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In search of the perfect hammock

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  • In search of the perfect hammock

    I will be discussing many items related to selecting a hammock, related camping gear, what to look for ect ect. So here goes....

    I often see newcomers to hammock camping wanting to know what is the perfect hammock so they only have to buy one. That is like asking what is the perfect truck or the perfect knife. There is no such thing.

    Never will be.

    There are many different styles of hammock, lengths, widths, fabrics and other options that go into deciding which hammock to get. I own about 30 hammocks and of those, I only use about 4 on a regular basis. Which I use depends on the time of year and if I am car camping or backpacking.

    If you are new to hammock hanging, then I strongly recommend that you find a group hammock hang ( a group hang is where a bunch of hammock hangers get together to camp out ). There you can check out a variety of different hammocks and talk to the owners about why they choose that hammock, what they like about and what they do not like about the hammock gear. If you ask, they may let you get into the hammock. If they say no, do not take it personally as some hammocks have a weight limit and you may be too big for that hammock.

    You can find planned hammock hangs in the Trip Planning section of this forum or over on Hammock Forums. You do not have to have a hammock to attend a group hang, you can bring a tent and or you can ask in advance if any one can lend you a hammock set up to try. I have loaned hammocks out to new comers many times and a few of them have gone on to become dedicated hammock hangers.

    HammockForums.net is also the best place to research different hammocks. The major hammock vendors will be listed and you do your research on the different vendors by reading the posts where the good the bad and the ugly is discussed.

    At this time there is one company that will rent you hammock gear to try out...Underground Quilts.

    While there several different styles of hammocks but only two of them are consistently used for backpacking. I have seen many other designs come and go as they did not pass the test of time of being a good camping hammock due to weight, ease of use, cost, quality ect.

    Many of the hammocks sold on EBay and Amazon may be offered at great prices but are not suitable for camping. One company sent me a hammock to review and while it is advertised as being for an adult; my wife whom is 5ft3 found it way too short and narrow.

    Hammocks such as ENO, Grand Trunk ect are massed produced and what you see is what you get. While they are usable as camping hammocks they would not be my first choice ( and I do own hammocks made by these two companies and other similar brands )

    All in one hammocks. A few companies make hammocks that come as a package to include the hammock, tarp, insulation and suspension. I am not a big fan of these all in ones as you are forced to order by the package and usually can not make changes.

    > Bridge Hammocks made by Jacks R Better and Warbonnet IMO are the only bridge hammocks worth considering at this time. My wife owns two Warbonnet RidgeRunner Bridge Hammocks. The main drawback to the bridge hammock is that one has to use poles ( included with the hammock ) ( although some people have adapted their hiking poles to set up the hammock ) and the poles add weight and space to the pack. Also the current bridge hammocks have a current weight limit of 250 pound so many of us heavier hikers can not use them. You will not have a choice of length or width on these bridge hammock. Your options are usually limited to single or double layer and or integrated bug net or no bug net.

    > Gathered End Hammocks...these are the most common hammocks being used for back packing.

    Features to consider when buying a hammock... not all features will be available for all hammocks and or offered by all manufactures.

    >> Length and width. Hammocks do not come in a standard length or width. To be comfortable the consensus on HammockForums is that a gathered end hammock need to be between 10.5 and 11 feet long. Width should be at least 60 inches. Why is this important ? The correct way to lay in a hammock is to sit in the middle of the hammock and place your feet on one side of the hammock and your head on the other side so you are laying in the hammock at an angle. This results in what is called a flat lay. If you sleep in line in the hammock ( sometimes called banana style ) you will find that it is not as comfortable. The Warbonnet Blackbird hammock is an exception as it is a 10 foot hammock but is still comfortable due to its built in footbox that still allows for a flat lay ( I have been using them for 7 years now and own 4 of them ). If you are a tall person like me, you may find a even wider hammock more comfortable. I have a couple of custom built hammocks that are 11ft long and 64+ inches wide and I find them very comfortable.


    >> A hammock with an integrated bug net or a hammock without a bug net. Which one you get should be based on where and when you camp. Some manufactures do offer a partial bug net. There is a DIY ( Do It Yourself ) bug net called the Fronkey Style bug net that encases the whole hammock and allows one to enter via the bottom of the bugnet. I made one and while it works I find it to be bulky and I find it easier to use a hammock with an integrated bug net.

    A hammock with an integrated net is good at keeping out the bugs so you can get a good nights sleep. A bug net can also help retain about 5 to 10 degrees of warmth in side the hammock. I know its crazy to think that a piece of fabric full of holes can retain heat but they do. I like to use a hammock with a bug net as I find the bug net keeps me from kicking my top quilt out the hammock during the night. Some hammocks with a bug net can be removed while others can not be fully removed. I own hammocks with both systems and I rarely find I need to totally remove the bug net. I would rather have a bug net that I can unzip from either side,

    >> A few hammocks can be ordered with top covers that depending on the hammock, are integrated with the bug net or are a separate item and require that the bug net be removed so that the top cover can be installed. The top covers for use during the colder months and help to trap heat inside the hammock and block the wind. I have both styles and prefer the integrated top cover style,

    >> Material....most of the cottage vendors use ripstop nylon for their hammocks. For the most part they are using material from two companies....Dutch Gear and or RipStopbytheRoll. I have been told that both companies have their fabric made in the same textile plant in China and while this is probably true, their fabrics are made slightly differently. Most cottage vendors will tell you if they are using Dutch Gear or RSBTR fabric to make their hammocks. I have used fabric from both companies and would base my choice by color, width and fabric weight rating.

    The mass produced hammocks such as ENO, Grand Trunk ect use variations of a fabric that is called Parachute Nylon.

    >> Layers.... Cottage made hammocks are usually offered in single or double layers ( in rare cases some really heavy hangers have used 3 layers ). A double layer hammock while heavier than a single layer offers several advantages.
    - Less fabric stretch when you get in the hammock
    - Allows one to use a pad between the two layers and the double layer reduces the pad movement.
    - Supports more weight.
    - Mosquitoes can bite through a single layer hammock but not a two layer

    >> Suspension...this is what is used to connect the hammock to the trees. The two main suspensions in use are
    - Whoopie Slings, very light weight but can be hard to use in freezing conditions and while wearing gloves. Most are made from Amsteel which is very strong.
    - Straps...slightly heavier than whoopies but easier to use. Do not use straps made from nylon as nylon stretches and you can find yourself on the ground after a few hours. Straps made from polyester or Dyneema and polypropylene are the way to go. There are straps made from Kevlar but they tend to be very expensive and are do not hold up to exposure to the sun.

    >Structural Ridgeline...this is a small length of line attached each end of the hammock and more often found in hammocks with integrated bug nets, This line has a several functions...
    - Keep the bug net from sagging onto your face
    - Can be used to hang a ridge line organizer from that gives you a place to store your keys, phone, wallet ect while you are in the hammock.
    - Can be used to determine if you have the hammock hung properly by the amount of tension on the line once the hammock is set up. Personally I do not worry about it.

    There are other items that may be found on the hammock such as whipped ends vrs sewed channel ends, side pull outs, pack hoops, peak bags, side storage pockets, and or knottly mods.

    As you get into hammocks you will find that are many many ways to customise your hammock to suite your taste,
    Last edited by gunner76; 02-16-2017, 23:15.
    18 years old with 45 years of experience
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