Hammock camping: how to buy the best hammock in 2018

Carrying a tent sucks. They’re heavy, they can be a pain to setup, and sleeping on the ground isn’t great either. It means you’ll also have to carry a bulky sleeping pad along with you. But have you ever tried a hammock? I don’t mean that woven one that your mom got in Mexico when she was twenty-two. I mean a modern, lightweight hammock designed for camping and outdoor adventure.

If you haven’t used one of these modern marvels before, allow me to change your life. No more packing a bulky and heavy tent. No more getting the wrong poles in the wrong places in the dark. And best of all, no more sleeping on the ground. Hammocks set up easily, weigh virtually nothing and are comfortable. Imagine that, comfortable while camping. And you don’t even need a sleeping pad.

These days there are so many companies jumping on the hammock bandwagon that it can be pretty hard to sort through all of them and find a quality product. So, we’re going to help. We’ll fill you in on what some of the top-rated companies out there are and what makes them stand out among the crowd. We’ll also give you some tips on what distinguishes different types of hammocks and what hammock accessories to buy. I hope you’re ready for a good night’s sleep.

Camping hammocks vs. day hammocks

Day hammocks are fast for afternoon chilling.
Day hammocks are fast for afternoon chilling.

It’s important to distinguish between the types of hammocks on the market today. Most companies out there are making what would be considered day hammocks. These hammocks are ultra-lightweight, symmetrical, and don’t feature any sort of top covering. These are perfect for taking to the park to chill or camping in the summer when rain and mosquitoes aren’t a concern.

If you have year-round or jungle camping on your mind, you’re going to need a camping hammock. These are best if you intend to ditch the tent and rely solely on your hammock in the woods. That’s because they are often made of the thicker material that will help insulate you at night. They also often feature asymmetrical designs so that you can lay flat on them. Or at least, mostly flat. Lastly, almost all camping hammocks have a bug net and rainfly. That means you can camp in just about any climate without worries.

ENO Hammocks

Eno Hammocks in the Rockies – Author: OakleyOriginals – CC BY 2.0
Eno Hammocks in the Rockies – Author: OakleyOriginals – CC BY 2.0

Probably the most popular hammock company on the market today is Eagles Nest Outfitters, or ENO. They’ve been making hammocks since the turn of the century. What started as a small startup with a big dream has become a big company with a wide array of high-quality products. Although ENO is most famous for its classic Double Nest Hammock, they also sell just about every other type imaginable. From ultralight, to ultra-utility, fancy prints, and jumbo sizes – if you can imagine it, ENO probably already produces and sells it. ENO’s massive success is largely due to its targeting of both day hammock and camping hammock markets. Most people that own ENOs can be found hanging in the public park on sunny afternoons. However, several of these day-hangers also have a habit of packing their hammocks for camping trips.

Online or at more than 2000 retail locations across thirteen countries, you can buy their hammocks. However, you can also get ENO hammock straps, hammock stands, hammock insulation, bug netting, replacement parts, and a wide array of accessories. ENO hammocks are pretty cheap, despite being well made and innovative. Most ENO hammocks cost less than a hundred bucks at retail price.

Hennessy Hammocks

The Hennessy Hammocks – Author: Rob Beattie – CC BY-SA 3.0
The Hennessy Hammocks – Author: Rob Beattie – CC BY-SA 3.0

Hennessy Hammocks, although less well known than ENO is undoubtedly a more serious product. Tom Hennessy has been designing his own hammocks since 1970 and, strangely enough, started shipping his patented Hennessy Hammocks to REI in 1999, just like ENO.

What’s the big difference then? Well, Hennessy Hammocks are higher quality, and designed specifically for camping in rugged, wet, cold, and uncommon terrain. Every feature of these hammocks is all about intelligent design for the true adventurer. I’ve had my Hennessy Hammock since I was 16 and I still use it regularly. One of the best features, among many others, is the patented ‘snake skin’ stuff sack design. These work to pack up your hammock into a tight roll. When you set it up next, you just tie it off on either end and pull off the stuff sack. Everything is already adjusted just where it needs to be.

Hennessy Hammocks do run a bit more expensive than most other hammocks. That’s why they’re fit for adventures on any continent and in any climate. However, they come so fully featured that if you were to add up the prices of purchasing all the included accessories from another brand, you’d be looking at a similar or even higher price than a Hennessy. All in all, these are perfect for real adventurers who are looking to let go of their tent forever.

Warbonnet Outdoors

Warbonnet Blackbird hammock & Whoopie Slings – Author: Nick Taylor – CC BY 2.0
Warbonnet Blackbird hammock & Whoopie Slings – Author: Nick Taylor – CC BY 2.0

Warbonnet Outdoors is newer to the hammock camping game than the other two companies on our list today. Founded in 2008 in Colorado, Warbonnet is all about making high quality, American made products. Their competitive prices and high quality, innovative designs are the reason they’ve made such waves in the hammock industry in such a short time.

Although they offer fewer products than ENO or Hennessy Hammocks, Warbonnet has a full line of hammocks to accommodate all types of camping needs. From classic, diamond-shaped designs to bridge style suspension systems, you can find any level of comfort you’re looking for here. For the basic package, these hammocks cost less than a Hennessy, but more than an ENO. However, once you kit it out with accessories, you’ll be looking at paying about as much as a Hennessy.

Hammock accessories

As you may have realized already, hammocks are simple, but hammock camping in comfort can get a little complicated. In order to do it right, you’ll need a couple of accessories to ensure a good night’s sleep.

A basic hammock can become so much more by adding a couple of accessories.

Bug nets are essential if you are going to be sleeping in jungles, on coast lines, or in any tropical, temperate, or humid places. Most camping hammocks come complete with built-in bug netting. However, some will require the purchase of a separate system you attach over the top of your hammock.

Hammock straps are a must for easy and sustainable hanging. If you’re using ropes to hang your hammock, you’re damaging the trees you hang in. No one wants to be a tree killer. Hammock straps are designed to be strong, tree-friendly, and easily adjustable. Some have adjustable buckling systems, most have a number of daisy-chain style loops. Even though almost all hammocks will come with hammock straps these days, you may want to buy longer or better ones. They’re all pretty cheap and really useful.

Hammock insulation comes in a variety of forms and names. Underquilts, top quilts, padded liners, all a bunch of names for virtually the same thing. It’s nice to have a little extra insulation when you’re sleeping in the alpine or a colder climate. You can do this by bringing along that old sleeping pad, a warmer sleeping bag, or by adding some hammock insulation to the kit.

Underquilting is one of the best ways to add warmth at night.

Rainflies and tarps are great for rainy climates. If you plan to use your hammock year-round and on a wide array of adventures then this is really a non-negotiable. They weigh very little and can save you a lot of misery on cold, wet nights. Most are designed to the specific size and shape of the hammock they go with. However, many people like to get an oversized rainfly so that they have a little extra breathing room at night.

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ian-carroll is one of the authors writing for Outdoor Revival