Quest for a Lighter Hammock System
Ways to fight the tent versus hammock weight debate. Tips to lighten the weight of hammock set-ups.
When the ounce counters meet and compare a hammock set up versus a tent for the majority of setups the tent always wins based on weight-to-weight comparison. There is only one problem with this and that is you still have to sleep on the ground. Who wants to do that?
Answer: Not me if I can avoid it.
In an attempt to address some of these issues it is necessary to break down each piece of the hammock setup and discuss ways to save weight to get it closer to tents. This article will focus the main portions of hammocks including the tarp set-up, the actual hammock, hammock suspension and the ever important insulation.
There are people extreme enough to not need a tarp, however I am not one of them and don’t like to get rained/snowed on so lets discuss the item between you and the elements with an emphasis on weight.
my brief google searches late at night extensive Internet research it seems the choice of most hammock tarps is narrowed down to Cuben fiber or some type of nylon. Nylon is cheaper and more opaque than Cuben fiber but you pay for these perks with weight. Also, nylon has a tendency to sag after being up for a while which may require line tensioners, super cheap to add, or adjustment. Cuben fiber material is a super light water proof material. Just as an example of the difference material makes I went from a Hennessy Hammock Hyper light Rain fly, think napkin over hammock to a hammock gear Cuben fiber tarp with doors, think hammock palace, and the weights were similar. While a tarp material upgrade will up the cost of your hammock setup it will give you more space and protection from the elements. This will move the hammock closer to a one person tent comparison.
There are several sizes of tarps available and this also factors into the weight of your hammock set up. The best way to save weight here is to know the weather for the particular location and try to pick a tarp accordingly. If you are going on a back packing trip and expecting calm weather you may be able to save some weight by picking a smaller rain fly while giving up some privacy. If you are going on a trip where you know the weather is going to be bad you will have to accept to carry that extra weight in tarp to make sure you and all your goodies stay dryish during the night.
Tie Outs and Stakes
Tie outs in this instance is referring to any lines going from the tarp to the trees or other tie offs. When really trying to count ounces not pounds the rope used to tie the setup down defiantly factors in. There are a million choices in line with cool features that can be used for hammock tie outs. Even though any size line you needed can be utlized, its important to use what is needed and not bring line that’s oversized since it is being used for tying off a super light weight tarp and not trying to pull a truck out of a ditch. Most hammock stores sell 2mm tie off line which according to this hammock gear link weighs 1.75 oz per 50 ft of line with a break strength of 225 lbs.
just for number fun that is 0.0078 oz/lb breaking strength
Personally I want to try and push this and I am trying a 1.1 mm line that is 0.5 oz per 50 feed of line with a break strength of 187 lbs.
Or 0.0027 oz/lb breaking strength
I picked mine up at zpacks and I am happy with it so far and have used it to set my tarp up in heavy winds and it worked well.
To figure out how much weight you can save you have to guesstimate how much line you have the tarp. For my tarp I have about 30 feet of line. Looking at those numbers above I saved ((30’*(1.75oz/50’))-((30’*(0.5oz/50’))= 0.75 oz**.
**Note: I only use two tie outs for the ridge line section of my tarp and two for each side. Today tarps come with upwards of 10 or 12 tie outs so that will also factor into your total feet in line. Also note I use home made shock cord line tensioners on my tie outs so this increases my weight slightly but they are great at keeping the tarp tight so I choose to accept that extra weight.
This formula can be used, after you correct any mistakes, to calculate how much weight you can save by switching lines. If you are asking did he really just do all that figuring to save less than an ounce the answer is yes and you should to if you want to get that set-up light as possible.
As mentioned above obviously the less tie outs used the less cordage and stakes you will have to use. There are light-weight options for holding tarp doors closed that can be used instead of carrying extra stakes to hold the door closed. The one I use and have found linked to a lot of hammock articles is some version of this setup that cost me about $15.
Another thing that should be considered is hardware used for hanging the tarp. It most situations its lighter weight wise to use an old fashion knot instead of some fancy titanium hardware. That being said tying tons of knots every hammock setup gets old and is hard to do in the cold. If you want to check out some lightweight bulletproof tarp hardware made in the US check out DutchWear.
I have been very satisfied with everything I have bought from Dutch and am happy to carry a little extra weight to use his products.
There are a large variety of choices for stakes for all things outdoors and some people swear by their certain brand or type. Personally I like the standard shepherds hook titanium stakes and saved a little when I switch to those form the aluminum ones that came with my Big Agnes tent.
I liked the ones with the Big Agnes tent, but again weight is weight.
Tarp Weight Saving Tips Recap
- Consider Upgrading Tarp Material
- Only use tarp with coverage needed
- Don’t use heavy tie out line
- Don’t use all 18 tarp tie outs
- Lighter Stakes
There are a large variety of hammock types to choose from and weight plays in this choice as well.
Buying a hammock, either a single hammock or a double hammock can be purchased. A single hammock will be lighter but has a few disadvantages. The first usually noted is that bugs can bite the occupant through the bottom of the hammock. This is easily solved with a pad or under quilt between you and evil bugs. The other disadvantage is with a single there is not an area to put a sleeping pad to hold it still. I think this is a marketing trick to sell double hammocks personally but it is included for comparison purposes. In my experience if you under-inflate your air mattress pad in your hammock it stays put the whole night but others mileage may vary. Single is the way to go weight wise.
Hammocks have weight ratings attached and the also affect the weight of the hammock after packed. Sleeping in the hammock alone and hiking hundreds of miles may favor leaving the one that can hold up to 400 pounds at home and take one with a slightly lower rating.
Material is intertwined with weight rating but there’s a large variety of types of nylon usually that can be chosen from when picking hammocks. Make sure to shop around and find the lightest material available to meet individual needs.
Hammock Weight Saving Tips Recap
- Choose Single Hammock if possible
- Pick Correct Weight rating
- Choose correct material
The Hammock Suspension
Although most say digging into the hammock suspension looking for weight savings is not a good idea I am chasing ounces so I will briefly go into a few items I have used that are light weight that I really enjoy.
A lot of hammocks makers, like ENO, use carabineers as the method to attach the hammock to what ever suspension you choose to make to connect to the tree or tree like structure. The older ENO hammocks came with steel carabineers. They now come with aluminum ones but I’m going use steel because it makes my article more convincing. The steel carabineers weigh 124 grams(4.37oz) for the pair. 4.37 oz in the world of backpacking is significant. I shopped around and the lightest, usable, carabineers I could find weigh in at 20 grams (0.71 oz) for the pair.
These have a breaking strength of 1000 pounds according to Dutch’s website. I personally bounced up and down in my hammock and tried to break them when I got them and they were not impressed at all.
That one upgrade if you have old steel carabineers will save 3.66 oz of pack weight with no sacrifice on load capacity for $20.
Tree strap whoopie sling combos
Another subject that can go on forever but I will just say that the piece of suspension attached to the hammock that attaches to the tree can vary in weight pretty significantly. Some of this weight can be avoided by just tying knots as mentioned before. Personally I like the tree strap whoopie sling combo because once hung fine adjustments to raise and lower the head or foot end of the hammock can be made. When tying a knot it is required to untie the whole thing and start over if any major adjustments are required. While this may not be an issue for a seasoned hammock user that knows just how much tension to pull before tying the knot, the adjustability of the whoopie sling is an option that adjustments painless. The combo I currently use are at this link. Hummingbird Tree Straps(Made in the USA).
I have also used the Helios from ENO and this system works well.
Whatever you use make sure you shop around. I am sure there maybe mom and pop stores that make them cheaper and lighter but humming bird has been the lightest I can find as of the writing of this article. I have used the straps on a few trips as well as around the park and plan to use them on my thru hike in a few weeks.
Suspension weight saving tips Recap
- Ditch the steel carabineers
- Find a lighter tree strap
- Shop around
Insulation is an area where you can potentially save considerable weight on a hammock setup. This section will talk about basic insulation choices and ways to cut weight I have either read about or tried myself.
Buy a top quilt
Top quilts or sleeping quilts can save you weight in a tent or hammock. Since in a hammock the portion of the bag between the backside and the hammock is compressed the heat retention properties of that portion of the bag is basically dead weight for conductive heat loss prevention. Upgrading to a sleeping quilt helps cut weight for a tent set up and also works great in hammocks. Also quilts can costs less than sleeping bags and they even be custom made at reasonable costs.
Here is a link to where I got mine if you are interested in this option.
Use a sleeping pad
The normal sleeping pad you use with your tent can be used for your hammock. If you do this you may not save any weight over your tent setup but at least you will be neutral and not gain pack weight. Any sleeping pad will work. For me the blow up neo air light worked well as long as I kept it slightly deflated. The down side is you have to make sure you stay on the pad in the hammock or its possible to get cold in the middle of the night and blame it on the pad not working.
Under quilt options
Buying an under quilt was one of the best purchases I made for my hammock setup. That being said they add sometimes pounds to your sleeping system so they should be considered when trying to shave weight. One option with them is to get an under quilt rated a little warmer and then wear extra clothes. This is assuming the close are lighter than the extra weight of the quilt rated lower. The other option is to get a ¾ or ½ under quilt. This saves weight in under quilt but you still have to bring some kind of pad to keep the areas not covered from being cold so this may not be a good option unless extra pack space the smaller under quilt would un cover is also needed.
Insulation weigh saving tips recap:
- Invest in Top/Sleeping Quilt
- Use your standard tent sleeping pad
- Use shortened under quilt
That being said, I am probably somewhere between a hammock newb and someone who has hung a hammock a few times so if you want to see the yoda of hammock camping subscribe to The Shug’s Youtube.
Again, hint outdoor companies, I was not provided any of the gear mentioned above in exchange for my review but I have used most of the pieces I mention and would not recommend anything I believe was of sub par craftsmanship or quality.
If any of the tips helped you saved even an ounce off your hammock camping set up then it was a success. If you liked any of these tips or have others you would like to share with everyone please comment below!
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