Gearing Up For a Tour With a Hammock

Do I really need a tent?  That’s the question that I’ve been asking myself the last week as I get everything together for my upcoming tour to Mammoth Cave.  What does a tent actually do for you? I asked myself and contemplated not bringing it.  “What are you going to do when it rains?” my wife asked.

“Get wet,” I answered.  Actually I had purchased an emergency tube tent which I planned to use in case of rain, so I get it out and set it up to show my wife I wasn’t totally crazy.  When I unpacked my 5 dollar tube tent I was surprised to find it wasn’t actually a tarp but thin plastic.  The tube tent was a tube of plastic and a nylon rope.  The idea being you run the rope through the tube and connect it to two trees.  I used some stakes to connect each corner of the plastic down and what I had looked kind of like an old scout style tent.  In a few minutes of light winds it had tore through all the stakes and reverted to a piece of plastic hanging from a rope.  Besides that with two open ends in any kind of rain I’m going to get wet feet and a wet head.  The emergency tube tent was a bust.

“What’s wrong with your tent?” Shauna asked as I searched amazon for tiny 1 person bivouac “tent bag” things.

“Nothing,” I replied.  But I still didn’t want to take it.  Really the only reason being that it weighs four pounds, its a good two person tent, and a very roomy 1 person tent, it’s easy to put up and take down and it would easily fit on the back of my rack.  In fact there were so many positive things about it that I was beginning to give up searching for something else.  It’s just kind of a big for 1 person touring and I’m trying to take as small a load as I can.

“Ding, there it is!” I yelled.  Shauna saw some hipster hanging from a hammock in what looked like an 80s ghetto.

“Don’t you think you’re to heavy for that?” she asked.

“Yeah, hipsters are usually skinny,”  I replied.  We have been noticing on our nature hikes around these hipster types hanging out and camping in hammocks which I viewed with a mixture of disdain and wow that’s cool.  Maybe these guys are on to something?

After doing some research I discovered that most of these camping hammocks are rated up to 400 pounds and their manufacturers claim they have tested them to insane weights.  I started remembering the last time I used my tent, which was last spring when I backpacked on the river to river trail.  I rained that night, and the tent kept me 98% dry, but I didn’t sleep all that well when I discovered that anywhere I tried to lay in the tent I would  feel the annoying pinch of a rock or root.


So I bought a “Bear’s Butt” hammock.  There were a few cheaper and many more expensive options but for 35 dollars the Bears Butt had many excellent reviews.  I also sprang for the 20 dollar strap kit.  The hammock comes with a rope but I’m not the best at knots and everything I read said the straps made using the hammock much easier.


So I just set the hammock up in my back yard, it took less than 5 minutes for the first time ever setting up a hammock.  I gritted my teeth when I put my weight on it, I was sure the hammock would just fall out from under me, but instead everything stayed put.  I swung my legs over and found it to be very comfortable.  Getting out the first time was tricky, but not hard.


I ran over to set up the camera for a self timer photo.  I rushed back to the hammock and tried to get in as quickly as possible, I found myself on the ground rather suddenly.  Lesson learned, take your time to get in the hammock.


Along with the hammock I got a tarp with grommets in each corner, should be easy to tie a rope above the hammock and hang the tarp over then tying down the corners, if required.

So will I be able to sleep in it?  I don’t know yet, but I think so, it feels way more comfortable then my thermarest pad.  Now here’s the even better part.  The hammock, straps and tarp weigh about 2.5 pounds.  My tent and thermarest mattress weigh 7.5 together.  That’s a more comfortable sleep, no messing with a tent, and 5 less pounds.  How can you beat that?


About Matt Gholson

Cycling, school teaching, husband.
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6 Responses to Gearing Up For a Tour With a Hammock

  1. Moe says:

    Hammocks are great. You may want to look for an insect net of some kind to keep the mosquitos off of you. That is the only thing I have found that is a downfall of warm weather hammock sleeping.

  2. Kate says:

    The guys I race with all have camping hammocks. They’re big fans of Hennessy hammocks (which aren’t cheap). +1 on the bug netting, and you might think about some kind of tarp-type system to keep you dry if it rains.

  3. Jim Russell says:

    I’ve done a few dozen backpacking trips in my life; never used a hammock but have spoke to a few guys who have tried them. The ones that seem to work well are the complete systems (expensive) where the hammock, netting and rain tarp are designed to work together has a unit. Not sure where you are planning on camping for the night, but finding two trees the proper distant, hanging the hammock, netting and tarp separately could be changeling; especially if getting dark and in the middle of a rainstorm. But you’re looking for adventure, so go for it. Eureka makes a small bivy tent (Solitaire) that is popular with backpackers; it’s light (<3 lbs) and the fiberglass poles are prong to breaking, but it works. Eureka Spitfire 1 (<4 lbs) worked well for me a few years ago. Good luck!

    • Matt Gholson says:

      I think that the netting would be a luxury but bug spray will work about as well. I hung the tarp up over the hammock in about 5 minutes, it was super easy. In a heavy storm I think I’d get wet though.

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