Falling out of love.
It happens more often than not that I’ll wake up in the middle of the night in my tent and I’ll be cold and confused and utterly unable to find my sleeping pad because sometime in the night it squirted out from underneath me and now lurks in the corner down by my feet.
Or we—my sleeping bag, my sleeping pad and me—are all lurking down in the corner, having skated down there across the slick floor of the tent.
Or we’re hunched up the side wall of the tent.
Or we’re scattered to the four corners of the tent like dandelion fluff blown hither and yon by the wind.
Which, of course, it never is.
I've fallen out of love with my tent.
And I'm thinking of having an affair with a hammock.
Once you hang, you never go back. (That's what she said.)
Between the maddening situation of my tent and my sleeping pad not playing well together and the fact that my tent isn’t free-standing, I’ve been drawn into the idea of joining the ranks of the hammock hangers.
There’s really no way to know if this is a good option except by trying it out.
Which is why I just ordered my first real sleeping hammock. Yay!
I’ve gone back & forth with the pros and the cons of each.
I’ve watched tons of videos and skulked around at Hammock Forums.
Here’s what I’ve learned in my research and some things you might want to think about when trying to figure this out for yourself.
There's a lot to love about a tent.
These are some questions that I’ve been asking myself (and the internet) and thoughts that have harassed me as I’ve wrestled with this decision.
- Do I really need the added privacy that a tent offers? Will I break my neck if I try to change clothes in a hammock?
- Being in a tent feels safer somehow. But is it, really?
- Unless you get a hammock with a cover panel, like this one from Dream Hammock, a tent will be warmer. True or false?
- I’m a side sleeper and a tosser and turner. Can you even sleep on your side in a hammock? Can I toss? Can I turn?
- I think a tent will be more comfortable if you have to wait out a storm. I mean, at least you can sit up to eat your gruel and tell yourself that hiking in the rain isn’t so bad.
- Where will the dog sleep if I’m in the hammock?
- What if I want to sleep in a shelter? I can’t do that without a sleeping pad. How can I have my cake (comfort, versatility, light weight) and eat it, too?
There’s a lot to love about a tent, and ultimately, the weight differences aren't that big between the two set-ups.
Hammocks play well with trees and rain.
Two things intrigue me the most about switching over to a hammock.
1. You can camp (almost) anywhere there are trees. (And there are LOTS of trees on the AT.) You’re not relegated to flat spots. And you don’t have to settle for a spot where you'll fight rocks and roots for the right to sleep soundly.
2. If you do have to set up in the rain, you can keep things relatively dry by setting up your tarp first. (And there is LOTS of rain on the AT.) Once your tarp is up, you’ve got shelter to unpack, cook, put on your dry stuff, hang your bed. And you will never, ever (knock on wood) have to worry about your hammock flooding in a downpour.
So, that’s my thought process and, obviously, there are pros and cons to each.
Ultimately, though, it's about sleep quality.
I think the most important thing for a long hike that’s already pushing you to your limits every day is to at least make sure you get a good night’s sleep as often as possible.
So, that brings me back to the question of whether you can even sleep through the night in a hammock?
Which is why I ordered my hammock just now.
I’ve got plenty of time to test it out between now and March 30, my start date.
So, which hammock is best?
I don't have a definitive answer to that question, either, but I do know this: your recreational ENO hammock that you got at the Christmas secret santa party one year needs to stay in the car camping box.
You need a hammock designed for sleeping. It should:
- Be asymmetrical, for the flattest laying position.
- Have a bug net built in because...bugs.
- Be insulated from the bottom, either by a quilt or a pad.
I chose the Warbonnet Blackbird, in spite of the fact that it's verging on camo colored.
- It's reasonably priced.
- It's double layered (preventing sleeping pad squirt)
- It has some interior storage, a shelf for your headlamp and glasses and foot balm.
Here are some comparison points between this hammock and a tent set up, just so you can see how each stacks up against the other.
The Bottom Line
I mean, I’ve probably thought about this too much and spent too much time on pro and con lists.
The bottom line it that there’s no way of knowing if a hammock will work unless you take it for a spin (not literally, hopefully…you might hurt yourself).
So that’s what I’ll do as soon as my hammock arrives.
And then I’ll let you know if it’s possible for a side-sleeper to sleep happy in a hammock.
Meanwhile, here are some resources for you:
For loads of tips and more information about hammocks in general, I encourage you to go to:
- Warbonnet Outdoors: great videos about setting up a hammock, suspension systems, tarps and more.
- Hammock Forums: lots of people with lots of experience (and opinions).
- Clever Hiker wrote a post about the 10 best backpacking hammocks.
- Here’s a video from Homemade Wanderlust, who started out in a hammock (and a homemade tarp), but ditched it after 30 miles for a tent. I think she was in the wrong hammock. And, unlike me, maybe didn’t spend enough time on nude beaches in Greece.
Leave a comment and let us know your thoughts on the great Hammock v. Tent debate.
Happy Hiking, Y'all!