It’s hard not to like a hammock. They symbolize lazy days spent on beaches with Mexican lagers, palm trees, and a complete lack of responsibility. Or at least they used to. At some point in recent history, some very un-lazy people decided to get downright serious about our favorite body slings. Since then, a boom of tech-savvy hammocks has inundated the outdoors market, offering hikers and backpackers an entirely new way to hang out in the outdoors.
Straps can easily make or break your hammock experience, pun intended. Unless you know some decent knots, you’ll probably end up “winging it” and permanently affix the strap to the tree with a seven-stage square knot. Eagles Nest Outfitters makes a great strap systems called the Atlas Straps (get it? like how Atlas holds the world?). It uses integrated loops to make attaching your hammock quick and easy. On the tree side, the straps cinch quickly around trunks so you won’t slide down.
Most backpacking hammocks are very similar, made from lightweight, parachute-like material with a carabiner at either end. Because of this, most hammocks offer you very similar sleeping experiences, ie. the traditional U-shape body form. For some, this style is perfectly comfortable. But, if you’re looking for a more straight lined solution, check out the hammocks from Jacks R Better, which use the principles behind suspension bridges to leave you hanging straight and true.
Being off the ground will already help you stay warmer, because the ground tends to suck heat away from your body. For added insulation, you can lay down a simple sleeping pad or opt for a hammock specific down quilt, which attaches to the underside of your hammock, making winter hammock camping infinitely easier than setting up a tent.
The final component of a decent hammock setup is a rainfly. While you can rig a standard tarp or reuse a rainfly from your tent, a hammock specific version will be much stronger for your purposes. Companies like Trek Light Gear make strong tarps that take advantage of the same trees that hold your hammock up, using them as anchor points. Additional tie downs go off to each side of your body to the ground so that the rainfly snugs down right over the hammock. In better weather, you can raise the height of the rainfly to give you shade and basic cover, but not impede your view of your leering, hammockless friends.
As hammocks become more popular for hiking and backpacking, as loungers or as full sleeping systems, companies are designing a wide array of accessories to go along with them. The king of hammock accessories is likely ENO for their lines of bug nets, hammock pillows, gear storage compartments, and party lights: because nothing says necessary like party lights above your hammock.
Brands to Keep an Eye On
Of the companies that are rocking hammock innovations right now, look for Exped for their simplicity, Trek Light Gear for light weight and durability, ENO for their variety and expertise, Hennessy Hammock because they’re affordable, and Jacks R Better for their “flat laying style” hammock.