I'm going back to sleeping on the ground. No bitterness there, just
a pragmatic decision based on factors for me personally.
Somewhat long layout of my thought process follows; stop reading now
if you're not interested.
I did a 10-day PCT section hike (150 miles) in August using my
Hennesy UL Backpacker, and slept a little cold one night, plus got a
sort of crick in my back that was more or less annoying on various
nights. Because of the "slept a little cold" part, I determined to
try out some alternatives at home this winter.
In my first attempt I slept warm enough (it wasn't as cold a night as
I had hoped) but I still got that crick in my back (middle-of-back
pain, pretty uncomfortable) --- to the point where I decided to bag
it and come in to bed at 4 am.
This got me (re)thinking seriously about the trade-offs of hammock
versus tent. I know the decision won't be a popular one in this
group, but I thought some here might be interested in my thought
process --- whether you agree with it or not.
Advantages of hammock camping:
- Can put up almost anywhere (in Western Oregon or Washington), don't
need level ground
- ~no competition for a limited number of good tenting spots when
hiking with tenters
- No ground clearing needed
- Apart from temperature and/or wind, a guaranteed experience, i.e.,
sleep the same anywhere
- No risk of water pooling around base of tent, as you're not on the
Advantages of going to a solo ground tent:
- More stable place to be, can easily move around, get dressed inside
- Less risk (for me, anyway) of back problems; I typically get a
crick in the back in my hammock (key factor)
- More overall comfortable; can get into more sleeping positions, can
sit upright and get dressed inside, stuff doesn't slide around inside
- Warmer: ground is inherently an insulator. Challenging to keep
underside warm in hammock, particularly so if trying to be pack-
weight neutral with an equivalent tent or bivy option
- Faster, easier setup
- Can probably put more stuff out of the weather (in tent or
- Easier to get up in the middle of the night, just generally easier
to get into and out of a tent
- Lighter weight --- even with both a full-length CCF pad and a
thermarest the weight would be the same as my lightest possible
hammock configuration (one that's not certain to be warm enough)
- A little less complicated --- less "moving parts" so to speak, and
less re-learning curve each season (how to tie knots, order of
putting up the pieces, etc)
- Site selection perhaps less sensitive to where wind is coming from
- No worries about hiking in areas where there might be less (or no)
trees, such as large southern stretches of the PCT, beaches, higher
The advantages of going back to the dirt are significant. What they
mainly boil down to for me are (a) I still seem to get a sore back in
the hammock but sleep fine on the ground, and (b) for the temperature
ranges I want to hike in and with the configurations I'd likely use,
I can save a full pound, maybe slightly more. With a base pack
weight of just under 18 pounds (soon to be under 17 pounds!), saving
a full pound is significant.
I think I'll keep the hammock and likely use it for some solo hikes,
particularly when I'm hiking by myself or if I should ever hike with
only hammock campers, and particularly when not going into higher
elevations in summer months. But with companions who use tents or
bivy's, the benefit of "camp anywhere" is gone anyway, my site
selection is limited by what they can do, not what I can do.
I'm not looking for anyone to talk me out of this or anything --- I
just ordered a $200 solo tent (Tarptent Contrail,
, but if anyone has any
observations here I'll certainly keep my mind open (and stay
subscribed to this list for a few more days <grin>). I'm not,
however, open to the idea of buying (or making) an entirely different
hammock in hopes that my back would tolerate it better. It might,
but ... ultimately this has turned out to be a less-than-successful
experiment for me and I've got to limit my losses at some point!
I appreciate all that I've learned here, not all of which was limited
to hammock camping. This is a great and helpful group, and my thanks
to all the contributors.