When planning a backpacking trip or camping trip, one of the most important things that you need to consider is your accommodation. And since you won’t find any cozy hotels out in the wilderness, your choice will most likely be between a hammock vs. tent. Both hammocks and tents are excellent types of outdoor shelter and can be immensely helpful on your next outdoor adventure, but each one of them is vastly different from one another and are designed to perform under different types of circumstances. If you’re still undecided about whether to take a tent or a hammock camping, then here are some points for you to consider to ensure that you end up with the right type of outdoor shelter for your type of adventure.
Hammock vs. Tent: Price
Hammocks, irrespective of their sizes, are generally more affordable than tents. In fact, even a good quality camping hammock will cost less than an entry level tent. However, in order to fully enjoy a good night’s sleep in your hammock you’ll need to buy several accessories like a hammock Underquilt, a rain tarp, a bug net and others. But don’t worry because even with these additional purchases, the total cost of the hammock and the accessories will barely reach the base cost of a good tent.
As mentioned earlier, even the entry level tents will cost much higher than quality hammocks. Depending on the quality, size and the brand, a tent’s price can range between a few hundred and a thousand dollars. Although much of the equipment and accessories will have already come with the tent when you bought it, you still need to spend money on several items, particularly a sleeping pad and a sleeping bag. All in all, it appears that a hammock is a much better choice in terms of price, especially when you consider that you can get a high quality hammock for much less of the price of an entry level tent.
Hammock vs. Tent: Sleep Comfort
Being in the outdoors means roughing it out for the most part. Honestly though, everybody wants a decent night’s sleep, regardless of how hardcore one may be with regards his or her camping preferences. With that in mind, one of the many things that beginning campers and backpackers usually ask is: ‘are hammocks more comfortable than tents?’
Some campers and backpackers who have been using a hammock in their outdoor adventures swear that sleeping in a hammock is pretty comfortable, especially if you like being compressed and cradled while you sleep. However, it appears that more people have an issue with them when it comes to sleeping positon and comfort. For instance, many people find the ‘banana’ sleeping position rather uncomfortable and takes some time getting used to. Also, if you tend to toss and turn while sleeping or change sleeping positions quite often throughout the night, then you’ll feel that the cradling features of a hammock to be a bit restrictive. Also, you will struggle when you use a hammock if you are a stomach sleeper. Perhaps the thing that everyone will agree on is that because the hammock is raised or floating, you don’t have to worry about the ground, ground slope, rocks, sticks and other debris on the ground surface affecting your sleep.
In contrast, you don’t have to worry about any such things when you sleep in a tent. Because your sleeping bag is laid flat on the ground, you can sleep in pretty much any position you want. While camping, sleeping in a quality sleeping bag atop a sleeping pad is the closest you can get to sleeping in a bed at home. So whether you are a stomach sleeper, a side sleeper or move around freely while you rest, a tent would be the best option for you.
Hammock vs. Tent: Warmth
Because of their inherent structure, hammocks won’t be able to build up heat as much as a tent would. Even with a hammock rain fly or camping tarp on top, it still won’t be able to do a good job of keeping campers and backpackers warm throughout a cold night outdoors, though this could be remedied with the use of an underquilt and a good layer of clothes.
On the other hand, tents are more capable of insulating heat and keeping you warm since it is enclosed all around. With four walls and a roof, a tent is a much practical option where heat and warmth is concerned. And in the event that you feel tent is becoming too warm for comfort, you can always open the dedicated vents on top of the tent or leave the door open (provided you have a mesh cover to prevent insect from flying into the tent) to provide better air flow into the tent and cool it down.
Hammock vs. Tent: Wind Protection
Hammocks aren’t really very reliable when it comes to protecting campers and backpackers from winds, which is why it isn’t recommended for use when adventuring in windy places and weather conditions. For one, strong winds can cause the hammock to sway from side to side and cause some discomfort, even with your weight in the hammock. Second, if the wind is blowing parallel to the direction of your body, you have almost no protection from it. Of course, you can always set up your hammock behind a large rock or some form of windbreaker, but if the wind changes directions overnight, there’s not much you can do.
With a tent though, wind shouldn’t be a problem at all. Even when your chosen campsite is particularly windy, you can be sure that your tent will be able to protect you from it. You also don’t have to worry about the wind blowing your tent away, provided of course that you followed the procedures to pitching a tent correctly.
Hammock vs. Tent: Water Protection
As mentioned above, hammocks aren’t particularly good at protecting campers and backpackers from the wind. Unfortunately, the same is true when it comes to water protection. Even if the hammock is made from water-repellent materials, and even if you set up a rain fly over the hammock, it will still be no match to strong rains. And if the rain is accompanied by a strong wind, then you will easily notice drops of rain entering through the open sides of the rain fly, drops which will eventually end up in your hammock. Perhaps the only consolation is that you don’t have to worry about rising water since you’re hammock is floating above the ground.
This is never a problem when it comes to tents. The enclosed sides and the roof offer better protection against pelting rain and falling snow. There are also waterproof camping tents available (and you can also waterproof your tent if you feel the need to do so), and putting a camping tarp over the tent makes it even more impervious to water. The only thing you need to worry about is that these outdoor shelters are not susceptible to flooding during heavy rains, although this shouldn’t be a problem when you choose a strategically located campsite.
Hammock vs. Tent: Spaciousness
When looking at hammocks, it is immediately obvious that it isn’t as spacious as a camping tent. Most hammocks are single-person use only, though there are hammocks which are designed to hold two people. However, that seems to be the limit, and at present there aren’t any hammocks that can carry more than two persons at a single time. But even these two-person hammocks can feel cramped and tend to be a little uncomfortable.
With tents, you will never run out of space for people and gear since they can sleep anywhere from one to ten person all at the same time. And even after accommodating two persons (or more as the case may be), there will still be plenty of room left for your to store your gears and belongings to protect them from bad weather.
Also, hiking and backpacking with dogs has become hugely popular in the past few years. If you decide to sleep in a hammock, then you’ll have no option but to leave your four-legged friend out in the cold ground which is pretty cruel. You can of course bring extra bedding for your pet, but that would mean extra weight in your backpack. But if you have a tent, then your furry friend can easily climb inside with you and you can both enjoy a warm a restful sleep.
Hammock vs. Tent: Ease of Set Up
Even the most avid tent user will agree that it is quicker and easier to set up a hammock than a tent because there are lesser parts or components to work with. Also, you don’t have to spend time clearing your campsite of stones, stick and other debris that may jab at your back while you’re sleeping. All you need to do is look for trees or rocks to anchor your hammock to, secure it with sturdy hammock straps, and you’re done. And though it will take some time to learn how to set up a hammock properly, you should be able to set up a hammock in a couple of minutes after a few practices and some experience.
Tents will obviously take more time and effort to set up considering all the parts of a tent that you have to fumble with. Also, you need to find a flat space with no rocks, roots or humps and away from rainwater runoffs. And once you found a nice campsite, you still need to clear that area before you can start putting up your tent. From hammering tent stakes into the ground and dealing with tent poles, setting up your tent will take a bit more time than setting up a hammock.
Hammock vs. Tent: Logistics
Between a hammock and a tent, the former is smaller and more lightweight than the latter. Most hammocks will weigh more than 50% less than a tent, which is an important consideration since you’ll be lugging that equipment around for the most part of your trip. However, you need to consider that aside from the weight of the hammock itself, you will still need to bring a rain tarp, hammock straps, and other accessories which can increase the overall weight of your backpacking backpack.
Obviously, a tent would be heavier and will require more space than a compact hammock. Even when compared to a two-person hammock, a single-person tent will still weigh more. That, coupled with your tarp, sleeping pad, sleeping bag and other shelter accessories will increase the weight and bulkiness of your pack and can make carrying the whole set up a challenge. But if you’re traveling with your car, then then heavy weight of a tent system won’t be a problem.
Hammock vs. Tent: Camping Season
Hammocks are ideal outdoor shelters in warm and dry months of the year. There are three season hammocks which can be used even during the colder parts of fall, though you won’t be able to find hammocks suitable for camping during extremely cold winter months. So if you’re camping and you know that the weather will be fine for the most part of your trip, then a good quality hammock coupled with a rain fly should be enough to cover your shelter needs.
Tents come in a variety of types and designs, including four-season tents that can be used for camping in the winter. These tents are pretty strong and can withstand heavy rains and snow and will retain their shape in the middle of a strong wind and similar weather conditions (provided of course that they are secured to the ground properly). Unlike a hammock which are not suitable for adverse weather conditions, tents can work well for all weather conditions, thus allowing you to camp whenever and wherever you want.
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As can be seen above, both hammocks and tents have their own advantages and disadvantages, and each of them has their own place in the camping and backpacking world. In fact, many campers and backpackers have both types of outdoor shelter and often alternate between the two depending on the demands of their particular outdoor adventure. That said, if you’re still undecided between the hammock vs. tent debate, think about your type of adventure and camping destination. If you’re going on a solo voyage to a place with excellent weather conditions, then hammock camping is definitely for you. On the other hand, if you’re headed towards a destination with potentially bad weather, or if you’ll be sharing your outdoor shelter with a friend, partner, or your kids, than a tent would be the better option.
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