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June 2, 2022  |  Camping & Outdoors

Is it better to sleep in a camping hammock or a sleeping bag?

How to build the most comfortable sleep system for camping

There’s more than one way to camp in the woods. While tents get most of the press, hammocks are also quite popular and offer great benefits. A lot of backpackers even find hammocks more comfortable overall, in addition to their added convenience.

Nonetheless, you need more than just a hammock to do it right. You lose a lot of insulation once your sleep system is suspended off the ground, for one thing. To combat the increased airflow that draws away heat while you’re sleeping, you’ll likely need a decent sleeping bag. But which is better for sleeping in while camping? Below are a few insights to help you decide.

Do you need a sleeping bag with a camping hammock?

Unless you’re at a low elevation in a tropical region such as Hawaii or Central America, it will probably get at least a little cold at night. You likely need some kind of sleeping bag, even if you’re in a quality backpacking tent. If you hoist yourself off the ground, you’ll be colder than you would be when sleeping on the ground.

For that reason, you usually need a sleeping bag when putting together a good hammock-based sleep system. There are other options, such as camping blankets, but nothing’s more weight-effective than a well-fitted sleeping bag.

Pros of sleeping in a camping hammock

  • Perfect for hot climates: If you’re camping somewhere that gets oppressively warm, sleeping suspended in the air might be the best way to keep from overheating at night.
  • Favored by minimalists: Hammocks are quick and easy to set up, and the right ones are especially weight-effective. The most stringent, gram-counting backpackers often love them.
  • They can be great at keeping bugs out: Some backpacking hammocks have sewn-in bug netting, which is especially important in tropical regions where swarms of biting insects live. Even with bug netting, though, a sleeping pad and sleeping bag are still worth considering. Many mosquitoes can bite right through the thin nylon of a camping hammock.
  • Many find them highly comfortable: Hikers who like camping hammocks often enjoy sleeping in them. The feeling of swaying back and forth in the breeze, being rocked to sleep by Mother Nature, is a one-of-a-kind experience.

Cons of sleeping in a camping hammock

  • It takes some getting used to: Sleeping all night in a backpacking hammock is a completely different experience than taking a nap in a poolside rope hammock. You’ll have to train your body to adjust to the most comfortable sleeping position.
  • Gear access is limited: Most hammock sleep systems involve stashing your gear underneath you during the night. In contrast to a tent, where your bag sits just inside or outside your door, this makes it noticeably harder to get at your stuff if you need something in the middle of the night
  • You need something upright to tie it to: Trees work, as do some rocks. But whatever it is, you need something to tie off to. Without something sturdy, your hammock will be useless. Also, make sure to get something wide, like a hanging strap, to avoid damaging living trees.

Which is better: a camping hammock or a sleeping bag?

A quality sleeping bag is a more versatile purchase, simply because you need one whether you’re sleeping in a hammock, a tent, or an open field. The right mummy bag can greatly increase sleep quality in even the best hammocks.

When it comes to camping hammocks, if you find one that you’re comfortable sleeping in, embrace it. It requires many of the same accessories as sleeping on the ground, including a sleeping pad, pillows and something to keep the rain and sun away. But if your favorite sleep system entails a backpacking hammock, consider yourself wise. After all, some of the most proficient backpackers on the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails swear by them in the right environments.

Best camping hammocks

Eagle’s Nest Outfitters JungleNest

Eagle’s Nest Outfitters JungleNest

Equipped with built-in mosquito protection, this is the most advanced option from the most popular hammock manufacturer.

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Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro

Grand Trunk Skeeter Beeter Pro

This one’s set apart by four contact points on the top. Simply attach two pairs of guy lines to maximize headroom and comfort inside.

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Lawson Blue Ridge Hammock Tent

Lawson Blue Ridge Hammock Tent

There aren’t many like this one, which is as close as you can easily get to an actual tent that hangs from trees.

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OneTigris Kompound Camping Hammock

OneTigris Kompound Camping Hammock

It doesn’t use the most premium materials, but it’s compact, affordable, and comes with everything needed for setup.

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Easthills Jungle Explorer

Easthills Jungle Explorer

Complete with straps, rain fly, guy lines, and stakes, this is essentially a low-cost plug-and-play sleep system that comes ready to use.

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Best sleeping bags for hammocks

Kelty Cosmic 40-degree Down Sleeping Bag

Kelty Cosmic 40-degree Down Sleeping Bag

If it won’t get very cold at night, this ultralight down bag is perfect, although it’s not ideal for the rainy season.

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Teton Sports Trailhead

Teton Sports Trailhead

It’s a great lightweight and low-cost option for mild weather.

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Nemo Forte

Nemo Forte

It’s safe down to about 20 degrees, delivering good performance at a modest weight and price.

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Best sleeping pads for hammocks

Sea to Summit Comfort Plus

Sea to Summit Comfort Plus

No matter what your sleep system consists of, this is one of the best sleeping pads you can add to it.

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Nemo Switchback

Nemo Switchback

Its dual-density foam delivers a touch of comfort and structure to the otherwise thin and unsupportive floor of a hammock.

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Klymit Static V2

Klymit Static V2

Inspired by rock climbers who value low pack weight above all else, this may be the most minimalist camping pad on the planet.

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Best camping hammock accessories

Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow

Sea To Summit Aeros Pillow

This inflatable backpacking pillow weighs under 3 ounces and makes a huge difference in minimizing potential neck and shoulder pain from hammock sleeping.

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Rottay Backpacking Tarp

Rottay Backpacking Tarp

Much lighter than a traditional tarp, the Rottay comes in a few sizes and colors and includes stakes, guy lines and a carrying bag.

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Foxelli XL Hammock Bug Net

Foxelli XL Hammock Bug Net

If your hammock doesn’t have one built in, pick up a bug net to keep yourself safe from biting insects.

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Camping hammock FAQ

What’s the best kind of sleeping bag?

In terms of shape, rectangular sleeping bags are comfortable, but they’re also bulky and not very efficient at insulating. They also don’t usually work great with hammocks because the extra material tends to bunch or fold up at night and get uncomfortable. Mummy bags are more effective across the board.

When it comes to materials, there are two varieties to consider, down (usually from ducks) and synthetic fill. Down bags are better insulators than synthetic bags, so it helps you save weight and pack space. However, they’re difficult to clean, lose effectiveness quickly when wet, and cost quite a bit compared to the competition. If you know it’ll get cold out and you’re through-hiking an arid region, down is the way to go.

Synthetic fill, on the other hand, continues to insulate well when it absorbs moisture and is relatively easy to clean. It’s also considerably more affordable, and new developments over the years have raised its performance to rival that of down. Backpacking in especially humid places where it’s still likely to get chilly, synthetic is probably your best bet.

Can you camp in a two-person hammock?

You can try, but don’t get your hopes up. The nature of a camping hammock makes it all but impossible for two people to get comfortable at the same time. Furthermore, since you’re both hanging from the same ropes, the slightest movement will likely wake up your sleeping partner. These hammocks are much better for simple daytime relaxation.

Why use a sleeping pad in a camping hammock?

Naturally, most people associate camping pads with sleeping on the ground. However, using a comfortable sleeping pad is also an excellent idea if you’re camping in a hammock. Even a little added insulation helps mitigate the massively increased ventilation that can lead to chilly nights hanging off the ground.

More importantly, though, a sleeping pad adds just enough structure to the hammock underneath you to make comfortable nights a lot more accessible. Both self-inflating and foam pads work well.

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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