Why I Chose a Tent Over a Hammock for my AT Thru Hike
Six months prior to starting my thru hike, I spent at least two hours every day glued to my computer screen, reading various reviews and articles about each sleeping system. Eventually, I pulled the trigger and bought a Warbonnet RidgeRunner Hammock (which I would highly recommend).
AKA the most comfortable bed I’ve ever had. Honestly, I have zero complaints about the design or use of the hammock. And yet, I’ve chosen to take a tent on my AT journey (my coveted Nemo Hornet 2P). And here’s why:
1. I Have A Small Pack
I purchased a 50 Liter Osprey Aura AG pack shortly after deciding to attempt a thru hike. For summer hikes, it’s the perfect size. Unfortunately, with all my winter gear, space in my pack has become rather coveted. My hammock packs down pretty small, but the rainfly does not. In addition, because it’s a bridge style hammock, it also comes with poles that I have to store somewhere.
For the sake of not having to strap 60% of my belongings to the outside of my pack, I’ve decided to opt with my tent, which packs down into a bundle slightly larger than my hand, plus poles.
2. Tents Come With Sleeping Pads
I’m pretty confident of my hammock’s ability to stand up to some serious rain and/or snow storms. With that being said, if I know that I’m in a for a night of serious storming, I would much rather be inside a shelter with three walls of wood or stone between me and the elements rather than a thin nylon sheet. If it’s even a little chilly, sleeping in shelters requires a sleeping pad. I happen to use an under quilt for my hammock, which I can’t use to sleep on the ground. Either the hammock has to go, or the option of shelters. I’m choosing the hammock.
3. I’m Lazy
I enjoy hiking. I really do (even the sweating and exerting energy part). That being said, hiking is hard, and I have no desire to try to make it any harder than it already is. Namely, I try to keep my pack as light as possible. My hammock is on the heavier side. The hammock itself only weighs 1 Ib 10.5 oz, but when you add the 12 oz spreader bar set and the 1 Ib 3 oz tarp, the shelter system altogether weighs a hefty 3 Ibs 10.5 oz. Compared to my Nemo Hornet 2P, which comes in at under 2 Ibs, it’s a pretty big difference. One that I’m sure my feet and back alike will thank me for.
4. Side Sleepers Unite
I sleep pretty well in a hammock, especially in my bridge hammock, since I can sleep on my stomach. That being said, it’s just a lot easier and more comfortable to sleep in a hammock if you’re a back sleeper (which I’m not). Enter the inflatable sleeping pad, the lifelong best friend and companion of the side sleeper! I agree hammocks are extremely comfortable. It’s just that my Nemo Vector Insulated sleeping pad is slightly more comfortable (to my hips and shoulders at least- my back might disagree).
5. It’s Getting Hot in Here
I’m starting my thru hike in February. In earlyish/mid February for that matter. Which means there are going to be a lot of cold nights. And I, much to my chagrin, am I horribly cold sleeper. For this reason, my tent gets a gold star because it traps a lot more of my body heat inside its walls than my hammock does. Slightly warmer shelter? Sounds like a winner to me.
6. I Like My Stuff to Stay Dry
I am a bit of a messy person. When I get to camp, I unload everything in my pack and strew it haphazardly around the campsite (mostly because it reassures me that I haven’t lost anything). This is the same for when I go to sleep. I like to be able to put my stuff inside my tent, knowing it will stay dry until it’s time to pack up in the morning. With my hammock, there is unfortunately no footprint or dry floor for me to store my belongings.
7. I’m Not that Coordinated
Hammocking is nice. Hammocking is fun. However, hammocking requires a fair bit of coordination. Not only to get inside the hammock, but also to change clothes. It is very difficult (at least for me) to de-pant and re-pant, as well as to de-shirt and re-shirt myself while hanging inside a hammock without flipping it over. There is the option of standing under the rainfly and changing, but that requires having shoes on (not conducive to pant changing) and also standing stooped over (which is difficult for me without toppling over). In my tent I can at least sit down and change without worrying about breaking myself or my shelter.
8. I’m Also Broke
I have recently had the privilege of working for REI, and so was able to purchase a new tent at a heavily discounted price. However, discount aside, my tent at regular price comes in significantly cheaper than my entire hammock setup. So if you are considering both, keep in mind that when you combine the cost of the rainfly, hammock, underquilt, and possible spreader poles, hammock setups are definitely more expensive than a one-time tent purchase. All together, I spent close to $850 on my hammock setup, compared to the MSRP price of my tent at $370.
Keep in mind, there are definitely some sacrifices I’m making by taking my tent. Namely, if it’s raining, I still have to put the body of my tent up before I can put up the rainfly. Furthermore, I’m going to have to pay more attention to where I set up camp so I don’t end up in a lake in the morning.
Hammock camping is definitely a great option. I’ve just decided that for me, it’s not the best option out there. Let me know what your preferences are! Hammock or tent?
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