8 Reasons Why I’m a Hammock Camper (and 4 drawbacks to it).

One of the most important pieces of gear for any backpacking trip, be it a weekend jaunt or a full thru-hike, is a shelter system. And while there are many options, the two most used options are either a tent or a hammock. Many people both on and off the trail have been curious about my own set up. While tents are more popular than hammocks, I switched to a hammock three years ago and have never once thought about going back to a tent. Below are my reasons why I love hammock camping, as well as a few drawbacks I’ve found and how to work around them.

1. Exceptional comfort

Nothing beats laying around in a hammock! It’s comfortable as hell and just a great way to relax after a long day. You never have to worry about roots, rocks, or unleveled terrain in a hammock because you’re suspended above the ground in a nice cozy cocoon.

2. A better night’s sleep

I tent camped for almost 6 years before I switched to a hammock; and every night I dreaded going into my tent. Even with a sleeping pad, I always found that the ground was too hard for me. I could never get comfortable. My arms and legs would always fall asleep and I would wake up in the middle of the night to pins and needles. Let’s not forget how hot a rain fly can make your tent. I slept so miserable that I could feel it affecting my hike the next day, and I also noticed I was going on less camping trips. That’s when I remember that I made a makeshift hammock tent with my own tarp and bug net on my first backpacking trip to the Batona trail. I slept so comfortable those nights. Not to mention all the summer college parties where I passed out in a hammock on the porch. Since I switched to a hammock three years ago, I can finally get a good night’s sleep on trail.

3. More options for campsites

One great thing about the hammock is you have so many options for a campsite. As long as you have two trees, you can set up anywhere. On this trip, I’ve rolled into a camp that is completely full but I can still easily find a spot to set up. As I’m walking in people will warn me that all the flat spots are taken but I just smile and tell them I’m in a hammock. With a surprise, all this usually have to say is “Well then you have nothing to worry about”. You can also find really cool and creative spots to set up. One time I set up my hammock over a small stream in Linville Gorge!

4. Bonus shelter spots

This was a really fun thing I did through the Smokies. The shelters there have large center beams in the roof system that were perfect for hanging my hammock on. Even if the shelter was full, I still had my bonus spot that I could set up. And it was more comfortable than the wooden platforms. I got a few comments from my shelter mates about how jealous they were.

5. Foot recovery

Okay so this one is kinda a stretch, and I don’t have any evidence to prove it, so please take it with a grain of salt. BUT, I have a theory that since your feet are elevated in a hammock, you actually get better foot recovery. A quick Google search does confirm that, but until I find an actual study on this topic, we’ll just have to take it as theory.

6. Standing up in your shelter

I definitely can’t stand up in my hammock. But, most hammock set ups have a tarp that runs above it. And in most conditions you can make that tarp tall enough to stand under. I’ve never seen a single person backpacking tent that you can stand up in. In fact, my tarp is large enough that 4 people could comfortably sit underneath it if set up properly. I’ve had a few times where people will come hang out under the tarp in a rainstorm. It’s great to be able to have that much dry space.

7. Dry set up in the rain

A huge benefit of the hammock is that you can set up your tarp before you set up your hammock. That way everything stays nice and dry. But you don’t really have that option with a tent. If the rain is pouring hard, you have to set up the tent with all it’s screens before the rain fly goes up. That means water is getting into your tent. I’ve also seen the amount of mud splash that gets on the side of my friends’ tents. It’s looks like such a mess, and I’m always glad I don’t have to deal with it.

8. Quick and cozy trail naps

If I wanted to, setting up my hammock is a quick two minute process. The tarp would take more time but if it’s a nice day, I can easily whip out the hammock and have an afternoon snooze. I’m sure I’ll be doing a lot of that once the weather really gets hot.


1. Trees are necessary, and not everywhere has trees.

While most of the Appalachian Trail has trees, there is one long section in New England that doesn’t. Those are the White mountains. I’m hoping to shelter and hut hop as much as I can, but I know that’s gonna be a challenge for me in an already challenging section of the trail.

2. Water run off and bag storage

When it is pouring and I’m set up over unleveled ground, there is a very good chance that water run off will start flowing under my hammock. This leaves a problem for my pack. Usually I just leave it under my hammock. But as mentioned that run off makes it a bit more tricky. What I typically do put my rain cover on my pack and have it so the cover is sitting on the ground. That way the water hits the cover and runs underneath everything. So far its worked, but it always gives me a little anxiety.

3. Limited sleeping positions

There are really only three positions you can take in a hammock. Either on your back, or on either side curled up into a ball. That means no stomach sleeping. At home I normally sleep on my stomach, but I’ve found that the more important factor is softness. Because you’re in a cozy cocoon, I can sleep pretty well on my back and sides even if it’s not my preference.

4. Impact on joints.

A lot of the time, your knees are hyper extended in a hammock. This is bad after they have already taken a beating on trail. My way to get around this is to use my clothes bag as a second pillow for under my knees. This has saved me and really a necessity for any hammock set up.


What do you think? Have you been swayed to team hammock? Or do you think you’ll stick with the tent? Let me know in the comments!


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Comments 4

  • Thunder Road : Apr 22nd

    A buddy and I paddled a canoe 3500 miles in 1987.. We were at it for 145 days, during which time we used both a tent and hammocks.. The hammocks were our go to option.. the tent only when absolutely necessary…. Which wasn’t very often.. By the time you get to the White Mts I suspect you’ll have become very creative at deploying your set up and will be able to successful use it more often then not.

  • Don Horres : Apr 22nd

    Love my Warbonet Hammock for reasons you mentioned. I use an Exped Down Mat instead of an under quilt. It has down in the mattress. I gives me more options incase there are no trees to hang from. You can use mat to sleep in shelters or use your tarp as a tarp tent and sleep on ground. Takes a little getting use to, but I have slept in 20 degree weather without a problem.
    Hope you have a great hike

  • Swisscake : Apr 23rd

    Great piece, would love to see more hammock users out there! One little note: if you are hyperextending your knees, that suggests you may be lying in your hammock “like a banana” rather than on the diagonal as intended. If your hang doesn’t include enough slack, it can be hard to stay diagonal.

  • Sly the Navigator : Apr 24th

    Hey Rooster, thanks for the post. I agree with all your points, and i could add that if you sit sideways, it makes a great couch ! Because of chronic pain problems, i will have to be able to rest anytime / anywhere along the Long Trail, so for me, a hammock it is ! Have a safe hike, and all the best.

    Sly the Navigator


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