I recently discovered this fantastic post from David William that spells out “Seven Benefits of Sleeping in a Hammock.” David nails the major benefits and I couldn’t say it any better. I want to highlight one key point: hammocks support the best sleeping positions for the human body. A few people wonder if they can sleep on their sides or stomach in a hammock. One reason for this question is due to our sleeping habits in a bed. If you’re anything like me, you might roll or toss and turn a few times during the night. In a hammock, the painful pressure that drives the tossing (and subsequent alternate sleep positions) is removed. Hammocks are so simple, yet the fabric contours to a more ergonomic position for your body, no matter what sort of body you have. Anyway, here are David’s main points in summary:
1. Faster sleep.
2. Zero-Pressure Points.
3. Deeper Sleep.
4. No More Bed Making.
5. Hammocks Are Good for Your Health.
7. Making Love in a Hammock.
David mostly focuses on the general benefits with emphasis on why you would replace your mattress at home with a hammock (if you plan to do this—and I highly recommend it—check out my Hammock Hang Calculator to estimate where to hang your hammock indoors, how high to place the anchor bolts, if needed, based on the size of your hammock).
I want to append David’s list with seven additional benefits when camping or backpacking.
- You’re off the rocks, roots, and unleveled ground.
I don’t know anyone who likes waking up with a rock or root in their back, yet it is the all-too-common complaint of tent camping. That, and sliding to the bottom of your sleeping bag during the night.
- Your bedding and shelter stays dry and muck-free.
One of my pet-peeves with tent camping is the take-down. I hate scraping off wet leaves and debris off the floor, sweeping or shaking out the tent, and drying everything before packing. I can pack and store my hammock separate from my wet tarp.
- You hang above compacted ground, a potential flood zone.
Some campgrounds are so popular the ground is rock-hard. While the area may be flat and debris-free, it’s a flood hazard when it rains. At one camping trip with the Boy Scouts, overnight rains flooded out the tents and only those of us in hammocks stayed dry. I had several hammock converts after that trip.
- Pitching and packing is quicker (potentially) with less potential for rips, tears, and punctures. Having some Duct tape in your emergency repair kit is always a good idea, but the ability to “float” your shelter above and away from potential puncture hazards means you won’t need to patch that much, or anything. I’ve pitched my hammock over cactus in Arizona and over sharp lava rocks in Southern Utah without worrying about rips or tears. And when it’s time to pack up (or pitch down) I can set up my hammock gear without anything touching the ground.
- You hang away from nocturnal, creeping critters.
Some folks avoid camping because of the threat of spiders, snakes, and lizard tails. But with a hammock, you keep clear from these dangers. During a backpacking trip to Fossil Springs in Arizona, nightfall brought a gaze of raccoons to our camp. When they came to my area looking for loot, they just walked under my hammock and didn’t bother me at all.
- Maximum air circulation during the hot, muggy summers.
I’ve spent way-t00-many summer nights wilting in a “ventilated” tent wishing I had brought a box fan to cool me off. Tents are notorious heat traps, while hammocks benefit from 360° air flow, keeping you cool and comfortable. But watch out: insulate up and get a large, wind-stopping tarp when it gets cold outdoors.
- It’s a modular shelter system.
I wrote all about hammock modularity in my à la carte post, but in a nutshell, hammock camping provides you the ability to mix-and-match gear components to your heart’s delight. Put together a kit that works for you.
The Bonus List
I can’t stop at just seven! Let’s make it an even 10:
- Killer views!
Good campsites are found, not made. That is great Leave No Trace advice, but the field is wide open for hammocks. Pick a site that is open to the morning sun or a breathtaking overlook. This is take-off from benefit #1 since you’re not as limited by detritus-free, flat ground.
- It’s Leave No Trace-Friendly.
Hammocks have a huge advantage when it comes to the outdoors: no more clearing the ground of obstacles (if you can) or finding a level spot. Also, hammocks don’t compact the soil, which works into benefit #3,
- Extremely packable and lightweight.
True, you can find lightweight tents with carbon-fiber poles and space age material (the same is true of hammocks, of course), but hammocks, by their nature, skip some of the bulky items commonly associated with tents, namely poles. You can also skip the large ground cloth and the extra tent material. Most hammocks are made with uncoated material that stuffs easily (e.g., doesn’t need to be rolled or folded) and can conform to odd spaces in your pack.