Hammock, Tent, or Tarp? A Flowchart

Every time the question “hammock, tent, or tarp?” arises, the answer seems to be, “it depends.”  Based on my own experience and the input of other AT thru-hikers, I created this flowchart to help explain the “it depends” piece.  Still, this is just a general guideline.

A few clarifications:  Hammocks themselves are usually cheaper than many tents on the market, but with the additional cost of an underquilt, the hammock system is typically more expensive, and probably just as heavy as a 1-person backpacking tent.  In my experience, tents allow more privacy than hammocks and tarps because it is possible to be completely enclosed.  However, in my opinion, the hammock and tarp system almost always provides sufficient privacy.

Related reading: The Thru-Hiker’s Suggested Gear List

A few other things to keep in mind: always bring a rain fly/tarp when you hammock,  always be sure to test out your equipment beforehand, and  above all, hike your own hike.

Sleep system flowchart 06


 Related Reading: Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Gear List 

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Comments 12

  • Sarge : Mar 19th

    There is little difference in the cost of a good quality sleeping bag and a good quality underquilt. Therefore, saying that a drawback of hammocks is that they require an expensive underquilt is kinda silly.

  • SUPER TOM : Mar 20th

    that was a lot of work to make that chart!

  • TEEJAYZ : Mar 20th

    Nice one dude.
    Hammocks are driven by the environment. They make sense in some parts of the country but not others. Tarps? Meh. Do some squats. A tent easily provides the most options and biggest bang for your buck.

  • URSilly : Jul 3rd

    Nice flow chart! Personally, I just won’t give up the privacy that a tent offers.

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  • ThierryB : Jan 2nd

    I was told that cuben tents are a bit transparent … privacy is not guaranted by the tent choice.

  • Christopher Klemetson : Jan 20th

    I’ll be carrying my zpacks camo duplex tent for 2017.


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