My father is a huge fan of the outdoors, but up until a few months ago, he never camped. Why? The discomfort of sleeping on a camping pad or air mattress made camping more uncomfortable than it was worth, from his point of view. I recently had the pleasure of introducing dad to hammock camping, however, and his tune has changed considerably. Most people (like dad) consider hammock camping cartoonish or impractical when they first consider it. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
For most people, the most revolutionary thing about hammock camping is the comfort it can bring to their time in mother nature. While marketing may have you thinking that a giant blow up mattress is more comfortable than the spartan hammock, reality doesn’t match up with the ads. Contrary to what you might think, a hammock (properly hung) doesn’t force you to sleep on your back, or force you to sleep with an exaggerated “C” curve in your spine.
One technique that’s important to know for hammock camping is that most styles of sleeping hammocks these days allow you to actually sleep flat (on your back or on our side), by lying with your body off the centerline of the hammock. This expands your sleeping options and means you don’t necessarily have to abandon your favorite way to sleep.
In fact, my father (and many campers) find that a hammock supports their back and offers muscle relief better than any camping pad or bed. How is this possible? The back is, due to the nature of the hammock, always supported while you are sleeping. Furthermore, sleeping with your feet slightly above your head allows the blood to circulate out of your feet, reducing the swelling that can come from hiking boots or extended time outdoors. With a hammock, there are no lumps under your back, due to rocks, tree roots, or other invisible annoyances that can happen with a camping pad.
Lightness & Convenience
A good camping hammock is lighter and more flexible to carry than a tent. For campers who are traveling long distances on foot or doing some backcountry camping, every ounce of gear has to be essential; a hammock can free up space and weight. Or, you can use that extra space to bring another snack, a bottle of booze, or anything else that can enhance your trip.
Finally, hammock camping means you aren’t restricted to a particular campsite or area, due to the needs of a tent. You don’t need a large flat, cleared area. You simply need to find two trees that fit the length of your hammock. Seasoned campers find this saves time and is more convenient.