The Way I See It !
What a wealth of information here but unfortunately most of us donít have the time to wade through it all.
Iím sure most of what I am posting here has been covered in great detail many times over. Such is the nature of a popular subject. When I joined back in 2010 there was great interest but it has definitely gone viral.
I have always been a camper, a terra firma (solid earth) camper, 4 seasons, solo and in large groups. I have taught bush survival, built our own 10í x 12í Prospector HOT tent, wilderness canoe trips, made a number of haul sleds for transporting 150 lbs of gear on remote winter trips, etc. I have slept in lean-toís, and snow caves in temperatures as low as -42F.
When I was introduced to this site it got me thinking about some of the advantages and certainly some of the disadvantages of hammocks. I guess what intrigues me the most about the hammock is the fact that you can set up basically anywhere as long as you have 2 anchor points about 12 feet apart. You can set up on a side hill, over blow downs, boulders, water, etc. This definitely has its advantages here on the west coast rain forest. The bush here in the lower elevations is very thick, too thick for traditional camping. In the winter 10 miles from where I live we can receive well over 12 feet of snow. Difficult and exhaustive work packing down an area for a tent. With the hammock I would think it might be somewhat simpler? Another advantage as I see it , you are sleeping by yourself. You can set-up away from others if you want. I would think once you are in your little cocoon it must be quite private and peaceful. This certainly has itís appeal.
Weight I think might be a toss-up, particularly in the cold Canadian winters. Summer might be an entirely different story. I have nothing to base this on, only by what I have experienced and read? Iím sure someone will jump in here and supply some actual facts.
Ease of set-up may be another interesting comparison. There are some pretty elaborate hammock set ups posted here so maybe someone would care to enlighten us. Again, the time of year would have a huge bearing on this.
The one point I am unsure of is the thermal heat loss of a hammock versus a tent, but I think I have it sort of figured out in my mind. I remember as a kid sleeping on a camp cot in the summer and I thought I would freeze. I think the same principal applies here. I have no doubt winter camping directly on the snow would be a little warmer than in a hammock. Under your Thermarest mattress, ground sheet and sleeping bag, the air is basically trapped so the temperature would not be below freezing while the air surrounding your hammock will always be the same, requiring a different set of rules. This would be a huge difference in sub-zero temperatures.
Cost would probably be comparable as well. I doubt there is not much difference between the two styles. You can go elaborate or basic in both cases. I do believe there is probably a better opportunity to ďdo it yourselfĒ with the hammock option.
One thing I should mention, I have never slept in a hammock. The idea is totally new to me but I must say it has certainly caught my interest. If my back isnít sore in the morning I could be an easy convert.
1. Sleep on a diagonal
2. You will need some sort of under insulation- on the outside of the hammock if it's crushable insulation (like down)
3. Check out theultimatehang.com and shug's youtube videos
4. Read and post to the forums
I can tell that you will love hammock camping.
Setup can be very simple. We just get carried away here and let our imaginations run wild sometimes, just for the fun of it!
You are concerned about insulation, as you should be. But hammock insulation is simple if you picture a conventional sleeping bag cut in half, lengthwise, such that you end up with a top half and a bottom half. The top half lays on top of you, the top quilt, and the bottom half is suspended tightly up against the bottom of the hammock, the under quilt.
Your observation about weight and cost being a toss-up is accurate. I'd include bulk there.
Comfort: I find the hammock a lot more comfortable than any sleeping pad I've ever tried on the ground. Your observation about being able to set up anywhere with anchor points means that if you find two posts, you can sleep on (above) asfalt even. As titanium_hiker points out, sleeping on the diagonal allows you to sleep virtually horizontal.
Thermal heat loss: yes, this is the big issue to solve. I just took delivery of an underquilt rated 20*F that weighs 700 grams in its stuff sack. I tested it this weekend in 0*C, and lying in my hammock I felt I didn't even need anything on top of me. In the winter you can use snow to your advantage also in hammocking (or so I'm told - not sure I'm man enough to try at the moment...) by pitching your tarp low and building up snow to close the bottom gaps. Helps trap the air inside at least.
Ease of set-up: This is currently my focus. I've been tinkering to get my stuff to where I want it to be in terms of comfort and weight. Now I'm focusing on what makes the set-up and break-down procedure easier. This weekend I was out testing new stuff, and with my hammock in snake skins I could shove it together with the underquilt down into a stuff sack in a matter of seconds. I have a larger set of snake skins on order, known as lazy slugs, which will swallow it all together, and hopefully make tear-down even easier. No poles to dismantle, no tent floor, inner tent, rain fly to separate. Just shove it all in (except the suspension, which you shove in its own little stuff sack). All the while, you're standing under the tarp that you pull down last. Using snake skins on that too makes it a matter of seconds as well.
It seems a little prohibitive to start just to try it out, since you seem to need so much. But chances are you have a tarp and a sleeping pad and sleeping bag already. Get a cheap hammock, use the pad for bottom insulation (not as comfy as an underquilt, but you'll get the idea whether hammocking is something for you), your sleeping bag for a topquilt, and hang away. At least you'll know if it's something to pursue.
There's a lot to learn. Kick back and watch Shug explain it all away. Order the ultimate hang, get it on kindle cloud and you can read it on your pc or iphone.
relax, it will mostly come natural. specific questions and new discoveries are posted here most every day.
Be crafty, last years great gear will be superseded by this years new and improved and folks either have to have the latest and greatest or just can't help themselves. That makes last years great gear real cheap second hand. Some of it unused. Hover in the for sale area and snag yourself an underquilt. If last year SnoPeak made a 700 ml Titanium mug for 50 bucks and this year they make a 701, you'll get the 700 for 25.
And there is nothing more comfortable then a hammock to sleep in. I threw away my bed and sleep full time in one. Why should you be uncomfortable in the outdoors?
Bingo! Well said and well summarized!
Originally Posted by MAD777
For just a slightly different way of looking at it:
Unless ( or maybe even if ) you are in a snow cave, you probably have some roomy bag with a very thick top layer and very thick bottom layer, though it's possible you just have a real thick top quilt. But lets just say it's a bag, not a quilt. Either way, you probably have a thick heavy pad, right?
Now the thickness of the bags top layer should be thick enough to be warm in the expected temps, and the bottom layer is probably about as thick. Now just picture that bag wrapped around the hammock, in what is known as "Pod style" or Pea Pod. If the top layer can handle the temps, then the bottom layer should also be able to, or pretty close. ( It may be colder under the hammock if the wind is not well blocked).
So now - assuming perfection ( not likely ) and no drafts or gaps
( way more POTENTIAL for that than on the ground in a mummy bag) you should be as warm as you were on the ground with that same bag. You have say 5" of down loft above you, and 5" below you. So the warmth should be approximately the same top and bottom, again assuming equal wind protection top and bottom, and if gaps and drafts are taken care of. And that is without your pad!
Of course, for emergencies and for use as a sit pad, you probably have your pad with you anyway. And you can still use it to add way more bottom warmth. It can be used inside the hammock ( tricky) or in the double layer pad pocket some hammocks have, or down under the hammock but inside the pod. But sense you are not compressing the bags insulation by laying on it, still using your pad should put you way ahead. All with the same equipment.
But remember, everything I said depends on near perfection, so it probably won't be quite as good as I make it sound. But in the ball park, and way comfy.
To see the pod concept in commercial form, look here:
For an even different way to skin this cat, check this old classic out:
BillyBob you make a good point. By compressing the bottom of you bag you definately loose much of the bags properties. Air space is insulation so by not packing it down you certainly gain some of the value. You also mentioned that some hammocks have a pocket for adding your sleeping pad. This idea crossed my mind but was not aware some hammocks have this already. Great idea. I think I will go the DIY route. I have a lot of equipment that could be modified into something suitable. I probably have 50 yds of Ripstop nylon looking to be made into something. I also have a couple -30C rated bags I could convert. I think I will start going through some of the DIY threads and see what I can come up with.
K0m4, yes, bulk is certainly an issue. I suppose its all relative. Traditional or suspended, it still requires approximately the same volume of equipment to keep you comfortable in sub zero temp's. You also made a good point about packing snow under you rig but I think that sort of defeats the idea of set-up time. It would certainly work though.
There is also a local site that people can sell their used equipment. I think I will check them out. Mostly deal with hiking, climbing etc equipment.
Titanium Hiker.....you mentioned that your winter kit weighs only 89 oz. That is pretty impressive. Does that include the bags etc or just the hammock. Also, at what temperature are you comfortably able to sleep in.
Dan S- what I call my winter rig is probably not that 'winter' - definitely not in Northern Hemisphere terms!
Theoretically the old rag mountain quilt I have is good at 5-10F (I think- Jacks don't have a unit on their website) Winter use that becomes the underquilt, The sleeping bag I have is only good to 0C So needs supplementing. I think I need a new bag.
What I'm looking for is something I can take up into the high country. We have a 4 seasons wilderness area close by for hiking snowshoeing, back country skiing, etc . Camping is not allowed as they don't want any of the mountain meadows disturbed. Hammock camping would be perfect. Just get off the beatin' trail and make a quick set up. No harm to the enviorment. They have mountain cabins to use but most of the time they are full. In the winter they get loads of very deep snow. Elevation is about 5000 - 6000 ft. on the coastal mountains. Temperatures don't get too cold perhaps -5 to -10F. Weight and bulk is a huge factor.