g)||$0|
|Suspension||Pick||—||0 oz (0 g)||$0|
|Tree Strap||Pick||—||0 oz (0 g)||$0|
|Top Insulation||Pick||—||0 oz (0 g)||$0|
|Bottom Insulation||Pick||—||0 oz (0 g)||$0|
|TOTAL||0 oz (0 g)||$0|
- (B) = Includes integrated bug netting
- (kit) = Includes tarp, bug netting, straps, and suspension lines
- Represents commercially available product line (e.g., no DIY).
- European currency was converted to US$ using exchange rates in cases where the supplier offered no US$ pricing.
- Gear weights and cost are pulled from the individual manufacturer websites.
- Total weight and cost is an estimate and should be used for evaluations purposes only.
- This form also does not (yet) include all the accessories that can customize various elements on a hammock kit, as a way to simplify this form. Sorry!
Updated November 2012.
Entry Level (or KISS)
Just getting started? This list is all about ease-of-use, which is great for the beginner, or someone who doesn’t want to hassle about knots, slings, or straps. This list favors simplicity over other factors for 3-season camping.
|TOTAL||54.6 oz (1.7 kg)±||$144±|
|Hammock||Any gathered-end hammock will do, but here are my top 5 recommendations:|
Ticket to the Moon Single
Grand Trunk Double
Trek Light Double
ENO Double Nest
See my Parachute Nylon Comparison Chart for a longer list.
|No right or wrong answer here: I have many "favorite" hammocks for different reasons. I like the unibody design of the Ticket to the Moon (TTTM) Single that eliminates extra, useless fabric and hard ridges at the seams. Any hammock is fine for entry level so long as you love it.||15–23 oz (510 g)±||$30–100±|
|Bug Net||Ticket to the Moon Mosquito Net 360°||The TTTM net is super simple and has a horizontal zip that conforms nicely to a hammock. Another easy-to-use bug net is the ENO Guardian ($55).||16 oz (454 g)||$50|
|Tarp||Grand Trunk Funky Forest Tarp||The Funky tarp requires only two tie-outs in a diamond pitch making it easy to set up, but multiple optional tie-outs provide extra pitching options. The ENO Fast Fly is a close second, but only has corner ties.||20 oz (567 g)||$80|
|Suspension & Hardware||Wiregate Carabiners (climbing rated)||Carabiners connect the hammock to the strap and offer a simple, no-fuss connection that is less prone to user error.||1.3 oz (38 g) ea.||$6/ea|
|Tree Strap||KAMMOK Python Strap|
(or ENO Atlas Straps)
|The Python and Atlas straps are genius: just pick one of many loops on the daisy chain and you're set. No learning curve here.||12 oz (340 g)||$29|
|Top Insulation||20°F/-7°C Sleeping Bag||Sleeping bags are shelter-neutral and will work great in a hammock. Quilt-style bags that lack zippers and a back are arguably easier to use in a hammock, but regular sleeping bags can be unzipped to mimic this design.||—||—|
|Bottom Insulation||Insulated Pad (your choice: self-infalting or closed-cell EVA foam like the Ridge Rest, or the Thinlight pads)||Pads can have a mind of their own in a hammock, but they are plenty warm and a simple solution for staying warm in a hammock. Tip: Put the pad inside the sleeping bag to keep it from twisting out of the hammock.||—||—|
Winter Camping for the Entry Level Hanger? Get a bigger tarp or learn to pitch your current tarp in new and amazing ways to cut off the wind or weather. You could get rid of the bug net, although it does help add some protection from wind and heat loss. Try a pad extender, like the ENO Hot Spot, and add multiple pads, or invest in a quality under quilt.
In this list, I’ve put together a kit that focuses on cost savings above other considerations. Shopping around the internet is a great way to find deals. Low cost doesn’t necessarily mean low quality, but it can mean higher weight or bulk.
|TOTAL||58.6 oz (1.6 kg)+||~$103+|
|Hammock||Grand Trunk Ultralight||The Ultralight is a very popular entry hammock, due in part to its low cost. Shop around and you can find this hammock for even less. Hard to even DIY at that cost.||10 oz (283 g)||$20|
|Bug Net||MexiNet||This was one of the least expensive, full-coverage hammock bug nets off the shelf. You could easily make a bug net for less.||16 oz (454 g)||$35|
|Tarp||8x10 Poly Tarp||Poly tarps can be picked up for pennies compared with the coverage. There is a weight penalty, however.||18 oz (510 g)||$7|
|Suspension & Hardware||Wiregate Carabiners (climbing rated)||I recommend the carabiners because they make set-up really easy. No fiddling with buckles, knots, or wraps. Just click and go. At $6 a pop, they might seem spendy, but don't go too cheap when you weigh the consequence of failed hardware.||1.3 oz (38 g)/ea||$6/ea|
|Tree Strap||KAMMOK Python Strap|
(or ENO Atlas Straps)
|Again, these straps are not only simple, but a reasonable price. It eliminates the need for extra suspension that can increase the cost.||12 oz (340 g)||$29|
|Top Insulation||Sleeping Bag||Use what you've got and save some money!||—||—|
|Bottom Insulation||Insulating Pad||Self-inflating or closed-cell foam—whatever is in your gear closet||—||—|
When you’re looking for light gear, expect to pay a premium for space-age materials that provide weight savings. Some lightweight gear isn’t as durable, but for gram-counting hikers, this is a small price to pay.
|TOTAL||49.7 oz (1.4 kg)||$838|
|Hammock||Grand Trunk Nano 7 (modified)||The Nano7 is currently the lightest hammock available, but to get the best weight, remove the stuff sack and carabiners.||5 oz (142 g)||$80|
|Bug Net||HUG Bug Net||The HUG is minimalist at heart and is very light, but you could go lighter with a DIY version with lighter netting.||4 oz (113 g)||$38|
|Tarp||Hammock Gear Hex Cuben Fiber||Hard to beat cuben on the light yet durable scale. The Hex by Hammock Gear is the lightest version on the market.||5.2 oz (147 g)||$235|
|Tree Strap||DutchWare Whoopie Hook 6ft Suspension Set||The Whoopie Hook set combines a minimal tree strap plus suspension PLUS the hardware for a scant 4 oz (113 g)!||4 oz (113 g)||$45|
|Top Insulation||Warbonnet Mamba 3-season regular||Insulation is a toss up due to differences in manufacturing, but Warbonnet lists the lightest set currently.||19 oz (539 g)||$250|
|Bottom Insulation||Warbonnet 3-Season Yeti||12.5 oz (354 g)||$190|
- I’m really showing my bias here, aren’t I? To be fair, hammock camping is not much different than tarp camping in terms of mix-and-match options. But that’s tarps, not tents. Very few tents are modular. ↩
- I totally made the percentage up, but I’m sure it’s up there. ↩
- Make sure to check the forum rules on posting items for sale ↩