Why should you opt for a camping hammock? Is it really better than sleeping on the ground in a tent? The short answer is an unequivocal yes.
A hammock slashes the amount of bedding-related space you need to lug with you when compared to an air mattress or sleeping pad, and it also allows for much less time spent trying to pump up and maintain firmness throughout the night.
The term “hammock” can be traced back nearly 1,000 years to an Arawak word that translates into “fish net.” These early hammocks were not designed for leisure but as protection from dangerous Caribbean creatures and insects.
It’s said that Christopher Columbus brought the hammock concept to Europe after noting their use in the Caribbean. Eventually, the hammock was brought back to the Americas for a different function: as utility bunks on ships during World War I, World War II, and the Vietnam War.
Hammocks have come a long way since. Today, you can find hammocks all over music festivals, in your buddy’s backyard, or on your grandma’s porch. They’re a relatively cheap and comfortable way to spend an afternoon hanging out in the fresh air, whether that means just outside your door or deep in the woods.
What to keep in mind when shopping for a camping hammock
While there are tons of great hammocks out there, you’ll want to look for a very specific make if you plan on using your hammock in lieu of a tent or air mattress. The last thing you want as you’re ready to hit the hay is realizing that premium hammock you picked up was only made for casual lounging.
Weight: Whether you’re hiking or driving to your campsite, it’s important to look for a hammock that won’t weigh you down. If you’re used to lugging a 20-pound air mattress, an average two-pound hammock shouldn’t matter, however keep in mind that a wet hammock can easily double in weight.
How small can it pack down: Likewise, if you’re planning on bringing your hammock on a hike, you’ll want to look for one that can pack down and ideally clip onto your backpack. Many hammocks have the capacity to pack down into about the size of a football.
What about load capacity or ease of set-up: Consider what kind of camping you plan on doing. If you’re going with your kids or a significant other, you may want to look for a hammock that can support more weight so you can comfortably share one hammock. If you know you’ll have limited time for set up and take down, look for a hammock that comes with its own set up equipment, which are optimized for ease of use.
Comfort: While comfort is subjective, we recommend always investing in a high quality sleeping hammock that includes straps and carabiners over a napping hammock (which usually comes with poles and are less durable for continuous set up and take down).
Bug net: If you’re particularly sensitive to insect bites or you know you’ll be frequently camping in an area dense with mosquitos, you may want to consider looking into a built-in bug net. External netting is also available but can be more of a hassle to set up.
Rain fly: When forgoing the tent in favor of a hammock, it’s best to be safe and keep a rain fly handy. Even if you don’t end up using it, I’ll be glad you have it.
With that in mind, we’ve pulled together some of the absolute best camping hammocks you can buy. Whether you’re looking for something that’ll take you through all four seasons, or you really just want something that’s quick and easy to assemble and take down, these are the hammocks you’ll want to hang out in.