Are you a tent camper considering a switch to hammock camping?
Or maybe you’re a first timer wondering whether you should pop your camping cherry with a tent or a hammock?
In the ongoing battle of tent vs hammock, which side will you take?
Of course, both have their pros and cons.
In this article, we’re going to tell you all about the different factors you need to consider when you’re making a decision. The factors we’re going to talk about are:
- Size & Weight
By the time you’re done reading, you’ll have a much clearer picture of what’s going to be right for you.
Let’s jump straight into it.
It makes sense that when you’re deciding on what you’re going to be sleeping in, comfort is the first thing you think of.
Getting a good night’s sleep is essentially the main parameter of success for any camping experience.
So, how do tents and hammocks compare when it comes to comfort?
Here’s what you need to know.
How Comfortable Is It To Sleep In A Tent?
When done right, sleeping in a tent can be just as, if not even more comfortable than sleeping in your own bed at home.
You might not have a proper mattress like you do back home, but the serene sounds of nature all around you more than make up for it.
And anyway, a good air mattress or sleeping pad is far from uncomfortable.
However, there are a few things that can get in the way of a comfortable night’s sleep in a tent.
For example, there could be a stick or rock that you overlooked under your tent, poking you while you sleep.
Another possible scenario is heavy rainfall flooding your tent. But, we’ll get into weather protection in more detail further down.
How Comfortable Is It To Sleep In A Hammock?
When you’re sleeping in a camping hammock, suspended in the air, you won’t have to worry about flooding, or sticks and rocks poking you from underneath.
However, sleeping in a hammock can take some getting used to. The first few tries might not be the most comfortable experience.
Sleeping on your side in a hammock might feel somewhat awkward to begin with. But, I promise you, once you get used to the position, you’ll sleep more comfortably than you ever have in your life.
A lot of people have made the switch from tent camping to hammock camping because of the superior comfort alone.
Many people with back problems, who have trouble getting a good night’s sleep in a tent, swear by sleeping in a hammock.
When it comes to comfort, a hammock is definitely a better option than a tent.
Hold up just a minute, though. Being comfortable isn’t the only thing that’s important for getting a good night’s sleep.
You can feel like you’re floating on a cloud, but it won’t mean a thing if you’re freezing your butt off.
So, is it easier to stay warm in a tent or a hammock?
Here’s the tea.
How Warm Will You Be In A Tent?
There are lots of ways to stay warm in a tent.
These include wearing the right kind of clothes and having a sleeping bag and pad with adequate temperature ratings.
You can also use a hot water bottle if things get really chilly. Hot water bottles are most effective when placed between your thighs.
Another great trick is stuffing any extra space inside your sleeping bag with dry clothes. Doing this will keep you snug as a bug in a rug, all night long.
You can even use a tent heater, if you really want to crank up the heat.
How Warm Will You Be In A Hammock?
Staying warm in a hammock is a little bit more of a challenge. That’s because you’ve got cold air underneath you with nothing but a piece of fabric to protect your butt.
A good way to solve this issue is by using an under quilt and a sleeping pad in your hammock.
Other than that, you can also choose your clothing and sleeping bag wisely, use a hot water bottle and stuff your sleeping bag like you would in a tent. This will also help you stay extra toasty in your hammock.
Pro tip: unzip your sleeping bag and use it as a blanket instead. A sleeping bag on top of you and a sleeping pad underneath you is your best bet at staying cozy and warm.
OK, you might be all cozy and comfy and sleeping like a baby, but how well protected are you?
The last thing you want is to be left vulnerable to the elements and wild animal attacks.
If you think you’ll have more protection in a tent, you’ll be interested to hear that’s not actually the case.
Here’s how tents and hammocks compare when it comes to protecting you.
How Well Will A Tent Protect You?
A tent does a fairly good job at protecting you from the elements.
If you get a good quality tent, it should be able to withstand strong winds, UV rays and rainfall, providing you’ve attached a rain fly.
The tent’s footprint should prevent flooding when it rains. However, if enough water collects on the ground it may not be enough to stop it from getting in.
As far as attacks from wild animals, such as bears, are concerned – whether you’re in a tent or a hammock isn’t going to make much of a difference.
The most important thing you can do to avoid a close encounter with a bear is avoid attracting one in the first place. Make sure you keep your food and anything else with a scent in a bear canister, a safe distance away from your campsite.
How Well Will A Hammock Protect You?
Even if you’ve got a camping hammock with a bug net, you’ll need to have a hammock tarp to shelter yourself from the elements.
If you have a nice, large rain tarp, you’ll be just as well protected from the elements as you would be in a tent.
If you ask me, even more so, because you don’t have to worry about the ground beneath you flooding.
Despite many campers’ concerns about being at risk of a bear attack when sleeping in a hammock, this simply isn’t true. The reality is that hammock camping doesn’t put you at any greater risk than you’d be in sleeping in a tent.
Size & Weight
When it comes to size and weight, you might be surprised.
Although you might think that a hammock is clearly the lighter, more compact option, this isn’t actually always the case.
There are lots of ultralight tents out there. When you factor in all the extra hammock camping gear you need like carabiners and a suspension system, you can sometimes end up with a similar total weight.
A hammock does have an upper edge when it comes to size though. A backpacking hammock can pack down to an incredibly small size – small enough to fit into the palm of your hand.
How about setting up camp?
Which do you think is easier:
If you said hammock, I’d have to agree with you.
Here’s some info about setting up each, to give you a better idea.
Pitching A Tent
The first thing you have to do before you can set up camp, whether you’re tent camping or hammock camping, is find a good spot.
Finding a suitable spot to pitch a tent is definitely a more serious task than finding a place to hang a hammock.
A good spot for a tent, in accordance with Leave No Trace principles, has to be durable, flat, clear and far away enough from any natural water sources.
You’ll also want to make sure you have enough shade and, if possible, a windbreak to protect you from the wind. It can sometimes take ages to find a spot that checks all the boxes.
As far as the actual tent setup is concerned, it depends on the type of tent, and its size.
Larger tents tend to be more complicated and take longer to set up, while smaller tents can often be put up within minutes.
There are even pop up tents with instant setup. You can have these up within seconds, literally just by throwing them out into an open space.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are tents that take several people and over half an hour to assemble.
Hanging A Hammock
Finding a spot to hang your hammock up is much easier than finding a spot to pitch a tent.
All you need is 2 solid trees that are thick enough, with enough space between them. A good rule of thumb for figuring out the right distance is adding 5 feet to the length of your hammock.
Once you’ve found your spot, it’s just a matter of tying 2 knots. So, we’re talking a couple of minutes tops.
You’ll need to learn how to tie a knot, such as a bowline or hammock knot. If you forget how to do it though, you can always resort to a good ol’ shoelace knot. Double knot it and call it a day. You’re welcome.
Just make sure you tie your hammock in a way that doesn’t damage the tree trunks. You can learn more about how to do this on the Leave No Trace website.
Finally, which is the more economical option?
If you’re going camping on a tight budget, you’ll want to pay attention to this part.
If a group of 4 people were to go on a camping trip together, would it be cheaper for them to sleep in 1 large tent, 2 smaller tents or 4 hammocks?
If you’re a solo camper, does it pay off to invest in a tent or are you better off financially going for a hammock?
The price of a good 4-person tent ranges from anywhere between $100 and $900.
Keep in mind though that a 4-person tent is going to be a tight squeeze for 4 people. A group of 4 would be much better off in either a 6-person tent or two 4-person tents. A 6-person tent will set you back at least $150, upwards.
Smaller tents for solo campers start at around $50, but can also be a lot more expensive if you want a high quality product.
But that’s just the tent. Then you’ve got your footprint, stakes and guylines. Sometimes you even have to buy a rain fly separately.
All up, if you want a good quality tent, you’re looking at upwards of $200 if you’re a solo camper, and $300 if you’re a group of 4.
You can get a good hammock starting from around $60. On the higher end of the scale, they’re around $100.
You also have the additional purchase of a hammock tarp. You can get one for around $30-$70.
With everything included, $150 will be enough to get yourself equipped and ready for a night of hammock camping.
If you’re a solo camper, a hammock is definitely a cheaper option.
A group of 4 will actually fare slightly cheaper in tents. However, a tent can only belong to 1 person at the end of the day. A group of people hammock camping, on the other hand, can each have their own personal hammock that’s all theirs.
Therefore, a hammock is the best way to go financially, whichever way you look at it.
The Final Verdict
Both tents and hammocks are great, and there can’t be 1 clear winner.
At the end of the day, it’s going to come down to what your own personal preferences are.
However, personal preferences aside, hammocks truly do come out on top in almost all categories.
In a nutshell, tents are easier to keep warm in.
Hammocks, on the other hand, are more comfortable, easier to set up and cheaper. They also provide the same amount of protection, if not more.
Considering that with a little extra gear you can still stay warm in a hammock, it doesn’t really have any major flaws. There’s really no reason not to give hammock camping a go if you haven’t already.
Just remember to give yourself a little bit of time to adjust! It’s well worth it in the end.