Life as a Swinger: Hammocks and Their Advantages [VIDEO]

Life as a Swinger: Hammocks and Their Advantages [VIDEO]

When backpacking through national parks, mountain ranges, or across miles of seemingly untouched terrain, being comfortable is one of your top priorities. A good night’s sleep can make the difference between a beautiful day on the trail or a rough day spent battling back pains.

With the variety of options out on the market today, it is important to know which type of shelter suits your needs best before going to your local outfitters and simply picking up a cheap tent. Growing up in the mountains, I spent my fair share of time in a tent. So, a few years ago when some friends of mine mentioned their hammocks worked great for overnight trips, I was a little surprised. For me, a hammock was just a relaxation tool setup in the backyard. What I didn’t realize was that in recent years, hammock technology available on the market has taken off and can now provide a versatile and economical shelter for a variety of situations and challenges. Hammocks bring some very unique features to the table when it comes to comfort and mobility. So, let’s look at some of the advantages they offer.

Hammocks can be setup almost anywhere there is a tree line. They aren’t limited to flat ground, or even clear areas, meaning that you don’t have to wait for the next camping area to stop for the night.  The average camping hammock weighs only about 2 pounds (it varies, of course), and can be stuffed into an area much smaller than a tent. This makes it ideal for those trying to conserve space and energy for long treks. Also, the speed at which a hammock can be setup is definitely worth mentioning. Although this may not seem like such a big deal, when it’s getting dark, its cold, and the clouds are moving in, those extra minutes could be very valuable. With some models out there, an average user can have a functioning shelter in less than three minutes. (Check out my video at the bottom of the page)

Hammocks tend to be more comfortable than sleeping on the ground. You don’t have to worry about the rock hard ground, the wet soil, or even the slope. As long as there are trees available, you can choose anywhere you like, whether that’s overlooking the ocean, at the top of a steep ridge, or even high off the ground for extra safety from curious critters. When you first sleep in your hammock, however, it will take some getting used to. It is, of course, easiest to sleep on your back, but not at all impossible to sleep on your side. With a little trial and error, almost anyone can find a comfortable way to sleep.

hammock-travel-tips

I own a Hennessy Ultralight Hammock, which weighs under two pounds and fits, along with my sleeping bag, inside of the sleeping back pouch under my backpack. This frees up an incredible amount of space for other equipment. The Hennessy offers me a rainproof and mosquito-proof shelter plus a covered line to dry and protect my equipment. My normal setup goes something like this: After setting up my hammock, I’ll usually get whatever I need for the night and put that in the pouches inside the hammock itself. Then, I’ll put my boots under the rain fly to stay dry, along with anything else. Finally, I’ll hang my covered pack from a nearby tree to keep it safe and dry.  I’ve gotten used to this whole process, and I can safely say that I could have a full setup in less than five minutes, even in very low lighting. It took me some time to figure out just how to orient my hammock to avoid breezes (or find breezes), to get the right height every time, and to find places to secure the rain fly. Afterwards, however, the patience definitely paid off.

Hammocks, like most great things, do have some disadvantages. For starters, if you are traveling with a significant other, getting two people in a hammock (even those designed for couples) is a daunting task and can get really cramped. Second, staying warm in cold weather can be complicated. I’ll never forget my first night in my Hennessy hammock. I was not far from my house in the Appalachian Mountains on a two day “get to know your hammock” hike. At night, the temperature was around 500F (100C). Normally, my sleeping bag would have been plenty. But, what I didn’t think about was the fact that in a hammock, the airflow around you cools you off significantly, especially when combined with a breeze of any kind. That night I actually spent most of the night sitting next to the fire instead of sleeping. In cold weather, an extra layer underneath you to trap in heat will ensure a cozy night. I learned that the hard way. Finally, there isn’t a lot of space. One thing I really do like about tents is that they actually double as a staging area. You can lay out your equipment, organize it, and repack it, all within the confines of your tent. While hammocking, you only really enter the hammock when you are ready to do thing like listen to music, journal, read a book, and, of course, sleep.

Overall, apart from some temperature and space restrictions, hammocks are a great alternative to the classic tent approach. They can provide a comfortable and versatile setup for everyone from the weekend warrior to those trekking for weeks at a time. Hennessy, Clark, and Eagle’s Nest all sell quality hammocks that fit a variety of need. Before you purchase, make sure to find out which type of shelter best suits your needs and if a hammock is indeed right for you. Happy camping!

Seth Mason
Seth currently lives in Raleigh, North Carolina working in hospitality management. He has lived in El Salvador, Costa Rica, France, and South Korea. He lives by the motto "Work hard, play harder" and will take advantage of any time off to get out and notch another place off his list. Some of the things Seth enjoys most in life include soccer, languages, coffee shops, heights, perfectly cooked steak, and waking up to the sound of the ocean. When he grows up he plans to pursue his dream of opening a boutique hotel somewhere in the world.

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