Choosing a Double- or Single-layer Hammock

The Amok Draumr requires a thick, inflatable pad to even make the hammock work. No pad, no hammock.

The Amok Draumr requires a thick, inflatable pad to even make the hammock work. No pad, no hammock.

Philip Werner’s recent post on choosing between a single- or double-layer hammock delivers some strong points about double-layer hammocks:

The two layers form a pocket that can be used to hold a foam or an inflatable sleeping pad. The pocket helps hold the insulation in place and gets it out of the living compartment where it can be clumsy to deal with.

I like reading and following SectionHiker.com, because Philip is someone who has a breath of experience and I learn a lot from him. But he’s missing some key points here. While it is true a double-layer hammock helps hold a traditional sleeping pad in place, there are other key reasons to consider them, some more important to folks than others.

The Hammock Bliss Sky Bed has a pad sleeve or pocket that fits specific pad size.

The Hammock Bliss Sky Bed has a pad sleeve or pocket that fits specific pad size.

Benefits of a Double-Layer Hammock

  • Bug protection—Mosquitoes have been known to bite through single-layer hammocks (especially those with lighter fabrics) since the pressure from laying on the woven fabric can ease the fibers enough for their proboscis to poke through. A double-layer hammock provides a tighter cross-section of protection and is ideal in hot, muggy areas where bugs pose a real problem and you don’t need a pad or underquilt to stay warm.
  • Greater weight capacity—Adding another layer of fabric can increase the weight capacity by nearly 75%, depending on the fabric. This is actually the leading reason folks buy double-layer hammocks. According to Dream Hammock’s calculator, a double-layer 1.6 oz HyperD increases from 280 lbs to 448 lbs capacity. Going to a lighter weight 1.0 oz fabric only drops the total capacity to 430 lbs. This is a great option for big and tall campers who want the added weight capacity without adding significantly to the pack weight. Here is an example of a few basic hammocks (no mosquito netting) as a quick comparison:
    Hammock Dimensions Layer Pack Weight Capacity
    FreeBird 120×60 in single layer 1.6 oz 11.22 oz 280 lbs
    FreeBird 120×60 in double layer 1.6/1.6 oz 21.84 oz 448 lbs
    FreeBird 120×60 in double layer 1.6/1.0 oz 17.86 oz 430 lbs
    Kammok Roo 120×67 in single layer 2.5 oz 24 oz 500 lbs
    ENO DoubleNest 112×74 in single layer 2.5 oz 19 oz 400 lbs
  • Lightweight Comfort—While any hammock is subjectively “comfortable,” some folks who want to go lighter with their gear often pick thinner fabrics that stretch. A lot. For some, too much stretching can be uncomfortable. Adding a double layer of light fabric reduces the overall stretch, increases the comfort, and still keeps the pack weight lower than other options.
  • Securing a Sleeping Pad—As Philip mentioned, a double layer hammock is a great option for pinching a pad in place. I want to clarify his point, however, that not all double-layer hammocks can hold all pad types (some even have the layers sewn together and can’t hold pads), or hold multiple pads. Most double-layer hammocks are built without gusseting, making the layers absolutely flush once weight is applied. Adding really thick pads, or layering multiple pads actually causes pads to buckle and can be uncomfortable. One of the few double-layer hammocks I’m aware of that has a gusseted second fabric layer is the DD Hammocks Jungle Hammock. The Hammock Bliss Tandem Hammock—essentially two hammocks sewn together—can be hung as a pseudo-double-layer hammock with a variable amount of gusseting. The Hammock Bliss SkyBed and Amok Draumr hammocks have de facto “pad sleeves” that will only accommodate a specific type of pad. If you choose a double-layer hammock to hold a pad, be sure to check if it has a pad sleeve, two true layers, or gusseting to ensure your insulation of choice will work.
warbonnet-ridgerunner-padsleeve

Many bridge-style camping hammocks, like the Warbonnet Ridgerunner shown here, include a pad sleeve that is an ideal match for a sleeping pad.

The Warbonnet Blackbird hammocks can be ordered with either a single or double layer depending on user preference.

The Warbonnet Blackbird hammocks can be ordered with either a single or double layer depending on user preference, which is usually due to the increased weight capacity of the double-layer versions.

Benefits of a Single-layer Hammock

Basic, single-layer hammocks are the backbone of any modular hammock camping system are commonly used for recreational lounging. A single layer of fabric is the norm for hammocks, even camping hammocks. It is simple and efficient. Your options are almost unlimited, especially if you choose a cottage vendor who can make a custom hammock to fit your size, fabric choice, and suspension options.

For most folks, a single-layer hammock will be all they will ever need.

apriller-parachute-nylon-hammock-3

A simple, single-fabric layer hammock is the most-common and all that most folks will ever need. An attached (or separate) bug net and a tarp makes a hammock a viable camping shelter.

Which hammock style should you choose if you want to go camping?

Single Layer

  • You’re just starting out and don’t need/want to invest much in the sport.
  • Your goal is to hammock camp as simple, light, and fast as possible.
  • You don’t need the extra weight capacity.
  • You don’t need the extra bug protection.
  • You don’t plan to use a sleeping pad when camping (see notes below).

Double Layer

  • You’ll be camping in a temperate or tropical zone where your insulation needs will be low but need for bug protection is high.
  • You’ll be camping in freezing temperatures where you need to maximize insulation by using an under quilt and a pad/vapor barrier.
  • You want the lightest hammock available that still supports your weight and comfort needs.
  • You want the extra weight capacity a double layer provides.
  • You want to take advantage of the pad sleeve/layer (see notes below).
Folding the pad in half to insert into the foot end of the double layer hammock

Folding the pad in half to insert into the foot end of the double-layer hammock

A few notes about hammock insulation

Philip focuses much of his article on the insulation options for double- or single-layer hammocks. He makes valid points about sleeping pads and hammock under quilts, but I need to clarify a few things:

  • You don’t need a double-layer hammock if you want to use a pad. While a pad sleeve or double-layer can help hold a pad in place, they aren’t necessary, nor are they perfect at doing it. One of the best ways to use a pad in a hammock is to just put it inside your sleeping bag. This keeps the pad in place even better than a double-layer hammock because the pad always moves where you do.
  • Most folks use pads in hammocks. Under quilts are very popular with veteran hammock campers, but even the long-time hammock veterans started off with using sleeping pads. The reason? Pads work pretty good as an insulator, they’re inexpensive, and most likely you already own one. Some hangers never use or plan to use an under quilt. I recommend most beginners start off with a pad just to get a feel for how hammock camping works. Investing in an under quilt or a double-layer hammock shouldn’t be a barrier to hammock camping.
  • Many cottage vendors who sell under quilts are not building them on-demand. Most sell standard sizes and have them in stock. The larger cottage vendors like HammockGear.com and Warbonnet have ramped up production over the years to meet demand and are operating more like small manufacturers than a true “out-of-the-garage” one-person shop. The real challenge is that you don’t usually find under quilts in large retailers like REI except for the few mass-market varieties from ENO, Kammok, and Yukon Outfitters. When ordering from a cottage vendor, plan time for shipping. In the case where you’ve chosen a small cottage vendor who does build on-demand, you’ll have to wait for production too.
  • In most cases, you don’t need to buy multiple under quilts. If you’re like most folks and primarily do 3-season camping, a single under quilt will be all you’ll ever need. Gear junkies and folks who camp year-round or in extreme conditions may find it necessary to customize their gear closet to have a range of quilts for varying conditions. This is true of sleeping bags and top quilts too. However, under quilts have an advantage over sleeping bags in that they can be easily vented in way to make a 20°F-rated quilt perform like a 50°F-rated quilt. Because of the unique way an under quilt hangs below a hammock, most can be adjusted to provide more air flow. For gram-weenies, having multiple quilts is more about saving pack weight than worrying about being too warm.
  • Hammocks are not inherently more expensive, nor are double-layer hammocks inherently less expensive because they can hold a sleeping pad. You need very little to go hammock camping, in spite of the marketing hype from some companies to the contrary. If you are worried about using a pad, try the sleeping bag tip mentioned above or pick up my book to learn more tips on staying warm in a hammock without breaking the bank.

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4 Responses

  1. TrenchFoot says:

    I’ve always heard that it is the extra stitching that made a double-layer hammock stronger and more weight bearing and it is less about multiple layers of fabric.

    • Derek says:

      Interesting, but not completely accurate. A fabric’s strength rating is based on its denier, or thickness, along with the material used (e.g., nylon or polyester). The denier number refers to the weight in grams of 9,000 meters of the fiber in question (1D = 1 gram of yarn with a length of 9,000 m). A 40D nylon and a 40D polyester fabric will have different strength ratings even though the denier is the same.

      Some manufacturers will provide the gear makers with a baseline strength measure per square yard/meter that is used as a starting point for making a weight rating (see this video on fabric testing). Most hammock manufacturers will do their own testing to qualify the estimations from the fabric vendor and then downgrade that to a safe working load limit (usually 4:1 or 5:1). For example, if a bolt of fabric is rated to 1,500 lbs breaking strength and the hammock made from that fabric fails at 1,200 lbs, a vendor will give the hammock a safe working load limit of 300 or 240 lbs.

      By doubling up the fabric, you are creating a thicker platform and distributing the weight across more material. This is what increases the strength rating for a double-layer hammock.

      Consider this example: You may be able to easily break a single strand of yarn. However, by adding a few more strands, it becomes more difficult and finally impossible to break. The more layers of fabric, the more the weight (force) is distributed across multiple strands, thus increasing the strength of the product.

      Stitching, especially on end channels or other load-bearing seams, is a critical fail point. The yarn used for stitching these seams also requires strong, thick fiber. But the construction of a double-layer hammock will use the same amount of stitching as a single-layer hammock. The difference is that there are more layers of fabric that are sewn together, but there aren’t extra stitches.

  2. Stephen says:

    I have used single layer hammocks for years. This last month was the first time I tried a double layer. Both have pros and cons. You can make on of each for cheap, why not try both?

  1. October 10, 2016

    […] tree straps and a daisy chain suspension made from knotted Amsteel line. Most versions come with double-layer fabric that provides additional strength, a pad sleeve, and color varieties. Climbing-rated carabiners are […]

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