7 Reasons Why Hammock Tent Camping is Fantastic – How To Get Started

For much of the US hammock tent camping is fantastic & arguably the best way to sleep in the backcountry. This is true anywhere with trees—nearly all of the eastern US & much of the Mountain West.  As such, hammocks are a key element of our 9-lb Full Comfort Gear List. In addition, this post contains Our Picks for Some of the Best Backpacking Hammock Tents.

Lead photo: An ultralight hammock during a thru-hike of the John Muir Trail in California. (Self-portrait, George “Tin Man” Andrews of AntiGravityGear)

August 2019 Update

The Hammock Gear Wanderlust Complete Kit for Hammock Tent Camping Least expensive pro-quality hammock kit on the market. As such, it raises the bar for an ultralight, low cost, easy to use, complete hammock kit. In fact, it has the some of the best thought out features and easy to use components/hardware we’ve seen on any hammock setup. It will appeal to beginners and experts alike.

August 2019 | Hammock Gear announces their Wanderlust Complete Kit for Hammock Tent Camping.

The Hammock Gear Wanderlust Complete Kit for Hammock Tent Camping raises the bar for an ultralight, low cost, easy to use, complete hammock kit. it is the least expensive, pro-quality hammock kit on the market. Not surprisingly it hits the sweet spot for, price, ease of use and low weight. It’s a hammock kit that will work for beginner and expert hammock tent campers alike. And Hammock Gear Wanderlust is currently the only kit with the option to add on down top and underquilts at a serious discount.

You can read our review: Hammock Gear Wanderlust Complete Kit for Hammock Camping | First Look

Kammok Mantis UL Hammock Tent

Feb 2019 | Kammok announces their Mantis UL Hammock Tent an all-in-one Hammock Tent.

It’s light, inexpensive, full-featured and easy to use. Thus addressing many previous barriers to folks wanting to get started hammock tent camping. The Kammok Mantis UL Hammock Tent at just 35 oz and $259 for a complete, easy-to-use hammock tent kit that will be stocked by major outdoor retailers like REI. As such, it’s lighter and less expensive than most solo tents but with many advantages.

You can read our review: Kammok  Mantis UL Hammock Tent | First Look

Why are Hammock Tents Great?

  1. A Great Night’s Sleep!
    Most people (with a properly setup, true backpacking hammock tent) find it far more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. As such, they get a better night’s sleep, every night. In contrast, ground sleeping changes (many times for the worst) nearly every night due to sloping ground, bumps, depressions, wet areas, rocks & tree roots. It can be near impossible to find a good area large enough for a tent.
  2. Hammocks Are Way Cooler in the Summer
    A hammock gets you off the ground where there are more breezes. And with a hammock you don’t have to lie on a sweaty sleeping pad. That way your whole backside is free to the cooling night air (with the addition of an under-quilt, you can use the same hammock in quite cold weather).

    Hammock Tent Camping

    Dutchware Chameleon hammock. Complete bug protection but you still get a cooling effect on your backside, even in hot, humid, and buggy environments. Way preferable to a muggy tent!

  3. Better Campsite Options
    So long as you can find two trees that are 12-15 feet apart, you can setup a hammock without regard to the surface below it, even on rocky tree root riddled ground. That means that with a hammock you often get the option of camping at prettier, more protected, or less buggy campsites. Furthermore, you can avoid the obvious flat campable areas that in many parks have developed into crowded, heavily impacted and not particularly attractive places to spend the night.

    Hammock Tent Camping

    Sunrise hammock tent camping along the AT. Note that the hammock is directly over a sloping area covered with large rocks that would be un-campable with a tent.

  4. Solitude When You Want It
    Hammocks are a blessing to those that do not desire the crowded social scene at most Appalachian Trail (AT) shelters and other popular camping areas throughout the country. With greater campsite availability, you can get away from habituated camping areas to find peace and quiet.
  5. Easy on the Environment
    Hammocks do well for practicing Leave No Trace (LNT): With more campsite options, hammock campers can avoid further impacting popular campsites. And since hammocks don’t touch the ground, they have minimal impact. They do not crush or smother plants below them. Note: it’s easy to avoid impacting trees, just use wide tree-straps 1″ to 1.5″. Almost all backpacking hammocks are sold with this type of strap. For more see Leave No Trace.org on Hammock Tent Camping.
  6. Hammocks are Lightweight
    Lightweight or ultralight hammock setups (see the Recommended Hammocks I’ve listed below) are as light as the lightest ground camping setups. And far lighter than sleeping in a tent!

7. Finally a Hammock Will Keep you Warm!

It’s a myth that hammocks are cold. Properly setup, a true backpacking hammock (with a good under-quilt) is quite warm. I’ve slept warm and comfortable in a hammock many a cold winter night in the Mid-Atlantic. The main reason for the “sleeping cold” myth is that people unaccustomed to sleeping in a hammock do not use an under-quilt or don’t adjust it properly leaving huge gaps. [Not using an under-quilt with a hammock is equivalent of someone using their sleeping bag directly on the snow without an insulating ground pad and saying that all sleeping bags are cold.]

Top and Bottom Hammock Quilts

A good top and bottom quilt make all the difference for a warm night’s sleep. Pictured above is my wife, Alison, cocooned in down — a Jacks R Better High Sierra Sniveller top quilt and Greylock 3 under-quilt.

How to Get Started Hammock Tent Camping

This post is an excerpt from my Three Part Series on Hammock Tent Camping. Reading through this series is a great way to better understand hammock tent camping and get started.

Some Great Hammock Tent Choices

In addition, I’ve listed key hammock manufactures and purchasing resources below. I own and like hammocks from all these companies. I know all their owners personally. They produce excellent hammocks that have widespread use and good reputations. Most also offer all the hammock accessories you might need, top quilts, under-quilts, tarps etc. Give them a call if you have questions on how to equip or comment below and I’ll try and answer.

Company Hammock Oz Comments
Kammok Mantis UL Hammock Tent (complete kit) 35.0** Complete kit. See Kammok  Mantis UL Hammock Tent | First Look for more detail this all-in-one hammock tent setup. But in short it’s easy to use — especially for beginners. And it’s still very light. Available at REI.
Hammock Gear Wanderlust Complete Kit for Hammock Tent Camping 40.0** Complete kit. Least expensive, pro-quality hammock kit on the market. See review: Hammock Gear Wanderlust Complete Kit for Hammock Camping | First Look for more detail this complete hammock tent setup. One of the easiest to use hammock kits.
Dutchware Dutchware Complete Netted Hammock Package 40.0** Complete kit. A competitive entry into the complete hammock tent market. More fabric options than others, including a light 1.1 oz/yd2 fabric. Does not come with stakes.
Hennessy Explorer Ultralight Asym Zip Hammock 42.0 Complete kit. Tom Hennessy is considered the man responsible for modern backpacking hammocks as we know them & has the patents to prove it. And it is available at REI. Does not come with stakes.
Dutchware Chameleon  17.5* Light & Superbly Versatile. Adaptable to every season from humid summer days to winter use. Full review here which also compares it to Hennessy and Warbonnet hammocks. [5 day turnaround time.]
Warbonnet Blackbird  22 A longtime hammock manufacturer. Blackbird is their most popular hammock. A well thought out and functional design. [Only 1 week wait)
Jacks ‘R’ Better Bear Mountain Bridge Hammock 32 Another veteran hammock Co. The Jacks ‘R’ Better hammocks use a bridge design that gives a flatter lie than the gathered-end (traditional) hammocks above. [Almost all JRB stuff is off-the-shelf and ready to ship.]
Dutchware 11 ft Netless  8.0* Ultralight and only $42! It’s my favorite hammock for little to no bug pressure (much of Spring and Fall). Simple and functional. [Only 1 day turnaround time.]
AntiGravity-Gear Quicksilver UL 10.4 Another inexpensive, light, no nonsense, netless hammock that comes with a very light suspension system.
Hammock Gear All hammock accessories n/a Great supplier of everything else you need for hammocks. Top quilts, under-quilts, tarps etc. Some very light gear and some great values including their $150 Econ +20F down quilt.

* Weights are approximate, and unless noted include MFR’s suspension (cord to hang hammock and wide tree straps to protect trees—important for LNT!). Dutchware Chameleon and Netless hammocks weights are with my own Kevlar tree straps.
** Full kit including a tarp and possibly stakes
approx. 24 oz if you can use your trekking poles as the spreader bars.

Hammock Tent Camping — The Basics

Derek Hansen, author of The Ultimate Hang, is an advanced hammock camper and excellent illustrator. Here’s a quick illustration about the essentials of hammock tent camping.

How to hammock camp

Cold Weather Hammock Tent Camping

Hammock Tent Camping

Hammock tent camping in cold weather can be warm and comfortable. But it requires a good under-quilt (usually down) that is well fitted (no gaps) to the hammock body. While not a difficult skill, beginner hammock campers should test out their winter system on low-risk, short-duration outings first in order to develop their skills and know-how. Note the full-length, under-quilt (green sleeping bag looking thing below the hammock). Photo by Jack Tier of Jacks ‘R’ Better.

Hammock Tent Camping

Alison hammock tent camping cold weather. And with a solid top cover hammock like this Dutchware Chameleon you can skip the weight and complexity of a tarp. I’ve comfortably slept down to around 10° F in a 3 lb (1.3 kg) hammock setup (hammock, top quilt, under quilt, tarp and suspension). That’s way lighter than most tent, sleeping bag, ground pad setups! [Note: a +20 under-quilt is not in the picture to better show the hammock body details.]