Today we’re talking about tents vs hammocks, the pros and cons of each. Why I don’t use a hammock, and what’s the best shelter system for me and you.
You should know that I’m mainly a tent person and in the past I’ve dabbled in things like tarp setups. But now I have done some hammock camping, and I do currently own a hammock set up.
Let’s start our hammock vs tent! Best hammock or best tent? Let’s discuss!
Pros and cons of the tent
Pro: I have my own little house at the end of the road…
One of the biggest pros for me on using a tent on something like a thru-hike or a section hike (even a weekend backpacking trip) is having a little home at the end of the day. I know, if I have a hard day on the trail, if it’s wet, if it’s cold, if it’s hot, that at the end of the day I will have this little thing.
When I get to camp I can set up my little shelter, and I have my own little space away from everybody else. Especially if I am camping with other hikers out on the trail, I like having my own little private domain in my camp spot at the end of the day.If the weather is bad, I can get inside, and I can spread out all my stuff.
I’m not super cramped in a tiny spot, so I do like having a little bit bigger of a tent to wear, if I know, there’s going to be a hardcore rainstorm, and maybe there’s a day, that I don’t want to hike. If I want to take a zero on the trail, I have a spot, where I can spread all my stuff out, I can cook in my vestibule, and I can be comfortable.
Pro: easy tent setup
The tents that I use are very simple to set up. In the past I used to have tents that are freestanding, which are pretty easy to set up, but now I use a trekking pole tent, that is a one-piece tent, or a single walled tip, and I love the simplicity of those tents.
When I get to camp (no matter where it’s at) I can throw out the tent, I can stake it down, put my trekking pole in it, and it’s ready for me to go to bed. So for me it’s all about simplicity, and tents in my opinion are just a more simplistic approach to the trail. Now as much as I do like using a tent, there are obviously cons with using a tent over something like a hammock on the trail.
Con: setting up a messy camp
In my opinion number one would be setting up a messy camp, and what I mean by that, is when I get to camp and say it’s been raining all day and the spot that I’m going to set my tent up on is just super muddy, super wet, there’s puddles on the ground. I got a setup in that, and then in the morning, when I get up there, tends to be a lot of mud splattered on the outside of my tent, so sometimes using a tent can be a little bit more messy.
Con: The opposite of my plus is the installation
The second con for me is kind of the opposite of one of my pros, and that is setting up. Sometimes you don’t find the flattest ground, sometimes there’s a ton of rocks all over the ground, so setting up a tent can be a challenge.
You have to really think about, how you can set it up in between obstacles, between trees. It can take up a lot of real estate on the ground, so if you’re camping around of a lot of other people, you might only have not much room to work with.
Pros and cons of the Hammock
And now let’s talk about hammocks. Like I mentioned before, I have used hammocks in the past on overnight backpacking trips, but I’m by no means an expert on using hammocks all the time. So I decided to ask my friend Mike, who has been using a hammock on his camping trips for years, for advice and this is what he told me.
Pro: ability to set up camp
The first thing is the ability to set up a camp. Where the ground is uneven, or there are obstacles in the way like rocks, or sticks, or even logs, hammock campers are able to hang over top of those obstacles and really get a comfortable night’s sleep,
Pro: comfortable sleep
Another great benefit is the ability to elevate your feet after a long hard day of hiking. With my hammock setup I’m able to raise my foot end of the hammock six inches higher than the head. End of the hammock which allows my feet to be elevated throughout the night. No matter what position I’m sleeping, feet will be elevated the entire night.
The biggest benefit of using a hammock at least for me is when I was using a tent and sleeping pad combo, I never felt like I could get comfortable every hour or two. I was waking up tossing and turning, my back ached in the morning. All that was relieved whenever I switched to a hammock. I get such a great night’s sleep in this thing, and I wake up feeling refreshed and ready to start my day right on, so it sounds like comfort. It is a really big Pro on hammock vs tent camping.
But be sure there are some cons or disadvantages to using a hammock.
First thing I should talk about is that a hammock is usually going to weigh more than a typical tent system. If you add in the hammock blanket, the hammock, the sleeping pad for hammock camping, the straps, the suspension, the tarp and the tent stakes, you’re typically going to be over the weight of a standard tent. Even the best hammock for camping is still going to weigh more than the lightest tent setup, so that is something to think about.
Another thing that might dissuade people from hammock camping is its privacy issue. In a tent you can just close up your doors, change for the night or get dressed in the morning, you spread out all of your gear to keep it organized.
With a hammock you don’t have that privacy or that space. Typically I keep everything in my backpack, and when it comes time to get changed, I’m huddled up under my quilt and changing inside my hammock.
Con: amount of research required to actually get a comfortable night
I think the biggest con for using a hammock on the trail is the amount of research required to actually get a comfortable night’s sleep. I think a lot of people just go up to their local outdoor store, buy the first hammock they see and expect to get a great night’s sleep. It’s not like that at all, it requires a ton of research and dialing your gear down to make sure, that you can get a great night’s sleep.
It definitely looks like there are some pros to using a hammock on the trail over a tent, but why don’t I personally use it on my hikes very often is, that as for me it comes down to simplicity.
With the hammock system (especially if you’re talking about a three-season hammock system) you have the tarp, you have the hammock, you have the bug net, you have the straps, the under quilt, the top quilt – all of that stuff. I’m just a lazy hiker. At the end of the day after hiking from 20 to sometimes 40 miles a day I don’t want to mess with all that stuff, I don’t want to look for a tree, I just want to grab my tent out, throw it down on the ground, put some trekking poles in it and be ready to go to bed.
I’m sure if I used hammock systems on the trail, I would probably sleep a little bit better, because any time that I have used hammock systems, I’ve been super comfortable. But for me it just comes down to simplicity. If I don’t have to mess with all that stuff, and I can just be a little bit more efficient in camp, it’s going to make my hike overall more enjoyable. But if you don’t mind taking that extra time, or say you’re just going out for a multi-day backpacking trip where you don’t necessarily have to be from point A to point B, maybe a hammock system would be a great option for you to check out. If you’re lazy like me, and you don’t really want to mess with it, maybe just grab a tent.
My suggestion is get out on the trail maybe pick up a nice cheap budget option for a tent and a hammock, and test it, and see, if you’re a person that likes taking the time to set up a hammock, or see if you’re lazy like me, and you just want to throw that tent out.
Get out on the trail, do some experimenting and find out for yourself what’s going to be the best for your next hike!