The first hurdle you’ll most likely face when you enter the world of hammock camping is just what type of hammock you want. Before accessories, before anchoring, and even before tarps, you need to sift through the various variations out there, and find that type of hammock that works best for your needs and priorities.
Well, that’s exactly why we’ve created this quick guide to introduce you to each type of hammock out there. We’ll cover their pros and cons, best uses, and where they excel to paint a complete picture of what you have available to you. By the time we’ve finished, we sincerely hope that you’ll have a solid idea of which hammock type is for you, and you’ll have passed your first hurdle!
Standard Hammock Variations
The parachute hammock tends to be a very common hammock for both camping and general recreation, and you’ll undoubtedly see them very often. They feature a single layer of standard nylon, and are built to be incredibly spacious and comfortable.
- Water Resistant
- Lots of Stretch
- No built in bug nets
The nylon is thankfully very water resistant, which is a great plus when camping in potentially damp conditions! The low weight and ‘packability’ of these hammocks also makes them a prime candidate to scrunch into your packs, and not even feel the difference.
The material, however, has a great deal stretch to it. This can occasionally be the source of a headache if you’ve spent some time anchoring and slinging your hammock into just the right position, but when you climb in you sag down to the ground.
The lack of bug nets on these hammocks is also a bit of a drawback when out in the backcountry where, as we all know, those bloodsuckers will always find you. So if you opt for this type of hammock, keep in mind that you’ll likely have to purchase a bug net separately.
The ultra-light (UL) takes the spacious and lightweight components of the parachute design, and gives them both an upgrade with a ripstop nylon material that makes this hammock the workhorse of the hammock camping world. This ripstop nylon greatly improves the overall durability of the hammock, while decreasing the stretch at the same time.
- Very lightweight
- Low stretch
- No built in bug nets
The ripstop design features a special nylon weaving method that increases the overall strength of the material, and will prevent any punctures from growing into a massive tear. The improved strength also limits the stretch which allows you enjoy your hammock setup as is, and not sink into that V-position with your legs and torso high above your back end.
The only primary drawback to this hammock variation is its typical lack of bug and weather protection. While this does help with its lightweight design, it can sometimes be a hassle to deal with purchasing a bug net individually and setting it up. But for those of you who want to enjoy hammock camping with the smallest weight penalty possible, then we highly recommend the UL hammocks.
The next rung up on the hammock ladder is the expedition/jungle hammock. These are built with durability and protection in mind, and therefore tend to be significantly heavier than what we’ve discussed so far, but offer superior longevity and protection from the elements.
- Very durable
- Bug-net built in and (sometimes) a rain fly
- Typically more expensive
These hammocks are generally constructed from a thick ripstop nylon, around 70D or more, which provides excellent durability against abrasion and regular use. The built-in bug-nets are also very convenient for keeping the pests away, and can easily be zipped back when not needed.
The downside is the cost of all these accoutrements along with the extra weight that they add to your hammock. However, if you’re heading out for a prolonged trip in buggy territory, or with nasty weather on the horizon, then we believe the jungle hammock more than compensates for its extra weight and cost with fortress-like protection.
All the hammocks we’ve covered up to this point are your standard ‘gathered-end’ design where the end of the hammocks are bunched together, from which your anchoring straps come. But let’s now take a look at the bridge design.
This type of hammock uses a spreader bar, not too dissimilar from a tent pole, to push the ends of the hammock apart and create a trough-like look. These hammocks are primarily geared towards helping you find the most comfortable position possible with the least amount of fuss or squirming.
- Will maintain its shape
- Heavier than most hammocks
- Trough-like shape is an acquired taste
Once you climb into this hammock you are automatically in the best possible position for comfort, no wiggling or turning diagonally to get that flat surface. The hammock will additionally maintain its shape as you move about in the hammock or crawl in and out, but herein lies one of the main drawbacks for this type of hammock.
Many people prefer not to be constrained inside the trough of this hammock, and are more comfortable with the freedom that other hammocks offer to shift, adjust the shape, and find that sweet-spot themselves. This combined with the higher weight of this hammock, due to the spreader bars, definitely makes it an acquired taste and we recommend trying them out first before purchasing to make sure you’ll be comfortable with this design.
While the overall sizing scheme to hammocks is pretty straightforward, we’d like to offer a couple tips to make sure you get the size that will work best for you.
The single-sized hammocks tend to focus on cutting out excess material and weight to provide just enough space for a single person, and little else. You’ll find less room to wiggle and adjust, but will be rewarded with a very compact design that won’t weigh you down as much as a double hammock. But if you’re on the larger side, or want more space, we highly recommend considering a double.
Most hammock manufacturers tend to build their single-sized hammocks for folks who are 6’ tall or less. If you’re therefore above or near this level, it may definitely be in your best interest to opt for a double hammock to ensure you have plenty of space for a nice comfortable night’s sleep. If there’s a chance you may be bringing your dog along for the adventure, then a double would also be beneficial. Be sure to check out our article on Hammock Camping With a Dog if you’re considering this option!
There you go everyone! We’ve outlined the primary hammock variations that you’ll likely to see as your start your research, and provided the strengths and weaknesses of each. Now you can pick out the design that will work best for the adventures you have mind, and start comparing specific models and brands to find your perfect camping nest.
Have fun and stay safe, eh?