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  1. #1

    Bridge vs. Gathered-End Hammocks?

    Hi, all. I've definitely enjoyed a lot of the posts on this site. I did a search to see if this was already answered somewhere, but didn't find it.

    I'm wondering why some people prefer bridge hammocks to gathered-end hammocks? My interest is mostly in sleeping comfort. For the gathered-end hammocks, sleeping on the diagonal and hanging properly seem to be the big secrets (absent CBS) to getting comfortable sleep. It's impossible to lay on a diagonal in a bridge, though, right? And I'm guessing you wouldn't get the benefit of having your feet and head slightly higher than your middle in a bridge? Then again, it seems like it would be much easier to lay flat in a bridge.

    Does anyone have any info. on the pros/cons of bridge vs. gathered-end?


  2. #2
    Senior Member Foxpoop's Avatar
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    Bridge vs. Gathered-End Hammocks?

    Gathered End pros: simple, lightweight, easier tarp coverage, possibly more sleeping positions available.
    Gathered end cons: possible calf-ridge and/or heel pressure, possible issues getting perfect underquilt fit.

    Bridge pros: flat lay for back sleepers and side sleepers. Perfect underquilt fit with no adjustments. No calf ridge or heel pressure. Much better views from the hammock (WBRR is great example).

    Bridge cons: heavier (trekking poles as spreader bars can eliminate this disadvantage). Harder to cover with a tarp and spreaders and poke through tarp if careless. Potential for shoulder squeeze. Can be harder to sleep fetal.

    Those are just a few. Others might disagree or add to the list.

  3. #3
    cougarmeat's Avatar
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    If you have an REI store nearby, you can try the GE ENO hammock and then the new REI Bridge hammock (note, the REI under quilt for their bridge is not yet a product - coming soon, they say). Though there are the usual pro's and con's, I think the major difference is the "feel" and that's difficult to impart in words. I'd have a hard time describing why I like caramel swirl coconut ice cream over double chocolate fudge - but if I put a spoonful of each in your mouth, you'd understand the choice for you.

    On the mundane side, the GE is usually lighter, packs smaller, and can use trees closer together.

    If I'm camping in an unknown area, I'd bring the GE because I don't know what I'll find, tree-wise. I can hang the GE in more tree/distance situations. But if I knew I'd have a good place for the Bridge (WBRR), I'd take it instead.

  4. #4
    Senior Member
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    Valpo, IN
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    Disclaimer- I sell bridges and gathered end hammocks.

    While folks will likely disagree with some points here- I'd consider this a fairly unbiased summary.

    New to hammocks?
    Start with a GE hammock. While the choices and options currently available are mind boggling and there are some secrets to learn... A GE is still the lightest, cheapest, and simplest option.
    As anyone futzing through these forums (or watching dozens of Shug's videos) can see- a GE is a very complicated thing for such a simple piece of gear. But it can still be pretty simple if you take a deep breath.

    So if you find you can string one up, and it's comfy for you after you dial it in. Stop there. You will likely need to experiment some to find your sweet spot of size and fabric but once you nail down the hammock itself then you can worry about all the other aspects. And there is vastly more support and complimentary products for GE hammocks.

    CBS is not unique to either style of hammocks- but until you nail down which hammock you are going to use- it's hard to properly address any insulation issues until you have a specific hammock to address them with. Your CBS issue could simply be that you switch hammocks (or pitch too inconsistently) too often. So dialing in your hammock is first IMO.

    They can and do work well for many folks, you have options to simply use the backpacking pad and tarp you may already own... so the cost to switch over for a ground dweller isn't too bad. Younger, shorter folks can "get away" with short little eno's or other less than satisfactory hammocks. I say- good for you! If a nice light 4x9 hammock works for you awesome. But some folks may need all the way up to a 66"x 11'+ single or double layer in a myriad of fabric options.

    Some may walk by and cringe at some super jacked up weird setup... meanwhile there's a person in that hammock who is snoring like a log and can sleep anywhere anytime in anything, lol. So much like a sleeping pad can be 1/8" torso length Gossamer gear foam... or some down filled megamat portable bed of joy... to each their own on GE hammock sizes, shapes, and fabrics.

    The only valid reason I can think of to jump right to a bridge is simply information overload. There are hundreds of GE hammocks you could try, with dozens of suspensions, lay directions, netting, etc. While relatively inexpensive individually to try, and quite possible to sell used, there may be benefit to simply jumping to a complete bridge like the WB Ridgerunner. $200 or so, one or two options, bug net attached, neato saddlebags, and UQ's and tarps custom made to fit. If you are under 6' tall and under 200lbs this might be a pretty no-brainer option compared to trying dozens of GE hammocks.

    Though the best cure for information overload is to visit a group hang.

    Experienced with hammocks?
    1- If you're happy with a GE. Don't bother looking at a bridge unless you are considering a full time home sleeper or car camping rig. I have a few bridge customers who only use their bridge for those two functions and would never carry a bridge on a backpacking trip. I am prone to do that myself from time to time as well. I am fine with a GE for a few nights at a crack... and for a fast and light trip I have some UL hammocks that are pretty amazing on weight and pack size.

    2-You're really into hammocks- and just want to try one out. No complaints from me, lol.
    But other than being curious about bridges, 90* hammocks, or just looking for something different... you can't fix happy if you're happy. But you can cure curious by trying new things. And if you got money to spend- I'll take it!

    3-You tried GE, you got things working to the best of your ability... but it just ain't working. Typically either you are tall, wide, heavy, have back or shoulder problems or you're just odd. One size may fit most but it don't fit all. Now it's time to talk bridges.

    Bridge hammocks-
    A bridge is best (simply) described as a floating cot.
    A GE is a big hunk of fabric that you find a sweet spot in by laying diagonally and enjoy.
    A bridge is "just the sweet spot" and it's created through the use of spreader bars and curved sides. You don't lie diagonally because the geometry of the bridge has already created the same effect.

    Con #1- spreader bars. The bridge introduces a component that doesn't exist in a GE; a set of spreader bars. Typically a set of bars weighs at least 10 ounces. While the bridge body itself may be lighter or even with a GE hammock- the spreader bars themselves frequently double the weight, and they create a rigid, fairly thick set of poles to carry in your pack. These are typically about the size of a small three man tent pole set to pack. While you can swap out your spreader bars with trekking poles or found sticks... that's not a guarantee... but is a way to make a bridge more "trail ready" for some.

    Pro #1- Flat lay. While that term is misleading (zero pressure lay is more accurate) the result is the same. You tend to feel more like you are on a memory foam mattress. This is the feeling that very enthusiastic GE hammock user is preaching the joys of... but for those who never find the diagonal lay zero gravity nirvana... a bridge is more consistently simple to achieve it. You just lay down. You don't twist, turn, seek out, or tweak this whoopee an 1/8", or that side tie out another 5*. For the most part you sling it up- make sure it's level- and lay down. If you want to roll over on your side- you don't need to reset your UQ, modify your rig, or goof around... not everyone feels that way in a GE... but some do.

    Con #2- Harder or easier? (Unfamiliarity) I personally find bridge hammocks much easier to set up. This is as a fairly recent hammock user who still visits the ground happily enough. That said- I have seen established hangers suffer horribly while unlearning the habits they have. Other than the word hammock- Bridges and GE are dramatically different beasts with different pitches and setups. I've seen GE users set up my bridges in a banana shape, seen them do unspeakably weird things with the spreader bars. On the flipside I've seen total noobie campers and casual users string these up dead nuts perfect with little more than a few points of a finger. Toss the hangle out the window, lol.
    I found my biggest issue with GE hammocks to be inconsistency of pitch. One night I was the happiest guy in the world, the next I was not. I fiddled, I tweaked, I struggled. Practice does make perfect, but good design can make up for lack of practice too. A bridge is a pretty fixed piece of gear (like a cot) that simply needs to be adjusted for tension (side to side), then leveled (up and down). So I found consistency easier to achieve.

    So con 2 is a bit of mixed bag but mainly stems from bridges overall being relatively rare. Experienced users don't quite know what to make of them, and overall there isn't a ton of info to help. Most of us can set up just about any dome tent with no instructions the first time out of the box. That's a familiar product. If you are new and struggling, likely an experienced user can come by and help you with your tent. Not so with a bridge. If you "blow it" there is no frame of reference or helpful friend to walk over and help you out.

    Pro #2- Sleep positions. In my bridge, many folks can belly sleep, very similarly to how they do on the ground. In the RR and Jacks... other than belly... you can achieve most if not all of the sleep positions you might dream of.
    GE hammocks allow some options, but they are all some version of back or partial back sleeping. Many get over that or get used to that... a few don't. So if you just plain old cannot sleep on your back, semi-back, or whatever quasi-approximation of side sleeping a devoted GE user would call it; if you truly want to sleep on your side you probably need a bridge.

    Con #3- Lounging. Flat out, quite simply... sitting across a GE hammock in lounge mode, or even modifying your pitch so you can easily sit up and read... is not happening in a bridge. There are a few tricks to make a bridge a decent enough place to sit. But nobody is going to lounge in a bridge for an excessive period of time. You aren't going to pitch this thing in some lifestyle outdoors type hang over the gurgling brook while you lounge with your excessively hot significant other and contemplate the beauty of the universe for hours on end. You're going to set it up and sleep well. Maybe sit in it the following morning while you enjoy breakfast.

    Pro #3 YOU WIN! Probably the most rewarding experiences I have are helping someone enjoy the woods. In making my big guy bridge I have been very rewarded with helping losers win. People who enjoy the woods but father time has not been to kind to, have sustained injuries, worked in the trades, or just flat out gained weight or grew too darn tall. I used to sleep on a 1/8" GG pad on bare rock... not anymore. Some folks just reach a point where sleep, even in a GE is pure misery and ruins their trip. They fall back to not going at all or sticking with day trips because overnighting has become difficult. It's not a bed... but it can be darn close. So if you are one of those people who have reached the end of the line... then a bridge might be a winner.

    Pro/Con #4- they are not GE hammocks.
    If you're coming from the ground- you may appreciate that it is simple to switch. Buy a bridge Pitch it, put your sleeping pad in it, and use your sleeping bag. Hang a tarp you may already own and done. In theory that works with a GE but many find pad sleeping in a GE an unsatisfactory experience that may even drive them (unfairly) away from a GE hammock.
    If you're new or a hammock hanger already- you're starting over. While some creative jury rigging can be used to adapt an UQ... likely you're starting over. So besides the bridge... you might need new a new bug net, UQ, Tarp, etc. So just like anything.. .they can add up quickly to switch. You can MYOG a GE hammock and quilt with no sew options. Not happening with a bridge.
    Because bridges hang differently from GE hammocks- some users report "tippiness" or a vulnerability not felt in a GE. A GE cradles you... a bridge is a cot. While very hard to actually fall out, some feel a sensation that they could. While the right bridge may help this (my wife is terrified of my micro bridge, and very difficult to pry out of the luxury bridge) some people just can't do it.

    There are two types of bridges. End bar and recessed bar. They are as different from each other as GE's and Bridges.
    End bar bridges- Warbonnet RR, Jack's Bear Mountain Bridge- or the popular MYOG hikerdad/Bic bridges as well as WV's bridges.

    Recessed bar bridges- none commercially available. Best example is Grizz's Ariel. I am hoping to bring my Big Guy/Luxury bridge to market.

    End bars-
    Pros- Easier to build (cheaper), pretty sturdy, the bars are out of the way, finishing them off with netting is easier. Both RR and BMB have simple attached netting solutions and an all in one type package. They also have plenty of time in the field, good reputations, great vendors behind them, and accessories readily available to trick them out and/or insulate with custom UQ.

    Cons- they can be deep (coffin like) and sag a bit more in the middle or become narrow. Some bigger folks (men's large and up) may complain of shoulder squeeze. To be fair- drop an air pad in and you will get raised up. Side sleep and you won't get pinched. The other common complaint is that the tree to tree distance can be very long- and it can be hard to close up a tarp.

    Weight limits- It's not so much that you couldn't build an end bar bridge to hold more than 225-250lbs... it's just not commercially available. Also... just because you could put 300lbs of sandbags into an endbar bridge... you'd need some seriously wide poles to make the bridge wide enough to be comfortable due to the geometry of the bridge itself. This is not a material strength issue really, but a simple comfort/design issue. A size 8 shoe is structurally capable of being worn by a 300 pound user. But if you are a size 10 with wide feet... you aren't going to wear the 8. This is basically the crux of the weight limit issue on end bar bridges.

    Recessed bars-
    These are very new. If bridges are rare these are an emerging species.
    Pros- more "bridge" for a given spreader bar size. Basically recessed bars create a wider, flatter (generally shallower) bridge body by moving that cross section right where you need it. If you look a the endcaps in an end bar bridge- those are the biggest parts of the bridge, and the rest narrows in an hourglass shape from there. In a recessed bar bridge- the widest portion of the bridge is at your head/shoulders and calves/knees. So for a given spreader bar size you can create a bigger hammock. You can also achieve higher weight limits or maximum comfortable size because a bigger person can actually fit. Though even there... I have hit a limit with at least one tester of "fitting" despite the load carrying capacity being okay.
    Recessed bar bridges are also more compact- so tree to tree distance can be equal or not much further than a GE hammock. And all the parts and pieces will fit under your tarp. My biggest bridges are 11'6", my medium about 9'6", and my micro can be set up as little as 9' tree to tree. Grizz's bridge is 10' or less I believe in a tight pitch mode. I am not 100% sure on the RR or BMB minimum pitch distances.

    Cons- you can't really buy them. Most people have never heard of them. They don't have years of experience or accessories behind them. But assuming that changes at some point the actual downsides are:
    They are hard to build, and therefore expensive. There is quite a bit of splicing work, triple stitched load bearing channels, etc. Lots of labor, and skilled labor too. You aren't going to drop these off at a Chinese factory and crank them out for $2 a piece. They don't work great with quilts and you can't buy a custom one at this time.
    THAT FRICKIN BAR IS RIGHT IN YOUR FACE MAN! it can be offputting and weird. By far that is the biggest complaint I get thus far. At least half of the folks who try it do not follow my instructions (because they are experience hangers man, lol) and bang their head on the bar. Even if they get in unscathed they are then laying on their back looking at this darned bar! One tester bailed out... couldn't get over it. That said... while many asked about the bar, or about moving it... when I told them moving the bar came at the expense of the comfort... they got over it pretty quick. After about a dozen nights it's just something you get used to. But you do need to get used to it.

    If I slipped into promotional mode there a bit at the end... my apologies. I am biased a bit on the bridge designs- but my first recommendation is often a GE or even a competitor over one of my bridges. So I do literally put your money where my mouth is as folks who've bought from me will testify. Bridges are pretty awesome... as are many expensive things, lol. So long as you get out on the trail and enjoy the woods I don't care whose gear you bring.

    So hopefully that's all you wanted to know and way too much more, lol

  5. #5
    all secure in sector 7 Shug's Avatar
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  6. #6
    Join Date
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    Wow, great information from experienced users.
    My piddly experience is, my newest hammock is my favored hammock. However I primarily use my RR. I am able to see out of it plus I AM ABLE TO EXIT EASILY. The I don't like is the takes a lot of space to hang. I also think if someone is broad across the beam the RR and Bear Mountain do not fit well. I am not insylting any one, hust pointing out about the hourglass shape, someone tall and not thin might find the three major bridge hammocks uncomfortable.

    I started with a ENO, MOVED UP, each move was better, each new piece of gear a great improvement.

    With the GE hammocks how they are wrapped makes a huge difference in comfort. I like a short GE, it seems to be a easier exit for me and less leg problems.

    I also learned I do not like to be enclosed. The claustrophobic issue came as a surprise, it is part of my learning curve.

    I loat all my gear 18 months ago. I was given a RR, Ridge Creek UQ & a beautiful red tarp. I now have my perfect FOR ME SET-UP. I am very happy with the RR, I think I tried every hammock out there. I do have a Simply Light Designs short GE for when my RR won't fit ( I am able to juat kind of pop out of the SLD.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shug View Post
    I'll offer this for insight...
    An fine insight it is...very hard to argue with the bargain and design of the RR overall.

    If'n yer ever interested in making part three let me know. If I recall correctly you might even be bout the right size to try the micro bridge too.
    If Grizz hasn't sent you an Ariel my medium size is close... but nothing like getting one from the master.
    The micro one is a side sleeper- but a whopping 9.25 ounces.
    But that little bit o' Shug shoulder shimmie evaporates in an Ariel sized and downright vaporizes in the big guy bridge.

  8. #8
    Senior Member
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    It's all pros and cons. I sleep in a hammock and I sleep in a tent and I sleep in a bivy. They all are good and bad at the same time.

    GE hammocks are easy to come by and can be inexpensive. But they can also be finicky to find the most comfortable position. Bridge hammocks are slightly heavier in general because you have not just the fabric and suspension but you have poles. That makes them harder to pack and slightly heavier.

    For me, the tradeoff is that a bridge gives me a better sleep than a GE. If I was going true UL I would just use a GE hammock or ditch it for a bivy but I'm willing to pay the weight penalty to get a better night sleep. I have 2 bridge hammocks and they are both more comfortable but I'm a side sleeper. When lounging on my back, a GE works just fine.

    The downside to a GE, as a side sleeper, is that my feet always feel cramped and my face is pushed into the side of the hammock. Doable but not comfortable. None of these problems with a bridge.

    If you are a back sleeper, try a GE hammock, even a cheap one, just to get a feel for how it is. If you are a side sleeper or front sleeper, get a bridge.

  9. #9
    Senior Member FJRpilot's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by seekinggoodsleep View Post
    I'm wondering why some people prefer bridge hammocks to gathered-end hammocks?
    Bill gave about as complete an explanation as could be had. So I would just say, if your a side sleeper, I think a bridge will give you a better nights rest. That's my experience.
    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men should do nothing.”

    - Edmund Burke

  10. #10
    Senior Member
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    Perhaps most exciting for this fellow is the possibility of actual stomach sleeping in Bill's bridge. Not happening in a RR (at least not for this RR owner), and a direct contradiction of physics in a GE

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