Tents vs. Hammocks: How a Traditional Camper Took to Sleeping in Trees
Hammock brand Tropilex tried to sell me — a lifelong tent-user — on hanging versus traditional camping. So I went along with the brand for overnights in Texas heat and cool Colorado mountains to see how hammock camping stacks up.
I have never been interested in hammock camping; It’s never seemed that comfortable. What about bugs, weather — and how do you move around? As a climbing guide certified by the American Mountain Guides Association, I’ve camped more times than I can count, in just about every condition. An ultralight one-person tent comes near the 1-pound mark, so I haven’t seen the need to hang in the breeze.
But Hammock Heaven, a Netherlands - based brand focused on all things hammock, is near my hometown. So this summer, we arranged a local camping trip to introduce me to sleeping slung, followed up by a kayak and camping outing near Gunnison, Colorado. I started as a nonbeliever, but now I see how hammock camping can add enjoyment to plenty of outdoor endeavors.
Here’s how I went from hammock curmudgeon to enthusiast — well, ally, at least.
5 Advantages of a Hammock on paper
Hammock Heaven lobbied me initially with a healthy list of hammock camping advantages. In general, the brand boiled hammock camping is down to five primary benefits:
Set up and break down camp faster. There are no stakes, poles, or sleeping pads necessary — just a pair of tree straps and the hammock for mild, bugless conditions.
Travel lighter. Tropilex claims Lime Single Camping €59.00 with a pair of Tree Strap Hammock Fixing €24.00 weighs in up to 200 kilos. Affordable Tarp, like the Canopy Tarp €69.00 With this tarpaulin you can create a watertight cover in no time. An ideal addition for anyone sleeping in a hammock outside!
Sleep better. Hammock Heaven site touts a study that suggests the natural rocking motion of a hammock can elongate the non-REM portion of sleep.
Camp wherever you are. In addition to better sleep, hitting the proverbial hay is presumably less of a chore. No need to clear the ground of rocks or sticks and mud is never an issue. You just need the appropriate trees.
Leave no trace. Hammocks never leave smashed-down foliage, and the Tree Strap Hammock Fixing spread the load across 1.5 inches of webbing to leave trees unscathed.
Some of these claims seem plausible, but I required convincing for others. A local camping trip and subsequent Colorado trip gave me the opportunity to give each reason a stamp of approval — or the thumbs down.
Texas Hammocking With Tropilex Staff
Tropilex decided on a car camping trip to Pedernales Falls State Park as my initial hammock camping experience. A typical Texas summer guaranteed high temperatures and humidity, a great test for what I considered the apparent venting advantage of hammocks.
Ease of Setup
Upon securing a campsite, two Tropilex staffers let me venture off to set up a Lime Double Camping Hammock for €69.00 with Mosquito Net of €69.00 by myself. I had previously set up a Tropilex at my house, but I didn’t reference any resources. And even with the added net, common sense got the hammock up more quickly than any tent.
The setup is logical, intuitive, and doesn’t require knot tying. So yes, even in an uneducated, unassisted state, getting a hammock up and functional proved faster than a tent. That is, as long as live, suitable trees 12-15 feet apart are available. And with some pro tips from the Tropilex designer, setting up became even faster.
One Tropilex team member warned me my first night in a hammock might be restless. But I had zero issues falling asleep after setting my preferred hanging tension Tropilex recommends starting with a 30-degree angle, which was easy with the 20 adjustment points on each Tree strap and the hammock’s carabiners.
I am a side sleeper and have restless legs. The “hugging” effect of the hammock kept me still for the entire night — a rarity for me — without disrupting my slumber. I also slept on my back, as it was more comfortable than sleeping on my side. Lying on my stomach required much higher hammock tension and, in my opinion, wasn’t as comfortable as a tent floor.
Although I was in a “double” hammock, I think it would be difficult for two adults to sleep comfortably throughout the night due to transmitted movement and the inability to avoid contact. I enjoyed having the extra space on the hammock as a solo camper, sprawling unimpeded. But for simple relaxation and lounging, the Lime Double Camping Hammock was a comfortable and cozy affair for two adults.
Comfort and Strength
Tropilex rates the Lime Double and each Tree strap fixing to 200 kilos, and each'Big' Carabiner to 23 kN 13 kN for the Lime Single. All of this quelled any fears I harbored of a sudden midsleep collapse. For safety and comfort, Tropilex also recommends a maximum hanging height of 18 inches.
And with overnight temperatures in the 80s with relatively high humidity, the airiness under the hammock proved excellent at keeping me comfortable. Even the slightest breeze provided a cooling effect, and the 70-denier LunarWeave ripstop nylon DWR-treated offered much more breathability than coated tent fabric.
Overall, hammock camping proved pleasant, easy, and environmentally friendly in the humid, high-temperature Texas testing grounds. But I still needed to try it out for more rugged environs.
Hammock Camping in Colorado
Tropilex and Oru Kayak put on a trip to Gunnison, Colorado, to test its techier offerings, and I was eager to escape to colder temperatures.
Our first night found us on a forested mountainside. Trees were in abundance, and the night promised a dip in the mercury.
I set up a Mercury Single, this time with a wind- and precipitation-proof 'Canopy' Tarp €69.00 and a 30-degree sleeping bag my own. What was previously an advantage in the heat of Texas became a disadvantage in the mountain cold. The hammock’s openness wasn’t as protective against harsher climes.
Another cold-weather hammock camping issue was the added challenge of insulating against mosquitos and bug bites. With the integrated mosquito net of this travel hammock, you will not be bothered by annoying insects. Tropilex Mosquito' Black Single Hammock €69.00, is a more secure, comfortable, and efficient solution.
This breathable fabric feels wonderfully soft. Moreover, parachute fabric is very strong, while it weighs virtually nothing. The weight of the 'Hammito' travel hammock including integrated suspension is therefore minimal.
Tropilex : Canopy' Tarp
The next day put us on the Gunnison River at Blue Mesa Reservoir. We paddled to a sandy beach that had a limited selection of trees. Here, I chose to sample the Canopy' Tarp for €69.00, With this tarpaulin, you can create a watertight cover in no time. An ideal addition for anyone sleeping in a hammock outside!
The 'Canopy' is also the perfect gadget to create a quick shelter while walking and hiking!
The group congregated in a narrow grove of trees, everyone successfully and quickly finding workable anchors. Finding a suitable tent site in the shade on this beach would have proved difficult, as there wasn’t much flat ground near the trees.
I pitched the Canopy Tarp in a separate area from most of the hammocks to secure a flat tent site. This exposed me to the early morning sun, but the Canopy Tarp proved breezy, so sleeping past dawn wasn’t an issue.
At 100 inches, the tent hammock's floor is much longer than a typical two-person tent. This leaves plenty of space above or below the sleeping bags for gear and pets within its spacious 34.7 square feet.
Although I didn’t get to try the Canopy Tarp as a hammock, a Tropilex staffer demonstrated this mode. It was a bit complicated to set up but yielded a hammock with a built-in bug net and fly.
The Canopy Tarp left a visible footprint in the sand. But all the hammocks indeed left no trace: No telltale signs of a tent floor, only footprints, and trees were left unharmed.
Tropilex Hammock: The Verdict
I came into these Tropilex-sponsored outings as an experienced outdoor adventurer that wasn’t impressed with or overly interested in hammock camping. I figured it would take a lot to sway me into believing the advantages could overcome the disadvantages. Or that the hammock camping movement was nothing other than a hipster-driven, backyard-oriented flavor of the month. No offense.
At the outset, Tropilex claimed five hammock advantages over traditional tent camping. I tested each of the brand’s claims thoroughly during my outings with the company.
Set up and break down camp faster. I now agree that camping hammocks can be quicker to set up and break down.
Travel lighter. This is possible in mild conditions. Lime Single Camping with a pair of Tree Strap Hammock Fixing weighs in up to 200 kilos — compact and relatively inexpensive under €100 compared to ultralight one-person tents €500+.
But the hammock package swells in weight, size, and cost if a bug net and tarp are required. Adding Tropilex accessories increased the claimed weight to 3 pounds, with a total price of €240.00, negating both weight and cost advantages.
Sleep better. Sleep is so subjective. I did sleep better and more still in warmer conditions than I typically do in a tent. But this had nothing to do with the rocking motion, as the brand claimed. Rather, the “hugging” of the hammock subdued my restless legs.
I also believe that mosquitos and bugs areas require a Mosquito Single , which safely protects against the insect bites. And should storms brew, a tarp — Tropilex or third-party — is a must to ensure sound sleep. Finally, stomach sleepers may have issues with creating enough tension to avoid back hyperextension.
Camp wherever you are. This is true if there are trees. And that can be a big “if.” Desert dwellers need not apply.
Leave no trace. I completely agree. As noted above, all the hammock options left fewer visible signs of human presence than a tent does.
Hammock Camping Is Fun
One thing Tropilex failed to list as a primary advantage of hammock camping is the added fun factor. The novelty and unique feel of sleeping in a hammock added an irrepressible grin to my outings. And having one up for relaxing during the daytime, in favorable conditions, is worlds nicer and more social than crawling into a tent.
For this tester, the bottom line is that hammock camping can add comfort and fun to both front-country and backcountry adventures, as long as 1 the conditions remain mild and 2 appropriate trees are available.
And for me, hammocks will also get a favorable nod when the temperatures are high, as they allow more breathability than a tent. Perhaps most importantly, as a dad, I will bring a hammock or three along on every family car camping trip. No matter where we sleep, having hammocks hanging around invites relaxing — a primary goal of any getaway.
By Seiji Ishii, Seiji Ishii is an adventure journalist that blurs the lines between work and play, writing about his climbing, two-wheeled and on-foot adventures, and the gear involved. He is also an AMGA Certified Single Pitch Instructor and an ACSM certified personal trainer, specializing in climbers and motocross supercross athletes. He lives in the woods with his wife, daughter, and a small herd of pets in Wimberley, Texas.